Our Natural World

© Jim Scheiner

The British Virgin Islands host a rich assortment of marine and terrestrial-based life forms, including man. The islands’ natural environment offers stunning scenic views that often don’t belie the delicate ecological balance that has been struck between geographical forms, habitats and organisms.

Small size sets the Virgin Islands apart from much larger land masses; even though they feature a variety of geographical forms like hills, valleys, fields and beaches, there is such limited distance between ridge and reef, that geographically speaking, they can be considered one continuum. Thus, what happens at the top of the hill will affect the sea sooner or later.

The coastlines of the BVI are a diverse and highly interactive zone, bridging the land and the sea. They range from rocky cliff face and pebble-lined slopes to our world famous white sandy beaches. The coasts are also bounded and supported on the landward side by mangrove stands and salt ponds. Both are critically important to our marine habitats.

‘Virgin’ vegetation on most of the islands was originally dry-land scrub. With the establishment and expansion of human settlements, agricultural and horticultural practice brought changes to the pure profile of BVI flora to include food and cash crops. Peoples emigrating from other countries and cultures over following years saw further changes as exotic ornamental plants, trees and flowers were introduced in fields and gardens.

The Virgin Islands naturally host many animal species, from healthy populations of fascinating insects, to domesticated farm animals and household pets like cats and dogs. But the real stars are species unique only to the Virgin Islands, namely, the Virgin Gorda Gecko (one of the world’s smallest lizards known to be found only on Gorda Peak), and the Anegada Boa and Anegada Rock Iguana (the only snake and iguana indigenous to the ‘sunken isle’ of Anegada).

People aren’t the only ones that like to visit the BVI on holiday. Many species of migratory birds from the US and UK can be found sharing space with local birds in specialized habitats in winter months, making for excellent bird-watching, and certain marine turtles, including the legendary Leatherback, visit favourite north shore beaches in early summer to nest.

For more information about turtles and our marine habitats, click here.

BVI Conservation and Fisheries Department