Shaped like a fish hook, the islands of Bermuda are surrounded by turquoise waters with pink sand beaches. Traveling the string of seven islets connected by bridges on narrow roads, viewers are rewarded with lush foliage, fragrant bougainvillea, small farms, pastel-colored houses and stately mansions.
Bermuda, an extinct, low-forming volcanic chain in the North Atlantic, is ringed by treacherous reefs, making it one of the world’s top diving destinations. Its varied topography makes Bermuda ideal for all types of water sports, hiking and golfing.
Unemployment is virtually nonexistent in Bermuda. Today the dominant industry is financial and includes some of the world’s largest re-insurance companies. Earnings from this sector are now twice that of tourism. Two percent of the population work in fishing and agriculture which is limited as only six percent of the country’s land is arable.
Spanish sea captain and explorer Juan de Bermudez, for whom the country is named, first sighted the uninhabited islands in 1503. The land was permanently settled in 1609 in the aftermath of a hurricane when a British ship carrying passengers and provisions destined for Jamestown, Va., wrecked on the islands’ shores.
Since the recession of 2008, Bermuda tourism has diminished – that is until the tiny country won the nod to host the 2017 America’s Cup races sailed this year in May and June. Then hotels and resorts were bustling. Restaurants ran out of popular selections as dining demands were underestimated. Buses and ferries to and from the Naval Dockyard and America’s Cup Village were crowded. In every direction, national team pride and attire was evident. Taxi drivers worked long hours, most without complaint. This was an opportunity to make up for the past nine years with a hopeful vision to put Bermuda back as a travel destination.
1 & 1a) Iconic Gombey dancers, a vibrant, visual blend of African, Native American, Caribbean and British cultures, lead off the Harbour Nights parade and street festival Wednesday evenings on Front Street along Hamilton’s waterfront. An African word, Gombey means rhythm, describing the infectious beat of the music and its musicians. Costumes are topped with peacock feathers symbolizing pride and strength. Captain of the troupe carries a whip while all performers wear hand-painted masks, a tradition dating to the early 1800s. According to legend, tiny mirrors reflecting the sun ward off evil spirits.
2) Bermuda Onions are not just a local crop anymore! Frequent visitors to Bermuda’s seven connected-by-bridge islands are affectionately referred to as the country’s famous onions. Mary Caletti of Toronto with her niece, Chris Caletti of Ottowa have been ‘Bermuda Onions’ for decades. “But some Bermudians prefer to call us ‘Crazy Canadians’, Mary said.
3) Passengers await the pink bus at a decorated stop. Bermuda has 11 bus routes connecting St. George, Hamilton, America’s Cup Village and the Naval Dockyards.
4) Graves are usually six to 12 feet deep and able to accommodate several coffins. The vaulted covers are whitewashed every Easter and Christmas. The practice is when the graves are full they are cleaned to accept additional family, at which time the older coffin material is removed leaving only the bodily remains. Palmetto leaves are spread to conceal the previous coffin. “The first one to pass carries the weight of those who follow,” said James, a retired teacher and taxi owner-operator.
5) It’s estimated that up to 30,000 feral chickens freely roam the islands as they have no significant natural predators. They are considered a serious threat to parks and agricultural lands. Once domestic, the feral fowl cause $50,000 to $100,000 worth of annual damage to such crops as beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, strawberries and bananas. When a hen lays five eggs, and four of the five are female, a single hen can produce 1024 chicks in two years.
6) Despite the absence of fresh water springs, rivers or lakes, Bermudian homes are self-sufficient. Steep limestone roofs are designed to collect rain water which is stored in tanks beneath the houses. One square foot of roof requires a minimum eight gallons of water tank storage. White paint reflects ultra-violet light from the sun and helps purify the water. The heavy roofs are not easily shifted by hurricanes.
Visitors are encouraged to rent mopeds or tiny cars for exploring Bermuda’s seven bridge-connected islands. There are no automobiles to rent and residents are limited to owning one car per family.
Bermuda shorts? The legacy of the British Army’s uniform, worn with jackets, ties, and knee socks remains the mainstay of local businessmen and is popular with tourists. It’s ‘extremely Bermudian’.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Population is 65,000
Twenty square miles in area
Closest land is Cape Hatteras, N.C.
No longer exports its famous onions
National cocktail is Gosling’s Dark ‘N Stormy®
Temperature range is 65-85 degrees
Most populous British territory
Somerset Bridge is the world’s smallest drawbridge
Gosling’s rums are leading export
St. George is the oldest English settlement in the New World