British Virgin Islands: Holidays, National Customs, Climate
There are a number of public holidays that do not have a fixed date but are based on the location of Easter. Easter takes place on the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the beginning of spring. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which ends on Holy Saturday, is 46 days before Holy Saturday. The date for Pentecost is then 50 days after Easter. Corpus Christi is celebrated on the second Thursday after Pentecost. All Saints’ Day is celebrated for Orthodox Christians on the first Sunday after Pentecost, but for Catholic Christians the date is fixed on November 1st. On October 31, Protestants celebrate Reformation Day. The Halloween festival also takes place on this day.
|January 1||New Years Day|
|4th of March||Hamilton Lavity Stoutt’s Birthday (= birthday of the minister who was in office from 1957 to 1995|
|2nd Monday in March||Commonwealth Day|
|March April||Easter engl. (Good Friday and Easter Monday)|
|June||Pentecost (English Whit Monday)|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|June||Sovereign’s Day (= celebration of Elizabeth II’s birthday)|
|July 1||Territory Day (= festival of the territory)|
|1. Monday to Wednesdayin August||Festival Holidays (= festival to commemorate the liberation from slavery in 1834.)|
|October 21||St. Ursula’s Day (= Feast of St. Ursula)|
|December 25th and 26||Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Christmas)|
|February||Annual flower show of the BVI Botanikverein.|
|March||Annual agriculturalfair Foxys music festival
Festival of fishermen in Spanish cities (Fischers Cove)
|April||Virgin Gorda Easter Festival (Virgin Gorda)|
|May||Music Festival (Tortola)|
|July||Fishermen’sDay Independence Festival (Tortola)|
|September||Jost Van Dyke Festival (Jost van Dyke)|
|December||Scratch/Fungi Band Christmas Party.|
Every month on Tortola you can join one of the full moon parties on the beach at Apple Bay.
|January||The Governor’s Cup Golden Golf Tournament (yacht racing)|
|February||Sweethearts of the Carribean Classic Yacht Regatta (Tortola)|
|March||Spring regatta and sailing festival (Tortola)|
|May||Foxy’s wooden boat regatta (Jost Van Dyke)|
Culture, manners and customs
You will quickly notice that the British Virgin Islands belong to the Commonwealth and that many customs and traditions have been influenced or simply adopted by the English. You will encounter British courtesy everywhere and you will experience a very peaceful life. The culture of the islands is not only influenced by British and European influences, but also by West African and American influences. The West Africans who were brought to the islands to work there under the British colonial rulers on the sugar cane plantations from the 17th to the 19th century had the greatest impact. These slaves came mainly from the areas where the Gambia, Ghana, the two Congo states, Nigeria and Senegal are located today. The Creole influence is also strong and resulted from intra-Caribbean migration and cultural contact with other islands in the region. Migration has changed the social landscape significantly with the result that half of the British Virgin Islands residents were not born on the islands.
Music, dance and literature
There are numerous traditional dances on the islands that were created or influenced by the migrations. The best known of these dances is the quadrille, which is also practiced in many other Caribbean regions and has found excellent interpreters in the Heritage Dancers. Other popular dances are bachata, merengue, and salsa. The latter is a cultural asset brought to the islands from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The music also has strong influences from the colonial rulers and the Caribbean and also includes such greats as reggaefrom Jamaica and the calypso from Trinidad. The so-called fungi band (also known as the scratch band) is the main form of the indigenous music group. She uses improvised instruments such as washboards and creates rhythmic music called Quelbe.
As far as literature on the islands is concerned, there have been some very interesting developments over the past few decades, but unfortunately little has been recorded. Incidentally, the literary works are written both in English and in one of the traditional dialects.
Sports in the British Virgin Islands are heavily influenced by the United States. However, both the British and US Virgin Islands have their own independent national sports teams that compete against each other in national and international competitions. In terms of sport, the British sports of cricket and soccer do not necessarily dominate the British Virgin Island. Rather, the Americanization of sport has struck there too, making sports such as baseball, American football and basketball popular.
Tourists are more likely to practice sailing, for which you can rent a boat or a yacht. Deep- sea fishing (attention! Only with the permission of the Minister for Natural Resources) and diving are popular with visitors. Tennis can be played on some courts on Tortola or – but only for hotel guests – on Virgin Gorda.
Nightlife and going out
Numerous hotels offer entertainment programs on certain evenings with musical or dance content. For the movie buffs among the visitors there is a cinema available on the main island of Tortola. There is also an Irish pub with live music as well as several discos and nightclubs. Every month on Tortola you can join one of the full moon parties on the beach at Apple Bay.
In general, casual wear is sufficient for evening activities and should only be a little more formal in some finer hotels. But that doesn’t mean that you should be seen in swimwear all over the islands. Tip is given on the islands. In all hotels it is customary to add a surcharge of 10-12% to the total bill for service.
British Virgin Islands: Climate
The British Virgin Islands have a tropical, humid climate that is tempered by trade winds. There are only very small temperature differences on the islands during the year. Most of the time, temperatures on the islands average between 25 °C and 30 °C. In Road Town, the capital of the island kingdom, the daytime temperature usually rises to 32 °C in summer and up to 29 °C in winter. The lowest daily temperatures are around 24 °C in summer and around 21 °C in winter.
There is little rainfall in the country. The annual precipitation is around 1,150 millimeters per year. It rains less on the coast, but a little more in the hilly regions. The usually wettest months are between September and November, while February and March are the driest.
It should be noted that the British Virgin Islands are located in a zone of the Caribbean that is very vulnerable to cyclones. Hurricanes and tropical storms occasionally occur, especially in the period between June and the end of November.
British Virgin Islands: Sightseeing
Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
The 70 m long Queen Elizabeth II Bridge connects Tortola with the Beef Island to the east, where the international airport Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (IATA code: EIS) is located.
The Fort Recovery was built in 1620 to protect the former Dutch colonial seat on Tortola. With an area of around 56 km², the island is the largest island in the British Virgin Island and has 23,419 residents. The capital of the British Virgin Islands is Road Town on the south coast of Tortola. It should be mentioned that Tortola and the neighboring islands were taken over by the English in 1672.
At Pockwood Pond on Tortola you will find the ruins of The Dungeon from the 18th century, which was supposed to monitor ship traffic between the islands. In one of his cellar vaults there are still incised drawings by prisoners on the walls. The ruins of the British Fort George and the remains of Fort Charlotte also date from the 18th century on Fort Hill – near Road Town
On Fort Hill – near Road Town – you will find the ruins of the British Fort George.
This is where the remains of the 18th century British Fort Charlotte are located.
Callwood Rum Distillery
The Caribbean is the birthplace of rum with production dating back to the mid-16th century. All over the British Virgin Islands, rum was produced especially for export to Europe and North America. The Callwood Rum Distillery <gives a good insight into the original structure of a sugar cane distillery. The old kettle still works and still produces rum, which is then stored in original storage containers. The old guard house has also been preserved and has been converted into an art gallery and souvenir shop. The visitor can try rum and also buy it.
Old Government House Museum
Located in Road Town, this museum gives an insight into the early history of British Virgin Island.
The building used to be the seat of the British governor.
This museum is located in Road Town.
The visitor will find here a collection of photographs, handicrafts and artifacts from the arrival of the indigenous Indians from 100 BC. Also some Arawak and Carib ceramic and stone tools, including a decorated spindle, a wreck of artifacts from the Rhone and HMS Nymph, and information on reef protection. The VI Folk Museum was founded in 1982 by the Virgin Islands Historical Society. It has been located at its present location on Main Street in Penn Hous since 1993. Penn House was the home of Joseph Wilfred Penn, a shipbuilder who started his family in 1911. The Penn House is a fine example of West Indian architectural style. In the museum you can buy t-shirts, paintings, cards and other gifts.
Eugene O’Neill Museum
This museum is located in Road Town. With numerous exhibits, it commemorates the American playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (1888-1953) from 1936.
North Shore Shell
Museum Located in Carrot Bay on Tortola Island, this museum exhibits a variety of shells, boats and handicrafts.
St. Phillip’s Church
This ruined church in the Kingston Area on the main island of Tortola is believed by local historians to be the oldest Free African American Church in America. It was built in the 19th century for a community of freed slaves. Unfortunately, despite its historical and cultural importance, the sacred building has fallen into disrepair and is little more than a ruin.
University of the West Indies
The British Virgin Islands are among the sponsors of the University of the West Indies.
This university is an association of several universities in which various institutes on the West Indies have come together. There are three main institutions in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
Participating states at the University of the West Indies are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
- Long Bay – Beef Island
- Lambert Bay
- Josiah’s Bay
- Brewer’s Bay
- Cane Garden Bay
- Apple Bay
- Long Bay – West End
- Smuggler’s Cove
- Brandywine Bay
Jost Van Dyke
- Sandy Cay
- Diamond Cay
- The Bath
- Devil’s Bay
- Spring Bay
- Little Trunk Bay
- Big Trunk Bay
- Savannah Bay
- Pond Bay
AnegadaThe beautiful coral island of Anegada is famous for having good diving spots with many shipwrecks. Horseshoe Reef in particular has caused hundreds of shipwrecks in the past. In addition, miles of white sandy beaches beckon, especially the 18 km long Horseshoe Reef, one of the longest beaches in the entire Caribbean.
Cooper IslandThis island, just over 1 km² in size, is a paradise for sailors who like to anchor for a few days in Manchioneel Bay to dive, snorkel, sunbathe or eat and drink on land.
Norman IslandThis is a former pirate island, which is provided with numerous imposing caves and in this way reminds of the old days. The island also inspired Robert Louis Stevenson for his famous novel Treasure Island.Sage Mountain ParkThe highest mountain in Tortola and the entire island kingdom is the 521 meter high Mount Sage, a volcanic elevation in the southwest of the island’s capital, Road Town. From there you have an incomparable view over the island.
Salt IslandOnce a year you get salt on this island and send a sack of it to the British royal family. Much more interesting for tourists, however, is the wreck of the HMS Rhone, a popular diving destination off Salt Island.
JR O’Neal Botanical Gardens by Road TownIn the center of Road Town are these botanical gardens, which impress with a variety of exotic plants. Anyone who walks on the circular path through the park will also come across an open-air enclosure with tropical birds and artificial waterfalls.
Cooper IslandThis island, only approx. 1.5 km² in size, is a popular place especially for sailors. With beautiful beaches, a coral reef and a small restaurant, a dive center and a few houses.
Road Town HarborThe deep-sea harbor and ferry terminal of the capital Road Town is populated by countless large catamarans and yachts that use it as an anchorage and can be rented for excursions into the islands of the British Virgin Islands.