The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are east of Puerto Rico, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The island group is comprised of 16 inhabited and more than 20 uninhabited islands, both relatively flat coral islands and steep, hilly volcanic islands. The four main islands are Anegada, Jost van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda. The highest point is Mount Sage at 521 meters (1,716 feet), the surroundings protected as Mount Sage National Park. The primary environmental issue is limited natural freshwater resources, except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola; most of the islands’ water supply comes from wells and rainwater catchments. The Virgin Islands archipelago as a whole consists of 60 islands, cays and islets, including the nearby US Virgin Islands and the Spanish Virgins Islands of Puerto Rico.
In 2008, the British Virgin Islands Protected Areas System Plan 2007-2017 was approved by the government, including the National Parks Trust and Conservation & Fisheries Department. As of 2008, the National Parks Trust manages 17 national parks, including 15 terrestrial parks and one marine park (Wreck of the Rhone); several of the parks are offshore islands such as Great Tobago, The Dogs, and Fallen Jerusalem. Many of the uninhabited islands are protected as bird sanctuaries, including Cockroach Island, George Dog Island, Ginger Island, Great Dog Island, Prickly Pear Island, Round Rock Island, Salt Island, and East Seal Dog Island. US NGO The Conservation Agency helped successfully reintroduce of flamingos to Guana Island Wildlife Sanctuary and the salt ponds of Anegada island. Seasonal sea turtle hunting is still legal in BVI; though, there is a campaign to stop it, End Sea Turtle Hunting Season in the British Virgin Islands. In 2011, Richard Branson triggered a conservation row over a plan to introduce non-native lemurs on his privately owned Moskito Island.
Necker Island is Richard Branson’s other privately owned island and operates as a resort, part of his portfolio of Virgin Limited Edition luxury properties. Other private islands include Buck Island, Eustatia Island, Guana Island, Little Thatch, and Peter Island. Other island resorts include Cooper Island, The Villa Oasis on Great Camanoe, Frenchman’s Hotel on Frenchman’s Cay, Saba Rock, Scrub Island, and Pirates Bight on Norman Island.
Cool places to stay include Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar & White Bay Campground on the island of Jost Van Dyke. On Tortola, check out Mongoose Apartments Guesthouse at Cane Garden Bay. Island Surf & Sail are Tortola’s watersports and watertoy experts, including kayak rentals. Among other things, Last Stop Sports does stand up paddle surfing on Tortola. Blue Water Divers operates two dive centers on Tortola. Captain Colin’s Jost Van Dyke Scuba also offers snorkeling trips and ecotours. At several locations on Virgin Gorda, Dive BVI can meet all scuba diving requirements.
- Devil’s Bay, Virgin Gorda
- Spring Bay, Virgin Gorda
- Fallen Jerusalem, Virgin Gorda
- Gorda Peak, Virgin Gorda
- Queen Elizabeth II Park
- West Dog
- Dead Chest Island
- Little Fort, Virgin Gorda
- JR O’Neal Botanic Gardens, Tortola
- Mount Healthy, Tortola
- Prickly Pear Island
- The Baths, Virgin Gorda
- Diamond Cay, Little Jost Van Dyke
- Great Tobago
- Little Tobago
- Cam Bay, Great Camanoe
- Shark Bay, Tortola
- The Coppermine, Virgin Gorda
- Sandy Cay
The first European sighting of the Virgin Islands was by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his second voyage. First settled by the Dutch in 1648, the islands were annexed in 1672 by the English. Today, the British Virgin Islands economy is closely tied to the larger and more populous US Virgin Islands to the west, and as a result the US dollar is the legal currency.
The Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society endeavors to protect key elements of the island’s culture and environment for the future generations. Since 2007, the British Virgin Islands Heritage Conservation Group has been blocking resort development on Beef Island, near the main commercial airport that serves Tortola and the rest of the British Virgin Islands, Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS).
There are quite a few historic ruins on Tortola. Fort Burt is a colonial fort that was erected on the southwest edge of Road Town, above Road Reef Marina, now a hotel and restaurant. Josiah’s Bay plantation is a ruin of an old plantation house, now restored as an art gallery and cafe. Mount Healthy windmill is a ruined windmill on the north side of Tortola, protected as Mount Healthy National Park. Old Government House Museum is an ongoing project displaying the story of the governors residence, originally built in 1880 and closed as a residence in 1996. St. Phillip’s Church is claimed to be the oldest free black church in the Americas. On Virgin Gorda, the Copper Mine is a national park containing the ruins of an abandoned 19th-century copper mine.
Annual events include the BVI Music Festival, BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, and Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous. Limin’ Times is an entertainment magazine serving BVI.
- Slavery, Smallholding and Tourism: Social Transformations in the British Virgin Islands by ME O’Neal, 2012
- Take Me to My Paradise: Tourism and Nationalism in the British Virgin Islands by CB Cohen, 2010
- Quality of beaches and tourism in the British Virgin Islands by V Duvat, 2009
- The Effect of Marine Based Tourism on the Coral Reefs of the British Virgin Islands by SP Hime, 2008
- Challenges Facing National Tourism Organizations: The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board by M Scantlebury, 2007
- Toward a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for Tortola, British Virgin Islands by L Pickering, 2006
- Hustling to Host: Everyday Practice, Pedagogy and Participation in British Virgin Islands Tourism by PG Turnbull, 2003
- Marine ecotourism through education: A case study of divers in the British Virgin Islands by C Townsend, 2003
- Ecotourism, Yachting and Local Entrepreneurs: A Case Study of the British Virgin Islands by C Petrovic & E O’Neal, 2001
- Island is a woman: women as producers and products in British Virgin Islands tourism by CB Cohen, 2001
- Why Does the Tourist Dollar Matter?: An Introduction to the Economics of Tourism in the British Virgin Islands by P Encontre, 1989
- Tourism in Tortola, British Virgin Islands: perceptions toward land carrying capacity by CDB Howell, 1983