Welcome to the British Virgin Islands Sailing/Snorkeling for Students, 8 Days
THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLAND SAILING ADVENTURE
* The following is a sample itinerary which outlines some of the daily activities we’ll do and areas we’ll be visiting during our sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands. As with any sailing program, the itinerary is dependent upon the weather conditions and the specific interests of the group.
DAY ONE: SAILBOAT
The adventure begins with the arrival of our group to Tortilla, the largest island in the British Virgin Island chain. A safari bus will take us into Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands where we’ll get settled into our sailboat. For the remainder of the adventure, we will live aboard our sailboat and become active members of the crew. We’ll sail through Sir Francis Drake Channel visiting islands and snorkeling at spectacular sites. On this first day we may visit the Caves of Norman Island and Treasure Point, a site which inspired the writing of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Tonight we’ll anchor in a quiet harbor and enjoy the stunning island beauty from the perspective of our floating home.
DAY TWO: SAILBOAT
Dive into the clear warm water for a pre breakfast swim with your onboard naturalist! Today we may visit the fabulous Indians, a striking rock formation where huge boulders of coral and schools of brilliantly colored fish co-exist under the turquoise water. We’ll discuss the unique behaviors and strategies that have evolved among populations of tropical reef fish. The snorkeling at the Indians is superb! In the afternoon, we’ll set sail for a new destination and select one of the many scenic coves to call home for tonight. Evening slide show on Coral Reef Ecology.
DAY THREE: SAILBOAT
Today we will continue learning the basics of sailing and navigation and take turns behind the helm of the boat . In addition to looking for hawksbill turtles that feed on reef sponges, we’ll visit lush grass flats where huge green sea turtles are often seen grazing. Snorkeling above these ancient docile reptiles is an unforgettable experience. This evening we’ll offer an optional night dive to examine the nocturnal habits of reef animals.
DAY FOUR: SAILBOAT
Our destination today is the world famous Baths on Virgin Gorda where pools of crystal clear water have formed below massive rocks. On shore we can hike among the rocks and explore huge caves that have been carved out from the persistent action of waves and weather. We’ll set sail in the afternoon and troll through the deep waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel in hopes of catching tuna, mackerel or bonita for tonight’s dinner. Tonight we’ll discuss the rich history of the West Indian people in preparation for tomorrow’s adventure.
DAY FIVE: THE WEST INDIAN EXPERIENCE
Today we’ll have the special opportunity to meet members of the Brewers Bay Community, Tortola, many who still practice traditional West Indian ways of living. We’ll sail into the bay to visit the homestead of a local farmer and learn about agrarian techniques, some of which date back to the days of slavery. We may lend him a hand in exchange for some ground provisions and fruits for tonight’s feast. From the rocks that line this gorgeous bay, we can try our skills in hand line fishing or continue snorkeling among the reefs. Our shore dinner and bonfire tonight will include local Tortolan recipes using food that we have all helped to catch, collect or cook. As always, we’ll spend the night back aboard our sailboat.
DAY SIX: SAGE MOUNTAIN – CANE GARDEN BAY
After a morning sail, we’ll go ashore to visit Sage Mountain National Park, the highest peak in the British Virgin Islands that affords a spectacular view of the surrounding area. We’ll hike the park’s trails and see how plants are uniquely adapted to rain forest conditions. Buttressing tree trunks, huge epiphytes and thick vines flourish within this cloud laden mountain peak. We’ll discuss the intricate dynamics of rain forests and the issues facing this vanishing resource. In the afternoon, we’ll hike down to Cane Garden Bay where we’ll have a banquet dinner and a night of Caribbean style dancing. The hike is truly beautiful and provides further insight into the lives of the these remarkable people. Before returning to our boat, we’ll enjoy a night of dancing in the quaint village of Cane Garden Bay.
DAY SEVEN: SAILBOAT
We’ll continue learning how to sail as we navigate through the vast system of islands that constitute the British Virgin Islands. Birding in the area is good and we’ll likely observe brown pelicans and brown boobies that are frequent hunters in the turquoise colored bays. These birds feed close to shore on the multitudes of fish and we can watch them feeding from underwater using our mask and snorkel. We’ll spend our final night ashore recapping our experiences around a beach campfire.
DAY EIGHT: HOME
We’ll depart for the airport after breakfast to catch our flights home.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLAND SAILING INFORMATION
SAILBOAT LIVING: For the next week you will become an active member of a sailing crew. Everyone will get behind the ship’s helm, raise sails, set anchors, and learn how to maintain a safe and comfortable ship. During the week you will learn navigational skills as well as other aspects of living aboard a sailboat. Your Blue Water Ventures naturalist will provide informal talks on ecology and other topics throughout the week. There will be plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the islands. You will have the option of sleeping in shared rooms in the boat’s interior or out on deck under the stars. Most students prefer to sleep on deck. Sailboat living is “cozy” and part of the experience. You will be storing your gear in a cabin with two -three other students with the option of sleeping in there if it rains on deck. Typically we charter 1-2 sailboats that are 44′-52′ in length depending upon the final size of the group. Further information on the sailboat(s) will be provided closer to the trip date when trip numbers are firm.
MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: The British Virgin Islands does not require any specific immunizations for entry. However, The Center For Disease Control has issued a few recommendations for travel to this area. Dengue fever which is transmitted by mosquitoes during daylight hours has been recorded in The British Virgin Islands. Clothing and repellent is recommended to prevent the transmission of dengue fever. As a general precaution while traveling, the CDC suggests getting a gamma globulin shot for prevention of hepatitis A. Tetanus-diphtheria and measles boosters should be current. Please consult your physician and the CDC (888-232-3228) regarding your trip . For more information, you may review the CDC traveler’s web page. All medical precautions are the decision of each student or their legal guardian.
SEA SICKNESS PREVENTION: If you are prone to mild sea sickness, we recommend bringing some form of prevention. Most people in this category get their “sea legs” in a few hours or a day. Medications such as Bonine or Dramamine are usually effective although drowsiness or thirst can be a side effect. Your local pharmacist or physician can advise you. In the past, several students have successfully used “sea bands” which employ a pressure point on the wrists rather than medication. Sea Bands have no side effects and can be purchased at most dive shops.
APPROPRIATE DRESS: The Tortolan people are fairly conservative and we ask that you respect a casual, but appropriate dress code. We will discuss this topic further on board. However, at several sites we will ask everyone to wear t-shirts with sleeves (no tank tops or tight fitting midriffs at these sites). When packing, please include several loose fitting, short sleeved t-shirts in addition to tank tops.
CLIMATE: Spring is a relatively dry season in this region of the Caribbean. However, moderate rain fall is always a possibility in the tropics. Temperatures should be reasonably pleasant with day time highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the 70’s. Easterly trade winds often prevail keeping the temperatures pleasant. Bring a waterproof sun block/lip balm with a protection factor of 20 or higher.
PHYSICAL CONDITION: While sailing experience is not required to participate in this program, good, general health is recommended. For those who enjoy a lot of activity, there will be plenty of opportunities to hike or beachcomb on shore as well as hours of snorkeling.
MEALS: Healthy, well balanced meals will be planned by your Blue Water Ventures staff. Everyone shares in the cooking and cleaning procedures at meal time. There is one banquet dinner planned at a restaurant. Vegetarian meals can be arranged upon request. You are welcomed to bring some personal snacks or canned soft drinks on board. Soft drinks or juice will be provided each meal. Please specify dietary restrictions or allergies on the registration form that will be sent to you.
INSECT REPELLENT: A few mosquitoes and sand gnats may be encountered in the BVIs. Avon Skin so Soft is the best defense against sand gnats and a strong pump style repellent is good against mosquitoes. A layer of light weight, light in color clothing is good defense against insects. Generally, there are few insects while on board.
CLOTHING: Loose fitting cotton or quick drying nylon work well in the tropics. Lighter colors seem more comfortable in the heat. Jeans take too long to dry out and are not recommended. Laundry is done by hand as needed by each student. Some students will want to swim in a rash guard or longsleeve silk/capilene shirt for a little extra warmth or sun protection. Rash guards are found at surf shops and silk/capilene are found at most outdoor stores (both could be found and purschased on line).
TAKING SHOWERS: Freshwater is a limited resource aboard our floating home. There will be plenty of water for consumption, but leisurely freshwater showers will be restricted. Bathing can also be accomplished using salt water and biodegradable soap followed by a quick freshwater rinse.
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport or birth certificate(with raised seal) for entry into the British Virgin Islands . It usually takes 6-8 weeks to process a passport. You may visit your local post office to obtain/ submit a passport application. Please make three photo copies of your passport or birth certificate (one to keep at home, one to bring with you and one for BWV records, sent to our office.
LUGGAGE: Several medium or one large duffel bag with a length long zipper works well. Large, hard shelled suitcases are difficult to store on board and are not recommended. Each student will need to keep their personal belongings tidy on board since living space is limited.
MONEY: US dollars are used as exchange throughout the British Virgin Islands. The only costs you’ll have on board is personal liquor, tips (see below) and any non-scheduled excursions you may opt to take. We will provide one group taxi to the sailboat (day one) and to the airport (day eight) at a designated time. An airport departure tax of $10 is your responsibility as you leave the country.
TIPPING: It is customary to tip the captain of our sailboat at the end of the week. $15 per student would be an appreciated tip.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE: The BVIs government has very severe penalties for the use of illegal drugs. Do not bring illegal substances into the BVIs or purchase/use them during this program.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE BVI’S
___ Passport or birth certificate (with a raised seal)
___ Rain gear (durable, non plastic–sturdy ponchy is ok)
___ 1-2 Bathing suits
___ 4-5 T-Shirts (at least two that are loose fitting short sleeved t-shirts that are not mid- riff style)
___ 2 Long-sleeved shirts (quick dry and light weight; cotton is ok)
___ 3-4 Pairs of shorts (quick dry and light weight )
___ 2 Pairs of lightweight long pants leotards or surgical scrubs are good for sunburn
___ 1 lightweight sweatshirt, sweater or capilene/fleece longsleeve shirt
___ 1 Rash guard or capilelne/fleece longsleeve shirt for swimming in (for warmth)
___ 1 Windbreaker
___ 1 Pair of hiking shoes (either a sturdy tennis shoe or hiking boot )
___ 1 pair of sandals, Teva style or flip flops
___ 2 Pairs of socks (for hiking and to use with fins if needed)
___ 1 Flannel sheet, lightweight sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner – for sleeing on deck
___ Closed cell sleeping pad–i.e. ensolite or thermarest for sleeping on deck (optional)
___ 2 Bath towels
___ Clothes to travel home in
___ Toiletries (toothbrush, paste, lotions, aloe, etc,)
___ Sunscreen (< 20 strength) & lip balm with sunscreen
___ Sunglasses with leash
___ Hat with visor or wide rim
___ Insect repellent (non aerosol pump-small amount)
___ Avon Skin So Soft, small amount
___ Personal medicines ( anti diarrhea,bandaids,neosporine, pain reliever)
___ Biodregradable soap for laundry and saltwater baths
___ Day pack & 1 quart size water bottles
___ Duffel bag
___ Mask fins & snorkel – check with a local dive shop for proper fit
___ 3 Garbage bags & 4 1 gallon ziplocs for organizing stuff
___ Flashlight or head lamp
___ Extra batteries
___ Your favorie snack -to share with group
___ Journal with pen
___ Clothes pins
Fishing gear- compact
Camera/film – waterproof disposables work well
Binoculars Mesh dive bag
Ear plugs Waterproof flashlight or dive light
Sea Sickness medication
Compact folded camp chair–i.e. Crazy Creek style
LOST LUGGAGE: Just in case your luggage is misplaced during airplane transfers, pack the following in a carry on bag: mask & snorkel, 1 pair of shorts, 1 t-shirt, bathing suit, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 pair of pants, camera, sunscreen, essential toiletries and personal medications.
READING LIST FOR THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Coral Reef Fishes — Joseph Stokes
The Seaside Naturalist — Deborah A. Coulombe
The Marine Biology Coloring Book– Thomas M. Niesen
A Field Guide to The Coral Reefs of the Caribbean and Florida — Eugene Kaplan
The Neotropical Companion — John C. Kricher
Don’t Stop the Carnival — Herman Wouk
Treasure Island — Robert Lewis Stevenson
The Serpent and the Rainbow — Wade Davis
The Caribbean — James Michener