Approximately 25 nautical miles due north of Antigua is the smaller companion island of Barbuda. The two islands along with several uninhabited cays make up an independent Commonwealth country within the Leeward Island group. Barbuda is home to less than two thousand inhabitants who are dedicated to preserving the gorgeous sixty-two square mile isle and its wildlife. The residents are friendly and considerate and they want to ensure Barbuda continues to remain off-the-beaten-path to maintain an ecologically sound island surrounded by healthy waters full of vibrant coral reefs teeming with fish.
Unfortunately, if you are hoping to visit this scenic secluded island in all of its current beauty, you may want to hurry. Having recovered after Hurricane Irma pounded Barbuda in September of 2017, the government has been re-zoning and shifting policy in an attempt to further develop this pristine place. Therefore, now is the time to sail over and enjoy the beauty and serenity that makes Barbuda a uniquely special spot.
Possibly foreshadowing the struggle to preserve the island, Barbuda’s shores remain hidden as you make your approach because the island is so flat. As one of the last undeveloped islands in the Caribbean, you will immediately be struck by the expansive sandy beaches along the southern and western shorelines protected by coral reefs. There are many excellent spots to anchor in the calm waters and enjoy the splendor of the sea and shore.
Because the western shoreline is cut off from the main portion of Barbuda by Codrington Lagoon, the only way to reach this twelve miles of secluded beach is by boat. Virtually footprint-free, you can stroll along the rosé colored sand with very few buildings in sight. You might also pull out the water toys and frolic in the crystal clear sea or kayak to the northwestern tip of Barbuda where you can access the mangrove-lined Codrington Lagoon. The healthy coral reefs also provide snorkelers and scuba divers with superb underwater sights.
If you would like to explore the island, you might rent a 4 X 4 vehicle brought directly to you as you arrive on shore from your yacht. Then set out to take in the sights of this peaceful place. Be sure to visit the quiet village of Codrington, the only town on Barbuda, established in the late seventeenth century to support sugar plantations. As you travel through the town, check out the Government House, constructed in 1694, and still standing although damaged by storms over the years and in significant disrepair. You will also notice several wells that were dug during slave times and still used today by the residents of Barbuda. Codrington has a market and a few small shops, along with some quaint churches. There are also several dining locales offering freshly caught seafood, particularly Caribbean Lobster.
To learn more about the amazing history of this small island, visit the ruins of the Highland House, the original estate located about three miles north of the village on the highest point of the island. Here you are able to overlook the entire coastline while you learn about the colonial history of Barbuda. Adventurous visitors might take the forty-five-minute hike from the ruins to the Darby Sink Hole. This is an eerily beautiful sight created from a fifty-foot-deep sinkhole that expands a couple of hundred feet in diameter. Inside the sinkhole is a palm forest canopied by cliff overhangs.
Other unique attractions include the Barbuda Caves, the Martello Tower, and the most popular and prodigious site, the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. There are several caves located along the limestone sea cliffs but the most accessible is located at Two Foot Bay. In Indian Cave, you will likely encounter several indigenous animal species on your way to viewing Arawak and Siboney petroglyphs, drawings left by the original inhabitants of the Caribbean. If you enjoy spelunking, you might opt to hire a guide to take you to more remote caves located on the island such as The Fridge, Darby Cave, and Dark Cave.
As you make your way south about three miles past Codrington, you will encounter the Martello Tower near River Landing Beach. The tower was built by the British on the site of a former fort (built by another unknown colonial power) to defend the island from attack. After leaving the tower, continue on to the spectacular beauty of Princess Diana Beach at Coco Point.
If you only have time to visit one attraction on Barbuda, you must visit the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. You can only visit by boat so you will either need to hire a guide, take a small dingy, or kayak some distance, to observe these magnificent birds. The sanctuary on Barbuda is the largest breeding colony in the Caribbean for these grand long-winged, fork-tailed Fregata. Magnificent Frigate Birds are unable to take off from water so they dive down and catch their fish and consume while in flight, never landing on the sea. These large birds sometimes fly for days and nights covering more than a hundred miles before landing. They are quite amazing creatures and well worth your time to visit their sanctuary.
There are many spectacular islands in the Leeward archipelago so choosing where to stop is a matter of preference. However, if you enjoy the wonders of nature in an appealing, pristine, and peaceful setting, then you should include Barbuda in your itinerary. Hopefully, the ecologically focused beauty will remain unspoiled for sailors to enjoy for years to come.
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