June 02, 2008 | Comments 0


tortola2Tortola is one of the British Virgin Islands. These are a group of fifty islands found east of Puerto Rico between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. They form part of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, a dependency of the United Kingdom. Tortola is one of sixteen inhabited islands in this chain, situated between Virgin Gorda to the east and Jost Van Dyke Island to the west. Tortola was sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493, but wasn’t settled until 1648 by the Dutch. It was ceded to the UK in 1666. Small in area, only 59 square miles, its capital is Road Town, the largest town in these sixteen islands, though the airstrip is located to the north, in East End. Unconfirmed Hollywood legend has it that Pirates of the Caribbean: Tales of the Black Pearl starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was inspired in part by Tortola and its surrounding “sister islands.” Perhaps this legend is based upon the authentic written Captains’ logs, indicating that in the 17th century, Tortola and other nearby islands were the hide-outs of infamous buccaneers.

Water Sports

Since the exportation of fish is one of Tortola’s primary industries, it is also a very popular destination for sports fishermen. Tortola’s port of entry at Road Town is occupied by large privately-owned fishing boats and yachts from the world over. These boats are easily identified as fishing vessels by their tall “flying bridges” and seats equipped with “Bimini Belts” that strap the fisherman safely to the seat, lest he/she be pulled overboard by a prized Blue Marlin! Tortola isn’t known for pristine beaches and crystal-clear water; for this you should go elsewhere. Tortola is a “working island” where professional fishermen vastly outnumber the tourists. Although the port may be scarred by gasoline drippings, other areas of the island are perfect for swimmers and snorkelers. It’s a common sight to see passengers on private fishing boats jump overboard for a quick swim in the gentle water.

Island Diversity

For a small island, Tortola has a diverse landscape ranging from low-lying beach areas to forest-covered rounded mountains. In the higher areas, fruits and vegetables are grown year-round. Livestock – cattle and sheep- also thrive in the lush vegetation. While Tortola, like most islands of the Caribbean, has a stormy season in the fall, its climate is generally balmy and pleasant. It’s not usually in “hurricane alley” although this kind of devastating storm is always a possibility.


While tourism is always profitable, Tortola also has a brisk trade in postage stamps from every part of the world. Stamp collectors traveling the islands make it a point to visit Road Town to add a unique stamp to their portfolio. The vendors drive a hard bargain, often sticking to an “asking price” that seems outrageous to anyone but a dedicated collector.

For a small, off-the-beaten-path island, Tortola is a gem to the right visitor, looking for the right things that the island is known for.

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