The Islands of the BVI
There are 50 plus islands in the islands chain of the British Virgin Islands. About 15 of these BVI islands are inhabited. The BVI islands are known for many things: it is a leading offshore financial center; and it is probably the best sailing destination. All year round, the British Virgin Islands are busy with the shenanigans of sailors visiting BVI ports year round.
The islands of the BVI are developed with tourist vacation rentals and resorts, but moderately so. This BVI controls the rate at which tourism projects are built up through a moratorium on development.
The attraction of the BVI, aside from being and international financial center and sailor capital, is its natural and un-spoilt beauty, divided amongst many islands with long palm covered beaches, extravagant reefs rich with marine life.
Tortola is the largest of the BVI islands and the most developed as well. The capital, Road Town is on Tortola. Tortola is the main resort center, while the quieter Virgin Gorda is developed in luxury and upscale resorts. Most tourist visit Tortola for its BVI beaches, the best BVI hotels, the restaurants and the nightlife. Beef Island is the extension of Tortola, where a bridge connects the two islands.
Sailor and yachters alike tend to settle on or around Jost Van Dyke islands where there are several anchorages and mooring facilities and access to immigration, customs and clearance. The population is just few hundred. The lifestyle on Jost Van dyke pivot centrally round bars, bistros and lively entertainment. The island is enclosed by quite a few daytrip destinations, such as Little Jost Van Dyke, Green Cay and Sandy Cay. Ferries services, boats and water taxis are main transport.
Anegada is a flat coral and limestone BVI island with miles of isolated white beaches lining the northern and western shores. The Horseshoe Reef is the third largest reef in the world, and extends 11 miles to the southeast of Anegada where hundreds of shipwrecks can be found. There is a small airstrip, a few small hotels and campgrounds, and Anegada is inhabited by only 200 people. Water taxi or boats for hire are primary mode of transportation.
Salt Island though basically unpopulated now, played a major economical role in the in the early history of the islands. When salt became the primary preservative of meats and fish, salt from the islands was harvested and exported. Then Salt island was home to many who harvested salt by hacking and bagging, but with more commercial and cheaper ways to manufacture salt, the industry died and the islands population was reduced to under a dozen.
The diversity of natural attractions of the BVI is found on Guana Island, where the entire island is a dedicated wildlife sanctuary. A vast collection of plant and animal species of the Caribbean can be found on Guana Island. It is also a birdwatchers paradise,, with over 50 species of birds, including some endangered or hard to find species.
Many of the outlying islands of the BVI are privately owned and are visited by holiday guest who stay at exclusive resorts. Little Thatch is one of those islands. Necker Island, owned by Richard Branson is developed with several private cliff side villas with and a Balinese style main house. This BVI island caters to the lifestyle of rich and famous and is luxuriously appointed. There is a free ferry service running between the islands.
Marina Cay, a tiny, eight-acre island, is a picturesque postcard island paradise. Surrounded on two sides by a large coral reef, Marina Cay provides a protected anchorage for cruising yachts on the west side next to Great Camanoe Island. Marina Cay an ideal place for vacationing families with small children who desire a natural, safe, water sports environment. The entire island of Marina Cay can be rented as a private island retreat and is the perfect location for that special wedding in paradise. The staff outnumbers the guests here, providing first class service and catering to every whim.
Peter Island is the largest private island in the BVI, and is located four miles south of Tortola Peter Island is 1,200 acres in area, with hilly features, that are interlaced with hiking and biking trails, lush vegetation, and five swathes of soft, white sand beaches lined with coconut trees. Peter Island is home to the luxurious Peter Island Resort and Yacht Club, a classic Caribbean resort featuring 5 beaches, deluxe accommodations and outstanding cuisine. Peter Island has its own fleet of ferries.
Then there’s Norman Island which is allegedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. Year-round winds on Normal Island provide incomparable conditions for sailing, this island is the location for several annual regattas and fairs. The island is surrounded by extensive coral reefs and there are enough famous shipwrecks to entice divers.
Paradise does come at a cost. Overall, the British Virgin Islands are quite an expensive travel destination. However, the cost of BVI travel and vacations does not deter for the tourism sector in the BVI is for now, a resounding success.