Barbuda – A Special Jewel

Barbuda is wild and uncrowded, just the opposite of its close neighbor to the south, Antigua. Sadly, Barbuda is most recently remembered for taking a direct hit by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The prime minister declared the island uninhabitable and the 2000 residents were evacuated. 95% of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. There was no water, electricity or communications for many months.

We visited Barbuda this past December – more than a year after the hurricane, and the island is slowly getting back on its feet. Most of the residents have returned. Homes have been rebuilt. Small hotels, restaurants and shops are under construction. The famous frigate bird colony is thriving. The residents of Barbuda own the island communally, and they are a fiercely proud group that are determined to rebuild their island, while maintaining control of the island and its natural resources.

We set off for Barbuda from Deep Bay on the northwest side of Antigua in the morning. Only about a 25 nautical mile sail, winds were perfect at about 14-18 knots and at an angle just forward of our beam. We were sailing an average of 6-7 knots and were anchored in Low Bay just west of Codrington Lagoon by mid-afternoon.

The approach to Barbuda was stunning. The water is striped with the magical pale blues of the Bahamas and the blinding white beaches shimmer with specks of pink coral shells. It is a site not to be missed!

That afternoon we contacted George Jeffery for a tour the next morning of the famous Frigatebird colony. We were so happy to discover that the colony was thriving despite the hurricane interruption.

Frigatebirds are the masters of the sky with black feathers, long forked tails and hooked bills. Wings can span up to 7.5 ft, the largest wind area to body weight ratio of any bird. Frigatebirds are so large that they can only skim along the surface to catch their fish, any deeper and they will sink. For this reason, they have become experts at letting other birds do their fishing and then will harass them until they drop their prey. We were lucky enough to be in Barbuda during mating season – so we got to see males in action, females tending to their babies, and teen birds wreaking havoc around the colony.

Male frigatebirds with all black feathers expand a bright red bubble on their chest to attract females during mating season.
Sweet white baby fluff balls surrounded by preening male frigatebirds
Male and female frigatebirds having a discussion.
George Jeffery is the iconic ambassador of Barbuda. He has lived on the island his entire life, and is passionate about Barbuda and the frigatebirds. He gave us a fascinating and enlightening tour of both.

After anchoring for a couple of nights at Low Bay near the Lagoon and the town of Codrington, we made our way down the southern coast to the famed Cocoa Point. The gorgeous pink sand beach along the southern end is also known as Princess Diana beach. Barbuda was one of her favorite island destinations to relax in privacy with her boys.

The next morning just after sunrise we dinghied around the southern tip to Gravenor Bay and the Spanish Point Reef for snorkeling. It was so worth the early adventure!

Amazing coral and sponge formations and tons of fish!

The sunsets were spectacular.

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