My prayers had been answered, the Gods had granted me three wishes. Light winds, flat calm seas, and my Mum and sister Sam for company!
Their first impression of the BVI’s was unfortunately marred by the very inhospitable Immigration Officers and after a thorough interrogation I was called in from the arrivals gate to verify their story! Finally, the dodgy looking pair were finally released into our care!
It is so wonderful to walk straight out of the small airport and on to the beach, and this time it really was ‘Welcome to Paradise’. A lovely calm night enabled them both to recover from their long day of travel, and then we set off to our favourite spot at Benures Bay, Norman Island, where we knew that a couple of days of sunbathing and snorkeling would ease them into the ‘Joy’ of boating.
Mum and I snorkeled together, the coral is so beautiful here with purple fans swaying in the gentle swell and all the usual tropical fish. One day when we had turned around and were heading back to the boat, Mum looked over at me and pointed to the other side of me with very wide eyes. I looked around and it took a few seconds to realise what it was. A huge Manta ray was elegantly gliding past me a couple of meters away, just underneath the surface of the water, with a Remora sucker fish attached to its belly. The ray was enormous, I have never seen anything like this or as big as this whilst snorkelling or diving for that matter. With no camera on me we just had to watch and absorb the memory into our brains, it was a surreal and very special moment shared. We were just getting over the amazing experience when a turtle swam underneath us. Life certainly is good!
We had a wonderful walk across the Island, this time sticking to the correct track, and when we arrived at the next bay, The Bight, we had a lay on the beach and a swim in the wonderful warm waters then lunch at Pirates Bight Restaurant.
Then it was just a mile sail north to Peter Island, where we tucked ourselves in to Little Harbour. There is nothing here except idyllic calm waters and beautiful views, and the resident Pelican diving for fish. The snorkelling isn’t as good, there is not a huge amount of coral but we were treated to a Spotted Eagle Ray gliding around the boat several times just underneath the waterline which made good viewing from above. I also got my first glimpse of a Belted Kingfisher, I had seen a small bird diving into the water from a tree but just couldn’t make out what it was, then I spotted it again landing on some cactus and managed to get a photo of it with my zoom lens. It really is a stunning little bird with bright blue markings.
A catamaran anchored next to us had a very novel way of walking his dog, he did a few circuits of the bay before going ashore to chase the poor goats (the dog that is!).
Unfortunately the meal at Pirates Bight the day before had given me food poisoning and as my body tried to fight it my temperature rose to 102.5 degrees, although I was shivering and felt cold. I had their ‘Pulled Pork’ and now I was wondering where the hell it had been pulled from (and when). I had given a mouthful to Jez to try and after a day or so he came down with the same thing. We didn’t let it spoil our fun though and carried on regardless.
Virgin Gorda was now our next destination, we had a wonderful sail with flat seas and 10 knots of wind, and anchored off Spanish Town. Upset tummies didn’t stop us going ashore for Happy Hour drinks at the marina, watching the sun go down whilst listening to some very good live music.
We hired a car the following day, and a little later than anticipated (we had trouble finding the car hire place) we arrived at The Baths along with several hundred others! It was still a really unforgettable experience. As we got close to the other end of the caves an American lady ahead slipped and cut her head open on a rock, a big gash on her scalp. Luckily a tour guide was close at hand and rushed to give her first aid. It was a reminder that this sort of nature trail just wouldn’t be allowed back home due to health and safety! We made it unscathed of course, and had a wonderful swim at Devil’s Bay the other side.
The views from ‘The Top of The Baths’ restaurant are absolutely stunning.
Back In the car we followed the road down to the Coppermine ruins on the south eastern tip of the island. Wonderful views once again, and a sighting of a hummingbird in an old well. Cornish miners had built their homes, the powerhouse, mine shafts and chimneys in the early 1800’s and following low market prices and escalating costs they abandoned the mine in 1862.
Virgin Gorda is one of my favourite islands, the people are friendly and the views are outstanding. We drove around the coast road, passing Savannah Beach where a few boats had picked their way through the reef to anchor.
Arriving at the north of the island, we could see the North Sound where we had anchored last year. There is a bar on the hillside called ‘Hogs Heaven’ with a balcony overlooking the Sound, we sat speechless looking out just taking it all in.
Following the road back down to Spanish Town gave us a great view of the strange narrow shape of the southern end of this island.
From Virgin Gorda we had a fantastic sailing angle for Anegada, arriving after just 3 hours in glorious conditions. The small bay was packed with charter boats, there was some regatta gathering going on, quite entertaining especially when a dinghy overloaded with people grounded themselves on the very visible reef! However, once ashore it was deserted and quiet, and after a lovely walk along the beach we booked our table at Neptune’s Treasure for Mum’s (early) 70th birthday meal.
Mum, Sam and Jez all had lobsters for main, I had coconut conch fritters which were a little on the chewy side but very tasty. I had been put off lobster when I saw them all in cages in the water hanging off the pontoons, each restaurant have their own supply on their dock. They are just too beautiful to eat!! Neptune’s Treasure has such a lovely position on the waters’ edge.
We hired a car to get to the north beaches, Loblolli Bay being one of our favourites and we took a picnic with us for lunch.
After lunch and a bit of beach combing we drove along the sandy track which meanders between the north coast and the salt lakes.
There are a hundred or so breeding pairs of Flamingos on the salt lakes, having been re-introduced to the island in the 90’s. Unfortunately they keep their distance and the only sighting we got was from the small bridge on the south of the island. They were too far away for a photo, so we had to make do with the painted one on the bridge!
The wind picked up the following day which made the shallow anchorage rather choppy, so we decided to head back to a small island just north of Tortola called Great Camanoe. Another great fast sail and we were anchored up on the west coast in a small pretty bay called Lee Bay. We watched the pelicans diving and a baby turtle surfaced for air right by the side of the boat so we had a great view of him. Then we spotted something not so pleasant – a young lady on a very small sailing boat in front of us hung her bum over the back of the boat to go to the toilet then threw the toilet paper in the water! Nice!!
On the east coast of Great Camanoe is a small cut between the island and two others, Marina Cay and Scrub Island, and the following day we found a spot just on the inside of the mooring buoys by Marina Cay. It’s a small island with a bar, restaurant and shop, we spent a lazy afternoon in the bar playing dominos before returning to Joy for supper.
Mum and Sam’s last full day was spent snorkeling and feeding a pair of large Remora fish who had rather taken a fancy to Joy and were quite happy to eat our leftovers. They kept us amused for hours! The coral along the edge of Great Camanoe is beautiful and it made great snorkelling, when we returned to the boat not only were the Remoras still peeking out from behind the hull but we had a dozen or so large Barracuda underneath us!
Scrub Island has a very smart marina complex with some gift shops and a small deli. The deli does takeaways and has tables and chairs outside so we ordered ourselves one of their pizzas and returned in the evening along with our own salad and drinks! A much cheaper way to eat out, meals and drinks are very expensive everywhere around the BVI’s. We had 4 rum punches and 4 beers at Marina Cay the day before that cost $64, ouch!!
On the morning of their departure, we had a ten minute motor over to Trellis Bay, Beef Island ready for their mid-day flights. It was a very sad and tearful farewell to them both, we have had so much fun and laughter over the last 10 days, sharing the joys of exploring, snorkelling, dominos and sailing! It has been so nice to catch up with Sam too, who I hadn’t seen since leaving the UK 2 years ago. Now Joy will seem so empty and quiet!