The island of Barbuda is a beautiful island in the Caribbean archipelago. It emerges only a few meters from the water but offers scenarios of lush nature with plantations of tropical fruit, colonies of multicolored birds and emerald-colored waters. For sailors, it is an inviting stopover, especially because it is away from mass tourism.
It’s the dream of many sailors, especially those in the Mediterranean who often have only one thing in mind during winter: the Caribbean! The island of Barbuda, not to be confused with Barbados, is indeed located on the eastern side of the Caribbean archipelago, just 27 miles north of Antigua, to which it is territorially dependent. But unlike its larger sister, it has not been touched by mass tourism, and even today, those who discover it by sail leave with the impression of a true lost paradise.
Geographically, Barbuda is particularly flat, with an average elevation of just 4 meters above sea level, while the highest point is only 40 meters. So, don’t be surprised if, as you steer the bow, you only notice this atoll at the last moment.
To reach Barbuda from the island of Saint-Martin, approximately 70 minutes away, you will likely have to face the headwind. If possible, you should choose a relatively calm day, as in case of a storm, the wind can quickly reach 30-40 knots. Coming from Guadeloupe, 110 minutes away, the navigation will be less challenging with a beam reach or broad reach. Fortunately, local thunderstorms, however, do not last long.
Most sailors arriving in Barbuda take the opportunity to complete customs formalities for the Caribbean. This can be conveniently done through an internet service, allowing significant time savings. However, Barbuda also has its own physical customs office where clearance can be done. In fact, in the small administrative office, officials and employees are particularly friendly and benevolent. It often happens that the customs officer himself picks up sailors who have just arrived on the beach with his 4X4 to take them to the village a few kilometers away.
Dream beaches and heavenly anchorages
In Barbuda, there is no harbor, but only a dock for the shuttle to Antigua. However, the island has many anchorages, and one of the most picturesque is Princess Diana Bay in the south of the island. This leeward bay is perfectly protected from offshore waves, and access from the northwest is easy, even at night. In front of the bow, a long stretch of white and pink sandy beach extends for several kilometers. Typically, there are no more than 10 boats at anchor.
The sandy bottom is very good and anchoring takes place at the edge of the beach at a distance of 4-5 meters. There are some coral reefs to avoid, but the clarity of the water will allow you to identify them easily. If you arrive at night, you should stay away from the beach and take advantage of the early morning to approach the shore. The southern end of the beach is suitable for both relaxation and water sports such as kitesurfing. You can also enjoy splendid dives with turtles and rays.
Almost all the inhabitants of Barbuda, just over 1,500 people, live in the island’s only village, Codrington. This is located a bit away from the anchorage, but on this small atoll, it’s easy to find passage by land. The residents behavior towards tourists is quite pleasant and welcoming. Sometimes locals spontaneously stop and ask if you need help. In these simple conversations, you discover how proud the Barbudans are of their island and their culture.
On the way to Codrington, you can stop by the roadside to eat a deer burger or the famous tropical fish Mahi-Mahi. The village has some groceries, but don’t expect to find a mini-market. The small shops are only replenished once or twice a week by a ferry. There is a gas station in the village, but you’ll need to bring containers to the boat. So, it’s better to take precautions before the stop. However, in the small village kiosks, you can find excellent quality fruits and vegetables.
Amidst ancient plantations and colonies of frigates
Historically, Barbuda has always been renowned for its sugar plantations that also supplied the surrounding islands. The island also served as a food reserve for the English. Thanks to its flat topography, settlers cultivated all kinds of vegetables and fruits in its lands. But livestock was also raised. Even today, you can see wild piglets, donkeys and, most surprisingly, many deer.
The island’s lagoon is also famous for its nature reserve that protects the largest colony of frigatebirds, as well as brown pelicans, ducks, warblers, sandpipers, ibises, herons, kingfishers, sandpipers and cormorants. There are several birdwatching guides on the island who take you to observe these magnificent birds up close and tell you stories, habits and lifestyles of these beautiful animals.