Posted by: yachtcrewsing | February 13, 2012

Barbuda, a Tropical Paradise

   If you are searching for that quintessential ‘Caribbean postcard’ place with white sand beaches, turquoise waters and blissfully barren of a tourist population, then look no further than Barbuda.

   Barbuda is Antigua’s sister island, lying 27 miles to the north, and is reachable by either a 2 hour ferry ride or a short flight. At just over half the size of Antigua, the island hosts a mere 2.5% of the total population of Antigua. This fact, coupled with the relative difficulty of getting to the island (flights are somewhat expensive and the ferry only runs once a day excluding Sundays), ensures that Barbuda has a very genuine unspoiled tropical island feel.

   Having heard of the rumoured beauty of the island (in addition to a stunning photograph of Barbuda gracing the February page of our ‘Incredible Places’ crew calendar), I had steadfastly resolved to make the trip. My previous attempt to go had been thwarted due to the sole ferry being out of commission for a week, and as we are leaving Antigua on Tuesday it was my last chance to go.

   My engineer and I set off on Saturday morning to the St. Johns ferry dock, a place located amongst the decrepit trawling vessels and smelling of a mix of putrid fish and fresh sea breeze. The ferry itself was a comfortable open-air catamaran, the wave-cutting hull shape designed for relatively smooth passages.

   Our arrival into Barbuda provided a stunning vista of the low-lying island, a three-layered strip of brilliant blue water, white sand and green foliage. Even from far away, it was evident that the stories of Barbuda’s remote beauty were true.

   The small dock on which we tied up served as the veritable ‘industrial zone’ of the island, a place where the region’s most precious commodity, sand, is exported. It was this renowned feature that brought us to the island, and we were thus determined to see some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.

   I had prearranged for a guide to pick us up and take us around the island, but he (in true relaxed caribbean style) forgot to show up. Thankfully, his cousin George Burton enthusiastically agreed to take us instead. A knowledgeable and helpful guide, he happily shuttled us around the island to wherever we desired to go.

   Our first destination was the caves to the north. This necessitated a scenic drive through the centre of the island, which had an Australian-outback sort of feel in addition to a plethora of donkeys (Barbuda’s main form of transport until recent years) and pheasants and wild boars (which can be hunted in an alternative tour with George). The caves themselves were situated next to a beautiful white sand beach and azure water. Although not the most amazing caves I have ever experienced, they were nonetheless well worth visiting and provided a stunning vista by a short scramble through and on top of the rocks. In addition to this location, the island also contains the reputedly stunning Darby Cave (which requires an hour hike to access) and Indian Cave (which contains petroglyphs drawn by the Amerindian settlers).

   Our next point of interest was the Martello tower, a garrison erected by the British in the mid-1700s. This building, now serving as a horse pasture, also borders on Barbuda’s famed pink sand beach. The entrance to the waterside is marked by a most adorable beach bar, with shells dangling from the ceiling and projecting the feeling that one could easily spend an entire day there. The only tourists around for miles, we managed to hail the proprietor, a native Barbudan who coincidentally had lived not far from my house back in Canada. He repeated instructed us to ‘just chill’ and slowly but happily went about getting us each a beer. We took his advice and slowly ambled along the desolate stretch of beach. It was unlike anything I have hitherto experienced- the sand was a fine powder, with such a lightness that walking upon it gave the feeling of wet silk. Although not immediately apparent, the beach had particles of pink shells and coral that lined the ridges of the white sand, creating a beautifully subtle tint. The water colour created by this sand was a pure blue, complementing the sky and sand. The astounding remoteness of this beach, coupled with its stunning natural beauty, made it the most purely idyllic location.

   Our last stop was a beach near Spanish Point, another stunning location and a great place to snorkel on a calm day. After a few hours enjoying the beauty of the area we were shuttled back to the ferry dock, reluctant to leave this Eden-like place and wishing that we had a few more days to spare. As the ferry driver put it, “even the most uptight couples who come here on vacation return on my ferry totally different people- completely relaxed and happy.”

   Having been to 14 Caribbean islands, each of which had their own special features, I can honestly say that Barbuda holds the most untouched beauty and perfectly embodies the notion of an island paradise.


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