Barbuda: the last Caribbean wilderness

by Claire.Frank

Barbuda isn't an easy island to get to - but if you want to see how the Caribbean was before tourism took over, book your flights now and be blown away by the most beautiful beaches in the world.

It is an effort to get to Barbuda. The flights are always busy so you can’t get a seat; the plane is late some days and early others; they leave your luggage behind; the ferry is for the impoverished or foolhardy. The three shops are expensive and there is nowhere affordable to stay on the beach. For these and other reasons Barbuda still only has a handful of visitors a year.

The determined traveller, usually someone who has been to most of the Caribbean islands and is crossing them off their list one by one, will find a way to get here. And yacht people who have the experience to get through the dangerous reefs that have wrecked boats off Barbuda’s shores for centuries will make it.  But that is about all. Unlike its sister island Antigua, there is no mass tourism here.

Barbuda is a large space with a few people in it. The village of Codrington is the centre of any activity and it is here all fourteen hundred or so residents live. Along the coast three hotels, two of them closed and up for sale, bring in a few more visitors each season but this is hardly noticed in the village - except for a few weeks' work as a chambermaid or barman, it barely makes any difference to a Barbudan. The few guests rarely venture into the village except to visit the Magnificent Frigate Bird colony by boat on the lagoon, and the old ways still exist: fishing, hunting, growing vegetables and raising animals are a part of local life. Beaches are for pulling up the boat, not for lying around on.

Visitors to Barbuda usually fall into two categories: people who say, ‘It’s rubbish - there's nothing there,’ and people who say, ‘It’s fantastic - there's nothing there.’ If it's natural beaches you're looking for, Barbuda’s are second to none. If it's bars on beaches you're looking for - go somewhere else. The beauty of this island is in its natural state – no one wants to braid your hair on the beach, or take you in a taxi ‘on safari’ or sell you a T shirt or a coconut leaf hat. People smile and say hello and if they short-change you in the shop they run after you in the street to give it back.  If you stay in the village in a local guesthouse (US $75 - $100 per night) it will introduce you straight away to the life of the island, and if the owner happens to be having a party you are sure to be invited.

The downside of this is that some of the facilities that visitors have come to expect on their holiday are not always available. Hire cars are expensive and limited. There are often shortages of everyday things and power cuts that leave you with no water in the shower, covered in soap.  But if you want to see how the Caribbean was before tourism took over, book your flight, be patient with the airline, don’t worry about your luggage and make the effort to get to Barbuda.

 

Claire.Frank

I have always travelled whenever and wherever I can, starting with a hitch-hiking trip to Greece as a teenager. I spent over fifteen years in the Caribbean and now find myself exploring Europe with my children and trying to instill a little of the magic of travelling in them. I am a published writer and currently write a food blog and continue to update www.barbudaful.net - the website about the island where I live. Favourite Places? Anywhere warm by the sea...with a lobster sandwich.