British Virgin Islands

Although this Caribbean archipelago consists of 60 islands, the story begins on the 61st, an island that does not belong to them. Why? We must share an unforgettable landing experience at one of the craziest airports in the world. 

The legendary Princess Juliana Airport on the French-Dutch island of Saint Maarten is the second largest airport in the Northeast Caribbean, after San Juan in Puerto Rico. The worst possible way to know the strength of the Caribbean Ocean winds is to have such a gust greet you as soon as you land at the mentioned airport. Of course, it happened to us, too.

In our crowded Air France flight, there was nationwide rejoicing after we successfully, swaying and shaking violently, landed on a short runway at the end of which stands an artificially filled earthen hill, or let’s call it the ski terminology, a mogul. It is about ten meters high and stops planes that fail to brake to the runway end. Otherwise, they would end up in the sea.

If you’re sitting by the window and not a big fan of flying, do not look down when landing on Juliana. If you look down, you will feel like landing on a beach full of swimmers, some of whom are trying to touch the wheels of your plane with their hands. And they almost succeed in that!

If we had looked on the Internet the photos of planes flying over the beach at ten meters height (even a few meters lower) before landing, we would have sworn that it was a photomontage. Type “St Maarten airport” in a search engine, and you will see what we mean.

… there are no direct intercontinental flights to the British Virgin Islands (there are also American ones, right next to them). So you have to use one of the international airports in the Lesser Antilles when you fly from Europe or America.

We are sharing this entire story because there are no direct intercontinental flights to the British Virgin Islands (though there are American ones also nearby). When traveling from Europe or America, one must use one of the international airports in the Lesser Antilles.

We landed on Tortola after a short flight from Saint Maarten. Tortola is the main island, with Road Town as the capital and administrative center of the archipelago. The British Virgin Islands (BVI for short) are legally and politically somewhat undefined – to put it mildly.

The British, who were once a dominant global power and still hold significant influence in Anglo-Saxon politics, named this archipelago British overseas territory. Then, the European Union appeared at some point, and the innocent islands bathed in ocean waves became the – Overseas territory of the European Union. And this even though Great Britain is not in the same European Union. Additionally, the official currency used in the BVI is the US dollar.

We cannot help but wonder: who is crazy and confused? The application of UK laws in the archipelago is selective, with some applying to the predominantly (over 80%) Afro-Caribbean population. But it is not as important to them as banks and financial institutions worldwide whose, more or less discreet branches peek behind the palm branches now and then while driving through Tortola. 

They explained to us that in the archipelago, the laws of the United Kingdom are applied selectively. Some are valid, and some are not valid for the mainly black population (over 80% “Afro-Carribeans”).

Nothing can deceive us too bright, and so many times screwed Croats. We will give the whole story its real name. In two words, it looks like: money laundering! So much for geopolitics for today.

We have to admit that this tremendous wealth concentrated in such a small space is not seen very much. More than 450,000 active offshore companies (per 30,000 BVI residents!) are registered in the administration. That is enough just for the fact that there is no poverty and crime here, such as in nearby San Juan, the crowded capital of Puerto Rico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. 

In the port, several great cruisers greeted us, which sail into Road town almost every day. As in our Dubrovnik, they are not very popular here either. High turnover, low earnings, we would say, and the apathetic views of souvenir sellers in wooden houses in the port confirm this.

We took a taxi around the island, leaving it to the driver to choose the most significant and photogenic places. The beaches are beautiful, full of luxury resorts. It is not uncommon to see a masseur in the pavilion, in the shade of palm leaves, who with aromatic oils is rubbing the tanned body of a fugitive from everyday managerial stress in Toronto or Frankfurt. Our driver and guide in one person took us to the top of the island (the highest point of the archipelago is 530 meters above sea level on Tortola), from where it is a beautiful view of the other islands. He says the temperature on the observation point can be about ten degrees lower than on the coast.

Those larger islands of the archipelago, such as Virgin Gorda (with its huge rocks on the sandy beaches), Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada, are also worth visit. Each of them has some peculiarities of its own. For example, Anegada is the only coral island and only a few meters high, with specific flora and fauna. All others are, of course, of volcanic origin. On each of the islands, you can practice snorkeling (diving with a mask and snorkel to a depth of several meters) and enjoy the fabulous colors of the tropical fish that surround you.

Even if you are not interested in underwater photography, you can take fantastic underwater photos with small (and cheap) waterproof digital cameras, which have recently appeared on the market. They photographed and filmed us in a large dolphinarium not far from the center of Tortola, while two dolphins dragged us around the pool at the speed of a speedboat. They kissed us. It is a pity that apart from English, we did not learn the dolphin language in school, because they kept telling us something. Maybe they wanted to ask us to greet their relatives in Croatia. 

The Caribbean is a sailing paradise, probably the most famous in the world. Throughout our stay at BVI, it did not stop blowing from all directions. And at the same time. The regatta is plentiful, at least once a week during the season. There are for everyone’s age and taste, from the most elite ones that bring together the world’s sailing and not only sailing cream to the humorous one called – Whatever Flows Regatta. We did not check the prices of charters, they are easy to find on the Internet, but we are sure they are not much more expensive than those on the Adriatic. 

The whole of Peter Island is a luxury resort for 150 guests where the non-intrusive service tries (and succeeds) to make you feel like in a fairy tale for your thousand dollars a day (!) and upwards (wine not included).

In the end, we left the sweetest thing: Peter Island! Coincidentally, we spent two days and slept two nights in a super-luxury bungalow on a fairytale island. It is regularly ranked among the most beautiful World islands and the top ten Caribbean dreamy destinations. The whole of Peter Island is a luxury resort for 150 guests where the non-intrusive service tries (and succeeds) to make you feel like in a fairy tale for your thousand dollars a day (!) and upwards (wine not included).

The list of world celebrities, multibillionaires, and other jet-setters who come here regularly is long. Therefore, it is not uncommon for Sean Penn, Beyonce, or Nicole Kidman to lie under a nearby parasol. Or that at the table next to you in a magical restaurant poetically called Deadman’s Beach Grill (many toponyms in the Caribbean islands allude to their glorious pirate past) have dinner with Tom Cruise, Jodie Foster, Meg Ryan, or some other star of that caliber. 

The ratio of the number of guests and service is 2: 1, and the whole island and the broad sea around it is the so-called no-fly zone. It is forbidden to fly over the exhausted rich men. Of course, it is also a no-paparazzi zone. Every time you leave the room, a maid enters it, and the driver of the electric car drives you around the island whenever, wherever, and as much as you want. We were delighted with the breakfast. We bathed in the taste, colors, and smells of tropical fruits. We hoped in vain to meet iguanas on the paths of the islands, but we enjoyed the noisy crashing of birds into the sea. An unusual way of fishing.

If you have not gotten married yet, and you think it is your turn, be sure to do so on Peter Island. For a hundred dollars, on one of the five beaches from the fairy tale, a priest and a registrar will sail from Tortola with a Caribbean sunset, and you will whisper a fateful Yes to the ocean wind and waves. There is only one minor technical problem – you will not be able to invite more than 150 guests to the wedding!

TEXT & PHOTO – Voljen Grbac