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All about Virgin Gorda


Virgin Gorda is an idyllic isle, hilly in the north, flatter in the south. There are three speeds available on this relaxed island - slow, slower and dead stop. Everything is geared to water activities - especially yachting, diving, snorkelling and windsurfing.

Look at a map of this island and you will see why Christopher Columbus named it Virgin Gorda, Spanish for Fat Virgin. Actually, the island's shape suggests a reclining expectant mother. But to call the place Pregnant Virgin just doesn't seem proper. Smack in the middle of the island's seemingly pregnant belly is Gorda Peak, rising to 1,370 feet. It is a somewhat tiring climb to the top, but the stunning view is worth every drop of perspiration.

You will find the simpatico people as winsome as the island's wandering billy goats, lizards, cattle, and geckos. Eateries range from rustic/simple to classy/pricey. Their names are part of the fun, for example: Sip and Dip Grill, The Bath and Turtle, Flying Iguana, Mad Dog and Drake's Anchorage. The latter takes note of privateer Sir Francis Drake, who sailed by on his way to pillage and plunder Spanish ships. Mad Dog is all about Caribbean-based Sir Noel Coward's musical observation that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the tropical noonday sun.

The most unusual of the many beaches is called The Baths. There, you will find boulders of film-set appearance. When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, there is a small but lively collection of spots for "limin'," as islanders call hanging out.

Not too far from Virgin Gorda's shores was a convenient source of food - Beef Island, where so-called buccaneers smoked beef over boucans, the beef-preservation method that inspired the name buccaneer. In lieu of Beef Island steaks, a favourite source of pirate protein, there was always the giant sea turtle, called "belly timber" in the pirate days.

With so many bays and inlets, Virgin Gorda is a mapmaker's splitting headache but a yachtie's dream. It also made it convenient for old-time pirates and privateers in need of a secluded hiding place. A privateer is a sort of gentleman pirate. That is to say, he had royal papers that made it legal to prey on enemy shipping. There was no shortage of enemies during the pirate era. European monarchs were forever going to war over a piece of the monetary action in the gold-plated Caribbean.

In 2004, Virgin Gorda was cited by Conde Nast Traveller magazine as one of "20 enduring Edens." The reason? Strict laws prohibit the wide-open "development" that has "condo-ed" and paved over many a formerly pristine Caribbean isle. Land speculation on Virgin Gorda is a serious no-no. There is almost full employment, so there is no need for any huge, glitzy resorts. Besides, new hotels would require importation of workers and helpers. The residents of Virgin Gorda like things the way they are. And who can blame them? It's so nice to live on an island that is almost a desert isle, but with scads of sea-splashed coastline. Virgin Gorda, at this writing, is so free of petty crime that hardly anybody locks his or her doors. One of the local restaurants is called Sidney's Peace and Love. That has to tell you something.


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