Framed by giant gray boulders, the sail boat floats like a white seagull upon aquamarine waters beneath a blazing blue sky. I catch my breath and quickly snap a photo before it disappears from view.
Standing in warm, waist-deep water within a sheltered cove, I gaze around in wonder at the geological marvel known as the Virgin Gorda Baths. Massive, granite rocks scattered along pristine sandy beaches beckon explorers of all ages with exotic grottoes, towering arches, shadowed crevices, and natural tidal pools. This is the must-see attraction of the British Virgin Islands.
As soon as the cruise ship docked at Tortola, I sped off on the ten-minute walk to the local ferry dock, determined not to miss the 7:45 a.m. departure for nearby Virgin Gorda Island. I purchased my ticket and boarded the compact Speedy ferry with a clutch of tourists and business commuters for the bumpy 40-minute ride. The sky darkened ominously and rain pelted down for a while but, by the time I reached Virgin Gorda, the dazzling Caribbean sun had emerged.
At the dock, a fleet of small vans appeared and I climbed aboard for the 5-minute ride to The Baths. I paid a small admission fee at the National Park entrance and began my trek along a meandering, tree-covered path down to the shoreline. Before long, I encountered monumental volcanic rocks measuring up to 40 feet in diameter that formed an enticing labyrinth.
Fueled by a rush of adrenaline, I find myself clambering over rocks, crawling through tunnels, climbing up ladders, pulling myself along rope hand-rails, and wading through clear, crystalline waters.
I worried about what to wear on this outing, and am relieved to discover that a swim suit, cover-up and water shoes are the perfect combination. This is a magnificent location for photographs captured by either a small point-and-shoot camera or cell phone that can be tucked in a shirt pocket or hung around the neck. It is helpful to keep both hands free for climbing and crawling. While backpacks can be carried, they become a nuisance when squeezing between or under boulders, and I am glad to have traveled light. The best time to go is first thing in the morning before crowds of tourists and organized group tours descend on the area.
At the end of the mesmerizing maze, I emerge into the idyllic beach clearing known as Devil’s Bay. It offers the perfect opportunity to cool off in sparkling waters, relax on white sand, and cap off my adventure with a rum punch procured from the uniquely named Poorman’s Bar.