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Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide
 
Last Updated: Jun-06-2012, Hits: 4,650, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (14)
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Tortola, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide
 
Location: Caribbean
Geography: Island, Beach
Vacation Type: Romantic, Relaxation, Adventure
Popularity: Moderate Tourism
Costs: Expensive
Attractions: Scenery, Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Scuba & Snorkeling, Spa & Wellness

Facts and Stats:
Population: 3,696
Land Area: 8.5 square miles
Elevation: Sea level
Country Dialing Code: 284
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: AST - UTC-4
Current Time:

Introduction:
Virgin Gorda is best known for being a yachting destination featuring luxury resorts, beautiful beaches, and the granite rock formations at the southern end of the island known as "The Baths". Virgin Gorda also offers excellent island-hopping opportunities.

Geography:
Virgin Gorda is the 3rd largest and 2nd most populated island in the British Virgin Islands. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are located in the northwestern extreme of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles to the northwest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Virgin Gorda is less than 5 miles from the main island of Tortola and 90 miles from Puerto Rico.

Virgin Gorda, or "Fat Virgin" got its name from Christopher Columbus because he thought the island's profile looked like a fat woman laying down with the 1,359 foot high Gorda Peak as the belly of the woman. There are 2 basic districts on the island. The Valley is the southern portion of the island and is the location of the main settlement of Spanish Town. The other area is called North Sound and is only accessible by boat. There are a couple of resort located in North Sound as well as several satellite islands offshore.

Although much of the island is covered in dense forest, Virgin Gorda is fairly dry and is home to several species of cacti including Prickly Pear and Organ Pipe.

Brief History:
The Virgin Islands were inhabited as early as 300 BC by the Ciboney tribe from Venezuela. They were conquered by the Arawaks (Taino) around 200 AD. The Caribs enslaved the Arawaks a short time later.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Virgin Gorda and the other British Virgin Islands naming them "St Ursula and 11,000 Virgins". As there was no gold on Virgin Gorda, it was not settled, although its coves provided a frequent base for pirates such as Bluebeard and Captain Kidd during the 17th century.

Virgin Gorda was finally settled in 1680 by British farmers from Anguilla who established cotton and sugar plantations. Shortly after, indigo and ginger were grown, cattle were raised, and copper was mined.

In 1834, slavery was abolished in the Virgin Islands freeing an estimated 5,792 slaves. As many as 2,000 slaves had already been freed before abolition. The slaves "freed" during abolition were not freed immediately. They had to endure 4 more years of indentured servitude. The reason for this was to phase out slavery rather than suffer the effects of ending it immediately.

Shortly after this, the territory suffered a severe economic decline. This was partially due to the ending of slavery, but also the result of a series of hurricanes. A particularly strong hurricane hit in 1837 which destroyed numerous sugar works and plantations. This was followed by destructive hurricanes in 1842 and 1852. In 1853, the islands were struck with a cholera outbreak which killed 15% of the population, and then 2 more major hurricanes in 1867. Most of the farmers left and the economy was in shambles for decades.

During the 20th century, government programs were introduced to revive the sugar, cotton and livestock industries.

During the 1960's, Laurence Rockefeller developed Little Dix Bay Resort. Around the same time, a marina was built on Tortola. These were the beginnings of what would become a major industry for islanders.

People & Culture:
The people are often described as friendly, but reserved as the result of British influence. This means that smart casual dress should be worn in upscale restaurants, and swimwear should be confined to the beach and pool areas.

BVI's fungi, calypso, reggae and gospel festivals are distinctly Caribbean, but firmly rooted in Africa. At hotels, bars, and parks, the lively beat of fungi, steel pan and calypso celebrate their heritage. The Easter Festival and the Emancipation Festival are held every spring and summer. At these and other craft fairs held throughout the year, local artists and artisans display their work in rattan, terracotta, and wicker, as well as sculptures, watercolours, oil paintings, and photography. Education, religion, and the arts are important facets of locals' lives.

Food & Nightlife:
Food on Virgin Gorda tends to be pretty expensive as it is shipped to St. Thomas from the U.S. and then reshipped to Virgin Gorda. There are a couple of local restaurants that are more affordable. There is a fair range of cuisines available in the island's restaurants although Caribbean food is the staple. Local fare includes: Anegada lobster, whelks (like escargot), conch, roti, fungi, and paté.

There are several grocery stores on the island and they also provide provisioning services to rental houses.

Most tap water is desalinated salt water, which is safe to drink. Bottled water is readily available.

Most of the bars are at the resorts, however, there are a couple others in Spanish Town and around the island. The nightlife isn't crazy, but there are several bars that will stay open late if there are customers around. The legal drinking age is 21.

Money & Costs:
The local currency is the US dollar and most shops, hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. There are 2 banks available: First Bank Virgin Islands and First Caribbean International Bank. You can exchange foreign currencies or get cash from them if needed.

The BVI is fairly expensive. Most of the accomodations on Virgin Gorda will run you over $200/night and there is a 7% tax on accomodations, however, there are a couple of more affordable options.

Tipping in restaurants is 15%, however, many restaurants include a 15% service fee in the bill. Porters and bellhops typically get a dollar per bag. Tipping taxi drivers is not necessary, although you can give 10-15% for excellent service.

There is no sales tax in the BVI.

Entry Requirements:
For an explanation of entry requirements, please visit the Deputy Governor's Office.

Getting There & Around:
There are a number of travel options for getting to Virgin Gorda. The Virgin Gorda Airport (VIJ) is serviced by Air Sunshine providing flights from Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. These flights take about 30 minutes. Charter flights are also available to the airport from various destinations. From the Virgin Gorda airport, you will be transfered by your accomodations if they provide this service (most do), or take a taxi.

Another option is to fly into Tortola Island's Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS) that is actually located on nearby Beef Island. In fact, the airport was previously called Beef Island Airport. Flights from San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Martin and Antigua arrive here in addition to charter flights. Some of the resorts provide private transfer to Virgin Gorda via a 15 minute boat trip. If your accomodations do not provide this service, water taxi and ferry services are available.

Once on the island, you can rent an SUV, Jeep, scooter or bicycle. Which you should get depends on where you want to go. There are a number of roads on the island that are best suited for a 4-wheel drive like a Jeep. Keep in mind that driving is on the left side of the road.

If you opt not to rent a vehicle, there is taxi service available. If you want to visit North Sound, you will need to travel by boat as there are no roads connecting this area with The Valley.

Weather:
Virgin Gorda enjoys a tropical climate tempered by trade winds. Temperatures vary little throughout the year or from day to night. Rainfall can be erratic on the island, but generally September to December are the wettest months. Hurricane season is from June through November. High season is December through April.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Virgin Gorda.


The table below shows the weather averages.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 82 82 82 84 84 86 87 87 87 86 84 82
Avg Low 71 71 71 73 75 77 77 77 75 75 73 73
Water Temp 81 79 79 81 81 82 82 84 84 84 82 82
Precipitation 2.9" 2.5" 2.2" 3.3" 4.6" 2.8" 3.3" 4.4" 6.1" 5.3" 7.0" 4.4"
Days of Rainfall 4 4 3 3 4 3 4 5 5 5 6 5

Contacts:
  • Emergency: 999, 911 or VHF 16
  • Search & Rescue: 494-4357 or 494-3473
  • Police: 495-5222
  • Operator: 0
  • International directory assistance: 110
  • Local directory assistance: 119
Tips & Additional Information:
  • Public nudity is illegal, hence, there are no nude beaches.
  • Cell phone service is available for most major carriers, although international roaming fees can add up quickly. Another option is to buy a pay-as-you-go phone on the island.
  • Internet access is available at most accomodations and there are internet cafes near the yacht harbour.
  • Gorda Peak is home to the worlds smallest gecko.
  • There are no dangerous or poisonous land animals in the British Virgin Islands. Oleander, Elephant Ears, and the Manchioneel Tree have poisonous leaves or fruit and should be avoided. In the water, fire coral and sea urchins cause the most problems.
  • The only hospital is in Road Town on Tortola. There is a small clinic on Virgin Gorda.
  • There is no hyperbaric chamber in BVI. The closest one is in the US Virgin Islands.
  • Spear fishing is not permitted in the BVI.
  • It is against the law to use SCUBA gear to capture or remove any marine animal or coral.
  • Many of the reef fish in the BVI carry a dangerous disease called ciguatera. It is recommended that you do not keep any caught fish unless you are with an experienced guide who knows which fish are safe to eat.
  • Yachters and sailors must pay for a cruising permit while in the BVI.
  • There are no golf courses in the BVI due to the hilly nature of the islands.





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