Soleil, mer et stabilitéIyna Bort Caruso
The history of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is the stuff of epic tales. Norman Island, at the southern tip of the chain, is said to be the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Nearby caves once hid riches plundered by pirates. The ocean floor is a graveyard for sunken ships.
Yesteryear’s swashbucklers are today’s sailors and divers. The sheltered waters of the BVI’s Sir Francis Drake Channel attract wind-chasing yachters, and the exotic marine world draws divers from all corners of the globe.
More than 60 islands and cays make up the BVI. Less than a third are inhabited and those that are have managed to avoid the kind of overdevelopment seen in some parts of the Caribbean. BVIslanders, as the locals are called, are protective of their resources, and it shows in the pristine beaches, sapphire waters and palm-treed skyline. There are no high rises or casinos. For crowds, look elsewhere.
Tortola is the largest and the most populated island in the chain--which isn’t saying much in a territory with a total population of fewer than 30,000. Across the Channel lies Virgin Gorda, a secluded destination of yacht clubs and exclusive resorts ideal for those who value privacy. One of the BVI’s most famous sites is here: The Baths, a geological wonder of granite boulders that forms pools, grottos and swim-through caves. More adventurous types head to get-away-from-it islands like Jost Van Dyke, Great Camanoe and Anegada, which is the only coral island in the BVI’s volcanic chain. Divers love it here. The Caribbean’s largest barrier reef surrounds it, which explains old shipwrecks on the sea floor. It’s a virtual amusement park for underwater explorations.
The architecture of the BVI is in keeping with traditional Caribbean style. Residences are typically concrete construction with wide verandas, high ceilings and bright colors. The incorporation of pergolas, lush landscaping and local stone and woods softens the hard edges of the concrete. The choicest homes accentuate a sense of place. “If a home has a Caribbean Sea view with a vanishing-edge pool, everything else is forgiven,” says Dietmar Lichota, sales agent with BVI Sotheby’s International Realty in Tortola Lichota.
The vacation market is a consistent one: slow yet steady. Many international investors scout the second-home market on buying trips of the Caribbean. For those who decide to purchase properties in the British Virgin Islands, economic and political stability is a big reason. Although self-governing, the BVI is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom.