A travel guide to Antigua and Barbuda, a key to great nature and birdwatching sites on the islands. Part two of a four-part series.
Where to start? Where first to explore? Start in Barbuda. Guides are available on the island, and will gather you at the local airport. Calvin (Ceko) Gore owns one such company, Barbuda Outback. He is a local tour guide, historian, raconteur, and elected official. Barbuda has a population of only 1,600 people, and everybody knows everybody. You can always find help. You cannot be lost.
Any Barbuda adventure begins with a boat trip to Codrington Lagoon National Park. The national park stretches approximately 16.5 miles and encompasses the entire west coast of Barbuda. Codrington Lagoon supports the largest Magnificent Frigatebird colony in the Caribbean (approximately 2,500 pair). Brown Boobies often loiter in the colony, and Laughing Gulls nest on the sand that collects beneath the mangrove islets. Frigatebirds banded in this colony have been seen are far north as Florida.
After a morning in the lagoon ask your guide to take you to the pink beaches on the southwestern shore. After a swim enjoy local lobster (a Barbuda delicacy) and a cold Carib at the Pink Sand Beach Bar.
Two Foot Bay National Park, on the northeast coast, is the next stop on your itinerary. Here the karst has been reshaped into dramatic caves and cliffs. The only petroglyphs on Barbuda are found within one of these caves. Red-billed Tropicbirds nest in niches in these cliffs, and a number of the Caribbean endemics such as Caribbean Elaenia (a near endemic), Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, and Pearly-eyed Thrasher are easily seen in the scrub forests bordering the cliffs.
Watch for red land crabs scurrying through the sea grape leaf litter. In this coastal forest, a narrow fringe of vegetation between the cliffs and the sea, you will also notice white frangipani blossoms on immense, gnarly trees. This is Plumeria alba, the frangipani native to the Caribbean. The barrel cactus with the red cephalium (which looks like a fez) is known as Turk’s cap (Melocactus intortus). The Turks Islands are named for a similar species. The ground lizard here is the Antiguan endemic Ameiva griswoldi.
The final Barbuda destination is the thorn-scrub forest in the interior of the island. This seemingly inhospitable scrubland (yes, every twig and branch has a thorn or sticker) is where the only Antiguan endemic is found, the Barbuda Warbler. This marvelous bird is only found on Barbuda, and its population is most likely no more than a few thousand individuals. The scrub is also where you will see the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher, a Myarchus that is found in the Lesser Antilles but surprising not on Antigua itself.
There are accommodations (a few upscale) on Barbuda, but this itinerary can be accomplished in a day. The flight back to VC Bird International Airport takes 20 minutes, so most visitors make Barbuda a day trip. While you are waiting for your return flight at the Barbuda airport, look for the endemic Anolis on Barbuda, Anolis forresti. These small lizards are easy to find basking on the limestone walls that border the airport parking lot.