EXPLORE THE WONDERS OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS
From sunken shipwrecks at Rhone Marine Park to the awe-inspiring boulders of The Baths, the British Virgin Islands love to show their natural beauty to visitors.
Established in 1961, the BVI National Parks Trust is responsible to safeguard the territory's natural assets as well as the territory's first national park at Sage Mountain on Tortola. In all, there are 28 national parks, which encompass a stunning array of land and marine areas including historic sites, tropical forests, bird sanctuaries and one of the world's most famous shipwrecks, each a jewel in its own right.
Some of the sites are only accessible by boat; others are easily reached by car or taxi. Either way, visiting one or more of the many national parks can be the highlight of a trip to the British Virgin Islands.
For more information on the National Parks Trust, please click link.
NATIONAL PARK LISTINGS
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in1990
The centrepiece of this dramatic area on Virgin Gorda's north shore is The Baths, a geological wonder comprised of awe-inspiring granite boulders, which form sheltered sea pools on the beach's edge. The protected area also includes Devil's Bay, which can be reached from The Baths by a series of ladders scaling the boulders. Just north of The Baths, Spring Bay is reached by a separate road and includes a lovely white sand beach.
Cam Bay National Park
Island: Great Camanoe Established in1999
Cam Bay, on the eastern shore of Great Camanoe, is comprised of an extensive shallow reef and lagoon system. Its calm waters, colourful reef fish and pristine marine environment attract swimmers and snorkellers. Birdwatchers enjoy the salt pond, where a variety of migratory wading birds and shorebirds can be seen. Pottery shards discovered in Cam Bay also suggest the presence of a pre-Columbian settlement in the area.
The Copper Mine
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in 2003
This national park located on Virgin Gorda's desolate southwest tip was mined by Cornish miners between 1838 and 1867, and perhaps even earlier by the Spanish. Today the remains of the chimney, boiler house, cisern and mine shafts can be seen.
Dead Chest National Park
Island: Dead Chest
Dead Chest Island, an uninhabited National Park, has three dive sites reached by dinghy from Deadman's Bay. Coral Gardens, a friendly site for novices and snorkellers in very calm weather (but watch for boat traffic), which gets its name from the many massive heads of brain, star, and sheet corals resembling an aquatic garden. Dead Chest West, a series of discoveries, including an archway, caves, bowls, and mazes. Dead Chest Island reputedly got its name when the notorious Blackbeard, after a mutiny, put 15 men ashore on this island with only a bottle of rum, hence the song: "15 men on a dead man's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum."
Devil's Bay National Park
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in1964
A 15-minute hike from the top of The Baths brings you to the picturesque Devil's Bay, at Virgin Gorda's southwestern tip. Its beaches are a tranquil location for swimming and snorkelling. Mooring buoys and a dinghy dock allow boaters to access the beach.
Island: Jost Van Dyke - Diamond Cay
Diamond Cay, declared a national park in 1991, is located off Long Bay, Jost Van Dyke. Like most other islands that have been declared National Parks, Diamond Cay is a bird sanctuary. The 1.25 acre nesting site is home to several species of bird, including tern, boobies, and pelicans. The island is part of a proposed protected area, which includes the privately owned islands of Sandy Cay, Sandy Spit, a portion of Little Jost Van Dyke, and the surrounding marine area. The endangered leatherback turtle nests on Sandy Cay. Two species of lizard live on Sandy Spit. The volcanic nature of the island is more pronounced on the windward side, with bare, rocky cliffs, while the leeward side is lined with sandy beaches. The area has several day anchorages close to vibrant reefs, for snorkelling, and a hiking trail on Sandy Cay. Boaters should be cautious and conscientious about anchoring in sand only to avoid damaging the reefs.
Fallen Jerusalem National Park
Island: Fallen Jerusalem Established in1974
The island of Fallen Jerusalem is 30 acres and is comprised of beautiful coastal vegetation and strewn with enormous boulders, similar to those found at The Baths. The island was declared a national park in 1974 because of its importance as a sanctuary for several species of birds. The endangered red-billed tropic bird finds refuge on the island. In addition, Fallen Jerusalem is an important nesting site for seabirds such as the brown boobies, laughing gulls, noddies and brown pelicans, along with sandwich, royal and bridled terns. Secluded beaches border delightful snorkelling areas; North Lee Bay beach being the best on the island. On the northwest shore, underwater tunnels and caves are a haven for nocturnal fish, while schools of glassy sweepers glisten like bits of shiny copper. Overnighting is not encouraged, as there is no safe, overnight anchorage.
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in1974
Gorda Peak is a 265-acre national park starting at the 1,000 foot contour and continuing up to the island's highest point of 1,370 feet. The area, which contains a wide variety of indigenous and exotic plants, has been extensively reforested with mahogany trees. An observation tower at the top offers spectacular views of some of the surrounding islands.
J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens
Island: Tortola - Road Town Area Established in1979
J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens are a cool and peaceful refuge located in the centre of Road Town. The four-acre gardens include a lush array of indigenous and exotic tropical plants. A pergola walk, lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses, and miniature rain forests are just a few of the garden's attractions. The gardens are considered by many to be among the finest in the Caribbean.
Little Fort National Park
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in1978
Little Fort National Park can be found just south of the Yacht Harbour. It was the site of a Spanish fortress and some masonry walls still exist on the hillside, including the ruins of a structure called the Powder House. The 36-acre area is also a wildlife sanctuary.
Little Tobago/Great Tobago National Park
Island: Great Tobago & Little Tobago Established in1995 (Great Tobago) 1998 (Little Tobago)
At the northwestern corner of the BVI chain lie the Tobago Cays, two islands surrounded by rugged cliffs, and whose sea beds slope dramatically to depths of 165 feet. The cays are an excellent habitat for seabird nesting, as Great Tobago is the only nesting site in the BVI for the magnificent frigate birds. East of this island, experienced divers can explore the waters around Mercurious Rock, where open ocean meets land and shoals of fish congregate.
Island: Tortola Established in1983
Mount Healthy on Tortola features the intact remains of a thickly walled stone windmill, once part of an 18th century sugar plantation. It is the only such windmill on Tortola. The park can be reached along the road which leads from Ridge Road down to Brewer's Bay, located on Tortola's north shore.
Prickly Pear National Park
Island: Prickly Pear Established in1988
This 243-acre island was declared a National Park in 1988. Located in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, the cacti covered hills of Prickly Pear slope down to several pristine beaches. In the low-lying areas, white and black mangroves grow along the island's four salt ponds, providing an important habitat for resident and migratory birds. Red mangroves on the southern shore are home to a variety of fish, sea urchins, and other marine creatures. The northern and eastern shores boast two of the territory's best beaches. The north beach, in particular, offers great swimming and snorkelling. For hiking enthusiasts, the National Parks Trust and Visions International created a hiking trail which leads from the Sand Box Bar, over a gentle slope, down to the North Beach. While hiking, you can rest under the shady tamarind tree, at the top of the hill, and enjoy the cool, Caribbean breeze.
Rhone Marine Park
Island: Salt Island Established in1980
The Wreck of the Rhone is the first and only Marine National Park in the British Virgin Islands. It is the most celebrated dive site in the BVI, and a major recreational attraction. The park includes examples of fringing reef habitat and sea grass beds. The wreck is that of a Royal Mail Steamer, which sunk during the hurricane of 1867 with 125 people on board. At 310 feet long and 40 feet wide, the wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer lies in two main parts in waters between 30 and 90 feet deep. Much of it is still intact and visible, including decking, parts of the rigging, the steam engine, and propeller. The marine park stretches from Lee Bay on Salt Island westward to include Dead Chest Island. The ship's anchor broke away outside Great Harbour, Peter Island, and this site forms the second portion of the park. The park is used by several commercial dive operators daily. Other dive sites in the park include Rhone Reef, Blonde Rock, and Painted Walls. Anchoring is strictly prohibited in the area in and around the Rhone. The National Parks Trust has installed mooring buoys for use by all commercial, charter, and private vessels. If moorings are unavailable around the Rhone, vessels are required to use the Salt Island Settlement or Peter Island anchorages.
Sage Mountain National Park
Island: Tortola Established in1964
Sage Mountain National Park can be found along Tortola's mountainous ridge, and at 1,716 feet, is The BVI's highest point. Within its lush boundaries you will find mahoganies, hanging vines, enormous elephant ears, white cedars, and kapok trees, thick ferns and many other local flora.
Shark Bay at Brewer's Bay
Island: Tortola Established in1999
This 18.4 acre nature preserve is located on a dramatic point above Brewer's Bay on the island's north shore. It has several interesting ecological features, which include very large boulders and forms a unique cave once inhabited by bats but is now a resting place for weary hikers. There is also a collection of orchids nestled between the boulders and several pelicans enjoy the bay as well.
Island: Virgin Gorda Established in1964
To the east of The Baths is Spring Bay. The giant boulders line the beach and there are excellent swimming and snorkelling opportunities for novices and professionals alike. The well-manicured lawn leading to the beach is also a favourite for picnic and recreational games. The NPT has recently put in swings and added picnic benches to further enhance the park. Its small coves, which provide safe snorkeling are popular with charter boat guests, who moor their boats in the area. Massive boulders form coves that allow a steady but calm flow of water back and forth. Marine life is vibrant at Spring Bay since fishing is not permitted. A unique enclosure of boulders forms a natural pool called The Crawl. In the past, this was used by fishermen to hold turtles and fishes alive until they were ready to be used.
West Dog National Park
Island: West Dog Established in1974
Nestled in a cluster of islands known as The Dogs west of Virgin Gorda, West Dog is a rugged, volcanic island rising steeply out of the sea. It provides an ideal habitat for nesting seabirds seeking protection, as well as a fascinating environment for divers and snorkelers. The surrounding waters are filled with fish, colourful coral reefs and submerged pinnacles.
If you would like to find out more about The British Virgin islands National Parks Trust please click: www.bvinationalparkstrust.org.