The second largest of the British Virgin Islands, Anegada, is one of the lesser known tropical destinations. This distinct territory has formed from coral and limestone, its highest point being only 28 feet above the sea level. The island is accessible by small plane, helicopter, or sailboat. Flights toward this unique island depart at least weekly from St. Thomas, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and San Juan.
However, the island does not have a customs office for boats. Therefore, if you are an amateur sailor, you will need to leave your boat in one of the ports of the other British Virgin Islands.
So What Can You Do in Anegada?
Like any Caribbean island, Anegada has fantastic tropical beaches with fine sand and clear blue-green water.
But there are plenty of other things you can do if you find your way to Anegada:
The Anegada Lobster Festival
If you visit Anegada at the end of November, you might be lucky enough to participate in the Lobster Festival. World known chefs come together on this secluded island to create traditional and modernist seafood dishes. With the lobster being the star, obviously.
Tourists are just to enjoy the daring and/or time tested dishes while local bands sing and play traditional tunes in the background. In 2016, the festival takes place on November 26th and 27th. If you find yourself on the island around this time, go ahead and visit the festival. You will not be disappointed.
Visit the Largest Barrier Coral Reef in the Caribbean
The Horseshoe Reef, named after its unique semicircular shape, is 18 miles long and is the 4th largest coral reef barrier on Earth. It is by far the best scuba diving area in the Caribbean islands. Even though anchoring above the reef is prohibited, a local company can take you nearby for a peek at this natural formation and its diverse life forms.
Because the reef poses difficulties even for experienced sailors, hundreds of ships have met their fate in this area. Some shipwrecks are hundreds of years old, the oldest dating back to 1742 when it was bombarded by English warships.
Observe the Unique Anegada Fauna
The island is also known for its salt ponds that have proven themselves critical in supporting the local fauna. You can even rent scooters to travel from place to place on the island for a field trip day.
The Flamingo pond is the newest addition to the local fauna. even though these fascinating birds lived here for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, extensive hunting for meat and feathers deemed them extinct by the 1950s. However, the population has been reestablished with great efforts from the local government. Today, there are about 200 flamingos living in the salty ponds.
The Rock Iguana Sanctuary is another tourist attraction on this island. Rock iguanas are considered an endangered species and are impressive animals: They can reach 6 feet in length and have a lifespan of up to 80 years.
Just like flamingos, they have been brought on the brink of extinction by humans in the last few decades with less than 300 individuals in the early ‘80s. However, the efforts invested into bringing these fascinating (and a bit scary) reptiles pay off. Almost 200 rock iguanas have been released into the wild since the British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust opened the care center.
Several endangered species of turtles can also be found on and around Anegada and are also protected by the aforementioned BVINPT.
Visit the Mangroves
These microclimates host a huge diversity of aquatic and terrestrial life. In addition, up until a few decades ago when technology allowed us to foresee hurricanes, they were the refuge of choice for locals during violent storms. In fact, remains of some refuges can still be observed today by those who dare to venture into the wild thickness of mangroves.
Scuba diving, as mentioned above, is one of the top things to do while on this island. And the good thing about it is, you don’t need to go up to the Horseshoe Reef to do so. Here are plenty of perfect diving sports a few hundreds of feet off the coast of the island, too. Snorkeling, diving’s smaller sibling, is a great choice for those who are inexperienced or want to take things slow.
Paddleboarding, Kitesurfing, & Windsurfing. Although the island rarely experiences strong winds – and when this happens, let’s just say you don’t want to be there (hurricanes), there are plenty of other options. However, you will need to bring your own gear since, at least at the moment of writing, there were no surfing boards available to rent on the island.
Sailing & Boating
Beginner or pro, it doesn’t really matter. Anyone can raise the sails and steer a boat with a bit of guidance on the calm waters that surround this magical island. Boats of all sizes are available for rental at multiple centers along the coastline. Instructors and guides are also available if needed. Except for the Horseshoe Reef which is a no-no since many sailors crashed their boats here, you have complete freedom to go anywhere you like.
If you want to experience the life of locals for a day, you can go out on a fishing trip with them. they are friendly and eager to teach newcomers about their way of life, so this will be as relaxed and fun as you can imagine. However, many fish species in the area are considered endangered so be ready to toss some of your captures back into the ocean. For the greater good, you know.
Anegada is not just one of the tropical destinations where you can do much more than just lounge on the beach. It is an experience, a way of life, an inner journey just as much as a practical one, and, ultimately, an emotion you will keep in your heart long after you have left the island. But to truly experience this magical island, you must distance yourself from resorts and hotels.