Bermuda

Environment:

The island of Bermuda is not technically part of the Caribbean, though is often culturally grouped together with islands of the Caribbean Basin. Bermuda is an island group in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of South Carolina. The terrain consists of low hills separated by fertile depressions, with highest point at Town Hill, 79 meters (259 feet). There are no no rivers or freshwater lakes, but ample rainfall, with blisteringly white roofs designed to catch every drop of rainwater. Bermuda is famous for its pink beach sand, resulting from millions of tiny red sea creatures being crushed by the powerful waves of the mid-Atlantic ocean.

The primary environmental issue at the moment is sustainable development; however, environmental concerns have included preservation of open space, asbestos disposal, and water pollution. In 2002, significant pollution was discovered at the former United States Navy seaplane base at Morgan’s Point. Issues involving the removal of “sea glass” from the islands’ beaches by visitors have also been reported in the press. The Ministry of Environment and Planning, Department of Conservation Services – known as Bermuda Conversation – is primarily concerned with biodiversity and protected areas. The government also maintains a Sustainable Development Department website. Although Bermuda has no IUCN members, there are a number of local watchdog NGOs, including Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce, Bermuda Environmental Alliance, and Greenrock Bermuda.

Although there are no official Biosphere Reserves, there is a massive and important underwater “wilderness” near Bermuda, called the Sargasso Sea. It is a major spawning ground for both American and European eels. In 2011, an unprecedented and problematic displacement of Sargasso “seaweed” was experienced throughout the Eastern Caribbean. The Sargasso Sea Alliance is a partnership led by the government of Bermuda to protect that unique ecosystem, assisted by the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Ocean Legacy – Bermuda campaign.

Natural protected areas include Hungry Bay Nature Reserve, the Ramsar wetland at Paget Marsh Nature Reserve, and Spittal Pond Nature Reserve. Although quite a way offshore, outside the reef, and at significant depth, Hungry Bay is the location of raw sewage discharge into the sea, due to the absence of any sewage treatment facility in Bermuda. A number of small out islands provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as Cooper’s Island, Nonsuch Island, and St. David’s Island; however, according to the Department of Parks, permitted camping is limited to island residents. Crystal Cave could be Bermuda’s most famous natural attraction. Bermuda Botanical Gardens are located on the grounds of the official residence of Bermuda’s Premier. Bermuda Railway Trail, developed along the disused railway right-of-way, is the island’s premier hiking experience.

In addition to the Bermuda Audubon Society, the Bermuda Bluebird Society is dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of Bermuda’s bluebirds. Bermuda has a particular problem with feral cats, which has given rise to the Bermuda Feline Assistance Bureau. There is also a Bermuda SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The accredited Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo specializes in ocean conservation, and is supported by the Bermuda Zoological Society. Another aquarium is available at Devil’s Hole Complex. Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is an environmental education center, focussing on the ocean environment. Dolphin Quest of Hawaii also maintains the captive dolphin facility in Bermuda. Humpback whale watching season is during March and April, and tours are provided by Fantasea Bermuda.

Electric scooters and hybrid electric bikes are popular ways to see the 54 square kilometer (21 square mile) island, and available from Elbow Beach Cycles, Oleander Cycles, and Smatt’s Cycle Livery. While primarily concerned with bicycle racing, the Bermuda Bicycle Association does support visitors with recommendations for rentals from local bike shops. Horseback riding is available from Spicelands Equestrian Centre. Kayaks are available from Blue Hole Watersports. Island Winds is a board sports center, for kiteboarding, windsurfing and paddlesurfing. Snorkel Bermuda offers shipwreck excursions. Hartley’s Undersea Walk Bermuda offers shallow water helmet diving. Scuba adventures are available from Blue Water Divers and Triangle Diving.

Culture:

Although Bermuda was discovered by Juan de Bermudez in 1505, the wrecking of the Sea Venture – the Third Supply mission bound for Jamestown in 1609, thought to have inspired Shakespeare’s Tempest – marked the first settlement. Bermuda suddenly became very important to Britain during and after the American War of Independence, as a strategic port. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), Bermuda was used to house thousands of Boer Prisoners of War. During both World Wars, Bermuda proved of strategic importance, and was home to both British as well as United States military bases.

Seaplanes began regular flights into Bermuda between the world wars; however, it was not until after WWII when the first airport was built for landplanes that tourism began to develop rapidly. Tourism was largely seasonal based on North Americans escaping winter. In 2012 British travel journalist Nigel Tisdall, in his piece Bermuda has sand and sunshine – with just a hint of smugness, stated categorically that “Bermuda isn’t hip” and “a holiday here is expensive”. Despite homosexuality having been legalized, Bermuda is still not considered to be a gay friendly cruise port due to widespread discrimination. Jim Walker has reported in his Cruise Law News that busting cruise ship passengers for small amounts of drugs is big business for Bermuda Customs officers using sniffer dogs. USA Today has reported declining cruise arrivals for 2013. Bermuda’s Royal Gazette reported continuing inflation in 2012; apparently, Bermuda’s cost of living is several times that of most rival tourist destinations, and average hotel rates exceed most, if not all, world cities. The Bermuda Sun reported in 2012 that an exodus of expatriate workers was also hurting tourism.

In 2000, the Historic Town of St. George and its Related Fortifications was declared a World Heritage site, now managed by the St. George’s Foundation. No ICCROM members are listed for Bermuda; however, the Bermuda National Trust works to preserve and protect the heritage of Bermuda. There are historic fortifications at Fort St. Catherine, Martello tower, and Ordnance Island. Darrell’s Island was the former prisoner of war camp. The historic Royal Naval Dockyard is now serves as a cruise port, shopping and dining complex. Verdmont is a historic house and museum. Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is a historic cast iron lighthouse. Historical museums include the Bermudian Heritage Museum and the Bermuda Maritime Museum.

Living culture is overseen by the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. There are a number of public art galleries, including the Bermuda National Gallery in Hamilton, the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, and the Bermuda Society of the Arts at City Hall Arts Centre. In 2012, a sculpture at the Masterworks Museum was dedicated to John Lennon, whose last journey and last album (Double Fantasy) were inspired by Bermuda. The bandstand at Hamilton’s Victoria Park serves as an entertainment venue for free concerts. Festivals include the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, and traditional Bermuda kite festival every Easter. Ruthie Outerbridge’s Spirit House Bermuda is a center for a variety of New Age events. Free wifi and public Internet terminals are available at the Bermuda National Library. SeaExpress provides inter-island ferry services within Bermuda; a transport pass, for buses and ferries, should be purchased soon after arrival.

References:

  • Niche Tourism within Small Island Tourism Economies: An Analysis of SCUBA Tourists In Bermuda by A Jack, 2012
  • Environmental Effects of the Cruise Tourism Boom: Sediment Resuspension from Cruise Ships and the Possible Effects of Increased Turbidity and Sediment Deposition on Corals (Bermuda) by RJ Jones, 2011
  • Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder: a Case-study about Nature, Tourism and Bermuda by RW Johnston, 2008
  • Sustainable cruise tourism development: lessons from Bermuda by VB Teye & M Lück, 2007
  • Cruise Sector Policy in a Tourism-dependent Island Destination: The Case of Bermuda by VB Teye & RK Dowling, 2006
  • Another World: Bermuda and the Rise of Modern Tourism by D McDowall, 1999
  • Bermuda, tourism and the visiting cruise sector: Strategies for sustained growth by C Dale & N Robinson, 1999
  • Importance of tourism for the economy of Bermuda by B Archer, 1995
  • Rejuvenation planning for island tourism: the Bermuda example by MV Conlin & T Baum, 1995
  • The impact of international tourism on the economy of Bermuda, 1994 by B Archer, 1995
  • Environmental considerations in tourism development on island microstates: the case of Bermuda by VB Teye, 1994
  • Bermuda Tourism by MV Conlin, 1993
  • A comprehensive approach of a quality tourism product: The Bermuda case by D Van Houts, 1992
  • Land transportation and tourism in Bermuda by VB Teye, 1992
  • Bermuda: the role of tourism research by BH Archer, CW Riley & C Cooper, 1990
  • A Short History of Recreational Fishing and its Association with Tourism in Bermuda: 1930-1986 by T Smith, 1989