Sunday, April 5, 2015

Barbuda - A Hidden Gem

Barbuda is a hidden gem in the Caribbean. It is unspoiled, with miles of deserted white sand beaches and turquoise water.  Ashore, donkeys, horses and deer roam free; and it is home to the Eastern Caribbean’s largest Frigatebird rookery.

leave only footprints, take only pictures

donkeys and horses roam free

Barbuda is a large low island, about half the size of Antigua, with its’ highest point only 125’. It has a population of only 1800 inhabitants.

When sailing in the Caribbean, we can often see one island from the next. Not so for Barbuda. It is so low that it does not become visible until you are about 5 nautical miles from it.  It is surrounded by shoal water and reefs, and in the days before GPS it was feared as one of the biggest perils to navigation in the West Indies. There are some 200 shipwrecks in the waters around Barbuda.

anchorage at Low Bay, Barbuda

From Antigua’s north coast, it was a 5 hour sail to Low Bay on Barbuda’s west coast. Low Bay has an 11 mile stretch of pristine beach, completely deserted except for one small boutique hotel, the Lighthouse Bay Resort, where guests come in by helicopter. 

Low Bay's 11 mile beach

Lighthouse Bay Resort

view from a balcony at Lighthouse Bay Resort

If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. It caters to the ubber rich.  I didn’t know this when I went to inquire (on Stephanie’s behalf) about destination wedding packages and rates. I came onto their grounds and entered their reception area. There was no one around. I took it upon myself to check out the place, and after a while and still no sole around to ask questions of, I decided to head back to Gil and the dinghy by way of the beach. That’s when I came across this posted sign….

Really? $999 USD per day for a guest pass, good from 8am – 8pm; exclusive of 20.5% tax, food and beverages, and gratuities! A bag of ice can be purchased for $25 USD.  ‘Honest to Pete? That’s not even a polite way of saying ‘Keep Out.’

George Jeffrey 

We met George Jeffrey, who graces the cover of Chris Doyle’s Leeward Islands Cruising Guide.  He was our guide for the tour of the Frigatebird sanctuary.

frigate bird sanctuary on Barbuda

Frigatebirds have the greatest wing area in proportion to their weight of any bird. They live on the wing, and are unable to take off if they become submerged.  During mating season, the males display by blowing up huge bright red pouches under their throats. 

male frigate birds 'displaying'

Females are white breasted. The young are completely white. Frigatebirds lay one egg per couple, and chicks spend almost 6 months in the nest.  

cute young chicks

The colony is quite a spectacle – high density living. As far as the eye can see, clumpy mangrove bushes are full of little heads sticking out, and above the sky is full of black wings.

Along with a few other cruisers, we journeyed over to Two Foot Bay, on Barbuda's east coast. This is where the 'highlands' are. The trail took us to the mouth of a cave....

We approached...

Climbed up into it...

Found some stalagmites... 

Looked back to catch the view of the ocean below....

When we came out of the cave, we were up on the highlands with a spectacular view of the Atlantic.
Barbuda's 125' summit

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