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Anegada – This British Virgin Island Just Got Closer

Jan. 2, 2005 – Anegada, which means "drowned land," is a flat coral atoll with the highest peak only 28-feet above sea level. For most of us though, it's the distant British Virgin Island that isn't possible to reach without a private or chartered boat or flight from Beef Island, Tortola. Smith's Ferry Services changed this as of last September when the company began offering day trips from downtown Charlotte Amalie to Anegada on the last Sunday of each month.
"My father and I have wanted to do this for years. We thought it would be a popular trip," says director of operations, Marjorie Smith
Popular yes, and a real blast too, as we found out during the Dec. 26th trip.
Getting There Is Half the Fun
A rain shower squalled through town at 7:30 a.m. as we parked across the street and walked over to Tortola Wharf. But it was clear skies and calm seas as we headed out of the harbor just after 8 a.m. We were aboard Smith's smaller, 49-passenger, Marie Elise, for the trip to West End and on to Road Town, Tortola. In Road Town, we cleared immigration and changed onto Smith's 149-passenger power cat, Island Rocket III, fondly called the "Sponge Bob Boat" for its bright yellow color. After a five-minute stop at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, we were on out way out into open sea.
The trip from Virgin Gorda to Anegada took about an hour, putting us at the public dock at Setting Point about 11:30 a.m. On the way east, we saw less than a handful of sailboats well heeled over and rocking up and down in the swell. Otherwise, we had the ocean to ourselves. The power cat provided a smooth, stable ride. Capt. Will Smith was at the helm, the son of Smith's Ferry owner, Ira Smith.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, with their mossy hills rising up high, Anegada was hard to spot on the horizon. It wasn't until about 30 minutes into the hour-long trip from Virgin Gorda that we saw the faint outlines of a white sand beach and light blue seas. The scene stayed about the same, only magnified closer up, when we were as near as 10 minutes from docking. There is a sparse smattering of buildings that line the 10-mile-long, 2-1/2 mile wide island, but otherwise its beach and sea that you see. And the sea is spectacular. Due to the reefs that rim the island, especially the shallow 7 to 8 foot depths of the Setting Point anchorage where we docked, the water is a radiant turquoise that is really breathtaking in its brilliance and expansive in its scope.
Birds and Beaches
A few taxis were waiting ashore for our boat to arrive. Those who didn't want to take an island tour or head over to Loblolly Beach for lunch and a swim, which are both part of the day trip package, walked to the Anegada Reef Hotel. The hotel has a fully stocked honor bar, is known for its great lobster, and is located right on the beach at a beautiful spot to swim and snorkel.
We hopped into the van of native Anegadian, George Anthony "Tony" Smith and set off towards Loblolly Bay. En route, we headed east, came to a small roundabout and took a right turn south towards the town, called The Settlement. Along the way, the concrete road followed the shoreline. The flats beyond were brimming with bonefish. Fishing is both a favorite pastime of visitors and a source of livelihood to Anegadians. We reached one of a series of salt ponds within about five to ten minutes of driving. Its here that the British Virgin Islands National Trust re-introduced 18 Roseate Flamingos in 1992 with hopes of re-establishing the species in their native nesting grounds. The experiment appeared a success. We saw several bright pink birds and Tony told us there were about 50 flamingos now on the island.
Our next landmark was the new Botanical Gardens, situated on the outskirts of town. Several brightly colored flowering plants were located in this small triangle shaped cul de sac.
A Lion's Club sign and welcome sign signaled the start of The Settlement. There's no bustle, and only one road through town, but there were more buildings grouped together here than any other place we saw on the island. We passed at least three churches, as well as private residences, the school, a few small stores including one selling beautiful locally made pottery, government buildings, and the Rock Iguana Breeding Center. The endangered Rock Iguana is harmless, very rare and can grow to six feet long. Tony told us that we could also see these creatures among their coral rock homes along the nature trail at Bones Bight.
From The Settlement, we turned onto a sand road. It felt almost like a video game the way Tony expertly drove to avoid the bumpy pockmarks. There was no sign of humans during the ten-minute drive to the beach, only an odd cow or goat and an expanse of scrub vegetation punctuated by stubby cactuses and century plants. A small wood sign signaled we had reached the Big Bamboo, one of a few beach bars and restaurants found along Loblolly Bay on the island's eastern shore. We had to walk through a 20-foot sand trail to reach the beach, which traces a 1 ½-mile arc along the shore. Our son immediately went beach walking, our daughter instantly donned snorkel gear and headed out to the reef, and I intently picked up beautifully unbroken sea urchin shells and sand dollars. What really amazed me was the sight of the crystal clear, placid waters inside the reef, juxtaposed with the eight- to 10-foot crashing waves just outside the reef and steel blue ocean beyond. It truly made me feel like I was at the end of the world.
Like the tour, lunch at the Big Bamboo was part of the day trip package. You can opt to pack a picnic lunch and save the cost of lunch, however the beauty of the Big Bamboo is that you can place your order, enjoy the beach and then wander back up and the food is ready. Selections are hearty and delicious. Entrees include stewed conch, shrimp, crab cakes, baby back ribs and barbecued chicken, all served with potatoes, peas and rice, vegetables and a drink. The open-air, green painted restaurant is set with picnic tables; family photos and a map of the island line one wall. The bar is a few steps away.
We enjoyed lunch and exploring this wild, wondrous beach until 3:45 pm when Tony picked us back up and took us back to the ferry for a 4 p.m. departure.
Test Your Trivia Knowledge
The ride back proved entertaining on its own. Smith's Ferry hostess, Ameka Hyndman, emceed a Virgin Islands Trivia Game. What's Anegada made of? What's the capitol of Anegada? What are the inhabited British Virgin Islands? The questions were excellent and everyone's lazy beach-fogged brains strove to answer correctly. Winners received prizes such as note cards and candies. Then the real stumper came. Hyndman asked if anyone knew the name of a movie filmed in the BVI and where it was filmed. My son came running to me as I sat on the boat's outside deck. "The Deep", I told him. My husband added, "At the wreck of the Rhone". Minutes late, that correct answer landed my son – and ultimately me – a gorgeous diamond and sapphire ring from Cardow Jewelers. Just beautiful! Arriving back in Charlotte Amalie about 6:30 p.m., I had to say that the whole day trip was a jewel in itself.
The cost of the day trip is $85 per person and $75 for children 4- to 11-years old. You can an island tour with beach transportation and lunch at the Big Bamboo for $20 per person additionally. For more information, call 340-775-7292.

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