|Maps of Tortola and Road Town. These are thumbnails for two large maps that you can view on the internet; click on a map to see the large online map. If you start with the Tortola map on the left, you can click on the online map to see the Road Town enlargement.|
|Click on the picture to launch Google Earth and display numerous points of interest for the Virgin Islands. If Google Earth doesn't automatically open, right-click the image and download the .kmz file to your computer, then run Google Earth manually and open the downloaded file. If you don't have Google Earth, click here to display the points of interest using Google Maps.|
Tortola is the biggest and most populous island of the British Virgin Islands, as well as being the location of the capital, Road Town. The BVIs are a self-governing territory of Britain, and have been a British possession since the late 1600s. Most of the residents are descendants of African slaves brought in by the British when the island was primarily agricultural; slavery was abolished in 1834.
The present economy depends almost entirely on tourism and financial services. Visiting cruise ships bring lots of tourists, but much of the tourism income comes from yacht chartering and related businesses. A large part of the island's income comes from fees related to financial services, due to favorable tax laws for offshore businesses (those incorporated in the BVIs but doing business elsewhere). During my visit, I observed that the standard of living seemed quite high; prices in stores and shops were correspondingly high, even in local grocery stores. The official currency is the U.S. dollar, which was a major convenience while visiting.
Tortola has very rugged terrain with many steep hills; the highest point is Sage Mountain with an elevation of over 1,700 feet. The entire chain of islands (except Anegada) was formed from tectonic and volcanic activity at the boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. When we went for our taxi ride, most of the time in the interior we were going up or down, flat land was confined to a small fringe along the coastline.
A couple of days after we arrived, we decided to go on a taxi tour of the island to see the sights. That particular day, Jeff was busy on Night Heron arranging and supervising repairs, so CiCi, Greta, and I went on the tour. We selected a taxi by walking around the busy waterfront tourist area, asking drivers about their rates and availability. The best rate we could find was $120 for a three to four hour drive, which came to $40 apiece.
Our driver first took us through town and pointed out numerous sights, keeping up a running commentary. He then headed out of town and drove all around the island, commenting on additional sights and stopping so we could take pictures. The island seemed fairly crowded, with lots of individual houses and buildings, giving the island a very lived-in appearance. Many of the houses looked to be very expensive.
We visited most of the island, but after we got back I realized we missed the extreme western part of the island, which I had wanted to see. This would have added a little time to the trip, which otherwise turned up a little short (we were somewhat overcharged).
The next six pages have pictures of our island tour.
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