After Hurricane Irma, the British Virgin Islands is back on its feet, ready with tipples of rum, untamed lush greenery and the wondrous wildlife it’s known for, but delve a little deeper and you will find out how the community has gone above and beyond to make an impressive comeback.
Words: David Taylor
Benjamin Franklin, the founding father of the United States depicted on the British Virgin Islands (BVI) $5 coin, is said to have remarked that out of adversity comes opportunity. This is certainly true of the stunning archipelago. After losing more than 90 per cent of its accommodations and attractions, its strength of community is shining through as locals and business leaders continue to bring positive change to the area.
Take Rosewood Little Dix Bay, for instance. The eco-friendly resort situated on 500 acres of Virgin Gorda’s untamed natural gardens, rugged hills and isolated beaches, considered some of the world’s finest, was one of the first Caribbean resorts to promote sustainable luxury. Founded in 1964 by major conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, Little Dix Bay has always been ahead of its time, focusing on the natural environment at the heart of its design. Spanning half a mile of beach, the resort re-opened early this year having undergone a multi-million dollar renovation for its golden anniversary.
Continuing Rockefeller’s spirit of sustainability, indigenous materials have been incorporated into the architecture, and if it’s a week or two of slow living that’s missing from your chaotic lives, Little Dix provides the space, silence and seclusion to do just that. For a true sense of place, take in the 25-mile panoramic views from Sense, a Rosewood Spa, which is set high on a bluff at the cliff’s edge. Meander through the spa’s tropical gardens before indulging in a Caribbean-inspired treatment fused with indigenous botanical resources from the grounds of the resort.
It’s not just on Virgin Gorda that upgrades have been made. Sir Richard Branson’s two private islands, Necker and Moskito, which can be hired exclusively, offer a rare escape from the grind of daily life. Community and environmental efforts are high on the agenda here – new solar and wind power initiatives generate almost all of the island’s power. Wildlife sustainability is also a top priority. Necker’s wildlife team spends approximately 300 hours each week managing the variety of species on the island, including lemurs, flamingoes, giant tortoises, ibises and iguanas. The team is currently working on having all lemurs free ranging across the island, meaning you may be in for a few rare surprise meetings.
Alongside resorts leading improvement in the area, there are various initiatives to support those who live and work in the BVI. The Dive Association has launched non-profit organisation Beyond The Reef, which nurtures marine life through community projects, such as artificial coral reefs made from old plane wreckages, and teaches local children how to swim. On one of the main islands, Jost Van Dyke, the world-famous Soggy Dollar Bar launched a campaign to replant the many palm trees it had lost during the storms. The social media and neighbourhood following was so huge that the bar not only managed to raise enough money to replace its trees, but also all the trees along the entire shore.
Dream Yacht Charter was the one of first companies to get tourism fully back on track after the hurricanes, not just for its love of the sheer natural beauty of the islands, but more importantly to support those who rely on the tourism industry. As the undisputed sailing capital of the Caribbean, the BVI are a prime destination for sailors the world over, and one that has engendered strong loyalty and affection. It’s no surprise then that alongside immediately relocating boats from other areas to the BVI and other affected areas, an employee fund was set up by many of Dream Yacht Charter’s owners and customers, dedicated to helping staff that live on the islands.
Now fully back on track, you can choose from an extensive fleet of monohulls and catamarans. To enjoy the azure waters in the utmost luxury, take a fully crewed and catered catamaran and explore the beautiful coves and beaches only accessible from the sea.
With community spirit stronger than ever before, and a communal drive for redevelopment, the BVI are at their very best.