Under British control since 1672 and a self-governing territory since 1967. Despite being British, its official currency is the US dollar, but they do drive on the correct side of the road, the left. Home of Beef Island, Fallen Jerusalem Island and Prickly Pear Island. You’ll find a red telephone box on Marina Cay, an island just eight square miles in size. It even has its own webcam. Seriously. There is a scuba dive site here on the southwest side of Ginger Island named Alice in Wonderland, on account of the giant mushrooms resembling those Alice stumbles upon on in the book. You’ll also find the Sydney Peace and Love Bar in Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke Island, renowned for its tasty lobster. For decades, visitors have been coming here and hanging t-shirts up from the ceiling, and maybe you will one day, too. It’s where one will find Cow Wreck Beach on the island of Anegada. I know what you’re thinking, readers. I’ve never seen a cow wreck. Also, what is a cow wreck? In the late 19th century, cow bones were used to make buttons and various other things. A ship transporting a load of cow bones wrecked just off the northwest coast of Anegada, and, for the next decade, cow bones kept washing up on shore. So now you know. And it’s where you’ll find Salt Island, home of just three people who pay a rent of salt. I’d love it if that were my rent. This is absolutely true, by the way. Once a year, the Governor takes a pouch of salt to the Queen in London as a gift from the people of the territory. Ah, the perks of being a Queen. Today, we’re visiting Nature’s Little Secret, the British Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Islands are a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, just to the east of Puerto Rico and not far from Anguilla and Bermuda, consisting of the main islands of Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, along with over 60 other smaller islands and cays, 16 of which are inhabited. It is the eighth largest British Overseas Territory on Earth at 59 square miles, with the fifth largest population with 27,000 people. The motto of the territory is ‘Vigilate’, which is Latin for, ‘Be Vigilant’. Oh, that’s nice. Until you said that, I was busy being cavalier…
Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands so after the large group of islands reminded him of the 11,000 virgin maiden followers of Saint Ursula. Whether the story of Saint Ursula is true or not is beside the point, the point is that the Virgin Islands are actually named after virgins. 11,000 of ‘em. So taken with this story, those in charge created a shield for the Virgin Islands depicting Saint Ursula and 11 lamps, representing the 11,000, said to have been martyred alongside Saint Ursula. A shield now present on the modern day flag, a defaced Blue Ensign, no less.
The official name of the islands is the Virgin Islands, not the British Virgin Islands, which remains a colloquial name by outsiders to differentiate between our Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands, but needless to say, ours are the Virgin Islands and the Americans just copied us. What? Can’t argue with history, folks. To be fair to them, they didn’t like the name it had when they bought their islands. Danish West Indies. They like putting their name on things. So do we, to be fair. The less said about the Spanish Virgin Islands, the better. It’s said Columbus named several of the islands after the virgins, but not all of them. I mean, one of the islands is named Cockroach Island and I don’t think any parent would be so cruel as to name their child that. I hope.
The Virgin Islands are a tropical oasis, where you’ll find dry, hilly and rugged volcanic islands, such as Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and smaller, coral and limestone islands, such as Anegada and Sandy Spit. Many are drawn here by the allure of the nature, with coral reefs, scenic seaside villages and white sandy beaches enjoyed by many. Travellers from all walks of life often venture here, from the fishermen, to the sailors, to those looking to relax on the many gorgeous beaches lapping the serene sapphire seas, take a dip in one of the many sheltered lagoons or explore the numerous caves teeming with a variety of colourful fish. The Virgin Islands really are a secluded, underdeveloped and unspoiled paradise, very rarely visited by the tourists, all giving the islands a quaint and old world charm all of their own.
This is a land dominated by music, in particular, fungi, named after a local dish with the same name. The distinctive sounds of the banjos, bongos, calabash, guitars, saxophones, ukuleles and washboards, are a fusion of African and European music, a cherished expression of cultural folklore and history, so important the music is taught in schools across the islands. More than anything else, this entire place is an amalgamation of Arabian, Caribbean, European and Indian influences, plus the strongest cultural tie, that of the African slaves, enslaved to work the cane fields, bringing with them traditions from large swathes of Africa.
The eclectic mix of immigrants has also given rise to a land alive with dance and the traditions of a thousand peoples. Oral traditions passed down from the African slaves have spread a wave of creativity across the islands, with literature a particular love. Writers and poets from the Virgin Islands have gained much acclaim, from Alphaeus Norman to Patricia Turnbull.
Art is also a speciality here, with local artists works proudly displayed all over the islands. Performance arts are also prevalent, with many fungi and folk troupes performing regularly at the plethora of local cultural events one finds here. Alongside fungi, classical music, jazz and other Caribbean music, the likes of steel pan, for example, are also taught in schools. Music is deeply engrained into the very consciousness of the Islanders, and boy, they sure enjoy it.
The other fungi, the traditional boiled dish often made with okra and eaten with boiled fish or salt fish, isn’t the only food the Islanders love. Callaloo soup and roti, curried vegetables wrapped in thin dough, a dish of Indo-Trinidadian origin, are also popular. The locals are also partial to bush tea, a native herbal tea, and, on those warm days, cool down with the likes of maubi, made from sugar and fruit, and sea moss, often said to help with more, ahem, intimate matters. Rum, however, is the drink of choice, with unique specialities to be found wherever one goes on the islands.
Here, you will find a warm and welcoming people, proud to express a strong sense of their distinctiveness, enjoying the more serene and rural nature of their lives on the islands. They are proud of the beauty of their home and have a strong protective attitude toward their natural resources. Their economic well-being coupled with their independent and friendly character is world famous, a truly lovely people rightly proud of their divine and effervescent home.
This ravishingly beautiful place has it all, from the delightful and sumptuous Spring Bay, littered with astounding and splendacious boulders dropped near the shore, to the ethereal sands of Savannah Bay, both on Virgin Gorda, an eight square mile island. The grand beach encroaches on the land like a smudge in an oil painting, whilst the dramatic and dominant hills behind create a scenery of flawless charisma. Then there’s the mighty and enticing Smuggler’s Cove on the 21.5 square mile Tortola Island. The peace and quiet of this tranquil abode is glorious and magnificent, an alluring temptation of beautiful nature.
And then there’s the ineffable Eustatia, a 30 acre island isangelous and illecebrous. It rises triumphantly from the clear blue waters it resides in, a little ribbon of green so surreal and beyond imagination it leaves one breathless at the sight of such enchanting majesty. So great is Eustatia, resplendent and irresistible.
But my favourite sight of the Virgin Islands is the three square mile Peter Island, a quintessential topical island paradise, each corner of this place like a beautiful canvas calming one’s very soul like a soothing lullaby from the lips of one familiar and gorgeous. The bonére sky blue waters blend seamlessly with the radiant sky, atop hills of green, their curves flowing with ease, blanketed by an incicurable forest. And the white sandy beaches, lapping the edge of the wilderness, caressing the waves with as much beauty and grace as the entire vista oozes, a charming and unwelewable landscape, captivating one with one glimpse, a truly powerful and elysian wonder.
The British Virgin Islands. The territory of breathtaking gorgeousness, charming culture and cow wrecks.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of the British Virgin Islands
2) Peter Island
3) Eustatia Island
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