“Barbuda, the land where time stands still.” My husband laughed as the airport agent made this comment while checking our passports and boarding passes in the Antigua airport. In response, the agent replied, “No, I’m serious. It’s really beautiful there.” We had hoped that Barbuda would live up to those expectations. I had read about the 17-mile-long beach, the bird sanctuary, and the natural beauty of this island. We were coming for just that experience, one without tourist attractions, without crowds, with just the sound of the waves and the feel of soft sand beneath our feet.
Barbuda is located in the eastern Caribbean, just 38 miles to the north of its sister state, Antigua. Granted independence in 1981, Antigua and Barbuda are one nation, but quite different in terms of population and development. Barbuda is home to approximately 1,800 people, most of whom live in Codrington, located in the center of the island adjacent to Codrington Lagoon, a Ramsar site, wetland of international importance, measuring 3600 hectares in area.
The first thing that strikes you when you reach the beach is that it seems to go on forever. There was no end in sight, as the strip of sand disappears around each corner of Low Bay, miles to the north and to the south from our resort. “Are you going to walk six miles in this direction or six miles in that direction?” was one of the first questions we heard upon arriving.
There are no big hotels here. In fact, there are few hotels at all on the island, adding to the feeling that you are here at your own private beach home. Every so often, along the beach, you will find evidence that you are not alone, a hand-written sign for a water taxi or tour, a clever “sculpture” of driftwood, or a small structure that offers food or drink when there are guests on the island, but those are few and far between.
Although minimally developed, the beach is pristine. Unlike other beaches we have visited which are undeveloped, the beach here has no debris, no washed up articles from careless boaters. This beach did not need a crew of hundreds raking the beach in the wee hours of the morning to look this way. The beauty, and the calm of the water, may have much to do with the reef visible in the distance, which protects the area from the Caribbean sea. Or perhaps the beach remains this way due to the dedication of a community of people committed to keeping this place naturally beautiful.
The beach is bordered by water on both sides. The sea on one side and the lagoon on the other, and at points it feels as if you could touch both at the same time.
Even though it is so protected from the open water, the area is teeming with wildlife. Bird lovers will rejoice with the variety of birds which glide over the land and sea. Barbuda is home to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, the largest colony of frigate birds, Fregata magnificens, over 5,000 in number. Barbuda is not just for the birds. In just a few short days, we saw numerous baby black-tipped sharks, a ray, a number of sea turtles, and countless varieties of fish, all along the stretch of beach in front of our resort.
Barbudans take a very strong interest in preserving the natural beauty of the island. When we flew over from Antigua, we met two people who were part of the Blue Halo Initiative, a Waitt Institute program to assist in preserving natural ocean resources, training Barbudans in recognizing hawksbill turtle nesting sites and working to protect them from predators. One night while on the island, we observed the group walking along the beach, pointing out nesting sites, as part of this educational initiative.
The sand is soft, although loaded with small shells along the water line. In the morning and evening, you can see patches of the pink color which are not so apparent in the bright sunlight of the day. You will run out of energy before you walk out of beach.
In visiting Barbuda, I recalled reading comments of travelers who made their way to the Caribbean many years ago, people who spoke with a bit of sadness about how simple and beautiful the islands once were and how much things have changed. In overhearing discussions among Barbudans about what is best for the island, I understand their reluctance to take on more tourism. They really have something special here. If you desire nightlife, shopping, and many organized activities for visitors, you are in the wrong place. If you want to enjoy the islands for the simple perfection of the sand and the sea, take a trip to Barbuda. You won’t be disappointed. It truly is one of those places where “time stands still,” and thankfully, it does.
Curious on how to get to Barbuda? Read our detailed report here, including video of the flight from Antigua!
Up next will be a detailed review of our gorgeous resort, Lighthouse Bay. Later, we’ll take a water taxi across the lagoon and visit Codrington. Stay tuned!
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