Living on Tortola, Cane Garden Bay

The view from Mount Sage 530 metres (1,700 ft) - NNW with Sandy Quay and Jost Van Dyke in the distance.

The view from Mount Sage, 530 meters (1,700 ft) high - NNW with Sandy Quay and Jost Van Dyke in the distance.

I recently decided to make a drastic change to my life and move to a tropical island. I figured It would be interesting to perform an experiment and see if the popular dream of living on a tropical island is really all that it’s cracked up to be. I was previously living with my wife in Sao Paulo, Brasil. I have occasionally wondered if I would prefer living in a more secluded, tranquil and tropical environment, rather than in large cities.
I considered a number of locations, however I have been looking at the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for some time now and it seemed a good choice for the experiment. English is the official language in the BVI which was also a deciding factor. I arrived in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola on 3rd May 2009. I have been living in the various accommodations available around the bay since then.
Another shot of Sandy Quay from Sage Mountain.

Another shot of Sandy Quay from Sage Mountain.

I’ve been working as a programmer and technologist for many years now. For the last 3 years I have been working remotely from various countries. The main challenges have been operating in different languages, time zones and cultures. This blog entry and the others to follow are a log of my experiences maintaining a job in London whilst living on Tortola in the BVI’s.
Cane Garden Bay as seen from Sage Mountain.

Cane Garden Bay as seen from Sage Mountain.

My stay in Cane Garden Bay has been very interesting so far. The experiment has been somewhat successful, however it has been challenging in many ways. Some of the biggest challenges have been the Islands population (23,908), isolated location and its terrain.
The islands’ location provides the first set of challenges. The cost of food and accommodation is high. This is most likely contributed to by the small population as there just isn’t the demand for goods and services to drive prices down. This and the predominant tourist trade conspire to keep prices high. The second issue that has arisen is mail. I have had two items sent to me from London. One arrived after 20 days (air mail) and the other has not arrived at all, and it’s been over a month now.
The terrain on Tortola is challenging. It has extremely steep mountains, hills and guts that run the length of the island. Although this makes moving about the island a challenge, it also gives the island its character. Providing stunning mountain views of pristine beaches and sheltered bays around every corner. The road that runs from Road Town, the largest city in the BVI’s to Cane Garden Bay is not feasible on foot, the steep inclines, switchbacks and descents make having a car, 4×4, hitchhiking or using a taxi mandatory.
One of the many switchback corners on Tortola

One of the many switchback corners on Tortola

The many guts that lead down the mountain sides to the ocean form small rivers and streams that often pool in depressions, leading to a healthy mosquito population. In fact, the mosquito population is so healthy that an almost constant coating of insect repellent is needed. For some, the mosquito’s don’t seem to be too much of an issue but they seem to be attracted to me. As a result I have had bites on my body constantly. In the hot climate I often sleep in shorts. It’s hard to keep repellent topped up when you’re asleep! I have been unable to buy a mosquito net on the island.
Getting supplies of food for cooking and general domestic needs has also been a challenge. There is a small supermarket called Bobby’s in Cane Garden Bay which has most things, however a trip into Road Town is often needed to buy things like olive oil, mushrooms, ginger, pasta, spices and the like. It is normal to walk to the supermarket only to find that a particular item you need is not in stock. A flexible menu or a trip over the mountain to another supermarket is often required.
The view of Little Thatch Island from Steele Point

The view of Little Thatch Island from Steele Point

As compensation, leisure time in Cane Garden bay has been very relaxing. I spend my afternoons on the beach swimming, kayaking or lounging on one of the many deck chairs or hammocks.
There is a friendly local crowd in Cane Garden Bay and a healthy live music scene. Most evenings you will find some great music to listen to in one of the bars along the beach.
Day trips by car on weekends have proven to be a real adventure with some 4×4 only spots on the island adding some driving challenges. Smuggler’s cove, Long Bay and Josiah’s bay are spectacular beaches that particularly need mentioning.
Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove

Long Bay - Tortola

Long Bay - Tortola

Josiah's Beach

Josiah's Beach

This entry was posted in Discussion, Tortola, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Living on Tortola, Cane Garden Bay

  1. scriptysandy says:

    I am so jealous. I was there in February and I didn’t want to come home. If I had a way of making a living independent of the Island I would be there in a heartbeat.

    I look forward to reading more.


  2. Mercury says:

    Ev’ry ting safe, Craig? 🙂 CGB is my favorite place on Earth, I used to live there & will again some day. LOVE the local folks, love the culture, love the water, love the BVI! ENJOY!

  3. Rosie says:

    Your information has been helpful, thank you. I am moving to the islands for the summer and I am excited and slightly nervous for the adventure.

  4. Ro-ann says:

    Helpful Info…

  5. sj says:

    Im moving there next summer to live with my husband and his family

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