Tortola | island, British Virgin Islands
Tortola: Powdery white-sand beaches, lush green mountains, and sheltered, yacht-filled harbors characterize the island of Tortola, the BVI’s largest and capital island. The past of the West Indies and the present-day BVI mix and mingle with ruins existing alongside the luxury resorts that draw visitors from around the world. Swim or stroll the secluded palm-shaded white sands of dozens of beaches, including Apple Bay, Brewer’s Bay, Smuggler’s Cove, Long Bay Beach, Elizabeth Beach, and Josiah’s Bay Beach to name just a few.
If watersports or fishing are more your style, don’t miss the protected anchorages at Brandywine Bay, Soper’s Hole and Trellis Bay and surfing Cane Garden Bay or game fishing the North and South Drops Warm, friendly and hospitable, Tortola has a wide variety of places to stay, ranging from luxury resorts and private villas to a scenic campground.
Step away from the sand just long enough to discover Tortola’s history with a visit to the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum, Fort Burt, Mount Healthy Windmill, Callwood’s Rum Distillery, J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens, Old Government House Museum and VI Folk Museum.
Among Tortola’s sharp peaks and bougainvillea-clad hillsides, you’ll find a mash-up of play places. Take surfing lessons, join fire jugglers at a full-moon party, dive on shipwrecks, and by all means go sailing amid the festive surrounding isles.
English is universally spoken throughout the British Virgin Islands. Those who work with tourists will speak quite clearly, but older natives have a thick and distinctive West Indian accent that, when spoken quickly, can be very difficult to understand. Because of the influence of British culture, a stronger emphasis is placed on politeness and decorum. It is generally expected to begin any conversation with a “Good morning,” or whatever time of day is applicable; the common American English habit of simply beginning a conversation without salutation is considered aggressive and even rude.
Air travel is the usual way to access the BVI, however, long-distance direct flights are not available, and you must transit one of the four Caribbean gateways; San Juan (SJU), St. Thomas (STT), Antigua (ANU) & St. Maarten (SXM). Connections are readily available through commuter airline operations on the lower end, if your schedule allows. Private charter flights are unnecessary as there are several reliable airlines serving Beef Island.
Air Charter companies, like Fly BVI and Aeroshares Charter, LLC have become more popular in recent years. These charter flights get you to your destination directly, without transfers or water shuttles. They will also be there if your arriving flight is delayed for any reason.
1 Terrence B. Lettsome Airport (EIS Beef Island Airport) (located on the East End of Tortola). Some travelers opt to fly into St. Thomas, having Fly BVI Air Charter meet them for the 14 min flight, while others opt to take the water ferry to Road Town, then take a taxi to their villa or marina, although depending on the ferry schedule and your arrival and departure times, this option can virtually tie up the better part of two days during your vacation.
Tortola British Virgin Islands
Local tradition recounts that Christopher Columbus named the island Tórtola, meaning “turtle dove” in Spanish. In fact, Columbus named the island of Santa Ana. Dutch colonists called it Ter Tholen, after Tholen, a coastal island that is part of the Netherlands. When the British took over, the name evolved to Tortola.
On his second voyage for the Spanish Crown to the Caribbean or West Indies, Christopher Columbus spotted what is now called the British and US Virgin Islands. He named the archipelago after the 11,000 virgins of the 5th-century Christian martyr St. Ursula. The Spanish made a few attempts to settle the islands, but pirates such as Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were the first permanent residents.
In the late 16th century, the English, who had successfully settled the area contesting claims by the Dutch, established a permanent plantation colony on Tortola and the surrounding islands. Settlers developed the islands for the sugarcane industry, with large plantations dependent on the slave labor of Africans, bought from local chiefs and transported across the Atlantic. The majority of early settlers came in the late eighteenth century: Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies after the American Revolutionary War were given land grants here by the Crown to encourage development. They brought their slaves with them, who outnumbered the British colonists. The sugar industry dominated Tortola’s economic history for more than a century.
In the early 19th century, after Britain abolished the international slave trade, the Royal Navy patrolled the Caribbean to intercept illegal slave ships. The colony settled liberated Africans from these ships on Tortola, in the then-unsettled Kingstown area. St. Phillip’s Church was built in the early 19th century in this community as one of the earliest free black churches in the Americas.
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After the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1834, planters found it difficult to make a profit in the sugar industry based on paying and managing free labor. At this time, Cuba and some South American countries still had slave labor in the sugar industry. In addition, there were changes in the sugar industry, with sugar beets cultivated in England and the United States offering a competing product. During the downturn as sugar agriculture became less profitable, a large proportion of the white landowning population left the British Virgin Islands.[when?] In 1867, an earthquake and tsunami hit the island.
On 6 September 2017, Tortola was extensively damaged by Hurricane Irma. A report by Sky News summarized the aftermath of the storm as: “The scale of the damage on the island of Tortola is truly shocking. You have to see it to appreciate just how massive this storm really was. The East End area of Tortola looks like a war zone; no building is untouched, the debris of entire houses destroyed, yachts, cars and enormous cargo containers is scattered in all directions and this is just one area.”
By 8 September, the UK had sent the Royal Engineers and Commandos to reinstate law and order and to set up satellite communications with the world More troops were expected to arrive a day or two later, but the ship HMS Ocean, carrying more extensive assistance, was not expected to reach the Virgin Islands for another two weeks. The Premier of the Virgin Islands, Orlando Smith, called for a comprehensive aid package to rebuild the British Virgin Islands (BVI). On 10 September, the UK’s prime minister Theresa May pledged £32 million to the Caribbean for a hurricane relief fund; the UK government would also match donations made by the public via the British Red Cross appeal Specifics were not provided to the news media as to the amount that would be allocated to each island.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Tortola on 13 September 2017 to confirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to helping restore British islands. He said he was reminded of photos of Hiroshima after it had been hit by the atom bomb
The population of Tortola is 23,908. The principal settlement is Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, with a population of 9400.
The provision of financial services is a major part of the economy. The International Business Companies Act, passed in the early 1980s, encouraged such businesses and has generated significant growth in professional jobs and related revenues. BVI residents are amongst the most affluent in the Eastern Caribbean. Numerous residents from other Caribbean islands also work here.
Although the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are under the British flag, it uses the US dollar as its official currency due to its proximity to and frequent trade with the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The island is home to many offshore companies that do business worldwide.
The extensive damage (devastation) caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 will affect the economy. Residents were looking to the UK to provide significant financial aid. Premier Orlando Smith called for a comprehensive aid package to rebuild the British Virgin Islands. The UK pledged £32 million of aid for Caribbean islands that were affected by the hurricane but did not provide specifics as to the amount that would be allocated to the BVI.
The Northern coast has the best beaches on the island, including Smuggler’s Cove, Long Bay, Cane Garden Bay, Brewer’s Bay, Josiah’s Bay, and Lambert beach. In addition to beaches, marine activities such as sailing, surfing, scuba diving, kiteboarding, and windsurfing are available. Many tourists visit the historic sites and hike in parks. The island is visited regularly by large cruise ships.
What is Tortola known for?
Tortola. Tortola (Spanish for Turtle Dove), the largest and most populated of the four main islands, is a lush mountainous island that was formed by volcanic activity. Crowning Tortola is the tallest peak, Sage Mountain National Park, at 1716 feet, which exhibits the characteristics of a tropical rain forest.
What language do they speak in Tortola?
The official and most widely spoken language in the Virgin Islands is English. The literacy rate in the Virgin Islands is around 90-95%. It is common to hear French Creole and Spanish spoken, particularly on St. Thomas and St. Croix.