Tortola is the largest and most populated island in the BVI. The capital, Road Town is the seat of the Government of the British Virgin Islands and a center of commerce and banking. The latter is the largest industry in the BVI and offers private offshore banking services and the formation of off-shore trusts to foreigners. It is, in fact a “60/40” economy with banking providing 60% of GDP and tourism 40%.
The BVI is a British off-shore territory. It has a Governor appointed by the Queen but is administered on a day to day basis by a locally elected Premier or Chief Minister. The BVI has a total population (2014 census) of 32,000, which is not a whole lot of people. The BVI is not a poor or underdeveloped country, it has the 19th highest GDP per capita in the world.
Columbus’ lieutenants who named the Islands as “Islas de las Virgenes de Santa Ursula” on his second trip to the new world, named this island as “the pregnant virgin” or Virgen Gorda. When you approach the island from the North or the East, for example when you are coming back from Anegada, you can clearly see the outline of a pregnant woman lying on her back on the horizon. Hence the name.
Back in the whenever days, the Island of Virgin Gorda used to have a very low population and most of the tourist activities were centered at the Bitter End resort on Gorda Sound which was basically the only game in town. The Bitter End resort REALLY WAS the bitter end – it was the end of the civilized world as we know it. Visits to the famous “Baths” at the South end of the island were definitely on the must-see list and, at the time, were not very crowded but other than that: basically a nice place to get away from it all.
Jost Van Dyke
Named after one of the earliest settlers of the Virgin Islands, this island is situated about 5 miles North West of Tortola. Of course, Jost van Dyke himself, and why an island was named after him is still a bit of a mystery. By some accounts, he was a wicked and bloodthirsty Dutch privateer, by other accounts he was a plantation and slave owner and businessman. In all probability, he was all of the above since professional titles tended to be pretty blurred in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In any event, the Island of Jost van Dyke today is an integral part of the British Virgin Islands and is administered by the Crown. So WHY should you visit Jost van Dyke? Easy,
The island of Anegada, which means “flooded island” in Spanish, is a flat piece of coral rock with several salt ponds, 10 miles long by 2 miles wide, situated about 15 miles directly North of Virgin Gorda sound.
Historically, Anegada always had a slight aura of mystery. Partially, I suppose, due to the fact that it is set apart from the rest of the islands. Secondly, because it is a coral formation and entirely flat which is in stark contrast to the volcanic origin and hilly green profiles of the other islands in the BVI.
Thirdly, because for many years, it was “off limits” to bare-boaters and there was a certain prideful cockiness when a bare boat skipper would confess, after a beer or two, that he had actually been to Anegada. All of this was prior to GPS and to the more accurate and visible channel markers that exist today.
NORMAN ISLAND and THE INDIANS
The Bight at Norman Island is always a favorite stopover with a lot of mooring balls and a very protected harbor. Home of the infamous WILLY T’s floating bar and restaurant a very lively place. Even if you are NOT into sipping Jagermeister out of your partner’s belly-button, it has good loud music and a flurry of activity including wet t-shirt contests with or without the t-shirt. There is a relatively new watering hole there too, Pirates Bight, that has been very nicely restored after an unfortunate fire last year.
Great Snorkeling and diving around the Caves and the INDIANS a group of rocks on the western side of the island. There is a great reef for snorkeling at the Indians with several mooring balls available for temporary use.
Customs and Immigration
All visitors to the British Virgin Islands require a valid passport.
All visitors to the islands and charter guests are required to check in to BVI customs and immigration upon arrival. This “check-in” can occur as follows:
- If you have arrived by air, and flown directly into Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (EIS), you will clear customs and immigration at the airport.
- If you have arrived by sea on a private yacht, boat or catamaran you will need to check in immediately at any one of the official POINTS OF ENTRY.
Inter Island Ferry Services
Both the British and US Virgin Islands are interconnected by a reasonably efficient network of Ferry services. They run on time (for the most part) are fairly comfortable, have a good safety record, and, while not exactly inexpensive, are usually cheaper than flying on the small island puddle jumpers they compete with.
Since most of our clients fly in from either the Mainland (usually Miami or Fort Lauderdale) or fly in from Europe the PREFERRED DESTINATION AIRPORT will always be St Thomas (STT) in the US Virgin Islands that can handle large commercial jets.
Even if you are flying in to the islands on a private jet, Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (EIS) has restrictions on the size of the aircraft. Check with your pilot during the trip planning stage.
So, depending on the yacht or catamaran that you have chosen, decisions need to be made about how to get to the BVI from the airport.
The good news is that many charter boats can pick you up in St. Thomas. In fact the Coast Guard regulations have recently been changed and now almost any sized charter group can be picked up in St. Thomas.
Hotels to spend a night or two before or after your charter
Find the top resorts and hotels in the BVI, sorted for you in a helpful list. You can view all the best places to stay on a single easy to read page.
ITINERARY FROM ST THOMAS, USVI TO THE BVI – THE BASICS
(Half Day) Leave St. Thomas at midday, head for St. John’s, cross Pillsbury Sound and follow the St. John’s northern coastline around to Maho Bay.You will pass by some marvelous bays and beaches, Caneel Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay, etc. These are quite spectacular although somewhat exposed for overnight stays under certain conditions. Maho Bay is very protected from the Northeast, the East and the Southeast, it has a spectacular beach, and is generally a good place to unwind and sip a sundowner on the evening of your first day. St. John’s is a beautiful and uncluttered island.