On top of putting together some great trips for our group bookings, Group Sales Manager Ben also gets to head out to location once in a while as he is one of our fully trained guides! In March 2019, he led a group of guests swimming around the St Kitts and Nevis sister islands. After his time in St Kitts, he then had the opportunity to check out the British Virgin Islands in preparation for our first trips of 2019. As we come up to our next departures to the British Virgin Islands, Ben shares with us his account of his Caribbean swimming adventures, stretching back to his first visit there!
Swimming in St Kitts
My first introduction to the Caribbean was when SwimTrek gave me to opportunity to guide the Nevis to St Kitts Cross Channel swim trip back in 2017. I had always planned to visit this part of the world and St Kitts in particular as it had always described to me as being relatively off the beaten path compared to some of its neighbouring countries.
I still remember flying into the islands and realising that they were neighbours to some big hitting destinations. I initially flew into Antigua from London Gatwick, before taking a 20-minute flight to Basseterre on St Kitts. Not being able to fly directly to the country, you can see why St Kitts and Nevis may not be the first-place people think of when thinking about the Caribbean.
Once you are here, it’s easy to fall in love with the islands. During my first few days, I had some time to explore the secrets the island had to offer and to my surprise, aside from the amazing swimming spots, sailing and diving available, historically these islands focused heavily on agriculture, specifically sugar cane. This is still very apparent and although tourism in on the islands are growing, the traditional rustic feel of the place can still be seen in the towns and restaurants.
The last surprise the island had to offer was when arriving at Reggae Beach, the port you sail from on St Kitts when heading over to Nevis. As I had time to kill waiting for the boat, I found Timothy Hill which was an amazing spot to catch Nevis’s peak for the first time. It was also a great viewpoint to see where the rough Atlantic Ocean ends and the calm Caribbean Sea begins, a rare sight to see in the Caribbean.
One of the best features of the SwimTrek trip in St Kitts is completing the 4.5km cross channel swim across The Narrows. The uniqueness of the swim is that you can see the bottom of seabed the entire way across, giving you the chance to explore the curious marine life that will often come to check out the mysterious swimmers in the water. But the magical swims don’t stop there! With volcanic landscapes to spot as you swim by, sunken shipwrecks to explore and of course idyllic sandy beaches to finish your swims on like Lovers Beach, this trip is FULL of spell binding swims.
Exploring the British Virgin Islands for the first time
The British Virgin Islands are part of a volcanic archipelago within the Caribbean and is made up of four main islands. The largest island is Tortola which is home to the capital Road Town and of course, the Sage Mountain National Park. This is where I started my journey earlier [in 2019] to explore the open water delights the islands had to offer after having to postpone our trips to the BVI following Hurricane Irma.
A short ferry ride over to Virgin Gorda got me one step closer to where we start our SwimTrek swims in Leverick Bay. I had heard this part of the world was stunning, but no one prepared me for the sight of the labyrinth of beachside boulders scattered across the south coast of the island – magical!
The year of Hurricane Irma was regarded as one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent memories and hit the BVI without mercy, causing extensive damage across the north of the Virgin Gorda and surrounding islands. What I found incredible on my visit, a year and half after the hurricane, was how well the islands had recovered, restoring tranquillity to one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Upon landing into Virgin Gorda I was guided to where I could rent a car, just minutes from the port and a friend of the captain of the ferry. Once the paperwork was signed off and coffee drunk, I was off on my journey up the coast to Leverick Bay.
I think if you speak to any SwimTrekker that has been on the BVI trip, they will tell you about the crystal-clear blue waters and sandy beaches you'll find around the islands. My journey to the hotel was an adventure in itself, as I was constantly stopping to check out the incredible water clarity and all the hidden bays the island had to offer!
Once at Leverick Bay, it was clear to see it was business as usual and there were minimal signs of the destruction Irma created. Never have I seen such beautifully coloured hotel rooms, Leverick Bay's restaurant also boasts a bright red roof. I was lucky enough to try out all the restaurants in Leverick Bay and I must admit that my favourite throughout the week was Hog Heaven - it lived up to its reputation of friendly staff, stunning views of North Sound and amazing food!
It is hard to find a disappointing swim in the BVI. Prickly Pear to Saba Rock along the reef’s edge was an incredible experience and I have never seen so much marine life below me. I admit having lunch on Sir Branson’s beach was also a plus and of course swimming from the British to the US Virgin Islands is just an iconic experience, but for me, the best swim of the trip was swimming down the west coast of Virgin Gorda from Long Bay to Savannah Bay. A beautiful 4.5km coastal swim that finished with time to snorkel around the shipwreck of The Kodiac Queen.
Now that SwimTrek’s trips are back and running in the BVI, my advice to anyone that hasn’t been yet is to go quick before the secret is out that this trip is back and as beautiful as ever!