With icing-sugar sand, crystal-clear water and jungle-wrapped mountains, it’s laborious to consider how totally different the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) appeared simply 4 years in the past. In September 2017, Hurricane Irma – the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, with wind gusts reaching 215mph – ripped by means of this chain of lush islands, leaving them scorched and naked.
Just two weeks later, Maria adopted – one other Category 5 hurricane.
When the winds died down, greater than 80 per cent of buildings on the BVIs’ predominant island of Tortola have been discovered to have been destroyed or severely broken, and its very important vacationer business was decimated.
Paradise restored: The tiny yachting hot-spot Saba Rock, above, was rebuilt after being flattened by Hurricane Irma
The speedy aftermath that agriculturalist Vernon Daniel describes is apocalyptic, nevertheless it additionally explains how the BVIs quickly bounced again from such devastation. He says: ‘Salt from the ocean came in with the wind and burnt everything. All the trees were like bonsais, cut to half their size. But a lot of the soil was saturated with salt and that helped with the absorption of rain, so it was actually all green again within three months, completely naturally.’
A large clean-up operation was launched to deal with the £2.7 billion of harm, with in depth rebuilding and the institution of latest farms to make sure the self-reliance of this British Overseas Territory simply to the east of Puerto Rico.
Hotels have been lastly poised to reopen in 2020, and then Covid struck…
Now, the a lot wanted and long-awaited vacationers are again and discovering a good hotter welcome. Regular guests will see huge modifications throughout the islands – although they seem simply as inexperienced as earlier than, carpeted in cactus-studded rainforest and unique flowers, the beaches appear to glitter greater than ever.
‘When a hurricane comes through, the beaches change and are refreshed,’ says Keith Dawson of the BVI Tourist Board. ‘Everything gets a clean-up. There weren’t as many boats round so fish are in abundance and individuals are farming extra of their gardens. It’s a really hopeful time.’
The British Virgin Islands are a tranquil various to tourist-heavy Antigua, an hour’s flight away. Pictured is the Antiguan capital of Saint John’s
With calm currents, dependable commerce winds and numerous abandoned coves, the BVIs have lengthy attracted eager sailors and celebrities who hop between the 60 islands, islets and cays.
But the new and refurbished accommodations additionally make the islands a dream getaway for many who desire to remain on dry land – and a tranquil various to tourist-heavy Antigua, an hour’s flight away.
Visit between December and April and you’ll keep away from the Caribbean’s hurricane season, although stricter new constructing rules ought to imply the islands stay higher protected in future.
An idyllic seashore on Virgin Gorda the place the blue waters of the Caribbean stretch out so far as the eye can see
Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda has nearly been solely rebuilt. Pictured is one in all the luxurious rooms
Guests at Rosewood Little Dix Bay ought to look out for hawksbill turtles
On Virgin Gorda, the second-largest island, Rosewood Little Dix Bay was already one in all the area’s most prestigious properties. Founded by American philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller in the Nineteen Fifties and frequented by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, a four-year closure has seen it nearly solely rebuilt, with a blissful hilltop spa, treehouse suites and beachfront cottages alongside half a mile of white sand.
Guests can dabble in free non-motorised watersports or simply lie again and spot the hawksbill turtles rising for air simply yards from the water’s edge (rosewoodhotels.com).
The island can also be dwelling to The Baths, the place big granite boulders scattered by historic volcanic exercise have shaped enchanting sheltered sea swimming pools and rocky underwater tunnels.
Some tiny coves will be reached solely by clambering over the boulders with rope ladders for an actual desert-island really feel.
Virgin Gorda is dwelling to The Baths, pictured, the place big granite boulders have shaped enchanting sheltered sea swimming pools and rocky underwater tunnels
The BVIs have lengthy attracted eager sailors and celebrities who hop between the 60 islands, islets and cays
New companies are flourishing too, reminiscent of two-room floating Ocean Spa constructed out of timber salvaged from Irma’s wreckage and now anchored in postcard-perfect White Bay (theoceanspabvi.com). For one-stop memento procuring in Road Town, Tortola’s capital, the charming reward store and gallery Nutmeg sells the creations of native artists and craftspeople who misplaced the whole lot in the hurricanes (nutmegandcobvi.com).
Even previous favourites have had an entire makeover. The tiny yachting hot-spot island resort Saba Rock clings to a one-acre rocky outcrop and was flattened by Irma. It lastly reopened in October 2020 with seven fashionable rooms and two suites, two bars and an open-air restaurant that has already welcomed Sir Richard Branson from his dwelling on neighbouring Necker Island (sabarock.com).
Elsewhere, eco-wellness retreat The Aerial has thrown open its doorways for the first time on unspoilt non-public Buck Island. Teetering on a cliff in Sir Francis Drake Channel, it overlooks 14 surrounding islands together with Dead Chest Island, stated to be the spot the place infamous pirate Blackbeard marooned 15 of his mutinous crew with only a bottle of rum every.
Visitors to The Aerial fare significantly higher, with a most of 28 company free to discover 48 acres of forested climbing trails, a non-public seashore, an infinity pool and a recording studio. There are additionally yoga periods, wholesome, communal meals and guided group periods in the whole lot from meditation to monetary administration. Those craving for all-out luxurious may even rent the island in its entirety for the final getaway at £30,500 per night time with a minimal three-night keep (aerialbvi.com).
Eco-wellness retreat The Aerial has thrown open its doorways for the first time on unspoilt non-public Buck Island (pictured)
A most of 28 company at The Aerial are free to discover 48 acres of forested climbing trails and a non-public seashore, pictured
Guests at The Aerial are invited to take pleasure in ‘wholesome, communal meals’ at the retreat, which overlooks 14 surrounding islands
A wellness session at The Aerial. The retreat gives guided group periods in the whole lot from meditation to monetary administration
Those craving for all-out luxurious may even rent Buck Island and The Aerial in its entirety at £30,500 per night time. Pictured is one in all the retreat’s guest-rooms
Most vacationers have a tendency to remain on Tortola, although. Home to each Road Town and the predominant airport, it’s the busiest and liveliest island with good eating places and a thriving crusing scene.
Yet it nonetheless feels blissfully underdeveloped, with no chain shops, little or no crime and a inhabitants of solely 23,000.
Cheaper lodging choices embrace Maria’s By The Sea in the coronary heart of Road Town (rooms from £96, mariasbythesea.com) and Sebastian’s By The Beach (beachfront rooms £115 an evening, sebastiansbvi.com).
For memento procuring in Road Town (pictured), the charming reward store Nutmeg sells the creations of native craftspeople who misplaced the whole lot in the hurricanes
Leave Road Town, pictured, behind and head into the mountains for the finest views of Tortola’s glittering curvy shoreline
Iconic Nineteen Sixties seashore membership Long Bay Beach Resort sustained critical harm when the hurricanes hit, but the thick coral and limestone partitions from the former 18th Century beachfront rum distillery survived.
Now a brand-new, delightfully laid-back boutique resort has emerged as a replacement, with 20 whitewashed suites opening immediately on to the seashore, a thatched cocktail bar and an open-air restaurant, with plans for a spa and hillside rooms to observe (longbay.com).
Just subsequent door is favorite native lunch spot Tropical Fusion, the place plates are piled excessive with stewed lobster, barbecued ribs, macaroni pie and fried plantain in a no-frills eating room steps from the sea.
Long Bay Beach Resort sustained critical harm when the hurricanes hit. Now a brand-new, delightfully laid-back boutique resort (pictured above) has emerged as a replacement
One of the 20 whitewashed suites at the refurbished Long Bay Beach Resort, which was initially famed as a Nineteen Sixties seashore membership
Long Bay Beach Resort boasts a thatched cocktail bar and an open-air restaurant (pictured above)
This can also be the finest place to strive the BVIs’ nationwide dish of fish and fungi – purple snapper with okra and cornmeal – which was initially made out of slavery rations in the seventeenth Century (tropicalfusionbvi.com).
First settled by the Dutch, Tortola was captured by the British in 1672 at the begin of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Though the two international locations signed a treaty promising to return all land gained throughout the warfare, Tortola remained below British rule, settled by plantation house owners rising cotton and sugar who relied on slave labour.
Today, the island’s turbulent story is informed by a handful of historic buildings clustered round the capital, and alongside the coast are the ruins of St Philip’s Anglican Church in Kingstown, one in all the earliest church buildings inbuilt the Caribbean for liberated slaves.
Jost Van Dyke, pictured, was named after a Dutch pirate and is a must-visit for dolphin-watching and barefoot seashore bars
Leave Road Town behind and head into the mountains for the finest views of Tortola’s glittering curvy shoreline. Marine biologist Mervin Hastings leads teams by means of the leafy depths of Shark Bay National Park, mentioning medicinal vegetation, orchids, dragon fruit cacti and even the proper type of termite that can preserve you alive must you change into stranded in the jungle.
Scramble up the boulder on the ridge to achieve a yawning cave filled with nesting bats and concealing a sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean the place you would possibly spot migrating humpback whales.
Even the most decided landlubber ought to attempt to get out on the water to essentially see the BVIs at their finest. Unlike Barbados and Saint Lucia, island-hopping is a lifestyle right here. It’s straightforward to leap on a water taxi or ferry for lunch on one island, drinks and snorkelling on a second and dinner on one more. To select your personal schedule, constitution a crewed boat from The Moorings and then head off to wherever takes your fancy (moorings.co.uk).
Norman Island, pictured, is alleged to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island
Pictured is the legendary Soggy Dollar bar – which will be reached solely by swimming – in 2019. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons
Although the Soggy Dollar bar (pictured) was nearly utterly destroyed by Irma, the bar has been rebuilt and is simply as full of life as earlier than
Siobhan Grogan was a visitor of bvitourism.com. British Airways (britishairways.com) flies to the British Virgin Islands by way of Antigua from Gatwick from £659 return. Rooms at Long Bay begin at £330 per night time. Ocean View Cottage Rooms at Rosewood Little Dix Bay begin at £900 per night time.
Sleepy Anegada is understood to serve the finest lobster in the Caribbean; Norman Island is alleged to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island; and mile-long Salt Island has a nineteenth Century steamer wreck for diving, in addition to a salt lake from which Queen Elizabeth is given a pound of salt every year as annual hire.
There are picnic spots and secluded beaches aplenty on the approach, however you should definitely drop anchor by idyllic Jost Van Dyke, the place Main Street is a palm-lined sandy seashore observe. Just 4 miles by three and with solely 300 residents, the island was named after a Dutch pirate and is a must-visit for dolphin-watching and barefoot seashore bars.
Its legendary Soggy Dollar bar will be reached solely by swimming, so earned its identify from the waterlogged banknotes that workers pin up behind the bar to dry. Although it was nearly utterly destroyed by Irma, and its adjoining bedrooms not exist, the bar itself has been rebuilt and is simply as full of life as earlier than (soggydollar.com).
When you arrive, dry off in a hammock, then order a Painkiller cocktail – a mixture of darkish rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice topped with recent grated nutmeg that originated right here in the Nineteen Seventies however is now copied all over the place.
It’s the best possible technique to toast the proven fact that the British Virgin Islands are effectively and really open for enterprise once more.