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Places to visit in Barbuda
 

BARBUDA FRIGATE BIRD NESTING COLONY

Probably the most valued asset to Barbuda's tourism, second only to the white sand beaches over 10 miles long, is the Frigate Bird Colony. This is towards the north end of the lagoon in a mangrove locality, a significant nesting colony of the gracefully flying Frigate Bird (Fregata magnificans) may be visited. It is said to be the largest Frigate Bird gathering in the world, with an estimated 2,500, (1971). There may be no more than 25 nesting sites in the Caribbean today.

 
Photograph by Peter Duce

Frigate Bird Facts:

  • They are relatives of pelicans, cormorants and boobies.
  • Males are glossy black, females have white breasts, the immature have white heads and necks.
  • Males blow up a scarlet throat sac the size of a balloon, taking about 25 minutes, to attract a female mate. When one appears, the wings are trembled showing the under surface, flashing in the sunlight and drumming sounds are emitted.
  • The wing span is 8 ft. and a body weight of 3 lb. Flight speed, 22 mph.
  • A 2,000 ft. altitude is common.
  • Frigates cannot take off from the sea or from the ground.
  • They feed on fish from Barbuda's lagoons and interior ponds. Also flying fish, jelly fish and small turtles taken from the ocean.
  • Adults chase other sea birds to grab their catch, hence the names, Frigate Bird and Man-o-War Bird.
  • In a colony there are three twig nests average, in an area 9x12 ft.
  • The colony is a contentious place where birds argue over landing rights, perch ownership or who owns each nest twig!
  • One male and three females produce two young every two years.
  • One white egg is laid sometime between mid-September to late March. Incubation is seven weeks.
  • The young are fed by regurgitation. They fly about 25 weeks after hatching. Six years before first breeding.
  • The oldest known age is 34 years.

 

DARBY’S CAVE

Darby’s Cave is perhaps the most interesting natural feature of Barbuda.  It is not a true cavern but a vertical sided sink hole formed by solution below ground and subsequent collapse.  One side of the sink hole is undercut by a full 30 ft. hence the name “cave”.  The cliffs are about 70 ft high and the hole is about 350 ft in diameter.

The cave possesses very lush vegetation, full of tall trees, the commonest of which is the palmetto palm once used by Barbudans for many purposes.  Over the cliff’s rim descend hawser thick roots of mighty lianas. The lianas interlace the trees, ferns cluster on the damp soil and birds are abundant; the scene is reminiscent of a tropical rain forest. This is uch a contrast to the surrounding dry bush land.

From the overhang of the cliff there is an intermittent drip of water, which, in time, has created stalagmites of calcium, There is a startlingly large flat-topped stalagmite eight feet high and not less than two feet in diameter. This greenish white, almost translucent, mass of limestone is so smooth and solid that it would be difficult to find its counterpart in any other part of the world. A fossilised part of an upper shark's tooth of a Pliocene (2-4 million years ago) species (Carcharodon megalodon) was been found in the limestone of the cave in May 1997.

INDIAN CAVE         

By far the most interesting prehistoric site in Barbuda is the cave at Two Foot Bay, a wild windswept part of northeast Barbuda.  The entrance to this cave is close to a roofless stone ruin near the shore.  It was probably a house associated with the phosphate mining operation undertaken at Gun Shop Cliff in the 1890’s.

ENTRANCE TO THREE CHAMBERS - The entrance to the cave is small, and located near the top of the low cliff opposite the ruin.  This entrance leads directly into a round chamber of lower level called the Drop Cavern.  Connected to this is Bat Chamber, about 35 ft high, with many bats hanging from the roof. To the side of the chamber is a small hole through which daylight enters and through which bats occasionally flit.

 

PETROGLYPHS - From the main entrance corridor there is a short narrow passage to the east in which two small Amerindian petroglyphs (rock carvings) may be seen.  These are the only petroglyphs found in Antigua or Barbuda. The passage leads to yet another cave, which is flooded with daylight through loose fitting rocks, giving a somewhat glowing effect.

Indian Cave is small, though a neat complex.  Giving a mysterious feeling, it is not difficult to imagine the Amerindians having lived here long ago. The cave’s outlook is along the north-eastern windward coast.  It may have been a lookout for a large Amerindian village site that is close at hand.

                                                  

MARTELLO TOWER,
(c. 1745 - c. 1850).

This tower, 32 feet high, and fort of 3 guns was used as a look-out along the south coast and for sighting in-coming or wrecked ships. This information was then signalled onward to the village of Codrington, several miles north..

The fort, once with 3 guns, is placed near a small river which only appears in times of wet weather. This small stream is caused by the drainage of swamps that lie inland behind the beach. The fort guarded the main anchorage on the south-western side of Barbuda.  The name 'Martello' is derived from a tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica that the British, had difficulty in taking in 1794. The south coast of England was defended by Martello Towers against Napoleon's intended invasion of England in 1803.
 

HIGHLAND HOUSE, (c. 1720).  

The Barbudans know this locality as "Willybob". This may have been derived from a corruption of William Codrington, a former owner.  The Codringtons built Highland house sometime after 1720 on the Highlands of Barbuda, which is about 125 ft. above sea level. It is also the highest point of Barbuda.
Other names connected with Highland House have been found archaeologically. A bottle seal from the side of a bottle bearing the name of Col. John Gunthorpe was found amongst the ruins of Highland House. Interestingly enough, William Byam, who leased Barbuda from 1746 until 1762, married Anne Gunthorpe, the daughter of John in 1735. So it may be that Byam was given a bottle of wine by his father-in-law! It certainly connects Byam with Highland House. It is also known from a letter of the period that William Byam built some wooden bedrooms near the dwelling house at Highland House. 

SPANISH POINT

Spanish Point, studded with coral reefs, is the most southeasterly point of Barbuda and is perhaps named after the wreck of a Spanish merchantman by the name of "Santiago de Cullerin". She was lost here in 1695, and indeed, shortly afterwards maps began to appear with the name of Spanish Point. She was carrying 13,000 pesos to pay Spanish garrisons at Maracaibo, on the Spanish Main, but all this and some of her other cargo was salvaged by divers at the time. In 1988, the dive ship "Riptide" of H & E Marine, began mapping the site and recovered a few artifacts from under a thick coral concretion in heavy surf on the windward side. No coins were found, but large jars and a wooden comb are some of the many artifacts recovered.
The Point's history had begun much earlier, for maritime Amerindians from South America had settled in the vicinity about 500 years after the birth of Christ. Then later, European colonists built a small lookout tower, probably as a precaution against marauding Amerindians from Dominica who at the time were jealous of the European incursion.

We would like to thank Desmond Nicholson of the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda for the huge help he has given us in producing these pages, To read more about the history of Antigua and Barbuda please visit the Museum Website at www.antiguamuseum.org

 
 
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