The beautiful British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean are home to the perennially popular charter destination of Tortola. Despite the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, Tortola is open for business and the yachting scene is getting back on track. Charter companies are replenishing their fleets and have good availability. Within three months most returned to full service – not bad going! As for Tortola itself, work is progressing apace and you will be welcomed heartily as tourism is essential to the island’s economy.
Soft, white sandy beaches with waving palm trees greet visitors to this remarkable island. Boasting a sheltered dock, Tortola’s Road Harbour is a perfect landing for day excursions and departures. Dotted around the island are ample attractive anchorages and well-maintained mooring fields.
Nicknamed the ‘yacht charter capital of the Caribbean’ it’s little wonder that this, in part, is due to the extensive good weather conditions that last many months. The climate is warm, the seas are typically calm, visibility is excellent and the prevailing easterly trade winds are consistent. So if you are considering a bareboat yacht this does make it less daunting. It’s also appealing to families and relatively inexperienced yachting holidaymakers. There are also a multitude of neighbouring islands that are close so you can reach them with short, deep water hops.
When to book
It’s always a compromise between competitive prices and the best weather but whichever factor is most important it’s essential to know when the off season and peak season is. As most tourists descend on the British Virgin Islands to escape their chilly countries for the warmest, sunniest and driest period of the Tortola’s climate, the peak season is from December to February.
The off season is around the summer and autumn when the chance of tropical rainfall is high. Prices are at their lowest but you would be lucky to get the best conditions to enjoy your holiday. This is from June to October but you should also take into account that the hurricane months are typically between July and September.
The compromise months are November, and April to May. The island isn’t as busy, the weather is likely to be good but not excellent, and the prices are quite reasonable. When it comes to paying you may be surprised to find that this British overseas territory’s official currency is the US dollar. On further thought it’s understandable bearing in mind its proximity to the USA and neighbouring territories.
Choosing your yacht
Of the yachts available the popular mix of catamarans, monohulls, both sailing and powered are available from many charter companies. Bareboat options include Bavaria, Fountaine, Lagoon and Nautitech marques. Crewed options extend to 12-soul complements such as the fantastic Matrix 76 catamaran.
See amazing marine life close up
Cruising around the Tortola waters will open your eyes to stunning shoals of tropical fish, sharks, and dolphins. Over 400 species of fish make this locale their home, an impressive diversity including soldier, surgeon, snapper, squirrel, and porcupine fish. The gorgeous blue cobalt-coloured water is crystal clear and perfect for scuba diving. There is nothing that beats sharing the Tortola’s underwater kingdom with the marine life that lives here. Shy barracuda swim by and you may see loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles too! The leatherback turtle is the world’s largest turtle and is only surpassed in weight by its crocodilian relatives. The turtles use the beaches here year after year to lay their eggs.
Tortola’s coastline attractions
On the north of the island lies the sheltered Brewers Bay. This is an excellent family-friendly beach which is great for relaxation and picnicking. There is a beach bar where you can indulge in some quality drinks and food or hire deckchairs. The sea is gentle and ideal for swimming and snorkelling. It’s not just a tourist destination; this is where the locals like to hang out too so if you want to mingle and learn about life in Tortola from the residents this is a great way to do it.
Arguably the best beaches are across the northern coast of the island. Just inland from Josiah’s Bay is the Plantation which has been restored recently. This used to be a sugarcane plantation during the mid-18th to 19th centuries. The coastline is a delight for surfers who take advantage of the northerly swells. Kite surfing is another popular sport and the sandbars are great for you to swim to.
If you prefer to have a bit more seclusion and exclusivity then Smuggler’s Cove is just what you’re after. The only access from the island is by dirt road which keeps visitor numbers down. There are wide expanses of beautiful sand and the benefit of verdant tree line shading when you need to cool off.
Touring the neighbouring islands
Separating the southern coast from nearby islands of Ginger, Cooper, Salt, Peter and Norman Island is the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Travelling this is to witness spectacular scenery, sun-drenched sandy beaches as you cut through the clear waters. If you stop off at one of the many small villages you can indulge in tasty French-Caribbean fusion cuisine. Impressive and emotive sights of shipwrecks with their bleached and pitted wood add to the atmosphere and the historic tales of smuggling and piracy. Indeed, the history of Norman Island is what inspired Robert Louis Stevenson when he wrote ‘Treasure Island’.
Heading north from Tortola will take you to the only populated coral island. Anegada is a low-lying community with an amazing ecosystem all of its own. It’s here that you will see flamboyances of flamingos (yes, that is their collective noun!) in Flamingo Pond. It is also home to rare species such as the rock iguana and the sea lavender plant.
Hopefully, we’ve whetted your appetite to book a yacht charter to Tortola in the British Virgin Isles. It’s a beautiful Caribbean destination which promises a lifetime of memories from a very special marine experience.