Ecotourism in the British Virgin Islands: How to Travel Lightly By Boat

The restaurant at Rosewood Little Dix Bay focuses heavily on local produce
The restaurant at Rosewood Little Dix Bay focuses heavily on local produce | Courtesy of Rosewood Little Dix Bay resort / Expedia.com
Photo of Liz Allen
1 December 2021
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The British Virgin Islands is the perfect ecotourism destination to visit by boat. The area’s trade winds, weak currents, and few underwater obstacles mean it’s possible to drift around by sail for the majority of your journey, with no engine noise to disturb. Here we reveal how to navigate the region by boat while playing your part for the environment at the same time.

Tread lightly around the British Virgin Islands by chartering a yacht for the day with SamBoat. Alternatively, book a full sailing vacation with Dream Yacht Charter.

Sustainable places to shop

The colourful shops in Roadtown make for a great souvenir opportunity | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Explore the shops at Wickham’s Cay

The primary shopping area on the island of Tortola is in Wickham’s Cay in Road Town. Along Main Street, Wickham’s Cay is filled with small, brightly-coloured shops, including many specializing in locally-made items. For spices and handmade items, check out Caribbee. Or if it’s a new outfit you need, Latitude 18 has a great selection of clothing, while Kaunda’s promises to get you in the island swing of things with a wide array of Caribbean music. The area can be easily accessed by boat using Road Town Harbor’s many marinas.

Visit the Craft Alive Village

Located in Road Town Harbor just a short walk from the cruise terminal, the Craft Alive Village is filled with rainbow-hued West Indian-style cottages selling arts and crafts made in the British Virgin Islands. Among these shops is Asante Studio, which showcases watercolours and acrylic pieces by local artist Joseph Hodge, Locally Yours, which sells homemade fruit pop “lollies”, and the BVI House of Craft, which sells handmade straw-woven items and other delightful handmade goods.

Sustainable places to eat and drink

Reef House offers an intimate dining experience focused on local ingredients | Courtesy of Rosewood Little Dix Bay resort / Expedia.com

Enjoy locally-sourced Caribbean flavours at the Reef House

Located within the Rosewood Little Dix Bay resort on Virgin Gorda Island, Reef House features a menu full of locally-sourced foods, like pickled mango, cured mahi-mahi, and homemade Caribbean jams. The restaurant is located right on the water’s edge, giving you a beautiful view of Little Dix Bay. If travelling by boat, there are marinas available on Virgin Gorda Island a short walk away from Little Dix Bay. The undulating outcrop is also accessible by ferry from Tortola. The ferry terminal is within walking distance of the restaurant, too.

Sustainable activities

Visit the Baths National Park

The Baths National Park is a must for snorkelling enthusiasts visiting the islands | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo Image

The Baths National Park is among the British Virgin Islands’ most unique natural areas. Located along the southwestern coast of Virgin Gorda, the Baths National Park is filled with an unusual combination of white sand beaches and massive granite boulders. If you look closely, the boulders create hidden pools where marine life may be hiding. If travelling by boat, there are mooring buoys available for day use to ensure moored vessels don’t accidentally damage the reef.

Unfortunately, strong winds in the winter months make the park inaccessible by boat. If travelling on foot, water taxis are available for hire to take you from the Virgin Gorda ferry terminal to The Baths. You may also rent a car or hire a taxi to take you to the top of The Baths, but make sure you come prepared for the 15-minute hike from the parking lot down to the aquamarine waters.

Scuba dive fascinating shipwrecks

The wreck of the RMS Rhone off the coast of Salt Island makes for a memorable scuba experience | © Danita Delimont Creative / Alamy Stock Photo

Off the coast of Black Point Rock near Salt Island in about 80 feet of water is the RMS Rhone, a British royal mail ship that operated in the area from 1865 to 1867 until the ship was sunk by a late-season hurricane. The shipwreck was used in 1977 to film underwater scenes of Peter Benchley’s The Deep.

When the 310ft (94m) ship sank, the bow separated. The bow now sits in about 80ft (24m) of water near the stern, which is only about 35ft (11m) deep. Today the wreck acts as an artificial reef with schools of fish navigating its cavities and corals cropping up here and there. Other interesting wreck dives around the British Virgin Islands include the Chikuzen, a Korean refrigerator ship intentionally sunk off the northwest coast of Tortola in 1981, and the Kodiak Queen, a ship that survived the Pearl Harbor attack and was recently sunk to create an artificial reef.

Explore the British Virgin Islands under wind-power by renting a boat with Dream Yacht Charter, or just hire a yacht for the day with SamBoat.

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