16 October 2012

Virgin Gorda: Day II

Up once again with the dawn.  It's odd to me that it's only on vacation that I voluntarily rise so early in the morning. Most mornings at home I have to drag myself out of bed by 8:00 simply to get to work on time, then rush out the door without so much as a sip of coffee. But here in the Caribbean it seems to be easy.  Partly it's because at this latitude there's very little dawn or twilight time: it goes from dark to full sunlight in a matter of minutes and vice versa at the end of the day. Partly it's because my bed directly faces east on Virgin Gorda.  However, I like to think that there's something deep in my blood that pulses to the rhythm of the island. That first quiet, early hour is a precious thing.

DH catching some early morning rays
My mom, dozing in the morning sun
Before long, though, all of us are awake and puttering around.  DH prepares breakfast once again; it's positively decadent. This time he regales us with cheese omelets, bacon, toast, juice, and coffee. We rush to clean up and pack our beach bags & cooler, for today we head to Spring Bay, which is absolutely my favorite beach on the island.  It's Saturday, so we know that the Baths will be crowded with daytrippers and the boating folks (or at least as crowded as it can be in October), and I remember from experience that Spring Bay tends to gather more of a local crowd.

Spring Bay: note the picnic tables off to the left
You reach Spring Bay as if you're heading toward the Baths, but the turnoff is on the right before you get to the more famous destination. There's a parking lot immediately off the road, but don't stop there; continue down the dirt path to the second carpark, which is much closer to the beach. You'll still have a bit of a hike to reach the beach, but it's only onerous if you're also trying to cart beach chairs and a cooler. In other words, exactly what we were doing.  There are a few picnic tables down on the sand, but for us it was worth the hassle of toting things in because of the sparse shade. We wanted to set up under the sea grapes and snag what little shade was available.

The walk down is carved amongst the boulders for which the southern part of the island is famous, and a well-worn path weaves among them, with a few stairs cobbled together where the way is steep or where tree roots might give way to stumbling. But it only takes a few minutes' time to get there, and is it ever worth the walk. The moment you break out into the open from the path, this is what you see:
Note the hoards of people
In other words, in front of us stood the most inviting rocky grotto of a swimming hole as can possibly be imagined.  After settling our chairs & cooler in a choice spot of sand, we walked around a few minutes to make photos before Melanie and I got ready for our first snorkel of the day. As it turns out, that first snorkel was the best one on the trip, and I once more rued not replacing my underwater digital camera.

I had last snorkeled at Spring Bay back in 2007 with one of my granddaughters, who is an intrepid snorkel fiend and I was looking forward to getting back there amongst those sun-dappled boulders again. Melanie, as it turns out, had never snorkeled in water that deep (maybe 20 feet? I'm not a good judge) and thus was a little uncomfortable. She also had *tons* of frustration with her flippers. But here's what you do to get out to those waters beyond the boulders: walk south along Spring Bay beach until you're in front of a couple of beachfront villas and there's a sandy place to enter the water. At about waist-deep you have to start swimming to avoid the rocky bottom and sea urchins, but it's plenty deep enough to swim out.

There were a few of the tiny jellyfish (I don't know what they were, but they were transparent and about 2-2.5 inches across) in the water, but not a ton of them, and one small-to-medium sized moon jelly washed up on the shore where we entered the water, and these made Melanie a little nervous, too.  We were both wearing snorkel shirts so I felt fine about it and I think Melanie basically just followed my lead, and as it turned out, neither of us got stung.

We didn't see anything large, like a sting ray, barracuda, shark, tarpon, or even a turtle, but lots of smaller fish life.  Maybe it's the way the sun filters through the rocks there, but things seemed healthier (or at least more colorful) there than other places on the island in terms of coral and sea fans. Since I couldn't take any pictures this time, here is a photo from the same location, two years ago, when I was snorkeling Spring Bay. I'd guess the water clarity was *slightly* better at the time the photo was made.
Spring Bay snorkeling
I estimate that we'd swum about half a mile by the time we got back to land again. Negotiating the way *back* to the beach can sometimes be tricky, too.  We came back up on a sandy part but then had to pick and crouch our way through some fairly dense underbrush to get back to a place where we could walk upright on the sand. By the time we toweled off and reapplied some sunscreen, a local family had set up next to us and their young boys started the boulder jumping that is so much fun to watch (I even did it once myself, evidence of which you can see here). I asked their mom if it would be okay to post some photographs and she agreed.

It was getting warm, so I coaxed everybody into the water to cool off and to take some photos. For this I did use my old waterproof camera since I didn't plan to immerse it:
DH, Melanie, Mom
Mom & DH, looking towards shore
Just another shot of Spring Bay
After that, Melanie and I took another snorkel; Mom was going to join us, but her mask kept leaking water and we didn't have a spare one with us. We basically repeated the same path again, but this time Melanie felt much more confident in the water--I think she also might have left her pesky fins behind this time.  I rarely use them myself, and almost never for a shore snorkel, though I do have a nifty pair of short, split flippers that have come in handy once or twice.

By now, it's well past 1:00, and though we'd brought water and Ting with us in the cooler, it was time to think about lunch.  We packed up and I demonstrated to everybody just how easy it is to change into a dry bathing suit underneath a large sarong. Not to venture too far into TMI territory, but it gets difficult for me to sit around for very long in a wet bathing suit bottom, so in this case, necessity was the mother of invention.

The sign at Mad Dog
We hiked back up the path to the parking lot (after I exhorted everybody to drink more water so that I wouldn't have to carry it back up) and drove straight to Mad Dog, which became the go-to place on this trip.  We split the nachos and the Cubano sandwich special, plus a couple of rounds of Bushwhackers for everybody except DH, who ordered a banana daiquiri instead. We sat around our "usual" table, enjoying the breeze and the shade and the chickens.  Ms Lillia took great care of us, and as we chatted with her, we discovered that she hails from Grenada, which is one of our favorite islands--and the one we've most visited besides Anguilla.
Lillia in action, making our bushwhackers

DH and Lillia
After we had cooled down sufficiently, we headed home. DH was making dinner that night and he needed time to get his spaghetti sauce's flavors to meld on the stovetop before serving.  Which freed up Mom, Melanie, and me to use the pool and take a nap before dinner.

I neglected to take pictures of the meal, but we had yummy garlic bread, green salad, and a super spaghetti. We didn't find out until later that DH had to improvise on the sauce a little bit.  What he had taken for olive oil in the cupboard turned out to be balsamic vinegar instead, so he used bacon fat to saute the garlic and other ingredients.  No wonder it tasted so good!

We dined relatively early, so after cleaning up, we watched another movie.  We'd brought along a handful of them in case the weather turned difficult, but the villa came well-stocked with books, games, and DVDs, so we were all set.  Rum poured over cookies & cream ice cream turned out to be a pretty good dessert and we all went to bed very sassified indeed, ready to embark on tomorrow's adventure.
Euphoria Villa, seen from above


  1. Loving your trip reports thus far! Looking forward to reading more! :)

  2. Great shots of Spring Bay! I know just where you where and how you got there.

  3. Emily, I am thinking about a trip to Virgin Gorda at the end of January...will the water be too chilly at that time? My other thought is Grenada, even though I read there is no snorkeling there, and we love to snorkel!

    1. Allison, I've never been tot he BVI in January, but there are graphs you can find online that plot average daily air and water temperature. In April, May, July, and October the water has always been fantastic. Since air temps rarely vary more than 10 degrees for the average daily high between Jan and June, I suspect the water will be fine.

      I do, however, love Grenada. Love the West Indian flavor of that island, but the snorkeling is less than great. It's okay. I've got trip reports on Grenada here on the blog, if they would be helpful for you to read...

      let me know if you have further questions!

    2. Thanks Emily! I read your Grenada reports - looks amazing! Hope you're having a great vacation.

    3. I was on VG in February at Fischer's Cove and the water was perfect.

  4. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. Sharing the morning sunrise with you was truly memorable!!

  5. My group have been going every January for the past three years, this year coming up will be #4 in a row. January is a fabulous time of year to go and is actually high season, so rates are much higher.

    The water is just perfect and the weather is great too. It usually rains at night, or a quick shower maybe during the day. Go for it!


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