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Lying in the shade of tall palm trees on a tiny desert island while sampling some freshly barbecued fish and watching the boats bob up and down on the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon, I realised that this was the ultimate island retreat. 

An island escape is the perfect holiday if you’re looking to relax and get away from it all, but I was actually on an island (Ile aux Chats, or Cat Island) off another island (Rodrigues) which itself is reached from the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius – an island holiday cubed, if you will. 

Either this was the most relaxing place I’d ever visited, or I was in a vacation version of the film Inception.

Rodrigues, Mauritius' little-known neighbour, is the perfect holiday-within-a-holiday destination

Rodrigues, Mauritius’ little-known neighbour, is the perfect holiday-within-a-holiday destination

Located off the east coast of Africa, Mauritius is well-known for its stunning beaches, luxury resort hotels and year-round sunshine, but for those seeking a more remote island experience, its little-known neighbour of Rodrigues is the perfect holiday-within-a-holiday destination. 

It is the place where Mauritians themselves come to relax and is known for its tranquillity, its lack of development and its beautiful wildlife as well as the beaches, which rival anything Mauritius has to offer.

Just a 90-minute flight due east of Mauritius, this tiny island is just 42 square miles in size but is entirely surrounded by coral reefs – which cover an area more than twice that – which make it an ideal destination for diving and snorkelling or just soaking up the stunning scenery.

Named after the Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues, the island looks as it has come straight from the pages of a travel brochure, with lush green hills inland surrounded by golden sandy beaches and the sparkling clear turquoise ocean. 

Sarah recommends staying at the island's Cotton Bay hotel, which is set by the beach. Pictured is the hotel's honeymoon suite

Sarah recommends staying at the island’s Cotton Bay hotel, which is set by the beach. Pictured is the hotel’s honeymoon suite

The island's 'Plage de l'Est' beach. 'This tiny island is just 42 square miles in size,' Sarah writes

The island’s ‘Plage de l’Est’ beach. ‘This tiny island is just 42 square miles in size,’ Sarah writes 

On the beaches, fishermen hang up fresh octopus to dry (pictured)

On the beaches, fishermen hang up fresh octopus to dry (pictured)  

Plastic bags are banned on the island and the island’s chief commissioner is keen to preserve the island as an ecological destination and restrict large-scale developments. A dependency of Mauritius with a population of just 38,000, Rodrigues is far less built up than its larger neighbour and is practically unknown to foreign tourists.

This means that there are just a handful of three and four-star hotels on the island – there are no five-star hotels yet, although the island is currently in discussion with several operators who are hoping to be the first five-star brand here – but instead, the island boasts dozens of excellent guesthouses. 

While the term might conjure up a dank B&B from a British seaside town in the 1960s, this couldn’t be further from the truth: in Rodrigues it can be like having your own boutique hotel, with individually-designed rooms, private pools and even sometimes a pair of giant tortoises for company.

Locals will tell you that you need at least five days to really appreciate the island, and while you would certainly be ultra-relaxed after almost a week on Rodrigues, a long weekend here is ample time to explore the delights of the island and get as much sun, sea and sleep as you need.

The spa at the three-star Cotton Bay hotel. 'There are just a handful of three and four-star hotels on the island,' Sarah writes

The spa at the three-star Cotton Bay hotel. ‘There are just a handful of three and four-star hotels on the island,’ Sarah writes

The view of the sea from Cotton Bay hotel. There are no five-star hotels yet on Rodrigues, but according to Sarah, the island is currently in discussion with several operators who are hoping to be the first five-star brand there

The view of the sea from Cotton Bay hotel. There are no five-star hotels yet on Rodrigues, but according to Sarah, the island is currently in discussion with several operators who are hoping to be the first five-star brand there

Cotton Bay hotel's swimming pool. Sarah says that an escape to Rodrigues is 'pure luxury'

Cotton Bay hotel’s swimming pool. Sarah says that an escape to Rodrigues is ‘pure luxury’

Sarah says that Rodrigues 'is entirely surrounded by coral reefs, which make it an ideal destination for diving and snorkelling'

Sarah says that Rodrigues ‘is entirely surrounded by coral reefs, which make it an ideal destination for diving and snorkelling’

I flew from Mauritius’ international airport early Friday afternoon and landed just after 3pm, my window seat giving me a great view of the sandy islands and vast lagoon that surrounded Rodrigues. By 4pm I was swimming in the sunshine in the outdoor pool at the Domaine de la Paix guesthouse, the number-one-rated guesthouse on Tripadvisor for the whole of Rodrigues.

It has eight individual rooms ranging from twin to doubles and family rooms as well as a spa treatment room and each is beautifully decorated with handmade furniture and artwork, one even boasting a whale skeleton. 

Guests tend to have their favourites, from the circular Harmony room, to Zenitude where you can gaze through the roof at the starry night sky. With the rooms scattered around its hilltop location hillside among the palms, passion fruit trees and colourful bougainvillaea, it was easy to see why it was so well rated by visitors. It has stunning views of the coast, a stone-built magnesium pool (no harsh chlorine here, just healthy mineral salts) and no passing traffic meant the only sounds were the wind in the trees or an occasional chirrup from a passing bird, making it a very relaxing place to stay.

Rodrigues' Anse Bouteille beach. According to Sarah, locals will tell you that you need at least five days to really appreciate the island

Rodrigues’ Anse Bouteille beach. According to Sarah, locals will tell you that you need at least five days to really appreciate the island

Air Mauritius has several flights a day between Mauritius and Rodrigues

Air Mauritius has several flights a day between Mauritius and Rodrigues

While owner Francois is happy to provide evening meals, I decided to go a little further afield and on my first night ventured down the road to the beach-side Les Cocotiers hotel to sample a traditional Mauritian buffet dinner and rum cocktails while watching a display of local dancing (inspired by Scottish, Polish and Russian influences), which delighted its Mauritian guests.

You can easily explore Rodrigues by car or foot – trekking through Rodrigues’ unspoilt countryside and hills is a popular activity here – but I was keen to see the island from the water and so the next morning, after an impressive breakfast of fruit, freshly-made bread, pastries, passionfruit and cooked eggs I headed to the stunning beaches at Port Sud-Est on the south coast to meet Gonzague, the skipper of a little sailing boat – my transport for the day.

Leaving the kite-surfers weaving and diving in the blue skies behind us, we chugged out into the lagoon for a morning’s snorkelling, greeting various scuba divers and octopus fishermen on the way (the fresh octopus is hung up on the beach to dry) before having lunch on the aforementioned Ile aux Chats.

A view of the spectacular scenery in Rodrigues. 'Trekking through Rodrigues' unspoilt countryside and hills is a popular activity,' Sarah says

A view of the spectacular scenery in Rodrigues. ‘Trekking through Rodrigues’ unspoilt countryside and hills is a popular activity,’ Sarah says 

A street in Rodrigues’ main town, Port Mathurin, where Sarah spent the final morning of her trip

The market at Port Mathurin. During Sarah's visit, the town was 'hosting a loud and colourful Creole festival, complete with market stalls and loud music'

On the left is a street in Rodrigues’ main town, Port Mathurin, where Sarah spent the final morning of her trip. Pictured on the right is the market at Port Mathurin. During Sarah’s visit, the town was hosting a ‘loud and colourful Creole festival, complete with market stalls and loud music’

The tiny island studded with palm trees and fringed with sandy beaches is called the island of cats due to its shape from the mainland (although we did see one friendly cat on the island too) and is one of a whole host of nearby islets straight from the pages of Treasure Island, such as the Ile aux Cocos, Ile au Sable, Ile aux Crabe and Ile Gombrani. They are all popular destinations for day trips with some, such as ‘my’ island Ile aux Chats, allowing barbecues.

While I lay in the shade and drank up the spectacular view along with the sunshine, Gonzague was cooking up a storm and soon returned laden with capitaine fish, sausages, chicken and prawn skewers (and had thoughtfully brought along a cool box full of wine, beer, water and Coke).

Sun-dazed and wind-swept from the boat ride back, it was bliss to cool off with a swim back at Domaine de la Paix before heading out to the lively beach town Anse aux Anglais for dinner. 

While there were dozens of family groups sitting at picnic tables on the beach enjoying the evening warmth, I made instead for the packed local corner restaurant La Plage, where I tucked into what was becoming my favourite cocktail, Ti Punch. This is a potent mixture of rum, limes and sugar syrup and was the perfect starter to my main dish, the famous ‘Bol renverse’ (upside-down bowl), a bowl stuffed full of stir-fried rice and vegetables and a fried egg, which is then upended in a perfect semi-sphere on your plate.

My final morning was spent exploring Rodrigues’ main town, Port Mathurin – which was hosting a loud and colourful Creole festival, complete with market stalls and loud music – and chatting to the island’s chief executive, Jacques Davis Hee Hong Wye.

A sailboat by the Rodrigues coast. Describing her own boat trip, Sarah writes: 'We chugged out into the lagoon for a morning’s snorkelling, greeting various scuba divers and octopus fishermen on the way'

A sailboat by the Rodrigues coast. Describing her own boat trip, Sarah writes: ‘We chugged out into the lagoon for a morning’s snorkelling, greeting various scuba divers and octopus fishermen on the way’

Trou d'Argent beach in the eastern part of Rodrigues. The locals are hoping to boost sustainable tourism on the island

Trou d’Argent beach in the eastern part of Rodrigues. The locals are hoping to boost sustainable tourism on the island

The St. Gabriel Cathedral, located in the town of St Gabriel. According to Sarah, you can easily explore Rodrigues by car or foot

The St. Gabriel Cathedral, located in the town of St Gabriel. According to Sarah, you can easily explore Rodrigues by car or foot

Pictured is one of the giant tortoises at the Francois Legaut sanctuary, which reintroduced giant tortoises to Rodrigues after they were hunted to extinction

Pictured is one of the giant tortoises at the Francois Legaut sanctuary, which reintroduced giant tortoises to Rodrigues after they were hunted to extinction

‘We want to boost tourism and the local economy, but to do it in a sustainable way,’ he explained. ‘We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of mass tourism elsewhere and instead want to position the island as an ecological destination.’

If you go for a week then the more active are spoiled for choice if beaches and boating are too relaxing. 

Options include ziplining 100 metres above the trees, visiting The Garden of Five Senses botanical gardens, crossing the hair-raising Indiana Jones-style suspended bridge, or going kayaking, kite-surfing, wind-surfing or fishing, or visiting the giant tortoises at the Francois Legaut sanctuary, which reintroduced giant tortoises to Rodrigues after being hunted to extinction in the 18th century.

I wasn’t able to squeeze in a trip to the giant tortoise sanctuary but the indefatigable owner of my guesthouse, Domaine de la Paix, had a solution – his very own pair of female giant tortoises that lived at his other villa across the island. As giant tortoises live for 150 years, these two were mere babies at 15 years old. Munching on colourful bougainvillaea flowers, the pair looked extremely content as they basked in the Rodrigues sunshine and I knew exactly how they felt. 

An island break is a real treat anyway – but an island holiday in the middle of another island holiday? That’s pure luxury.

Sarah Bridge is a travel writer and founder of the travel reviews aladyofleisure.com.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Getting to Rodrigues: Air Mauritius has several flights a day between Mauritius and Rodrigues and the trip lasts 90 minutes. 

Getting to Mauritius: Direct flights to Mauritius from the UK depart from London Heathrow (British Airways) or London Gatwick (Air Mauritius) while indirect flights from UK regional airports are with Emirates (via Dubai), Air France (via Paris) and Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul).

Where to stay in Rodrigues: Sarah stayed at the Domaine de la Paix guesthouse, 10 miles from the airport. Price per room starts from £150 with some minimum stay restrictions. Hotels on the island include Mourouk Ebony hotel and Cotton Bay hotel – both have swimming pools and beachfront locations. 

Visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mauritius/entry-requirements for the latest travel rules. 


It’s the go-to destination for many party-loving sunseekers every summer, but a new study will fill Ibiza fans with dread. 

Scientists have warned that up to 65 per cent of all beaches in the Balearic Islands will be permanently lost by the end of the century – and climate change is to blame.

A model was created to look at sea level changes under current climate change projections by researchers from the Oceanographic Centre of the Balearic Islands.

While the impact of the climate crisis on coastal areas has been widely studied, this is the first to show the impact specifically on popular tourist spots in the Balearics.

More than a quarter of the economy of the Balearic Islands comes from beach and sun tourism, so losing the beaches to climate change would be devastating. 

‘Here we show that climate change will lead to the permanent loss of more than 50 per cent of the beach surface, rising up to more than 80 per cent during storm conditions,’ said study author Miguel Agulles.

These predictions are based on the worst case scenario of climate change, but efforts to cut carbon emissions could see a significant reduction in sea level rises around the world, the team said.

They also call on local and national governments to enact measures to reduce the risk of climate change on beaches, including by planting more seagrass.

Up to 65 per cent of all beaches in the Balearic Islands will be permanently lost by the end of the century, according to a new study, and climate change is to blame

Up to 65 per cent of all beaches in the Balearic Islands will be permanently lost by the end of the century, according to a new study, and climate change is to blame

The findings show that climate change will lead to the permanent loss of more than 50% of the beach surface, rising up to more than 80% during storm conditions

The findings show that climate change will lead to the permanent loss of more than 50% of the beach surface, rising up to more than 80% during storm conditions

WHAT IS THE PARIS AGREEMENT?

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions. 

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

Even under the most extreme climate change models, sea levels are not expected to rise everywhere on Earth to the same extent.

There will be differences caused by winds and ocean currents, according to researchers. 

Earlier studies have predicted that around the Balearic islands, sea levels will increase by up to 26 inches, under the highest level of warming. 

However, it isn’t just sea levels that will impact the quality of beaches for tourism.

Flood levels, rather than constant sea level rises, depend on tides and waves, and are more of an important indicator of the future shape of beaches, the team behind this study explained.

They created a new, cost-efficient and accurate method to model future flood levels along the coastlines of the Balearic islands.

They considered the shape and slope of each beach, how grainy the sand is on the beach, the extent of seagrass meadows and used it to predict coastal flooding. 

‘A detailed analysis of the evolution of each beach in the Balearic archipelago is very demanding on computer power,’ Agulles told Frontiers. 

‘We have therefore devoted considerable effort in our study to develop methodologies for the analysis and to optimise the computation.’

They discovered that it isn’t all bad news, with extreme events less extreme than previously thought.

Wave heights will be up to six inches lower than the current maximum heigh of up to 13ft, they predict. 

Despite this, Agulles and colleagues warn there will still be ‘devastating inroads on the coastline’, leading to a reduction in the number of beaches.

They say this will be mainly due to the overall rise in sea level, with at least 56 per cent of beaches in the region permanently lost to the sea.

This, combined with regional projections of sea level and wave changes over the next 100 years, allowed them to predict the future total water level.

They applied their new model to 869 beaches across the Balearic Islands, and looked at what is most likely to happen for the next few decades. 

Under the most pessimistic climate change scenario, 66 per cent of current beaches will be flooded, and lost to the sea by the end of this century. 

This is under average conditions, but under the most extreme conditions it will increase to a loss of 86 per cent of beaches during a storm. 

While the impact of the climate crisis on coastal areas has been widely studied, this is the first to show the impact specifically on popular tourist spots in the Balearics

While the impact of the climate crisis on coastal areas has been widely studied, this is the first to show the impact specifically on popular tourist spots in the Balearics

In total, 72 of the 869 beaches of the region would permanently disappear, while 314 would be completely flooded during storm episodes. 

Under a moderate scenario of emissions, considered the most likely under current climate change scenarios, 37 beaches would permanently disappear while 254 would disappear only during storm episodes. 

In both cases, the average permanent loss of beach surface area by the end of the century will still be over 50 per cent, and could reach 80 per cent. 

In total, 72 of the 869 beaches of the region would permanently disappear while 314 would be completely flooded during storm episodes

In total, 72 of the 869 beaches of the region would permanently disappear while 314 would be completely flooded during storm episodes

Co-author Dr Gabriel Jordà said the results show climate change is a serious threat to tourism in the islands, and beaches will be seriously impacted.

He said national and regional governments should make plans to minimise hte impact of storms by preserving seagrass – a natural protection against storms.

‘These projections indicate that adaptation plans for beach areas should be put in place as soon as possible.’

The findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. 

SEA LEVELS COULD RISE BY UP TO 4 FEET BY THE YEAR 2300

Global sea levels could rise as much as 1.2 metres (4 feet) by 2300 even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.

The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to re-draw global coastlines.

Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying swathes of Florida or Bangladesh, and to entire nations such as the Maldives.

It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.

By 2300, the report projected that sea levels would gain by 0.7-1.2 metres, even if almost 200 nations fully meet goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Targets set by the accords include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.

Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said.

In addition, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2°F).

Every five years of delay beyond 2020 in peaking global emissions would mean an extra 20 centimetres (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.

‘Sea level is often communicated as a really slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,’ said lead author Dr Matthias Mengel, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam, Germany.

None of the nearly 200 governments to sign the Paris Accords are on track to meet its pledges.


With icing-sugar sand, crystal-clear water and jungle-wrapped mountains, it’s hard to believe how different the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) looked just four years ago. In September 2017, Hurricane Irma – the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, with wind gusts reaching 215mph – ripped through this chain of lush islands, leaving them scorched and bare.

Just two weeks later, Maria followed – another Category 5 hurricane.

When the winds died down, more than 80 per cent of buildings on the BVIs’ main island of Tortola were found to have been destroyed or seriously damaged, and its vital tourist industry was decimated.

Paradise restored: The tiny yachting hot-spot Saba Rock, above, was rebuilt after being flattened by Hurricane Irma

Paradise restored: The tiny yachting hot-spot Saba Rock, above, was rebuilt after being flattened by Hurricane Irma

The immediate aftermath that agriculturalist Vernon Daniel describes is apocalyptic, but it also explains how the BVIs soon bounced back from such devastation. He says: ‘Salt from the ocean came in with the wind and burnt everything. All the trees were like bonsais, cut to half their size. But a lot of the soil was saturated with salt and that helped with the absorption of rain, so it was actually all green again within three months, completely naturally.’

A massive clean-up operation was launched to tackle the £2.7 billion of damage, with extensive rebuilding and the establishment of new farms to ensure the self-reliance of this British Overseas Territory just to the east of Puerto Rico.

Hotels were finally poised to reopen in 2020, and then Covid struck…

Now, the much needed and long-awaited tourists are back and finding an even warmer welcome. Regular visitors will see big changes across the islands – even though they appear just as green as before, carpeted in cactus-studded rainforest and exotic flowers, the beaches seem to sparkle more than ever.

‘When a hurricane comes through, the beaches change and are refreshed,’ says Keith Dawson of the BVI Tourist Board. ‘Everything gets a clean-up. There weren’t as many boats around so fish are in abundance and people are farming more in their gardens. It’s a very hopeful time.’

The British Virgin Islands are a tranquil alternative to tourist-heavy Antigua, an hour’s flight away. Pictured is the Antiguan capital of Saint John's

The British Virgin Islands are a tranquil alternative to tourist-heavy Antigua, an hour’s flight away. Pictured is the Antiguan capital of Saint John’s

With calm currents, reliable trade winds and countless deserted coves, the BVIs have long attracted keen sailors and celebrities who hop between the 60 islands, islets and cays.

But the new and refurbished hotels also make the islands a dream getaway for those who prefer to stay on dry land – and a tranquil alternative to tourist-heavy Antigua, an hour’s flight away.

Visit between December and April and you will steer clear of the Caribbean’s hurricane season, though stricter new building regulations should mean the islands remain better protected in future.

An idyllic beach on Virgin Gorda where the blue waters of the Caribbean stretch out as far as the eye can see

An idyllic beach on Virgin Gorda where the blue waters of the Caribbean stretch out as far as the eye can see 

Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda has almost been entirely rebuilt. Pictured is one of the luxury rooms

Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda has almost been entirely rebuilt. Pictured is one of the luxury rooms

Guests at Rosewood Little Dix Bay should look out for hawksbill turtles

Guests at Rosewood Little Dix Bay should look out for hawksbill turtles

On Virgin Gorda, the second-largest island, Rosewood Little Dix Bay was already one of the region’s most prestigious properties. Founded by American philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller in the 1950s and frequented by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, a four-year closure has seen it almost entirely rebuilt, with a blissful hilltop spa, treehouse suites and beachfront cottages along half a mile of white sand. 

Guests can dabble in free non-motorised watersports or just lie back and spot the hawksbill turtles emerging for air just yards from the water’s edge (rosewoodhotels.com).

The island is also home to The Baths, where huge granite boulders scattered by ancient volcanic activity have formed enchanting sheltered sea pools and rocky underwater tunnels. 

Some tiny coves can be reached only by clambering over the boulders with rope ladders for a real desert-island feel.

Virgin Gorda is home to The Baths, pictured, where huge granite boulders have formed enchanting sheltered sea pools and rocky underwater tunnels

Virgin Gorda is home to The Baths, pictured, where huge granite boulders have formed enchanting sheltered sea pools and rocky underwater tunnels

The BVIs have long attracted keen sailors and celebrities who hop between the 60 islands, islets and cays

The BVIs have long attracted keen sailors and celebrities who hop between the 60 islands, islets and cays

New businesses are flourishing too, such as two-room floating Ocean Spa built out of timber salvaged from Irma’s wreckage and now anchored in postcard-perfect White Bay (theoceanspabvi.com). For one-stop souvenir shopping in Road Town, Tortola’s capital, the charming gift shop and gallery Nutmeg sells the creations of local artists and craftspeople who lost everything in the hurricanes (nutmegandcobvi.com).

Even old favourites have had a complete makeover. The tiny yachting hot-spot island resort Saba Rock clings to a one-acre rocky outcrop and was flattened by Irma. It finally reopened in October 2020 with seven stylish rooms and two suites, two bars and an open-air restaurant that has already welcomed Sir Richard Branson from his home on neighbouring Necker Island (sabarock.com).

Elsewhere, eco-wellness retreat The Aerial has thrown open its doors for the first time on unspoilt private Buck Island. Teetering on a cliff in Sir Francis Drake Channel, it overlooks 14 surrounding islands including Dead Chest Island, said to be the spot where notorious pirate Blackbeard marooned 15 of his mutinous crew with just a bottle of rum each.

Visitors to The Aerial fare considerably better, with a maximum of 28 guests free to explore 48 acres of forested hiking trails, a private beach, an infinity pool and a recording studio. There are also yoga sessions, healthy, communal meals and guided group sessions in everything from meditation to financial management. Those yearning for all-out luxury can even hire the island in its entirety for the ultimate getaway at £30,500 per night with a minimum three-night stay (aerialbvi.com).

Eco-wellness retreat The Aerial has thrown open its doors for the first time on unspoilt private Buck Island (pictured)

Eco-wellness retreat The Aerial has thrown open its doors for the first time on unspoilt private Buck Island (pictured)

A maximum of 28 guests at The Aerial are free to explore 48 acres of forested hiking trails and a private beach, pictured

A maximum of 28 guests at The Aerial are free to explore 48 acres of forested hiking trails and a private beach, pictured

Guests at The Aerial are invited to enjoy 'healthy, communal meals' at the retreat, which overlooks 14 surrounding islands

Guests at The Aerial are invited to enjoy ‘healthy, communal meals’ at the retreat, which overlooks 14 surrounding islands

A wellness session at The Aerial. The retreat offers guided group sessions in everything from meditation to financial management

A wellness session at The Aerial. The retreat offers guided group sessions in everything from meditation to financial management

Those yearning for all-out luxury can even hire Buck Island and The Aerial in its entirety at £30,500 per night. Pictured is one of the retreat's guest-rooms

Those yearning for all-out luxury can even hire Buck Island and The Aerial in its entirety at £30,500 per night. Pictured is one of the retreat’s guest-rooms

Most tourists tend to stay on Tortola, though. Home to both Road Town and the main airport, it is the busiest and liveliest island with good restaurants and a thriving sailing scene. 

Yet it still feels blissfully underdeveloped, with no chain stores, very little crime and a population of only 23,000.

Cheaper accommodation options include Maria’s By The Sea in the heart of Road Town (rooms from £96, mariasbythesea.com) and Sebastian’s By The Beach (beachfront rooms £115 a night, sebastiansbvi.com).

For souvenir shopping in Road Town (pictured), the charming gift shop Nutmeg sells the creations of local craftspeople who lost everything in the hurricanes

For souvenir shopping in Road Town (pictured), the charming gift shop Nutmeg sells the creations of local craftspeople who lost everything in the hurricanes 

Leave Road Town, pictured, behind and head into the mountains for the best views of Tortola’s glittering curvy coastline

Leave Road Town, pictured, behind and head into the mountains for the best views of Tortola’s glittering curvy coastline

Iconic 1960s beach club Long Bay Beach Resort sustained serious damage when the hurricanes hit, yet the thick coral and limestone walls from the former 18th Century beachfront rum distillery survived.

Now a brand-new, delightfully laid-back boutique resort has emerged in its place, with 20 whitewashed suites opening directly on to the beach, a thatched cocktail bar and an open-air restaurant, with plans for a spa and hillside rooms to follow (longbay.com).

Just next door is favourite local lunch spot Tropical Fusion, where plates are piled high with stewed lobster, barbecued ribs, macaroni pie and fried plantain in a no-frills dining room steps from the sea. 

Long Bay Beach Resort sustained serious damage when the hurricanes hit. Now a brand-new, delightfully laid-back boutique resort (pictured above) has emerged in its place

Long Bay Beach Resort sustained serious damage when the hurricanes hit. Now a brand-new, delightfully laid-back boutique resort (pictured above) has emerged in its place

One of the 20 whitewashed suites at the refurbished Long Bay Beach Resort, which was originally famed as a 1960s beach club

One of the 20 whitewashed suites at the refurbished Long Bay Beach Resort, which was originally famed as a 1960s beach club

Long Bay Beach Resort boasts a thatched cocktail bar and an open-air restaurant (pictured above)

Long Bay Beach Resort boasts a thatched cocktail bar and an open-air restaurant (pictured above) 

This is also the best place to try the BVIs’ national dish of fish and fungi – red snapper with okra and cornmeal – which was originally made from slavery rations in the 17th Century (tropicalfusionbvi.com).

First settled by the Dutch, Tortola was captured by the British in 1672 at the start of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Though the two countries signed a treaty promising to return all land gained during the war, Tortola remained under British rule, settled by plantation owners growing cotton and sugar who relied on slave labour.

Today, the island’s turbulent story is told by a handful of historical buildings clustered around the capital, and along the coast are the ruins of St Philip’s Anglican Church in Kingstown, one of the earliest churches built in the Caribbean for liberated slaves.

Jost Van Dyke, pictured, was named after a Dutch pirate and is a must-visit for dolphin-watching and barefoot beach bars

Jost Van Dyke, pictured, was named after a Dutch pirate and is a must-visit for dolphin-watching and barefoot beach bars

Leave Road Town behind and head into the mountains for the best views of Tortola’s glittering curvy coastline. Marine biologist Mervin Hastings leads groups through the leafy depths of Shark Bay National Park, pointing out medicinal plants, orchids, dragon fruit cacti and even the right sort of termite that will keep you alive should you become stranded in the jungle.

Scramble up the boulder on the ridge to reach a yawning cave full of nesting bats and concealing a sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean where you might spot migrating humpback whales.

Even the most determined landlubber should try to get out on the water to really see the BVIs at their best. Unlike Barbados and Saint Lucia, island-hopping is a way of life here. It’s easy to jump on a water taxi or ferry for lunch on one island, drinks and snorkelling on a second and dinner on yet another. To choose your own schedule, charter a crewed boat from The Moorings and then head off to wherever takes your fancy (moorings.co.uk).

Norman Island, pictured, is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island

Norman Island, pictured, is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island

Pictured is the legendary Soggy Dollar bar - which can be reached only by swimming - in 2019. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

Pictured is the legendary Soggy Dollar bar – which can be reached only by swimming – in 2019. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons 

Although the Soggy Dollar bar (pictured) was almost completely destroyed by Irma, the bar has been rebuilt and is just as lively as before

Although the Soggy Dollar bar (pictured) was almost completely destroyed by Irma, the bar has been rebuilt and is just as lively as before

TRAVEL FACTS 

Siobhan Grogan was a guest of bvitourism.com. British Airways (britishairways.com) flies to the British Virgin Islands via Antigua from Gatwick from £659 return. Rooms at Long Bay start at £330 per night. Ocean View Cottage Rooms at Rosewood Little Dix Bay start at £900 per night.

Sleepy Anegada is known to serve the best lobster in the Caribbean; Norman Island is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island; and mile-long Salt Island has a 19th Century steamer wreck for diving, as well as a salt lake from which Queen Elizabeth is given a pound of salt each year as annual rent.

There are picnic spots and secluded beaches aplenty on the way, but be sure to drop anchor by idyllic Jost Van Dyke, where Main Street is a palm-lined sandy beach track. Just four miles by three and with only 300 residents, the island was named after a Dutch pirate and is a must-visit for dolphin-watching and barefoot beach bars.

Its legendary Soggy Dollar bar can be reached only by swimming, so earned its name from the waterlogged banknotes that staff pin up behind the bar to dry. Although it was almost completely destroyed by Irma, and its adjoining bedrooms no longer exist, the bar itself has been rebuilt and is just as lively as before (soggydollar.com).

When you arrive, dry off in a hammock, then order a Painkiller cocktail – a mix of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice topped with fresh grated nutmeg that originated here in the 1970s but is now copied everywhere.

It’s the very best way to toast the fact that the British Virgin Islands are well and truly open for business again.