Craig ONeil CC

Great Bird Island is a tiny Islet that is about the size of 20 acres. It got it’s name from sailors who were amazed by the enormous bird population. It is one of the islands that make up the North Sound National Park. It is now a privately owned island just northeast of Antigua. It is home to many endangered species and is the only known home of the Antiguan Racer. On the east side runs a long narrow coral ridge. It has 30 meter-high cliffs, and the ridge descends down to a sandy area with trees and grass nearby The white sandy beaches bordering this sandbar and the surprisingly clear water is a tourist destination. Some 20,000 visitors visit Great Bird Island each year. On the west side the land begins to elevate to a dense thick forest. It is an unspoiled tropical miniature paradise that is populated during the day and usually deserted at night.

You can only gain access to the island by boat. There are catamaran tour companies on the nearby surrounding island that will be happy to take you there. Treasure Island Cruise will also provide transportation along with their treasure hunt that you can take part in. On the Atlantic side of Antigua Great Bird Island has a hill that offers breathtaking views of Antigua and the surrounding islets. To the west there are a few buildings and a satellite tracking station, but it blends in to the terrain rather nicely. There are reefs located to the south that are fascinating, and just a swim away lies Hell’s Gate. This is a great destination for snorkeling due to the mangroves that act as nurseries to the marine life.

Great Bird Island is the last refuge for the Antiguan Racer. This is a completely harmless lizard eating snake that is found nowhere else in the world. It was re-discovered in 1995, and at that time, there were only 50 found in existence. Thanks to the Antigua Forestry Unit a six week survey was done on the snake. This lead to the formation of the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project. Thanks to this organization the population has increased to 100. Hurricane George has slightly decreased that number however. The blame for its rarity are rats, mongoose, goats, and humans. But, due to the efforts of the Conservation Project these numbers are expected to increase over the next few years.

Another great aspect of this tiny islet is the bird population and the endangered species that reside there. It is home to the Griswold’s Ameiva which is a rare lizard. It is also home to the brown pelican. The population of this species has increased over the year since the ban of DDT. It is estimated that the population is up to 650,000. Another protected species inhabited there is the West Indian Whistling Duck and the exotic Red Billed Tropicbird. This bird is so popular that it is featured on the currency, the Bermuda, which is not the national bird. It is also home to the famous Frigate Bird.

All in all, this is a pristine, mostly undisturbed habitat for many beautiful and rare creatures. The white sandy beaches, coral reefs, and clear waters make it the natural escape for a day of snorkeling. The rare and endangered wildlife is one that is begging to be explored. This is one of the last untouched places on the earth, and of all the places it could be, right in the heart of the Caribbean.