Barbuda Nice

Barbuda: the place where God goes on vacation

 

Barbuda

Barbuda

25 nautical miles north of Antigua lies, hidden below the horizon, the flat low island of Barbuda. Surrounded by coral reefs, the final resting place of many boats, the island was once considered the greatest peril to navigation in the Indes, its invisible sharp coral jaws ready to snatch another careless vessel. Even today Barbuda is not a popular cruising destination not only because of the reefs, but also because the island does not offer many weather-protected bays, and its location is off the main route most cruisers follow around these waters. All that makes it even more attractive to us, always in search of quiet unspoiled places, always lured by the off-the-beaten-path destinations.

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We sail north, the wind coming from east, blowing with 16-20 knots, just beautiful. Only after four hours of sailing with about 7 to 8 knots on a beam reach we approach Barbuda. Usually in the Caribbean when we sail from one island to another, we can see our destination from many miles away, but Barbuda remains hidden and mysterious, right until we are just 5-6 miles from its shores, and even closer to it reefs. We sneak between the shallows and the breakers on the southwest side and drop anchor in crystal blue waters like the waters in the Bahamas in front of the longest most beautiful beach.

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

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There are no people and no buildings for miles and miles, only one small hotel, yellow with red roof. Lighthouse Bay is a luxurious all-inclusive boutique resort with 1,000 dollar suits where extremely rich guests arrive by helicopter, but at this time of the year there are no guests, not even staff. We are alone.

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

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Mira

Mira

The beach on the west coast of the island, 12 miles of pink fine sand, has no footsteps, only sea turtle tracks. This time of the year, this time of the month, sea turtles are laying eggs.

The first night we encounter a hawksbill turtle looking for a spot to lay her eggs. At first we see a black shadow in the water slowly approaching land. As she reaches the shore, the turtle lifts her head above the water and looks around before emerging, her wet dark shell shining in the silver moonlight. We freeze, squat, and watch in awe from a distance as the big creature makes its way up, painfully crawling in the sand. Up on the sandbank near a bush she stops for a while. Did she see us? Did we spook her? Or she simply didn’t like the spot and started heading back to sea? I can’t resist and snap a picture before she enters the water and disappears in the ocean even though I know it is not a good idea to flash the poor creatures in the dark. Forgive me mama-turtle. Hope you found the perfect spot to lay your eggs. May all your hundred babies hatch healthy, reach the sea safely and live to be a thousand-years-old.

Haeksbill Turtle, Barbuda

Hawksbill Turtle, Barbuda

The next day we jump in the kayak, all three of us, and start paddling in the shallows parallel to the shore for about a mile and a half to the north end of the beach.

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The sea on this side of the island is completely still, like a lake, there are no swells, and the waves that reach the shore are tiny and gentle.

Evo and Maya with the Kayak

Evo and Maya with the Kayak

Maya

Maya

The sand is white and powdery peppered with pink miniature sea shells giving it its unusual pink hues specific and unique to this place.

Pink sand beach, Barbuda

Pink sand beach, Barbuda

We reach a spot where there is a strange art installation on the beach, a piece of driftwood adorned with all sorts of plastic garbage the sea has spewed ashore. It is the marker indicating a cut across to the mangrove maze.

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The long 12-mile pink-sand narrow strip of a beach on the west lee side of Barbuda is separated from the island’s mainland by a shallow swampy area, Codrington Lagoon, where the water is dark-colored due to the mangroves and with higher salinity. The only way to access our pink beach from the main island is by small boat, and it is not a short ride. That is why there is no one here most of the time.

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The remote mangroves on the northwest side of Barbuda where humans rarely venture provide habitat for the largest Magnificent Frigatebird breeding colony in the Caribbean, one of the biggest frigate bird sanctuaries in the world. With about 1700 nests, the site has been declared a national park.

Kayaking inside the frigatebird sanctuary

Kayaking inside the frigatebird sanctuary

Magnificent Frigatebirds

The Magnificent Frigatebird also known as man o’war or man of war is long-winged, fork-tailed black bird of the tropical oceans. An agile silent flier he snatches fish off the surface of the ocean and pirates food from other birds.

Magnificent Frigatebird, Barbuda

Magnificent Frigatebird, Barbuda

Frigatebirds never land on water, and always take their food in flight. It spends days and nights on the wing, with an average ground speed of 10 km/h (6.2 mph), covering up to 223 km (139 mi) before landing. They alternately climb in thermals, to altitudes occasionally as high as 2,500 m (8,200 ft), and descend to near the sea surface.

Frigatebirds, Barbuda

Frigatebirds, Barbuda

To visit the frigatebird sanctuary you can hire a local guide with a small motor boat which costs 40 $US per person. Or, you can take your kayak along the beach, all the way to the north corner until you reach the driftwood decorated with ocean garbage, drag it across to the mangrove lagoon and paddle inside the bird sanctuary, exploring noiselessly its many small channels, inaccessible even to the guide with the motor boat because they are too shallow. This will save you some cash and you will be able to go much closer to the nesting grounds without disturbing the birds, and spend as much time in the colony as you wish for free, like we did.

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

We spent over an hour in the mangrove maze, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of frigates nesting in the bush, hovering above us like dark kites, looking us suspiciously, telling us something important but alas incomprehensive to us. I wonder if they remember us. We surely remember them with so much affection.

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

 

By early afternoon we are back on the boat. After splashing in the warm crystal blue waters, a math lesson, and some rest, we decide to make a fire on the beach around sunset and celebrate the full moon tonight.

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We love beach fires and fires in general, we think they are fascinating and have their own short lives, and it is always a great excitement building them, lighting them and watching them burn.

Mira and Maya building a fire

Mira and Maya building a fire

Maya and Mira gathering firewood

Maya and Mira gathering firewood

Mira dancing around the fire

Mira dancing around the fireplace

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Maya made fire!

Maya made fire!

Maya at sunset

Maya at sunset

Evo by the fire

Evo by the fire

Maya with marshmallow

Maya with marshmallow

Maya...

Maya…

moon

moon

Maya firedance

Maya fire-dance

Evo and Maya by the fire

Evo and Maya by the fire

Full moon in Barbuda

Full moon in Barbuda

As we are eating fire-roasted potatoes and hamburgers, and sipping white wine, the full moon watching over us, turtles crawling out of the sea in the darkness down the beach, dark birds sleeping in the branches of the mangroves behind us, we are thinking how nice, how magical these two days, and nights, in Barbuda were. Days, and nights, like these we don’t want to end.

Evo and Maya by the fire

Evo and Maya by the fire

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About lifenomadik

We are a family aboard a boat in search of freedom and adventure.
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4 Responses to Barbuda Nice

  1. Great blog entry and great pictures. We’ve been following you guys for quite awhile although I’ve never checked in and shown some love until now. We are about to set out on our own adventure and look to you guys for inspiration – not quite sure we’ll have the cojones that you guys have displayed at times, but we’ll do the best we can. Keep up the good work, and we hope to see you out there some day, unless you guys slip off through the Panama Canel before we can, that is.

    • lifenomadik says:

      Hello good people and fellow travelers, sailors and adventurers! Thank you for your nice words and hope to see you too! We are planing to cross the Panama Canal in less than an year, though, and we are not going back in the Caribbean after we reach Tobago… But maybe you will catch up and we can meet up in French Polynesia?

      All the best to the entire crew, and please keep in touch! We would love to follow your journey as well!

      The Nomadiks

  2. Peter says:

    I am curious, as I would imagine you have already done the research, as to cost of crossing to the Pacific via the Panama Canal. In the not-so-distant future, my wife and I will do the reverse trip, from California to the Caribbean…. Just as soon out 11-year-old goes to college.

    Great blog and adventure – enjoy!

    • lifenomadik says:

      Hi Peter. The crossing of the canal is between 800 and 1500 US$. Depends on a few things, like if you hire an agent who will deal with everything or you decide to arrange everything yourself, if you already have a crew of 5 captain included or you have to hire people to pull ropes for 2 days and pay all there expenses. There is one book, the best there is, all about the canal and the crossing plus cruising Panama and San Blass and more. The Panama Cruising Guide by Eric Bauhaus. Best cruising guide ever. Read it before the crossing. Good luck with your plans!

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