British Virgin Islands National Parks
A group of islands famous for their natural beauty and unspoilt landscapes the British Virgin Islands offer stunning beaches and lush tropical greenery.
Although many holidaymakers travel to the islands for an exclusive and upmarket holiday in the sun, there's much more to the destination than simply sun, sea and sand.
The British Virgin Islands has a total of 21 national parks, a reflection of the extent of the array of natural landscapes which include marine, tropical forests and historical sites.
Here's a sample of a few of the national parks that you might want to visit during your stay.
Fallen Jerusalem National Park
Found on the island of Fallen Jerusalem, the national park is an important conservation area, particularly for wild birds.
The entire island is just 30 acres and has a landscape which is full of raw, natural beauty with coastal vegetation and some of the giant granite boulders found elsewhere in the region, such as at The Baths.
A gorgeous scene from the Fallen Jerusalem National Park
There's no safe overnight anchorage to the islands so only day visitors are encouraged. This means that birds such as brown boobies, laughing gulls and brown pelicans can make their home here without fear of humans encroaching.
There are a number of secluded and pristine beaches which offer wonderful conditions for snorkelling, the best of them all being North Lee Bay Beach. On the northwestern side of the island, there are underwater tunnels as well as caves which attract unusual and eerie fish.
Gorda Peak National Park
The highest point on the second largest of the British Virgin Islands, Gorda Peak lies on Virgin Gorda and stands at 1370 feet high.
The peak is on the northwestern ridge, lying north of Soldier Bay and south of North Sound. The national park is one of the very few remaining dry Caribbean forests left which makes it extremely important for conservation purposes.
The plants in the park change as the elevation climbs, with the vegetation also providing a home to the smallest lizard in the world, the Virgin Gorda gecko.
There are trails that can be followed to the peak where views over the island reward those who persist. There's picnic spots on route to the top which attracts Antillean Crested Humming Birds and zebra butterflies.
A coastal park which lies on the northern side of Tortola, situated between Rough Point on the eastern aspect and Brewers Bay on the west, Shark Bay includes a variety of landscapes.
The bay itself is rocky and battered by rolling waves crashing in from the North Atlantic, slightly protected by the extensive coral reef which lies beneath the surface
The beautiful Shark Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
There's fascinating scenery with giant granite boulders shaping the natural architecture, creating places such as The Bat Cave. This is a huge cavernous example of a boulder which was once believed to have been home to a colony of bats. From the Bat Cave to the sea, there's a vertical drop with rare flowers such as orchids clinging onto the sheer slopes.
The bay is a hot spot for fishermen and also popular with seabirds, with specimens including Brown Pelicans and the Magnificent Frigate Bird.
Sage Mountain National Park
Sage Mountain was the location of the very first national park in the whole of the British Virgin Islands, and marked the arrival of formal conservation in the region.
Money from Laurence Rockerfeller enabled the land to be bought from local farmers and gifted to the government as a national park. The areas of forest were replanted with mahogany and white cedar trees, with themed trails created.
Sage Mountain is an important place for the whole of the British Virgin Islands, being the highest spot at 1716 feet high and offering far-reaching views. There's a wide range of terrain to be found in this mountain region, depending on the level of rainfall in different areas.
The forest has a total of 12 different trails and circular walks with large boulders, pastures and dry wooded areas.
RMS Rhone Marine Park
Lying just off the coast of Salt Island, the wreck of RMS Rhone makes up the one and only true marine national park in the whole of the British Virgin Islands.
A major dive site and a very popular place to visit, RMS Rhone is a wreck of a Royal Mail Steamer which sunk with 125 people on board during a hurricane in 1867.
The wreck currently lies in two separate parts, sitting at between 30 and 90 feet deep in the water. There are still large pieces of the wreck which are intact and visible, including the decking, the propeller, the rigging and the steam engine.
The national park is used as a dive site by a number of different operators in the British Virgin Islands, but it's not the only place in the marine park to be frequented. Blonde Rock, Painted Walls and Rhone Reef are all also popular locations within RMS Rhone Marine Park. Anchoring in this area is prohibited; ships and boats must use the mooring buoys from the Nationals Parks Trust.