Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

We are off to Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, to scuba dive and have been truly negligent in our documenting of the progress. Our New York friends are involved. They want to do their yearly trip to the Caribbean and we are meeting them. We try to go some place different each time and the routing to get to these places is getting more complicated as we go to more remote islands.

I had to get onto Google Maps to find out where Virgin Gorda is located! Virgin Gorda is part of the British Virgin Islands and is east of the Dominican Republic and San Juan, Porto Rico. BVI is made up of 4 main  islands, the largest being Tortola, where the capital is. Virgin Gorda is the third largest island and is only about 20 sq km in area. Tiny!

The New York group has found appropriate accommodation; a villa with 5 bedrooms and a pool. The Coconut Grove is not located in the island’s only town (Spanish Town) but is on Leverick Bay, close to beaches and a jetty where the dive shops will pick us up. It is rather extravagant but a nice place that should do us well. We will be able to do breakfast on our own and because the dive boat leaves at 8 am, eating in will alleviate that morning rush. After a good amount of searching we were able to find 5 couples; filling the house and keeping the cost reasonable.

Virgin Gorda is small but not very densely built so we will require vehicles. For such a small place there are many car rental agencies and it is my job to procure a couple of cars so we can gad about frequenting the beaches and discover places to eat dinner. The choice of rental companies is made quite easy when I email 4 of them for info and quotes and only one responds. It is nice that the only group to get back to me has very good reviews on Trip Advisor. After a couple of more emails they prove to be competent and we will be renting a small car and a larger SUV from Mahogany Rentals. We thought it best to have a larger SUV so if the we want to split up we could have most of the group in one car going, say, east while the other car goes west.

This trip will be over the Easter holidays so we did feel it best to book with a dive shop so we are not caught out. There are not many dive operators on the island. We contact two. Both seem like good possibilities and I don’t think we can make a bad choice with either one. After a couple of emails we choose to dive with Dive BVI. They have been operating on Virgin Gorda for a long time, the reviews are good, they are very accommodating and I am quite sure we have chosen a good outfit.

Getting there. Ah, the airlines, don’t we love the airlines. As I said above it is not easy to get to some of these islands. If you go onto any airline web site and type in the departure city as Edmonton and the destination as Virgin Gorda you will come up with nada. This means the tickets have to be booked separately from one another. (One day I must ask a travel agent if they are able to connect up all the tickets.) This, as we have learned, is not the best strategy for keeping everything in line from the airline companies point of view. When one of the airlines decides they are going to make a change, their prerogative it seems, they have no compassion for us when their plans do not jive with ours. Their response to the fact that we book all of our flights on our own, and them changing the flight time does not allow us enough time to make a connection; was too bad so sad, you can rebook by paying the difference in fares or you can have a full refund.

That aside we start by booking our long haul flights. Since Air Canada is on our S**t list I am trying to use up our Aeroplan points and make their life as miserable as possible. The flight times and routing for points are of course terrible so we are prepared to make some sacrifices to get what the airlines portrays as “FREE” flights. I happen to find a couple of business class seats for less than the points I have on hand. The flight dates are not the ones we need but we can make a holiday of it and spend a couple of extra days on Virgin Gorda beforehand and a few days in Miami on the tail end. We have never been to Miami and so visiting this southern holiday mecca will be a bonus.

We now have to travel from Miami, where our long haul flight ends, to the isle a few hundred kilometres to the southeast. In the end there is one combination that suits our timing. We can connect with an American Airlines flight in Miami to San Juan and then mesh with an Air Sunshine flight to Virgin Gorda. Timing is paramount. We have exactly enough time to clear the appropriate authorities and check in to make the Virgin Gorda flight. Going home is easier and the flights give us plenty of time to make connections. We go ahead book the airplane rides and accommodations around those times.

About two weeks after we have things settled we get an email from AA explaining how they have rescheduled our Miami/San Juan flight. The time is only out by 40 minutes but it is a critical 40 minutes. The Virgin Gorda airport closes at sundown and the Air Sunshine plane must be in the air no later than 5 pm. They do not wait for anyone! Now we don’t have enough time to make our connection in San Juan. Screwed.  As I explained AA is of no help. They, as Air Canada, have other priorities than their customer. It ends up costing us $100 to make changes to our Air Sunshine flight and a night in San Juan rather than on Virgin Gorda, but we able to accommodate the change and are at this point back on track.

We are now up to date with our preparations for the next trip. Scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands!

PS  We will try harder to maintain some sort of continuity from this point forth. Thanks for your patience.

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