Anegada or cow island, is the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a group of islands which form part of the archipelago of the Virgin Islands. It lies approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of Virgin Gorda. Anegada is the only inhabited British Virgin Island formed from coral and limestone, rather than being of volcanic origin. While the other islands are mountainous, Anegada is flat and low. Its highest point is only about 28 feet (8.5 m) above sea level, earning it its name which derives from Spanish ahogada, meaning "drowned".
At about 15 square miles (38 square kilometers), Anegada is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands, but it is also the most sparsely populated of the main islands, with a population as at the 2010 Census of 285. Most of the population on Anegada live in the only village, The Settlement.
Many years ago, a ship crashed off the shores of the island, hence the nickname "cow island".
The primary business on Anegada is tourism. On a typical day during the tourist season, the island will have an additional 200 or so visitors. Commercial fishing is also a substantial business on Anegada, with local fishermen providing the majority of the fresh fish and lobster catch for the rest of the British Virgin Islands. Its miles of south shore flats has a large population of bonefish, making Anegada a popular destination for fly fishing.
Access to the island is via the small Auguste George Airport (NGD), thrice-weekly ferries, and private boat. Charter flights run directly to Anegada from Tortola and Virgin Gorda, in the BVI, as well as St. Thomas, Antigua and St. Maarten.
Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 18-mile (29 km)-long Horseshoe Reef, the largest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean, and the fourth largest on earth. The reef makes navigation to Anegada difficult. While charter boats freely sail among most of the other Virgin Islands, charter companies often forbid clients to sail to Anegada to avoid running aground on the reef.
The reef has caused hundreds of shipwrecks, including HMS Astraea in 1808, the Donna Paula (1819), the MS Rocus (1929) As such, it was once an important scuba diving destination. In an effort to protect the reef, the BVI government has made anchoring on Horseshoe Reef illegal.
Anegada is also known for the large salt ponds which cover much of the west end of the island, These ponds, which support unique fauna, were designated a Ramsar Site on 11 May 1999. In the 1830s, thousands of Caribbean flamingos lived in these ponds, but they were hunted for food and feathers throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries and disappeared by 1950; they are now being re-established. The birds are another tourist draw, but officials are trying to keep the number of visitors to the flamingo areas at a level that allows the birds to flourish.
Other rare or endangered animals include the Anegada rock iguana (Cyclura pinguis) and several species of turtles. Conch, Caribbean lobster (Metanephrops binghami), and many species of fishes can be found near Anegada, particularly in the deep waters off the North Drop to the north of the island.
The reef adjacent to the Settlement was once one of the more fertile conch grounds in the Caribbean, but overfishing has wiped out the conch population there. Visitors to the settlement are greeted by the sight of mountains of empty conch shells on the shore when they arrive.
On 30 August 2010, the eye of Hurricane Earl passed just 30–40 km north of Anegada. The close passage led to significant damage on the island, with major flooding from the storm surge. The islanders traditionally endured hurricanes by tying their dories to the trunks of mangroves with rope and covering with a tarp. Currently most vacate for Tortola until after the storm passes.
Approximately 60 students attend school at the Claudia Creque Educational Centre. This self-contained school is the only school on Anegada, and handles pre-school, primary, and secondary levels. It is funded and operated by the British Virgin Islands government.
The Anegada Christmas tree was erected 15 December 2007 at the roundabout. It is the highest Christmas Tree in the British Virgin Islands standing 35 feet (11 m) high and having almost 15,000 lights upon it. It was donated by a Canadian friend of the island and is erected and maintained by the Anegada Cultural Committee. The committee hopes to build the tree lighting ceremony into a regular event to bring together the people of Anegada. The official tree lighting ceremony takes place on the first Saturday evening of December each year.
- Arguably Saba Rock, with a part-time hotel on it, is also inhabited. The only other significant coral and limestone island in the Territory is Sandy Spit.
- "Anegada, a world apart" BVI Tourist Board website. Accessed: December 11, 2014
- The BVI Beacon "Portrait of a population: 2010 Census published" pg. 4, 20 November 2014
- "More on the lsland of Anegada BYI Tourist Borad website. Accessed: December 11, 2014
- Blytmann, Tage W. "The Saga of the Anegada Island Shipwrecks, 1500-1899". Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Blytmann, Tage W. "The Saga of the Anegada Island Shipwrecks". Archived from the original on 10 April 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2006.
- Better known as the "Bone Wreck"
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- Media related to Anegada at Wikimedia Commons