IMHO: The Best BVI Beaches

Okay, maybe best is a strong word. It might be more accurate to say that after nearly six years, these are the beaches I can go back to again and again, weekend after weekend, and still love.

  1. Smuggler’s Cove
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An afternoon in Smuggler’s Cove

Like all Tortola’s best sandy beaches, Smuggler’s Cove is on the northern shore, but unlike a lot of the others, the area is naturally very sheltered so the water is almost always calm. You can’t quite see it in this picture, but on this particular trip there were several really small kids enjoying the water — this is the kind of place you can usually take even your not-so-experienced swimmers. There’s also a reef for nice snorkeling if you’re into that and with so little wave action, the water is usually crystal clear.

Getting to Smuggler’s is probably the most difficult drive on this list, with a decent trek down a rutted dirt road that I’ve heard some in the neighborhood don’t want paved for fear it’d bring too many people to this extra-gorgeous beach. With plenty of sea grape trees and two separate parking areas, I find that even on a busy Sunday afternoon I still wind up feeling like I have the place to myself.

If you go: Watch out for the occasional undertow, and don’t forget your bug spray; the hordes of sand flies and mosquitoes make their appearance at about 5 o’clock every day.

2. Long Bay, Beef Island

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Sunset at Long Bay, Beef Island

With easy road access, plenty of parking and seemingly miles of smooth sand, this beach is a favorite for group gatherings of all kinds, from family barbecues to the annual Fisherman’s Day Jamboree. The length of the bay makes it popular with runners and swimmers seeking a good workout.

From Tortola, you get to Beef Island by driving on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Close to deep water, this beach is a nesting site for sea turtles — once we discovered a handful of recent hatchlings climbing around on this beach — they were so cute!

If you go: This beach is right next to the Beef Island airport, so be prepared to hear the occasional takeoff and/or landing.

3. The Baths National Park

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The swimming area at The Baths National Park

If you can only see one place in the BVI, get yourself to Virgin Gorda and go to The Baths. Not only is the beach beautiful, the boulders all around the place that you can climb through are positively magical. It’s really hard for me to do it justice, but seriously, it’s a must-see.

Summer is when the water is calmer and the crowds are almost nonexistent, but if you have to go in the height of winter travel or on a day when you know there is a cruise ship in port, go late in the afternoon and you should miss the crowd.

If you go: Make sure you coordinate your ferry and taxi returns so you don’t wind up stranded in paradise.

4. Cane Garden Bay

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Jumping off the dinghy dock in Cane Garden Bay

Popular with sailors as an anchorage, entertainment is the perk at Cane Garden Bay, which is dotted with a variety of beach bars, restaurants and water sports rental spots. If you want to be served tropical beverages while relaxing in a rented lounge chair, this is the place to be. It’s also got a nice public restroom and easy parking.

All the amenities are also why it’s the most popular beach with cruise shippers, so on some days it can get quite crowded.

If you go: Check the cruise ship schedule so you’ll know whether to expect a big crowd.

5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

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Christmas day a few years ago in Savannah Bay

Beautiful sand, calm water, and cute little bohios (thatched shelters made of wood and palm leaves) make this a postcard perfect beach. There’s also a reef for snorkeling and it’s just a stone’s throw from Spanish Town, making it an easy picnic spot even if you have to get back to the ferry the same day.

If you go: Post up under a bohio for some shade! The sun is so intense some days that many around here like to say that Virgin Gorda has its very own sun.

BVI friends, how is my list? Did I leave out your favorite beach? Let me know in the comments!

 

I’m still here

So it’s been a minute, but I am still here in paradise. Tons of big changes since TWO YEARS ago when I last posted, like a brand new job at Island Publishing Services. The gig includes doing a bunch of fun things, including writing for the Limin’ Times.

Here’s one of the first things I wrote when I started. It appeared in the weekly Island Life column in the July 28th edition.

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Ready for de road

Join the Festival Fun

(or how to have the best possible August Monday in the British Virgin Islands)

You might think that the best way to enjoy August Monday is to find a shady spot to sit while watching the parade, but that’s not true. The real secret is to find a spot in a parade troupe. This year will be my third time in the August Monday Parade (and my second with the Tortola Dance Project — hey ladies!), which tells you that the experience is worth repeating. Here are my top six reasons why:

  1. The view: Being “on de road” offers the best people watching. You get to see the other parade participants while you wait around for things to get moving, and then you get to see everybody who’s watching along the route once the parade gets under way.
  2. Camaraderie: The best way to join the parade is with a lively friend, but even if you don’t know the folks in your troupe, you’re sure to bond quickly and make a few in short order. I’m still friendly with some of the people I met in my first parade back in 2011.
  3. Photos: My fellow social media junkies will have already noticed this one. After festival time the fabulous new profile pictures pop up and Facebook fills up with photo albums from the parade. Since all the territory’s best photographers work the event, you’re bound to wind up with several flattering shots of you and your friends.
  4. Vibes: Over the years I’ve noticed that whether the troupe is filled with disciplined performers, casual “freestylers,” or the members of a community service organization, band or sports group, the folks that care enough to form a troupe and show up on parade day are a positive bunch. Even if a day on my feet in the sun wears me out a bit, the positive vibes leave me feeling uplifted for days afterward.
  5. Music: Every year artists from around the region put out new music especially for the various Caribbean fetes. On parade day, between the DJs and the bands that play in the parade, you get to hear mixes, covers and originals curated by music industry professionals. If you love to dance like I do, it’s a great education on the season’s best tunes.
  6. Wardrobe: Being in a troupe is the perfect excuse to get out your beads, bedazzle your jeans, customize your t-shirt, and generally bling up. It’s probably too late at this point to get a feathered headdress for this year’s festivities, but hey, there’s always next year!

How to have a great boat day

One great thing about island life is the boat trips.

You might think that all boat trips are epic and awesome but I’ve been on a few now — day sails, powerboat rentals, small charters — and they can be uncomfortable if you don’t prepare! So what do you need?

I'm on a boat

But first…

First you need a good group of people. You know that guy from the lunch spot who you always chat with but just kind of irritates you after 10 minutes? Don’t invite him. Funny people, silly people, folks who know you, and folks you don’t mind being in your bathing suit around? Yes.

Next you need refreshments. I have friends who don’t agree, but if you’re going to be out in the Caribbean sun all day, your alcoholic beverages should be WEAK drinks and you should have tons of water. Don’t be the girl who’s out of control before lunch — or worse, losing your lunch. If you know yourself to be the type who might overdo it, get yourself a designated drinks fetcher who knows this about you or bring a thermos of something diluted that you can just sip on all day (my favorite right now is black cherry rum and coke).

While the object of the day might be fun in the sun, the very last thing you want is too much sun, so take all your sun protection. Of course sunscreen (which you need to put on multiple times throughout the day), but also shades and a hat. As I was discussing with a fellow boat-tripper recently, I might look like a geek in a hat, but I’ll take looking geeky over a scalp sunburn every. single. day. Seriously don’t get burned. Bonus points if you bring a hat/shades that you don’t mind losing because the sea… sometimes she claims your stuff.

Now food is a tricky one because some boat trips are planned around eating at a particular restaurant or beach bar, while on others you might be grilling right on the deck. Find out in advance, of course. Either way, snacks will be appreciated, as long as they aren’t a lot of work, so bring something easy to share that doesn’t come with a bunch of packaging that you aren’t going to be able to throw away. Nuts, chips, popcorn and pretzels have gone over well for me.

Finally, no boat day is ever completed without some element of the unexpected. Weird weather? Sharp reef creatures? Jellyfish? The potential for some uncomfortableness is high, so bring your good attitude and willingness to roll with it, and don’t let a little bit of the unexpected ruin your day.

If you’ve noticed that I haven’t talked about navigation or safety, that’s because if you don’t have a captain who has you covered on all that stuff, you aren’t going on a boat trip, because that’s just dumb.

How to handle dengue like a pro

I just had my second or third bout of the extremely unpleasant dengue fever. I know you’ve heard all the classic advice for dealing with viral illness like get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Maybe you’ve even heard about the remedies like aloe juice and papaya leaf paste. What I’m fairly certain you haven’t heard is how to handle everyone’s second-favorite mosquito-borne illness like a journalist. Follow my lead if you dare.

First of all, make sure you get sick on deadline day. This means you probably have to get bit over the weekend, have a punishing and mysterious headache on always-busy pre-deadline day, and be reaching for whatever meds you can get your swollen little paws on for the all-important actual deadline day.

Speaking of medication, take some that you’ve never tried before. Later, you can make jokes about how you’ve puked out behind the office with the best of ’em. You can hint that this is because you are a hard-partying animal, rather than a dummy with a surprise drug allergy. Again, this should all happen on deadline day, so you can alternate writing and throwing up with no hope of leaving before your pages get sent.

As unhappy as your stomach is, you still have to eat. After things have calmed down, go for something bland and easy like a bowl of instant mashed potatoes. It’s very glamorous.

Once the paper is out, go ahead and stay home from work. Seriously, the last thing you want is the entire office also getting “breakbone fever” because the same mozzies that bit you are now biting and infecting them. That’s not cool.

But just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can’t work! If you plan it right, you can be home sick on a day the legislature is sitting, and have all the fun of listening to lawmakers conduct the public’s business while lying in bed. Nap while they take their breaks, and if you still have a fever, you might get really lucky and have a dream about the legislature. Freaking fever dreams.

Spend the next two to three days napping, watching cartoons, listening to audiobooks. Write one short story after you learn that someone else in the office is also sick. Go on that photo assignment with the cats. If possible, cuddle multiple cats.

When the rash appears, don’t scratch it. I know it’s all over and itches pretty much constantly, but the more you scratch, the itchier you will feel. It’s a dreadful cycle you don’t want to start.

Go back to work. Compare symptoms with co-workers, all of whom are now either sick or on vacation. Feel better than you actually are compared to the ones who are a few days behind you on the dengue calendar. Out on assignment, show off your rash to whoever wants to see. Listen to other people’s stories about what skin symptoms they and their family members have, and the debate about whether you have dengue or Chikungunya. Continue to drink lots of water, but don’t get on the internet, because that will only distract you from all those stories you didn’t write on your days off.

At the end of the day, feel great about getting some stuff done even though you’re still kind of sick. Feel even better that you didn’t get the scary hemorrhagic variety of dengue fever or something even worse. Vow to be militant about your application of homemade mosquito repellent in the future.

 

I miss the intern

I really miss having Beacon intern Reeka Campbell around.

If you’re thinking how awesome it would be to have someone to pick up lunch or make a snack run, you have the wrong idea entirely. Having a newspaper intern is more like having a full-time newsroom student. She had to learn everything — reporting, newswriting, photography, how to use the server, how to use the old-fashioned office phones, when to call government’s switchboard, EVERYTHING — from scratch.

From that list, you might think our Ms. Campbell, now in her final year at the local public high school, was a leech, but I think she gave as much as she got.

For one thing, she had ALL THE ENERGY! Our girl came in, day-in and day-out, with so much energy and enthusiasm that she lifted me up when I was feeling dragged out.

For example: 

Me: [Eeyore voice] Routine press conference?

Her: WOW, such fun, what should I wear? Can I be the photographer? Is that the premier? Like, THE premier? Can I talk to him?!?

Me: [Eeyore now banished] Yep!

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Then this happened.

Then there is the cool factor. Let’s be real: I am 33 years old. I can no longer be relied upon to know what in the world is cool. Ms. Campbell, entrenched as she is in the world of teenagers, lives and breathes cool. She pointed me and the other old folks ’round here toward the latest in television and movies, and wasn’t too cool to enjoy some classics (ahem: Ladysmith Black Mambazo will ALWAYS be cool).

Then of course, because I am sappy about my chosen profession, there is the restoration of ‘faith,’ for want of a better expression. Having Reeka around, watching her go from a total newb to somebody who could handle herself on assignment and even be trusted with my own personal camera, was a very nice reminder that journalism won’t become solely the home of crusty old white dudes.

I can’t wait to see what this bright young woman does in the future.

Thanks for everything, my *lowe!

Giving her farewell message with the journalists preferred food, of course.

Giving her farewell message with the journalist’s preferred food, of course.

*Not a typo. My girl knows what I’m saying.

Why one reporter won’t be returning to Ferguson

This post captures so much of what is wrong in the world of journalism today.

Ryan L. Schuessler

I had been on the ground helping Al Jazeera America cover the protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., since this all started last week. After what I saw last night, I will not be returning. The behavior and number of journalists there is so appalling, that I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of the spectacle.

Things I’ve seen:

-Cameramen yelling at residents in public meetings for standing in way of their cameras

-Cameramen yelling at community leaders for stepping away from podium microphones to better talk to residents

-TV crews making small talk and laughing at the spot where Mike Brown was killed, as residents prayed, mourned

-A TV crew of a to-be-left-unnamed major cable network taking pieces out of a Ferguson business retaining wall to weigh down their tent

-Another major TV network renting out a gated parking lot for their one camera, not letting people in. Safely reporting…

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Emergency fun break

Oh lordy. For me, jet lag alone is enough to make my first week back from vacation super hard, but with everything that’s going on in the news right now I need a seriously fun distraction. So.

First things first

First things first

I took my boyfriend to California and it was basically the best trip ever! We went to theme parks, hung out with friends and family, loafed around and ate a ridiculous amount of very good food. I’ve been back for all of two days and I already want to start planning my next trip out.