Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | March 20, 2012

Spirited Barbuda

N 17° 39.3′   W 61° 51.58′

Low Bay, near Codrington, Barbuda

 Barbuda, although linked with Antigua as a nation, has a very separate identity. Most of the 1600 or so residents are descendents of slaves who tended the Codrington family plantation years ago. The islanders we met were friendly and proud of their beautiful and undeveloped, non-commercialized home.

A key factor in the culture’s uniqueness is that land is held communally. The Barbudans as a whole have resisted the scale of development that one might expect with their world class real estate. We figure the beachfront must be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We didn’t see a lot of poverty but most islanders surely aren’t wealthy, so it must be hard to continue to say “no” to selling the land as a source of community revenue.

The determined spirit of the masses says a lot about their values. The guide book tells how locals once thwarted an Antigua government deal to allow a massive resort to be built on Spanish Point, a story which was confirmed during our tour. The islanders went to the site in protest and pushed the construction trailer over the cliff into the sea. Their wishes were heard and the project was scratched. We saw no signs of construction as we hiked in that desolate area, although we saw lot markers north of the Lighthouse Point resort on the western anchorage signaling the beginning of another development attempt.

A facet of island culture that doesn’t fit with the theme of ecology is that the island exports sand, along with fishing and tourism, to sustain the economy. In this land of unbelievable beaches and vulnerability to hurricanes we found that idea hard to fathom. Some of the islanders don’t think the sand business is such a good idea and believe sand would be better taken from deposits offshore via pipeline instead of from the island’s interior. We hope the Barbudans’ historic spirit of preservation can hold out to keep the island unspoiled for future generations.

The small travel booklet we got in the Tourist Office lists a few guest houses and cottages along with two resorts. High speed ferries advertise cruise ship shore excursions from Antigua but we did not see any during our stay. There are two small airports and we heard an occasional buzz of turbine aircraft – no jets. We had several days when we saw no other human being up close, only boats in the distance, wild donkeys and chickens.

Barbuda would be a wonderful vacation hide-a-way. Princess Diana was one of the island’s past regular visitors and there is a beach here that was renamed in her honor. A young man stopped Bob in Codrington to ask if he was Bruce Willis. Bob had a good laugh, and we would guess that the occasional celebrity must still find respite here.

We felt very welcomed, although we did not venture to the beachfront resort we were warned did not serve boaters of any kind. One woman on the street warmly gave us a hug and inquired if we were enjoying our stay. She asked us to please tell our friends back home about Barbuda. We wanted to know if they would like more visitors here and she said “just a little bit”. So it seems that small-scale tourism, just enough to keep the local economy sustained, is desirable.

For yachtsmen, especially those with heavy dinghies that can’t be dragged over the sandbar into the lagoon, the entirety of the island is complicated to access since the town is not situated on a deep water port. There are a couple of entrepreneurial water taxi drivers who closely monitor VHF Channel 16 and are more than willing to speedily provide the $40 round trip ride to town. The islanders probably don’t want to hear this, but a cheaper and scheduled water taxi and a secured dinghy tie line on the high sandbar would encourage we cruisers in the anchorage to frequent the services, shops and restaurants in town.

Finding the Barbudan lobster meal I craved took some research to meet the criteria: a reasonably priced establishment convenient to the boat with a suitable place to leave or watch the dinghy. I found The Barbudan Outback, an informal beach-side restaurant within dinghy distance that seemed to fit the description. They don’t have regular hours but agreed to open for lunch the next day and took my phone order for lobster for two. We arrived at noon and hauled the dinghy up the sandbar – an appetite generating drill – and found the cook had expected us earlier and had gone home at 10 am. They would not be serving again until the next day. Guess I didn’t communicate clearly or maybe I don’t understand island time. There were about a dozen boats in the anchorage near the restaurant and I’m betting that a quick VHF announcement could have drummed up interest in more fresh seafood lunches. But I’m beginning to understand that life here operates in a way that does not put the desires and conveniences of the visiting boater near the top of the priority list.

The cool morning breeze offset the warmth for a pleasant walk up the rugged coastline on windward side of the island

Pink beaches, as advertised! This one tinted with tiny pink coral shells.

I could have stayed in Barbuda and enjoyed this spectacular scenery for a very long time. I’m sure I would have met up with my lobster meal eventually. But we are running out of fresh veggies and it is far to town. The flies swarming the boat are becoming annoying. And the weather should be pleasant to continue south to our next stop, Antigua.

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Responses

  1. Hey “Bruce” and Elaine… Thanks for the very interesting scoop on Barbuda.. sounds like you had a unique and enjoyable experience. Have fun at Antigua!

  2. Hey Bruce! I knew you looked familiar! “Yippie Ki Yea” Can you name the movie?

    Barbuda sounds incredible! Sorry you were not successful in landing that lobster.. Denise & I have been to Antigua. If you get a chance to make it over to Deep Bay (near Galley Bay) there is a sunken ship for some interesting snorkeling and easy beach access with the dinghy, where you can enjoy an easy hike up to a fort with nice views back over Deep Bay and the Royal Antiguan Resort (we stayed there). There is a nice restaurant up the hill above Royal Antiguan that had a great open air atmosphere, great food, reasonably priced, with incredible views! Safe travels!

    • Glen, you are hired as our travel advisor! Pulled into Deep Bay yesterday afternoon. Nice spot, even more so when the cruise ship day trips leave.

      • Now I’m really jealous! That is a great spot! Are the goats still roaming the hillside? I snorkelled that entire bay and enjoyed many unique sights!

        One afternoon while snorkelling, I could not decide wether to enjoy the flying fish that were leaping over me (while being chased by baracuda) or the goats that seemed trapped on the hillside! I don’t know how they climb to certain spots!

        My only complaint would be the same as yours, that the cruise ship tours have discovered this beautiful bay… Although we did have some good entertainment one afternoon, when a drunken tourist missed the departure and tossed his beer at the boat, as it left him behind!
        Hopefully, Bob won’t ever do that to you, when you are out exploring paradise! lol

        • There are still lots of goats on both hills, even the one that is being developed with pretty villas. Can’t believe how they negotiate the steep cliffs. Sadly, the resort doesn’t seem to be doing well. Heard there were no guests, and the only people we saw were the staff. Most of the grounds immediately around the hotel were still being maintained, pool and lobby were exquisite, one of the three restaurants was open for business. They seem to be struggling and can’t imagine how long they can continue. Possibly a casualty of fewer airline tours/package vacation visitors?


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