I recently had the pleasure of leaving all of civilization and setting up shop in the remote locale of Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands. Known as the "Drowned" land is a small island (about 10 miles long x 2 ½ miles wide) at the end of the BVI trail that reaches a whopping 25 feet at its pinnacle. The island is also surrounded by a 18 square mile horse shoe coral reef (one of the largest in the world) that protects the island and creates some of the best underwater sights in the world.
There are a couple of hotels, three restaurants, some villas, and The Settlement (the local neighborhood). The only two ways to get to this secluded paradise are by either plane or boat. I arrived in St. Thomas airport and immediately caught a charter flight to this drowned island. The single engine Cessna that was operated by Clair Aero was an experience all in its own. I have never been so scared in my entire life with the takeoff. This tiny plane was playing with chicken with Boeing 747’s down the runway then jumping around like an excited popcorn kernel. However, once in the air, the ride was smooth and comfortable and LOUD. The roar of the engines was overwhelming but the views and smooth flying was an unparalleled time. After landing at this tiny airport, customs was our next stop. However, the customs office on this island was a rickety shack and the customs officer has to be called before you get there because there is rarely anything going on, so he is never there. But after a brief check-in (very brief) we were off to our villa.
On this island, one is limited in their places to stay, but the Anegada Reef Hotel (www.anegadareef.com) is a great place to stay. Although there are plenty of places to stay (hotels, private villas, and private houses) I can’t get over this place and they’re extremely kind staff. The Anegada Reef Hotel was one of the nicest places I have ever stayed. We rented a private house on the hotel’s property that had four bedrooms, three baths, a living room, kitchen, wrap around porch (with parts of it enclosed to avoid the late night bugs), a large grass yard surrounding the house, a private dock and an outdoor patio fully equipped with a bar and electricity. My first order of the day was to pour a rum punch and head for a walk along the beach around the curves of the beach to the West End Beach. This entire island is covered in burrs (little spiky covered plant seed) that float around and stick to your feet. This is a very painful and common thing, but the atmosphere is worth the annoyance. After pulling these burrs out of my feet, I finally arrived at West End Beach where the seas were rough and the winds were high, but the sun and seclusion were amazing. I almost fell asleep in the sun which is not advised for someone to do on their first day in a multi-day vacation because the sunburn could really mess you up. So I quickly headed back to the villa to go for a brief swim and then a shower and off to dinner.
Now on this island, because there are so few restaurants, they each close a couple of nights a week, giving the other restaurants a chance to make money. It’s kind of weird. Usually, if you are going out to dinner, you decide what type of food you are in the mood for, and then pick a restaurant and go. But here things are a little different. You have to go to only open restaurant and decide, out of what they have, what you are in the mood for. Also, another strange thing is how things are cooked. Old metal oil drums are cut open and metal grills are placed in with dried up palm tree leaves and bark used as the fuel for this fires cooking your exquisite dinners. I would suggest that you try each restaurant on the island because each is great and different. One place that really stands out in my brain is the restaurant at Cow Wreck Beach. "Cow Wreck Beach is famous for the cow bones (especially skulls) washed ashore from wrecks of ships carrying them to be ground up into bone meal used as fertilizer." (www.b-v-i.com/Anegada/default.htm) Although there are no more random bones around, the ambience of the once graveyard is definitely present. The locals have capitalized on the past and encourage the present. The restaurant at Cow Wreck has some of the best conch fritters that I have ever had and the crab cakes were unbelievable.
Now the night life is a little dull since the island only consists of maybe 1,000 people at any given time and that is being extremely generous. But sitting around at the open restaurant drink Carib Beers and rum drinks and then walking home in the dark with the moon lighting your way and the random cows on your way. That’s right, cows on a tropical island no bigger than the island of Manhattan. Since Cow Wreck Beach got its name from sunken ships with cow cargo, some of those fated cows’ relatives survived their swim ashore and produced offspring. These cows (which crap everywhere and go for noon day swims in the ocean) are protected on the island but are a real nuisance. In the middle of the night these skinny cows scare the crap out of you because they come out of nowhere and all you see is the eyes first and it’s freaky.
This island runs on the honor system and it's rather different. I was at one restaurant during the day and that happened to be the day that that restaurant was closed. But I was in the mood for a beer and nothing was locked up, so I grabbed a beer and left the $5 on the bar with a note saying I took one beer. I was told that this was very customary and acceptable given the nature of the restaurant’s constant decision to close.
Finally, I would not recommend renting a car on this island, because there are plenty of cabs to rent for decent prices. They are a dime a dozen (again this island runs off tourism). On my last day on the island, my scheduled cab didn’t arrive and I had a boat to catch (the last of the day) so a random man stopped, picked us up and drove us to the dock for nothing. We ended up paying him for his time and effort, but he didn’t want anything in return for his altruism. That just goes to show you how nice these people are. Please, if you have the chance, head to this island.