Day 4 - Virgin Gorda, BVI
Monday, December 14, 2015: Overnight, we had traveled at high speeds to reach the British Virgin Islands.
|Up on deck, we were approaching ...
|... Virgin Gorda.
|In this photo, Prickly Pear Island is on the left, Virgin Gorda is on the right, and Saba Rock is the tiny outcropping in between.
|When we got closer to Prickly Pear Island, we lowered the sails and dropped anchor.
|Most of the passengers signed up for the optional shore excursion to the Baths on Virgin Gorda, but those who didn't had the option to go to the beach on Prickly Pear instead.
|Pretty rainbow over the far east end of Virgin Gorda.
|Here's a closeup of Saba Rock. In the cruise director's morning talk (dubbed "Story Time"), he gave a single sentence on what we'd find there if we took the tender service that would be running there later on in the evening: "There's a second class restaurant with first class prices."
|Here's the day's schedule on the white board, ...
|... and here's the watersports board.
|The first tenders of the day were reserved for the guests who were headed to the Baths.
|We checked off our 100th country when we stepped foot on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
|Orchy joined us, of course.
|We had a brief stop here before getting loaded onto four open-air trucks.
|It took us a little over a half hour to get to our destination.
|We flew past scenery and scenic overlooks not knowing that we'd be making stops for photos on our way back, so we took a lot of blurry photos on the way that ended up not being needed.
|When we got to the Baths visitor area, we were herded in groups.
|Our guide spoke to our group about what we'd be seeing at the Baths and about our options to stay at the Baths, visit Devil's Bay, or return to this area earlier if we wanted.
|Off we went.
|It was an easy five-minute walk downhill, ...
|... around and over huge interesting boulders, ...
|... including Skull Rock.
|When we arrived at the Baths, we noted the following amenities for future visitors to this site who might be doing some vacation research.
|Bathrooms were available, ...
|... along with small lockers that appeared to be free to use. These would have come in handy if we had been prepared to use them, but we ended up just leaving our beach bag on the beach unattended and bringing our valuables into the water with us. The other thing that would have come in handy is bug repellent, because there were mosquitoes around.
|So, here they are: huge boulders in the sand.
|We headed down the beach to the right, ...
|... and got one last cool picture of the boulders before heading into the water to do some snorkeling.
|Wow! After the huge snorkeling disappointment at Anguilla, the snorkeling here was pure bliss. The boulders underwater were just as interesting to see as those above water.
|Fish were everywhere. Here are a stoplight parrotfish (initial phase) and a bluehead wrasse.
|Here's a blue tang, one of hundreds we saw.
|This moon jellyfish glowed pale pink when the sun hit it.
|Here are a doctorfish, ...
|... tiny yellow damselfish, ...
|.. and a bunch of blue tangs accompanied by bluehead wrasse (intermediate).
|This moon jellyfish was even more pink than the last one but it was difficult to capture the color.
|Here is a school of sergeant major damselfish.
|This handsome fellow is a Spanish hogfish wrasse.
|We weren't kidding about there being hundreds of blue tangs.
|This blue tang was kind enough to provide a splash of accent color against this elkhorn coral.
|Here are pairs of purple and yellow Christmas tree worms.
|We weren't able to identify these two little guys, sorry.
|These are tubular sponges. Totally.
|Here is a bonded pair of foureye butterflyfish.
|This is a blackear wrasse.
|We didn't see many of these red rock-boring urchins during our entire trip.
|This boulder is especially colorful just below the waterline.
|We peeked our heads above the water occasionally to see where we were and to enjoy the cool rock formations around us.
|Here's our last photo before getting out of the water after nearly an hour of glorious snorkeling.
|These little white and yellow butterflies were all over the BVI.
|We got cleaned up and realized that we didn't have enough time to visit Devil's Bay ...
|... so we just took a photo of the sign ...
|.. and took a peek at the entrance.
|We headed back up the path, ...
|.... passing a lizard, ...
|... and whatever this gigantic thing is. Wasp nest? Who knows?
|Up top, there were opportunities to shop and have a snack right next to the path.
|Debbie's dad had recommended that we visit Mad Dog, ...
|... so we went a little further out ...
|... and bought a couple of Diet Cokes there. We were the only customers.
|We loaded up the trucks again, ...
|... and we were off. This long wall contained many murals, including the ones shown here ...
|... and here.
|It's always fun to see shells incorporated into a wall.
|It's even more fun to see goats standing around.
|We stopped several times to take photos. This stop included a view of Spanish Town.
|This stop gave us a lovely view of Pond Bay to the right, ...
|... and Little Dix Bay and Savannah Bay to the left.
|Our next stop near Gorda Peak gave us a great view all the way back toward Spanish Town.
|It also gave us an opportunity to photograph some of the interesting cactus like this ...
|... and this.
|The tall ones were covered in bright blossoms or berries or both.
|Our final stop near Gorda Peak overlooked the other end of Virgin Gorda and Pricky Pear Island, ...
|... with Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island behind it, ...
|... and our very own ship in the middle of it all.
|Dog Bay (left) and Little Bay (right) were visible off to the south of us.
|The road down the mountain in this section was very, very steep.
|Here are Little Bay and Dog Bay viewed while descending the mountain.
|Before long, we were back at the pier waiting for our tender. While we waited, we overheard a guy on his cell phone who was telling his friend on the other end that he had to swing by Necker Island to pick up Sir Richard. You know, because that's what you do when a rich guy owns a nearby island.
|Jay Jay got us all back on the tender, ...
|... and a bright sun dog was shining overhead.
|Instead of going back to the ship first, the tender stopped at Prickly Pear Island, so all the hungry tourgoers could head straight for the beach and barbeque.
|We spotted a perfect location to park ourselves, right in the shade and right on the water at the same time.
|The ship's kitchen crew hauled a huge amount of food to the pavilion on Prickly Pear so that we could enjoy a delicious outdoor lunch.
|Ribs 'n' burgers 'n' chicken 'n' hot dogs 'n' corn 'n' all the side dishes you could possibly want.
|We filled our plates and enjoyed a feast in the shade.
|We enjoyed the scenery too.
|There's our pretty ship.
|After lunch, we waded in the water a bit, then spotted this.
|Can it be? A conch shell? With an actual live conch in it? Yes, it was, and it was the first time in all of our travels that we had ever seen one.
|Next, we photographed the pelicans on the dock.
|Handsome fellow, isn't he?
|We spotted a large boxfish in the water, so we decided that even though there wasn't any nearby reef, it was probably worth getting our snorkeling gear on to see what was underwater. This photo was taken from the water as Debbie waited for Tom to come in and join her.
|You'd think there might not be much to see, but you'd be wrong. Here's a cornetfish just under the surface of the water with a whole school of some sort of tiny fish hovering over the seagrass.
|We found another live conch, ...
|... then another.
|This little guy is a bristle worm.
|This empty clamshell was bright lemon yellow.
|These tiny shells were living on something that might have been a boulder at one time, but is now completely covered in living things.
|Here's a cool anemone, ...
|... but this one is even cooler.
|This was one of the highlights of the snorkel (but not the biggest one -- wait for it): a spiny lobster peeking out from under a rock. We've never seen a lobster in the wild before, so this was a huge find. We could have easily missed him if we hadn't been looking so carefully.
|Nearby, we found another spiny lobster, but he was so tiny (perhaps 4 inches wide) that we didn't even know what it was until we got home and tried to identify it.
|Ewww, sea cucumber. Ugly but still interesting.
|Of course, we saw a sandperch and of course, Debbie had to photograph it because she is obsessed with them.
|We spotted all of this stuff on a sea floor that looked like this, with funny little Dr. Seuss-style plants rising above beige seagrass.
|Next, we snorkeled under the dock to where the mangrove trees were. They were pretty, but there wasn't anything else to see there except what you're seeing in this photo.
|Jay Jay had told us that there was a large tarpon under the dock, so we thought we should go look for it.
|It was dark and scary under the dock, but it was still really cool because we were surrounded by a huge school of silver fish.
|Then suddenly, it swam right past us -- a tarpon that was easily four feet long. Whoa. If you look closely, he was in the previous photo too, hiding in the background.
|Here's Tom not believing how big that fish is.
|After that excitement, we had seen all that we could see so we headed back in, but not before photographing yet another conch.
|Our cabin steward had cleaned our cabin while we were gone. For the record, we absolutely love beds with individual duvets like these. Northern Europe really has this little luxury figured out.
|We had purchased a delicious bottle of Strawberry Fanta back on Virgin Gorda at the pier, so we enjoyed what remained of it.
|After getting showered, we grabbed some beers and headed back on deck, because when you're on a boat like this, you should always be on deck.
|There's Tom photographing Prickly Pear Island.
|Here's a picture that Tom took of Debbie, ...
|... and one that he took of a rope mat that protects the deck from the thing-a-ma-bob attached to it. We bought a mat just like this in Norway two years earlier at the Norwegian Maritime Museum for no reason other than they are cool to look at.
|Here are more photos of Saba Rock and Virgin Gorda, ...
|... and here's a closeup of Saba Rock.
|An hour later, tender service started to Saba Rock, so we decided to head over to see it even more up close.
|The yachts were all starting to light up at dusk.
|There's our destination. Isn't it purty?
|And we're here.
|We didn't get any photos of the bar or restaurant, but we did photograph this bright light in the water just offshore.
|It served two purposes: 1) to provide ambience, and 2) to attract large fish, most likely tarpon.
|We decided to have dinner at the restaurant, ...
|... and were seated along the water's edge where we had this gorgeous view of Virgin Gorda and our beautiful ship.
|There was a second bright light positioned just off shore by where we were sitting, so we were able to watch the large fish swimming by and occasionally skirmishing. It was mesmerizing.
|We took pictures of each other ...
|... and our beers.
|We dueled to see who could get a better photo of the moon, our ship, and the disappearing light. The camera on Tom's phone won.
|Then, we got down to the serious business of eating. We started with the fully capitalized Classic Saba Rock Caesar Salad.
|For our main courses, Debbie had the Shrimp Penne Pasta, ...
|... and Tom had the Caribbean Spiced Roasted Chicken.
We visited the resort's aquarium while we waited for the next tender back to the ship. If you look closely in the center left, you'll see an eel in this photo.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy