The seventh least known holiday destination
Barbuda – one of the world’s great undiscovered islands.
The island of Barbuda is, effectively, one large beach and the main reason to visit Barbuda is to take advantage of mile upon mile of deserted white coral sand beaches. Princess Diana was known to get away to the island’s once prestigious K-Club. Unlike most of the Leeward Islands Barbuda is not of volcanic origin. The island is limestone and was, originally, a coral reef which has been raised above the sea. In the south the Highlands slope down to meet the plain and on the eastern, windward side, the Atlantic Ocean has eroded the coast into rocky headlands although much of the rest of the coastline is characterised by the renowned sandy beaches.
The Barbuda Cocktail
Barbuda’s beach sand is often described as pink and, stepping ashore from your yacht, you might be disappointed to see white sand but turn around and look into the surf. As the sea washes away, the colour of the sand turns to pink. In the space of a few feet you have the azure blue sea, pink surf and the white sand beach. The perfect, relaxing holiday cocktail.
Where is Barbuda?
In a survey, Barbuda was the seventh least known holiday destination. In other words, most people have never heard of the island and it only became part of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda after much heated debate. The island lies 27 miles to the north of Antigua and it is less than half a day’s sail from Antigua. Of course, there are many other ways to get to Barbuda. The Barbuda Express, a sea going catamaran, makes the 90 minute trip to the island five times a week. Day excursion tours are available with the Barbuda Express and Antigua Adventures. SVG Airlines has scheduled flights to Barbuda most days of the week and Caribbean Helicopters offer charter flights (complimentary if you stay at Lighthouse Bay Resort). Coco Point Lodge has its own private airstrip and ferries guests from Antigua’s international airport as part of their all-inclusive package.
There are few hotels in Barbuda, in reality only two, the Lighthouse Bay Resort and Coco Point Lodge, both exclusive. Lighthouse Bay Resort is the newer and it is certainly the more welcoming to visiting yachts, being on the beach of the lagoon opposite the islands only town, Coddrington. Coco Point Lodge is situated on the southern end of the island in its own grounds of 164 acres and bounded by 11 miles of white sand beaches. Coco Point was ‘discovered’ on 14th February 1960, Valentine’s Day, and developed into an exclusive resort comprising a variety of cottages. The facilities and restaurant at Coco Bay Lodge are solely for the use of its guests. For information about staying at Coco Point Lodge see www.cocopoint.com Lighthouse Bay Resort has nine elegantly appointed and exquisitely designed suites open to private east and west views. Sunrise over the lagoon. Sunset on the Caribbean. The Grand Suite offers an oversized living room, spacious private terrace with direct beach access, outdoor shower and Jacuzzi tub right from your bedside. On site is the gourmet restaurant to which suitably dressed crew from visiting yachts are welcome. Homemade breads and pastas, locally caught seafood and seasonal foods combine sophisticated flavours for inspired dining. For more information on the Lighthouse Bay Resort go to www.lighthousebayresort.com Guest Houses There are a number of guest houses and bed and breakfast hostels on the island mainly situated in and around Coddrington. Details of these together with other information on Barbuda can be found at www.barbudaful.net
Barbuda Tourism – Activities
Venturing into the interior is probably only for the more intrepid. The roads are mainly unpaved and, in places, only passable in a 4 x 4. You can drive for several
miles and not see a soul except, perhaps, the occasional donkey. In an island so small it would seem impossible that its interior is so deserted and there are few, if any, road signs although getting lost is difficult as there is, in effect, only one road running the length of the island. Car hire is available from Andrea’s Rental +1 268 775 0168 but you may be better to take one of the taxi tours. BA Tours, Crystal Bay Tours, Eric Burton’s Transport and George Burton’s Tours all offer similar excursions which can include boat trips and lunch.
One side of the hole has been greatly undercut and stalagmites up to 8 feet high have formed under the overhang. The vegetation resembles a mini rainforest with palms, ferns, and lianas. Not far from Darby’s Hole is Dark Cave. The cave has a narrow entrance leading to a vast cavern containing pools of water, which were probably a water source for Amerindian inhabitants as artifacts have been found nearby. Dark Cave is the habitat for several rare species of crustacea, including a blind shrimp. There are few buildings of note in Barbuda, the Coddrington family house now having little remaining other than the foundations. Almost all the structure of the Martello Tower still exists although the floors are missing. This building was modeled on the defensive towers erected around the English coastline during the Napoleonic wars.
The same people who will take you on a taxi tour can also arrange fishing, snorkeling and diving trips. Barbuda, with its extensive reefs, is renowned for its fish and lobster. Only experienced divers should go unaccompanied. Only accessible by boat is the Frigate Bird Colony which lies in a salty lagoon on the north-west corner of the island of Barbuda. Frigate Birds have an eight foot wingspan and only a three pound body weight allowing them to soar effortlessly. The Frigate Bird is a poacher, mainly stealing its food from other birds. Second only to its interest in food is its interest in the opposite sex. The mating season begins in September when the males make it their business to find new mates and set up home. Males sit on their nest sites and inflate their scarlet neck pouches until an unattached female passes by. Activity to attract females also includes the males quivering their outstretched wings, waving their heads back and forth and drumming their beaks until one of them is chosen by the female.
Barbuda Tourism – Restaurants & Bars
Most bars and restaurants cater for the locals but if you fancy a little local colour and food there are several you can try. At CJ's Diner the specialty is fish, conch, and seafood whilst Eda's Joint serves traditional Barbudan food whilst you play dominos. You can order local specialties, for example land turtle, deer meat, and land crabs in season. The Green Door Tavern is located in the centre of the village and offers alcohol and soft drinks with breakfast from 7 am. Start the day with liver, red herring, and Lingfish with goat water on Saturdays and maw (tripe) and pepperpot. There is a pool table and satellite TV with a disco at the weekends. Madison's Bar is in the centre of the village and has a range of soft drinks, beer, lager, wine, and spirits. Also available are hamburgers, French fries, chicken, and spare ribs to eat in the bar or takeaway.
Barbuda – History
There is evidence that Barbuda was occupied from around 3685 BC and some ceramic age sites have been found from around 200 – 300 BC although most early settlement occurred in the latter part of the first millennium, which was by the Ameridians. In the first half of the second millennium Caribs, originating from Dominica and St Vincent, made regular incursions into Barbuda and gave the island the name Wa‘omoni. In 1628 Captain Smith and John Littleton attempted to colonise Barbuda from St Kitts but were repulsed by the Carib Indians. Christopher and John Coddrington were granted a 50 year lease of the island in 1685 subsequently extended in 1705 for a further 99 years in exchange for "one fat sheep yearly if demanded". During this period Barbuda was established as a provisioning station for the Codrington estates in Antigua and other eastern Caribbean islands. The time of settlement of Barbuda by the Europeans coincided with the importation of slaves to the Caribbean descendents of whom makeup the 1,400 residents of Barbuda.
The village of Coddrington was established in 1666 and remains the only village or town in Barbuda. It is a small, sleepy town with a post office and a telephone service. Near the dock is the police station. The majority of Barbuda’s population live in and around Coddrington. Provisioning in Barbuda is a bit limited and rather dependent on the arrival day of various supply vessels although fresh fish and lobster are available in abundance. Occasionally locally grown fruit and vegetables can be found. Basic supplies can be purchased from places such as Tilly’s Bakery, the Family Bakery, Burton’s Supermarket, Thomas Grocery, Lil Linc’s Plus and Nedd’s Supermarket. If arriving by yacht and you have not already cleared in at one of Antigua’s Ports of Entry, there is a Customs and Immigration post at Codrington. They can be reached on VHF CH16 or +1 268 460 0085 or +1 286 460 0345 (only necessary if you have not already cleared into Antigua).
Sailing to Barbuda
Throughout its history Barbuda has been an exceptionally dangerous hazard to shipping and there are many submerged wrecks lying off-shore and care needs to be taken when approaching the island as it is littered with uncharted reefs and coral heads. The charts of Barbuda are generally unreliable due to rapid undersea growth although relatively recent (September 1998) chart survey work has been carried out by Nautical Publications (chart No. C26). For sailors not experienced at sailing in Barbuda’s waters the safest approach is from the south but slightly to the west of the island. When approaching from the south spot the Martello Tower on the south east of the island. Almost five miles east is Coco Point Lodge, From the south west, head for the tower until you are inside Codrington Shoals and Codrington Bank.
Barbuda – Anchorages
Palmetto Point - This is one of the loveliest spots in the Caribbean. There is a white sand beach stretching for at least eleven miles. It is not unusual to stay there for days and never see another person on the beach. There can be quite a swell sometimes in the winter months making anchoring difficult. Whenever you are anchoring on the west coast of Barbuda you should anchor either bow and stern or on a Bahamian moor. If the ground swell is running do not attempt to anchor on the west coast. [Give the area a wide berth].
Western Coast - Sailing in the region of Palmetto Point is very difficult as it is hard to judge your distance off Palmetto Point. Give the area a wide berth. Keep an eye on the colour of the water and the echo sounder. The undersea area has grown. There is a nine foot bank beyond Palmetto Point. Just to the south of Oyster Pond Landing there are piles about four feet below the surface stretching 100 feet offshore. Anchoring is good off Oyster Point Landing between Tuson Rock and the mainland. There is a conspicuous group of palms on the beach that lines up a good anchorage. This is a perfect place for exploring the Codrington Lagoon. The town of Codrington is just across the lagoon. Stay about 40 feet out from the shore and proceed with caution. The channel into the lagoon is marked with white posts. Keep them to port.
Coco Point - Recognized by the white buildings on shore the approach should be made with caution until a clear path is spotted through the reef. A seven to eight foot draft vessel can come quite close to shore. To the west of Coco Point is a good anchorage if the swell is down. When running westward from Coco Point to the tower give a wide berth to Spanish Wells Point to avoid the coral reefs offshore. There is an anchorage just off the tower but it is better to the southwest of the tower.
Palaster Reef - There are many anchorages among the coral in Palaster Reef, offering five to ten feet of water. The reefs, just below the water are easy to spot . Palaster Reef is a National Park. Spear fishing is illegal here as it is in Antigua. Anchoring close to the reef makes it easy to snorkel or dive.
Spanish Point - An excellent anchorage one and three quarters of a mile miles east from Coco Point is Spanish Point. Approach only in good light. More than twelve feet of water can be carried fairly close in shore inside the reef by Spanish Point, but once the water shelves to twelve feet ease your way north eastward in good light and anchor where draft permits. There are two approaches. The first is to pass to windward of Palaster Reef, following in towards Spanish Point until breakers on the reef to the south are spotted, bear off behind the reef and round up to anchor. The second is to approach from the west working eastward between Palaster Reef and the mainland until Spanish Point is bearing southeast.