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An older VG report

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:40 am
by jmq
This is from a 2006 TR that was posted here on the "old forum" before the changeover in formatting etc. and another version of this was posted on TTOL. Some of this info is kinda old but some of it may be fun reading for someone like MB who is now planning a VG trip. An example: you no longer need that temp BVI drivers license.

April 2006 TR
We got back April 24th from first time trip to Virgin Gorda for 5 days after 8 days on St. John. This turned out to be just a big tease as we really loved it and now need to go back and do some of the things we didn’t have time for. Stayed at Guavaberry - great great location and people running it are the best. Thanks to you all on this board for your help and suggestions.

Up early for ride over to Cruz Bay. Stopped at Baked in Sun for some breakfast goodies (must say that similar stuff from Deli Grotto is much better) and another awesome frozen hot chocolate from Everyting.

Dropped the Vitara at Penns and took the 8:30 am ferry to Virgin Gorda from the old car ferry dock in Cruz Bay which didn’t leave til after 9. Ferrys run direct to VG from STJ on Thursdays and Sundays with no stops in Tortola. Many daytrippers on this boat no doubt heading to The Baths – we were the only ones dragging luggage on board.

It was a hot sunny day and again no wind – made for a smooth ride. I thought we would head up along the north shore but they took the south shore route, past Ram Head, East End, Flanagan Island, and up though Drakes Passage past Norman Island, etc. You get a good sense for how big Tortola is on this ride. I note that there are 2 large cruise ships docked in Roadtown. Took about 1.5 hrs to get to VG.

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Upon arrival at Spanishtown, one of the deck hands helps me hump the luggage off the ferry and brings us up to the front of the long customs line. I make sure to thank and tip him accordingly. That goes pretty quickly and we go out to front of building where a nice young lady with a Mahogany Rentals polo shirt approaches me and asks am I Mr. JMQ? I reply yes and we fill out few minutes of paperwork on the hood of the Vitara including $10 for a temporary BVI drivers permit that is good for 6 months. We had arranged the car rental through Guavaberry Spring Bay Vacation Homes where we will be staying for next 4 nights. Meanwhile the already overheated day trippers are being herded into a couple of those big “taxis” for the short ride down to the Baths.

We head down that way too in the Vitara as Guavaberry is very close to the Baths. Not much to Spanishtown besides a few shops, a restaurant, and a food market near the yacht harbor (my wife later gently accused me of purposely going to a place with virtually no shopping).

Walk into the new looking offices at Guavaberry and are again nicely greeted by name, this time by Tina who runs things there. We get some lunch suggestions from her as well as the low down on how things work there. Room isn’t ready yet so we drop luggage and pop down to the Baths to get an idea what that whole scene is all about.

Well on this day, its about the crowds from those cruise ships over in Tortola and the daytrippers from the ferry. We have the luxury of not having to deal with that scene in the heat of the late morning and just check out the lay of the land, the gift shop, Top of the Baths restaurant, and Mad Dogs bar.

Top of The Baths has outdoor dining, a pool to dip in, spectacular views, and a varied menu including local specialties. Mad Dog is next door and is a cool and breezy bar with cute West Indian architecture, and porch with comfy seating on all four sides, and a panoramic view. It serves great drinks as well as 4 or 5 different kinds of basic club type sandwiches for $5 each throughout the day. We’ll enjoy both without the crowds before trip is done.

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Head back past Guavaberry and into “town” to peak around at the market and the fews shops at the Yacht Harbor for lunch at the Bath & Turtle which Tina had recommended.

It feels good to be out of the sun at this pleasant patio tavern. We enjoy jerk chicken wraps and an outstanding fish n chips that featured delicately fried grouper. Could see the TV in the bar there and saw our only bit of news in the entire trip. They had FAUX News on – they spent 20 minutes on that Duke LAX scandal which told me that there was really no news at all going on back in the real world. Man it feels good to be unplugged.

Back to Guavaberry to enjoy “their” beach (part of Spring Bay). Help yourself to their large comfy beach chairs kept in a shed at beach. The beaches that are walking distance from GB are stunning and but different from STJ with the rocks framing the beaches etc.

<a href="" title="VG11 gberry beachF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="285" alt="VG11 gberry beachF"></a>

<a href="" title="VG12 beach sunsetF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="384" alt="VG12 beach sunsetF"></a>

<a href="" title="VG9 spring bay evening waveF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="470" alt="VG9 spring bay evening waveF"></a>

<a href="" title="VG12 springBay from water by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="471" alt="VG12 springBay from water"></a>

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We really only considered the properties that Guavaberry manages because we wanted to be on that end of the island (for beaches, Baths, and restaurants) and all sources and other BVI centric forums only had good things to say about it.

And indeed, Tina who runs things there is unbelievably nice and incredibly competent. All island menus, daytrip stuff, etc. posted in office. Any questions quickly answered or she calls to help arrange anything, including confirming your flight reservations home. You even get a 10% discount on the rental car billed through GB.

We stayed in one of the 2 bedroom “vacation homes”. These are older hexagonal shaped cottage like units with big decks that are built up on stilts and nestled in among the boulders that dot the landscape on this end of the island. All 2 bedroom units are up from the office across the road, so its an 8 min walk or 2 min drive down to "their" beach. Cottage is a little rustic, and very basic, kitchen a little dated, with small bathrooms and even smaller showers, but very clean and very well kept. No A/C = only a concern rare times when trade winds aren’t blowing. Grounds are nicely landscaped and the air has the fragrance of flowers.

<a href="" title="VG11 gberry lime tree unit2F by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="456" alt="VG11 gberry lime tree unit2F"></a>

View from cottage
<a href="" title="VG13 view from GberryF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="480" alt="VG13 view from GberryF"></a>

One of the best things about GB is the very well stocked commissary they have set up next to the office with prices equal to or better than local market in town. Write down what you take and it gets billed at check out. Commissary has everything from booze to breakfast to stuff to make on the grill. I believe that the nearby villas that Guavaberry also manage also have access to this commissary. We might look into one of those on return, depending on budget etc. but I tell ya, you cant beat the $190 night paid for the view from our deck.

We had intentions of getting to the Mine Shaft Café near the Coppermine ruins before sunset to enjoy the 270 degree views they have there, but could see that the sunset is a bit of a dud from our own deck so get there after dark. Enjoy uncrowded atmosphere, good drinks, good Caesar salad with shrimp, chicken Roti wrap, and potato skins.

After dinner we take the flashlight down to near the GB office where Tina told us she thinks a Cereus cactus flower that only opens one night a year was about to bloom. Sure enough there it is – one of the prettiest flowers we have ever seen, with a wonderful vanilla scent to boot.

<a href="" title="night flower2 L by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="480" alt="night flower2 L"></a>

Day 10 – Friday. Cloudy and humid with some on off drizzle so instead of beach over to the Baths after breakfast in cottage. Uncrowded compared to day before. Hike down path to Devils Bay with scream from my daughter who sees a snake skitter out of the way. From Devils Bay, you do the Baths in reverse order from the main entrance. Pretty cool climbing in, around, over, under, and through the crevices and grottos formed by these huge boulders of volcanic origin strewn about the beach.

Then ice cold Caribes, sandwiches, and chillin at the delightful Mad Dogs next to Baths. Back to Spring Bay beach with a well stocked cooler. We are all on our 2nd or 3rd book of the trip.

Snorkeling here was pretty cool in this area with the rocks around the beaches attracting good amount of fish and much fun watching them sway with you in the good size swell, but the coral bleaching was so distressing that I hardly took any underwater pictures here.

Drove up over Gorda Peak to the other end of the island for the Friday night buffet style BBQ at the Leverick Bay Resort and Marina. Food was excellent plus an excellent live band with dancing under the stars and fun stilt dancing Mocko Jumbie show. Well worth $25pp.

<a href="" title="VG10 mockJumbF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" alt="VG10 mockJumbF"></a>

Since this installment was kinda verbose, will stop here and wrap up in Part 4.

Day 11 – Saturday April 22
Relaxing, snorkeling, swimming, and exploring beaches near Spring Bay by scrambling around, over, and through rocks that separate Spring Bay, Little Trunk, and Valley Trunk.



The beach at Valley Trunk is one of the most spectacular we’ve ever seen.

<a href="" title="VG11 valley trunk31F by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="397" alt="VG11 valley trunk31F"></a>

<a href="" title="valley trunk2 M by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="481" alt="valley trunk2 M"></a>

<a href=""><img src="" height="473" width="640"></a>

Pop back over to the Baths and it is so uncrowded that we wait 10 minutes for someone to come by to ask to take a picture of all 3 of us in “The Cave” before we give up and move on.


<a href="" title="al amy baths2 M by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" alt="al amy baths2 M"></a>





Dinner at nearby Rock Café. Outdoor seating in back is on various platforms built amongst the trees and huge rocks like those that dot the landscape on the beaches. Outstanding food includes best conch fritters of the trip, couple excellent pasta dishes, and a wonderful 2 lb. Caribbean lobster.

Day 12 Sunday.
Last full day. A little island exploring includes Mahoe Bay, Nail Bay, and Savannah Bay.

<a href="" title="vg panaF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="180" alt="vg panaF"></a>

<a href="" title="VG13 view from Gorda PeakF by jmq, on Flickr"><img src="" width="640" height="480" alt="VG13 view from Gorda PeakF"></a>


We work our way down to beach at Savannah Bay beach and local kids were romping and chasing chickens on the beach while adults arrived and began setting up canopy and much picnic fixins nearby just off the beach. Suddenly we hear a couple of goats bleating like crazy and look through the bushes and see that they are being tied up.

My wife gets this really weird look on her face and then she urgently implores me to leave RIGHT NOW. It takes a moment or two, but then I realize what she might be thinking so we hightail it out of there. Not a time for debate or reasoning with a pessimistic animal lover.

MY first thought was that it is a huge stretch to think that those goats might be more than just unwanted guests at that picnic. I think that they just come looking for handouts and they were being restrained so they aren’t pestering everyone and stealing food. But, I decided it was ANOTHER one of those times when I’d rather be happy than right.

When we got back I posted a “goats at the Sunday Picnic” question on a BVI board. Someone who lives on VG responded: “They very well may have been tied up to prevent them from eating the people's picnic! Goats are a common sight on Savannah Bay, as well as chickens, and can be PESTS if you have food with you! It is unlikely that they were being killed for the picnic. If they were going to have goat water or stewed goat, the goats would have been killed elsewhere and the meat prepared before coming to the beach. Many of the goats that you see in the islands are indeed being raised for food, not as pets. But the goats you saw were not on the menu at their picnic, they just didn't want them to eat their picnic!”

I thanked his reply and asked that he please excuse any cultural ignorance – don’t want to insult anybody and hope I didn’t by asking. What do we know? We’re from New Jersey! Plenty of things happen here that others would find much more upsetting (but not quite like you see on The Sopranos).

Last sunset from deck of Lime Tree at Guavaberry.


Then dinner at Top of the Baths. Shrimp Caesar wrap, shrimp Roti, and jerk chicken – all good. Time exposure towards Tortola from outdoor seating.


Day 13 April 24 Departure Day from Virgin Gorda
Leisurely breakfast and last morning swim down in Spring Bay. Head over to Virgin Gorda “airport’ that consists of this building and a gravel runway that ends at waters edge for 12:30 flight on Air Sunshine 10 seat Cessna to San Juan.

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Arrangement with Mahogany Car Rental to leave Vitara in parking lot is mighty convenient. No photos of plane to post, but was able to get these cool shots of JVD and STJ from awesome flight right down Drakes Passage.



St. John

North Shore

Sense of adventure overruled any nervousness. Actually, my wife never gets nervous about stuff like this on vacation. During a rather insane cab ride in Mexico years ago, I asked why in the world wasn’t she flinching like she sometimes does like when I’m driving. She said she didn’t care if she bought the farm in an accident while she was happily on vacation, but it would sure suck to kick it while driving to work or some such nonsense back home. Go argue with that.

Going through customs at SJU was a breeze, but waiting to check bags at Continental and then through security was S-L-O-W. Packed plane back to Newark, felt mighty chilly, but spring had truly sprung upon return.

Final thoughts:
Virgin Gorda definitely has a different vibe from St. John. More arid environment and way mellow and more friendly locals. Another striking difference is the amount of mainlanders running and working the businesses in St. John as more and more dollars pour into the exploding real estate scene there vs. the amount of locals happily participating in the economy in VG. I think the reason for this is that BVIs do a much better job at controlling development, protecting jobs, etc. Long term, that may be less likely to result in friction (or worse) between locals, tourists, and US based business and property owners. Just my $.02

Saw a guy in the common room next to the Guavaberry offices late one night working on his laptop (they have wi-fi access). I asked him “what’s the matter, don’t want to come back to 500 emails?” He laughed and said “I put in an hour a night”.

Yikes. Here we were totally grooving on almost no TV, no newspapers, no internet, no email, no work for 13 days and this poor guy couldn’t. We’ve been working real hard and we needed and greatly benefited from it. You know you've been away a long time (physically and mentally) when you get back and you have trouble remembering computer passwords you have to use all the time.

If you haven’t done more than week in a long time, just do it. Sure you have to bust it before and deal with crap after, but you know what, work was amazingly tolerant of it. In fact, most said “good for you”, and “I haven’t done a vacation like that in long time” and “I should do that too”.

Worst was leaving our dog for that long. It took HIM a few days to get back to normal with us. And for what it cost to board and for “extra play time”, we coulda bought him a ticket!

As long as he could find shade, he think would he would like the islands too. Anybody need some goats herded?

Happy again…

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:38 pm
by mbw1024
Hey did you get to Baths on this trip? At first read I thought you were getting there from Guavaberry beach but now I think now. So did you go from Top of Baths down? Can you 'splain for me? I dumb!

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:55 pm
by jmq
If were a snorkeler, you can snorkel over to the beach on the north side of the Baths, going around the huge boulders from the left (south) side of the GB beach. Easy snorkel, probably 5-10 mins. You cant climb/walk over, through, or around those rocks that I know of. Some of those boulders are the size of a small house.

The Top of the Baths is just up the road from GB, couple minutes by car or a 10-12 min walk. The road splits the GB property in two and is a 3 min walk up from the beach past their office and commisary and the official canine greeters Soca and Pearl.