There is a lot more to the BVI than sun, sea and sand. The archipelago contains more than 60 islands, cays and off-lying rocks. Many are mere specks rising above the turquoise waters of the Territory. However, the larger islands, even the uninhabited ones, have plenty to see on land.
An Eco-Adventure Awaits
Perhaps the most popular — and the most eco-friendly — land activity on the islands is hiking. That encompasses all physical levels from gentle walking along a road or path to more strenuous climbing through the underbrush or scampering over rock strewn ravines.
Most of the recognised and well-described trails are on the four main inhabited islands. There are hikes through national parks, along roadways, in towns and in the countryside. Walks can vary from climbs for the physically fit to strolls for the family. Some are perfect for the birdwatcher or wildflower photographer. Others will take you back into the history and culture of the local inhabitants.
For more details and maps of popular hikes, pick up a copy of Trails & Tales: The British Virgin Islands Hiking Guide by Ron Beard. Not only is it packed with useful information; it is written by a keen observer who loves nature and shares his passion page by page.
A Few Words on Etiquette and Safety
Hiking in the BVI is generally safe and easy. Most trails are either in parks, along roads and existing trails or on public lands. However, there are private spaces where the uninvited visitor is not welcome. Like anywhere else, it is best to apply common sense. Don’t trespass through closed gates or fences, especially if there is a residence in view. Always ask permission before entering into what appears to be private land. Most people are friendly and are hospitable towards visitors.
The elements can be tricky for the unwary. When hiking off trails, be prepared with proper footwear, since sudden rains can make trails and rocks slippery. Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. The islands contain their share of mosquitoes, bees and wasps — no more dangerous than anywhere else, but they can be annoying. Insect repellent and a dose of caution are recommended when traipsing through the bush.
There is no better way to bond a family across the generational divide than spending time together walking and talking. Enjoying the outdoors by hiking in a park, walking along a secluded beach or strolling through history in town are great ways to spend time together. Pick a location and distance that fits the age range and average stamina of the group.
A Family Outing on Anegada
Anegada is flat, so there are no steep trails or large boulders to traverse. Walking is either along one of the main roads or on a white-sand beach. A perfect place to begin is the Anegada Reef Hotel located adjacent to the ferry arrival dock at Setting Point. From the hotel it is a pleasant few-minute stroll on the beach to Neptune’s Treasure, home of the Soares family and a good place to refresh before continuing the beach walk. Depending on the family, you may continue a short distance and then return. For the intrepid, a beach hike of slightly more than four miles will get you to Cow Wreck Beach’s restaurant. Almost anywhere along your walk you can stop for a dip in the sea and have the entire beach to yourself. Use good judgement when waves are big, as rip currents can be dangerous.
An easier, less demanding walk may be had in The Settlement, the population centre of the island. Though just a little over 200 people make Anegada home, most are clustered in The Settlement. It’s a great area to walk the streets and view the traditional West Indian architecture of the small wooden houses on stilts. Walk down to the fisherman’s dock for a view of the sea and a glimpse at the huge mounds of empty conch shells discarded by generations of fisherfolk.
Sage Mountain National Park
This is the oldest national park in the BVI and occupies the highest elevation in the area. It offers plenty of opportunities for the fit — and even for those who just want a gentle walk to explore nature. It is the most popular hike through undeveloped lands on Tortola. There are sign posts to guide you and help you plan your time.
The hike is easy, though sections are rocky and may be slippery when wet. There are two sections to the hike: 600 yards from the car park to the park entrance gate and then almost one mile to the giant fig tree at the end of the trail. There are side trails to add a bit of variety to the landscape and physical challenge. Pick the route that best fits your time and group ability.
This is not just a good walk for families but a great spot for young couples to escape the vestiges of civilisation. You can find that quiet spot with a view to the sea and surrounded by the colours and smells of a tropical, moist forest.
The entire walk is a little less than two miles and can be accomplished in under two hours — a bit more if you add in a few side trails. Of course, you will want to spend time enjoying the birds and flowers. Keep an eye out for the black and yellow zebra butterfly. This tropical species forms colonial roosts at night. Follow one just before The entire walk is a little less than two miles and can be accomplished in under two hours — a bit more if you add in a few side trails. Of course, you will want to spend time enjoying the birds and flowers. Keep an eye out for the black and yellow zebra butterfly. This tropical species forms colonial roosts at night. Follow one just before sunset and when it lands on a branch, the bright colourful patterns change to look like a dried leaf — a marvellous transformation to hide from potential predators. There are Instagram spots all along the trail. There is a small wooden lookout shelter about three-quarters of the way to the fig tree. It’s a wonderful place to relax and contemplate the scenery. What a photo op!