Anguilla

Anguilla is known for its luxury hotels and extensive sandy beaches. Its high standard of living makes it one of the safest islands and consequently one of the most relaxing. Visitors amuse themselves in the water during the day and eat at excellent restaurants and bars at night, taking in a weekend beach party with live music. There's not much else to do on this low-lying coral island, but that's why people come here.

Getting there

International access points for Anguilla are Antigua, St Maarten or San Juan, Puerto Rico. From there you get a plane to
Wallblake Airport
, or a boat from St-Martin to
Blowing Point
ferry terminal. Hotel transfers are not allowed, so you have to take a taxi on arrival.

Getting around

There is no bus service but there are several
car hire
companies. Hired cars cannot be picked up from the airport because of local regulations, they have to be delivered to your hotel, but they can be dropped off at the airport. Watch out for goats and sheep on the roads. It is also possible to hire
bicycles
and
mopeds
.


Anguilla is a small island, about 35 miles square, and the most northerly of the Leeward
Islands. It is arid, covered with low scrub and has few natural resources. The island's name
comes from the Spanish word for 'eel', a reference to its long, narrow shape, 16 miles long but only an average of three miles wide. Its Carib name was
Malliouhana
,
the sea serpent. The people of Anguilla, predominantly of African descent but with some traces of Irish blood, are friendly and helpful. It is one of the Caribbean's safest islands.

Near
The Valley
, the island's administrative centre, with a population of 500,
Wallblake House
, is a restored plantation house dating from 1787, the oldest and only surviving plantation house on the island, with intact kitchen, stables and workers' quarters, next to
St Gerard's Roman Catholic Church
. The church itself is worth a visit to see the unusual ventilation. Several resident artists exhibit their work on Saturday mornings during the winter season in the grounds of Wallblake House. Some of the oldest buildings can be found in Old Valley, on the road to Crocus Hill, including the
Methodist church
, the oldest church, dating from 1830, a pretty stone and timber building.

Road Bay/Sandy Ground Village
is known for its nightlife and restaurants and is the starting point for most day trips, dive tours and a popular anchorage for visiting yachts, with races usually starting from here. You can see the salt pond, around Great Road Pond, although it is not currently in operation. There is a mini museum at the
Pump House bar
, Sandy Ground. The building was once part of the salt factory and equipment used in the salt-making process is on display. The tour explains the salt-making process and takes you around the pond. The Manse Building in Sandy Ground is a three-gabled house from the beginning of the 20th century, built for a local planter. In 1910 it was sold to the Methodist church and was the residence of the minister until 1962. Now restored, it houses two art galleries, a shop and offices.

A local historian, Mr Colville Petty OBE, collects traditional household artefacts and nostalgic old photos, displayed in what is known as the
Heritage Collection Museum
. Boat building, fishing, salt raking and house building are all documented as a vivid reminder of how hard life used to be. The 1967 Anguilla Revolution and its leaders are also preserved for posterity with newspaper cuttings and photos.

Northeast of The Valley, by Shoal Village, is
The Fountain
national park, closed at present. Its focus is a cave which has constant fresh water and Amerindian petroglyphs. Artefacts have been found and it is hoped they will be housed in a museum at the site. Anguilla awaits detailed archaeological investigation, but it is
thought that the island had several settlements and a social structure of some importance, judging by the ceremonial items which have been found.
Big Spring Cave
is an old Amerindian ceremonial centre where you can see petroglyphs. It is near
Island Harbour
, a fishing village with Irish ancestry.


Islands offshore

Day trips can be arranged to some of the neighbouring islands or to the offshore islands and cays.
Sandy Island
is only 15 minutes from Sandy Ground Harbour and is a pleasant desert island for swimming or snorkelling. Lunch or drinks are available from a
beach bar
 under coconut palms. There are worthwhile trips to
Prickly Pear
, six miles from Road Bay, where you can snorkel if you are not a scuba diver, or to some of the other cays where you can fish or just have a picnic.
Scrub Island
, two miles long and one mile wide, off the northeast tip of Anguilla, is an interesting mix of coral, scrub and other vegetation. It is uninhabited, except by goats. There is a lovely sandy beach on the west side and ruins of an abandoned tourist resort and airstrip. There can be quite a swell in the anchorage, so anchor well. Boats go from Road Bay, Shoal Bay or Island Harbour. Chartered yachts and motorboats leave from Road Bay or from Island Harbour for
Scilly Cay
, privately owned by Eudoxie and Sandra Wallace and also named
Gorgeous Scilly Cay
. They have their own boat with a free ferry service. The bar is on a palm-fringed beach where walls are made from conch shells. Good snorkelling.


Beaches and activities

There are 12 miles, 35
beaches
, of fine white coral sand and crystal-clear water. Most of them are protected by a ring of coral reefs and offshore islands. Beautiful
Shoal Bay
is the most popular beach and very busy at weekends; island bands play here on Sundays until the evening. There are villas, guesthouses, casual restaurants and beach bars (
Uncle Ernie's
has the cheapest drinks) for lunch and dinner. The snorkelling is good, with the closer of two reefs only 10 yards from the shore, and you can rent snorkelling and other watersports equipment. You can also rent lockers, beach umbrellas, loungers, rafts and towels. There may even be someone to sell you live lobster.
Mead's Bay
is also popular, with a couple of small bars, top-class hotels and watersports. A controversial dolphin lagoon has been built here, stocked with dolphins allegedly caught in the wild by Cuba, which have been trained and are giving performances. Conservationists have protested against keeping the dolphins in captivity for the amusement of tourists.
Smitty's Bar
, at
Island Harbour
, is unsophisticated, tables made from old cable barrels, TV, pool room, popular with the locals. Seafood comes straight off the boats. Beach chairs and umbrellas are complimentary and snorkelling is good just off the beach.
Captain's Bay
is rougher but the scenery is dramatic and not many people go there. The dirt road is full of potholes and goats, and may be impassable with a low car.
Rendezvous Bay
stretches for 1½ miles along the south coast, a broad sweep of fine white sand popular with walkers and joggers and with very little development. At the end of
Limestone Bay
is a small beach with excellent snorkelling, but be careful, the sea can be rough here.
Little Bay
, with crystal-clear water and dramatic cliffs, is very difficult to reach but eagle rays, turtles and lots of fish can be seen, and as well as excellent snorkelling it is a birdwatcher's and photographer's dream; turn right in front of the old cottage hospital in The Valley, after about half a mile there are some trails leading down the cliff to the water, fishermen have put up a rope for the last bit down the rock face. Glass-bottom boats and cruise boats also come here or you can get a boat ride from Crocus Bay.


Diving and marine life

The Government is introducing a marine parks system, installing permanent moorings in certain areas to eliminate anchor damage. Designated marine parks include Dog Island, Island Harbour, Little Bay, Prickly Pear, Sandy Island, Seal Island and Shoal Bay. Mooring permits are required. Do not remove any marine life such as coral or shells from underwater. Spear fishing is prohibited.
Stoney Bay Marine Park Underwater Archaeological Preserve
was opened in March 1999. The park is protecting the wreck of a Spanish ship,
El Buen Consejo
, which ran aground on 8 July 1772 off the northern tip of Anguilla while on its way to Mexico with 50 Franciscan missionaries bound for the Philippines. It now lies about 100 yd offshore at a depth of 30 ft, with cannon, anchors and historical artefacts. Dives are fully guided and can only be done with
Shoal Bay Scuba and Watersports
. You are shown a video and given an overview of the ship's history.

There are good
dives
just off the coast, particularly for novices or for night dives, while the others are generally in a line due west of Sandy Island, northwest of Sandy Ground, and along the reef formed by
Prickly Pear Cays
and Sail Island. Off
Sandy Island
, there are lots of soft corals and sea-fans, while at Sandy Deep there is a wall which falls from 15-60 ft. There are also several wrecks, nine of which have been deliberately sunk as dive sites around the island, the most recent in 1993.

Further west,
Paintcan Reef
at a depth of 80 ft contains several acres of coral and you can sometimes find large turtles there. Nearby,
Authors Deep
, at 110 ft, has black coral, turtles and a host of small fish, but this is more for the experienced diver. On the north side of the Prickly Pear Cays you can find a beautiful underwater canyon with ledges and caves where nurse sharks often go to rest. Most of the reefs around Anguilla have some red coral; be careful not to touch it as it burns.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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