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Published: December 6th 2021
Snorkeling in 4 feet of water
Sailing in the British Virgin Islands in November.
The 60 islands compromising the British Virgin Islands are all volcanic except for Anegada, a low-lying coral mound. Anegada is the northern most island of the BVI archipelago and separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. Anegada is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands, but it is also the most sparsely populated of the main islands, with a population of 285.
Anegada lobster is a specialty in the BVI, with local fishermen providing most of the lobster catch for the rest of the British Virgin Islands. The Wonky Dog grilled the best lobster I have tasted.
Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 18-mile (29 km)-long Horseshoe Reef, one of the largest barrier coral reefs in the Caribbean. The reef has caused hundreds of shipwrecks. Navigating the approach to Anegada is enhanced by channel markers and the installation of a field of mooring buoys makes for a peaceful overnight stay.
The man-made Conch Island lies within the reef. Over the past century, conch have been harvested from these waters by local fishermen. The meat from the conch is extracted and the shells
discarded onto the ever-growing mound of shell known locally as Conch Island.
Sherwin Walcott, who once made a good living harvesting conch for the local restaurants, has turned his hand to ecotourism. He offers a 3-hour tour for groups of 4 or 6 to visit Conch Island. The day we went, we past a rookery of frigate birds, and watched pelicans diving for fish. Anchored in 4 feet of water, we snorkeled along the edge of the conch mound and watched local fishermen extracting the meat from there catch and throwing the shells onto the pile.
Further into Horseshoe Reef, I snorkeled again, and was surprised to encounter a large ray gliding through the reef. Back on the boat, Sherwin and the more skillful snorkelers in our group dove for conch. Sherwin proceeded to demonstrate the technique for freeing the animal from the shell and serving conch sashimi and conch ceviche for the group to enjoy.
You will not find this tour in the tour guides, but if you are in Anegada be sure to ask for Sherwin and enjoy this tour.
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