Great Bird Island is located 3 kilometers off the north eastern shores of Antigua. Two years ago we almost made it to this island with our friends Laurie and Joe. Back then we were still so new to sailing in these waters and the guidebook talked so much about watching for coral heads that we changed our minds at the last minute and put it out of our minds.
This year we had some beautiful clear skies and much more confidence in our ability to read the water and we decided to go check it out.
There are about 5 mooring balls near the island as you approach. They are marked NEEMA. We didn’t know what NEEMA (North East Marine Management Area)was at the time and all the other boats were anchored so we figured they were private moorings and found a patch of sand to anchor in. You need good light to see the sand as there are reefs and coral heads to watch out for. We later found out the moorings are there for cruisers to visit the island and to protect the bottom. I believe they are free as we did not see anyone coming around to collect fees for them.
Getting ashore can be a bit of a challenge as you have to navigate around the reefs and the water shallows quite a distance from shore. Once we landed the dinghy we discovered nice short walking paths and signs asking us to stay on the paths to protect the wildlife (birds, rare lizards and snakes). We spotted the birds and lizards, but thankfully no snakes.
Apparently a few years back there was an infestation of rats on the island so there are signs asking that you leave no garbage behind and take only memories. The rats have since died off and the birds are nesting on the island once again. One path takes you up a bit of a hill where there is a one hundred foot drop through a huge blow hole to the water. I kept a good hold of Charlie on his leash and stayed well away from the edge. The views from here are worth the short uphill hike.
There are several other small islands around Great Bird Island which Paul explored via water on his kayak.
We also took the time to snorkel on the west side of the island. The coral is some of the healthiest we’ve seen and the fish are abundant.
What I liked most about this island was the peacefulness of it. It’s far enough from the airport and the main island of Antigua that you feel you have entered another world. The only noise you hear are the various birds calling out to each other. There are small tour boats that visit during the day, but the evenings are just you and a handful of other cruisers enjoying the sights and the sounds.