Caribbean Cruising '22: Blissful Barbuda

Suzanna Pinder on 02 March 2022
Approaching Barbuda by sea it was not land we saw first, at only 125ft at the highest point, but the change in colour of water from deep Caribbean blue to the most mesmerising turquoise, even giving the clouds a slightly blue tinge. Shortly after, the dazzling white sand beaches came into sight, fringed with swaying palms and backed by huge blue skies. If you could design the quintessential Caribbean island, it would be Barbuda!

Whilst there are a couple of small hotels dotted around, Barbuda is virtually untouched by tourism and a fascinating place. Most residents live in the only town, Codrington, a fairly sleepy place but definitely the hub of the island. Devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, locals enthusiastically talk about life after Irma and how the island is rebuilding itself. This includes mixed feelings about proposed larger tourism developments by the likes of film star Robert de Niro and billionaire James Packer, who have recently opened a Nobu restaurant on the beach. A little surreal to be on an island with no paved roads, a simple life for residents, wild horses and donkeys roaming about… and a Nobu restaurant!

Barbuda is famed for its frigate bird rookery, featured in National Geographic as one of the largest in the world. Having seen frigate birds at sea dramatically swoop to scoop food from the surface, we were keen to learn more about these magnificent birds and spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring Codrington Lagoon, led by our fabulous local guide George. Zooming across the open water of the lagoon we could soon hear the cries and see the air ahead alive with birds. Threading through the maze of mangrove channels, we then smelt the birds(!) and arrived to their nesting site. Completely unphased by our presence, we got very close whilst George animatedly explained about these fascinating birds and their importance to the residents of Barbuda. George also showed us some of the devastation caused by Irma around the lagoon, tearing out areas of mangroves (the frigate birds even had to move home!), lifting and depositing huge shipping containers way out into the mangroves and destroying natural barriers holding back the sea, subsequently changing the ecosystem in some areas, but how nature has adapted and is slowly rebuilding damaged areas. A captivating afternoon.

The beaches of Barbuda are spectacular. Long stretches of white and pink sand as far as the eye can see, lapped by warm turquoise water and backed with lush greenery and palms, often with barely another soul in sight. Having had some heavy weather pass through also seemed to make the colours pop more, set against huge dramatically dark skies. Underwater revealed colourful reefs, teeming with beautiful tropical fish, turtles, rays and small sharks. Back on land we had a very enjoyable couple of evenings at our ‘local’, Shak a Kai. The perfect spot for sundowners and to exchange stories with fellow sailors anchored in the bay. An idyllic setting and bar - I didn’t want to leave and even asked for a job! Barbuda is a magical island and very unique. Anyone looking to run away for some true peace and quite, R&R on pristine beaches and to snorkel on some amazing reefs, this is the island to visit.

This article was published as part of a series ‘Caribbean Cruising 2022’:

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