Tortola 2011 March 1 to 8
Notes and Links
The photographs are in another thread (here) and are in the same order as the trip report. My suggestion is open the pictures in another copy of your browser and follow along. All photographs are the exclusive property of me and any other use or reproduction is very much encouraged (attribution would be nice). They are for the enjoyment of all.
The associated slideshows can be found here for 4x3 displays and here for 16x9. Not for the bandwidth impaired (15 megs each), or Mac users. Download from that site do not play from there.
Postcards from the island.
The original reason for choosing Tortola is the price of airfare to Bonaire. By the time I got my procrastinating butt to booking the tickets the prices had changed drastically. Fortunately I happen to check Tuesday travel and the price came back down and so we got a direct flight to St Thomas.
I have been looking at the BVIs for a long time and following this blog for several years ad I felt like I knew the place. We booked a room at Long Bay resort which is on the northwest coast facing the Atlantic side.
Our flight left at a civilized time at 9:00AM. We arrived in St Thomas at 3:00. I had some concerns about making the ferry to the West End, the last one runs at 5:00. We had plenty of time and we got our first Pain Killers while waiting for the ferry.
Now I expected a ferry boat like the ferries that run to Martha’s Vineyard, two decks with the upper deck being open. The BVI ferries are an enclosed steel box and as a bonus they use airline seats. These boats are made for speed not comfort and speed they do, I know we were making 20 knots. The other observation, these boats are pretty old and worked to within an inch of their life. We cruised half the length of St Thomas and the whole length of St John before docking in the West End of Tortola in 50 minutes.
A quick pass through BVI Customs and Immigration and we meet the rep from Jerry’s Rental Car. A quick drive to Jerry’s and we picked up our POS Suzuki Rav-4 wannabe. Petty pitiful rental car but the price was right and I do not mind beat up rental cars just one more thing to not worry about, as long as they run.
Up over Zion hill to Long Bay Resort. Check in was easy and it was interesting that the rum was on the side with the welcome rum punches. They loaded us in a SUV and they hauled us and the luggage up a steep road to the room.
The room was very nice and looked out over Long Bay and Jost Van Dyke. It had a double wide slider with nice screens, a small refrigerator, a coffee maker, and a safe. Everything was new and worked.
That night we walked down the hill to the onsite restaurant which was just OK and seemed to be very fancy and expensive. That night we left the sliders open and listen to the roar of the Atlantic all night.
I got up early and walked up the beach for bit. Quite beautiful early in the morning, lots of pelicans diving into the shallows. The surf was quite large with 4’ rollers, this it turns out would be the norm for the week. As I was walking back I got caught in a downpour and I loved it.
We ate some quick snacks and loaded the POS SUV after draining out a bit of rain water. On the road, the plan was to tour around the first day to get the lay of the island. We started out going east up the north coast. The north coast has several bays between huge hills. Starting out in Long Bay, up over a hill to Little Carrot Bay, then a huge hill with several switchbacks. On one of these switchbacks I actually lost traction and had to back down to make another run. If I wanted to slide off the road I could have stayed in New Hampshire.
Of course afterwards I remembered the POS had 4-wheel drive. Down the cliff into Cane Garden Bay, this is the most developed of the bays and a favorite of the podders. No pods today and it was quiet. We stopped in a store and loaded up on snacks and drinks. Up the next cliff and somewhere up on the ridge I missed a turn and we ended up coming down the mountain into Roadtown (the big city).
We then took the south coast road east around the south coast and through Parham Town. We crossed a bridge unto Beef Island and checked out the airport. We then turned around and took the south coast all the way back to the west end and over Zion hill to Long Bay.
A quick change into swimsuits and down to the pool for lunch, swim and lounge chair time. Later I took a walk up the beach and met Nature Boy who has a beach bar just past Long Bay’s beach. We talked a bit about business and complained that the podders are not brought there. To bad, nice beach and no one home, no one.
While at the pool we booked a sail trip for Thursday. I checked on the diving and was told they go depending on if there are enough people and they do not dive on the weekend. Not what I wanted to hear.
That night we had a very nice diner at Sebastians. The ocean was so loud the night before, this night we closed the slider and left the AC on.
The next day I was up early and hopped in the POS and went up and over the hill to Sopers Hole. Nice little sea port with lots of boats on moorings and the many docks. The first thing I see is a local with a goat on a leash with two more following behind. I had a very nice breakfast. I happened to notice a dive shop there and went in to talk, I found out they dive every day and got the info. Back to the room.
This day was spent at the pool letting sand gravity do its thing. We had lunch at Sebastians. After lunch Sue and I walked up to Nature Boy’s and had a couple of beers and a nice swim and jumping the waves.
We cleaned up and drove up past Little Carrot to Bananakeets for dinner. The food was wonderful but the view defies description. The sunset was marred by one cloud just as the sun hit the horizon.
This day we were up early and down to the lobby where we were picked up along with another couple and taken to a dock in Roadtown. There we were picked up by the Mystique, a 45’ catamaran. There was just the four of us and two crew. Out of the Roadtown harbor and down the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Virgin Gorda. It was a beautiful sunny day but very little wind so he had to motor down. Once we grabbed a mooring ball at the Baths and looked at the condition it was obvious we would not be going snorkeling, big waves from the north. So they loaded us in a dinghy and dropped us off after a serious pucker factor landing in 4’ rollers.
Now the Baths is a huge bolder field that starts on a hill and goes out into the ocean. Very cool. There is a path that winds up and down and around and under the boulders. When we got to the far end there was the Promenade at a mooring ball. I could see Bazaa running a dinghy back and forth to pick up their guests. Connor was on the beach and I got to talk to him a bit and passing on a greeting to Kerry (which she noted in her blog, I am somebody!!).
After climbing back through the rocks we climbed to the top and had just a wonderful lunch at the Top of the Baths. The view from the top was just spectacular. After another hair raising dinghy ride, we loaded the Mystique and motored back to Roadtown.
That night Sue was not feeling well and we had a quick dinner at Sebastians and back home.
Diving day, I was up early and went over the hill to Sopers Hole and made the mistake of ordering the big breakfast. Way more food then I was capable of eating. They had hash browns that looked like McDonalds hash browns, I took a bite, well I think there was some potato mixed in with the garlic. Good to go diving after OD’ing on grease and spice.
I found the dive shop at Nanny Caye which is the next harbor east on the way to Roadtown. We loaded the dive boat at set off across the channel. There was four divers and a DM/captain. We grabbed a mooring off Peter Island and after a briefing, dropped down on a beautiful u-shaped reef. The sandy areas were loaded with lots of couch and couch shells with resident hermit crabs. Quite the nice dive.
We picked up moved over to Salt Island. This was more of a shallow wall dive with lots of bigger critters including a bunch of Tarpon, an Eagle Ray and a huge barracuda. Another nice dive. Back to Nanny Cay and over the hill to Long Bay.
We hung out at the resort and went up to Cane Garden Bay and Myett Garden Restaurant. The food was good and the view beautiful but the service was lacking, Sue complained to the manager and we got a free dinner.
Another diving day, I had breakfast at Nanny Caye and on to the dive boat. A few more people today but still not crowded. Our first dive was off Peter Island and this dive had it all, from sand patches to eel grass and some great coral. The highlight of the dive was hanging out with an octopus hunting in the daytime.
The next dive was at the Indians which is a rock formation sticking out of the ocean. The UW structure was amazing with swim throughs and caves and a huge bowl loaded with fisheys. Nice dive quite shallow and long. Back to Nanny Caye.
I highly recommend Blue Water Divers they were professional, able, safe and most of all fun. I thoroughly enjoyed diving with them and they get bonus points for cold beer after the last dive. This does answer the question of when it is safe to have alcohol after you dive, answer, when you remove the regulator from your mouth.
We spend the afternoon around the pool and had a wonderful dinner at Bannakeet for a second time.
I got Sue up early and we took the long route over to Soper’s Hole. Now Long Bay to Soper’s Hole is only a mile as the crow flys. We took the route around the end of the island, maybe 6 miles or so. All I can say is wheeeee, what an adventure in goat pathing, Martin would be proud. We had a nice breakfast and did a little shopping. Then back to the room over Zion Hill this time.
We loaded up and cruised into Roadtown and parked at the cruise ship dock along side two huge pods. I know, WTH, but where else you going to go shopping? They had a football field’s worth of tent and vendors. Sue was very happy, I was very hot, but I hung out in the shady spots with the vendors swapping stories, everyone be happy.
We wandered out of Roadtown and climbed up to the top of the ridge. We found this great little bar right at the top and had a couple of drinks and checked out the view. Then we continued east and went down the cliff to Brewer’s Bay. We hung out there and had a great lunch, cheeseburgers in paradise.
We cruised back to the room and dropped off the goodies. Back in the POS and over the goat path to Smuggler’s Cove where we were told we would find the best rum punch on the island. I do have to say it was the best one I had. Very nice beach with several vendors and a nice reef near the shore (to rough this day for snorkeling).
That night we went over to Soper’s Hole and Pusser’s for dinner great dinner and a beautiful sunset over all the masts. We saved packing for the next morning, just one more night listening to the ocean.
The morning was spent packing, getting a little more pool time and one more early morning walk on the beach. We loaded the POS and checked out. One more trip up over Zion Hill, I know your cutbacks well, and drop the car off at Jerry’s. We had time to get a quick lunch at Jolly Rogers before we boarded the ferry back to St Thomas.
It was a spectacular day and the cruise was nice, fast and smooth. After clearing customs and immigration we had a quick taxi ride to the airport. After checking in with American we then had to clear customs a second time, what’s with that, since when is St Thomas a foreign country? We had a nice flight home and got to Raymond about 9:00.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, Tortola was (and is) beautiful, the people are wonderful, and the ocean is spectacular. Long Bay Resort was great and the room was close to perfect. The restaurants we visited very nice and the food wonderful. The diving was great and of course the sailing is to die for.
Not many negatives, the roads are tough but that is the nature of the island. Lots of feral chickens. No issues with crime, to many podders, pesky vendors, mosquitoes (we used repellents every night), or any other negatives. It was not a particularly cheap vacation and ran slightly more than the same trip to Bonaire (or thereabouts).
But after saying all that I doubt we will ever be back. To many other islands and I always compare to Bonaire and that is just not fair.
The other thing that cast a heavy shadow on this trip was my good friend Jerry fighting for his life during this trip. He lost that fight shortly after we got home. Miss you Jerry.