It starts with a gentle drone. The buzz of the ocean sounds distant, but only a few giant boulders separate me from the violent Atlantic. Surrounded by stranger, I stand chest-deep in salt water with my feet dug into the pebbly bottom. The drone gets louder and white foam appears between the rocks in front of me. The buzz turns into a roar as a large wave pushes between the rocks. People squeal.
The wave crashes into the rocks and breaks apart. I lean forward to keep the current from sending me onto the beach, while the wave’s remnants make the water fizz like a shaken soda can. Grown men, little old ladies and me are laughing until our ribs hurt. We’ve just experienced the joy of the Bubbly Pool.
The day started in White Bay, Jost van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands. A beautiful slice of Caribbean paradise, we could have easily spent the day lounging on chairs drinking Painkillers, but we longed for some action. We asked our campground cook about walking to the Bubbly Pool. She laughed.
“You could, but I don’t recommend it.”
We commandeered a taxi and the driver immediately tried to dissuade us. “The road is horrible; and it takes forever to get there.” The kicker, “I’ll have to charge you full price, otherwise I don’t make any money.” Full price for two was $26 for only 4.3 miles of distance.
Driving over the hill to Jost’s main port of Great Harbour was easy. Once on the harbor’s other side, the road followed the coast around the island. We had beautiful views of Tortola across Windward Passage, but the ugliness of the road soon became evident. The taxi had a top speed of five miles an hour as the taxi slowly maneuvered around giant potholes. The mid-morning sun caused sweat beads to grow on our foreheads as the taxi approached an unbelievably steep hill. Good thing we didn’t walk.
Once over the hill, Foxy Callwood’s Taboo restaurant came into view. Built in 2003, Taboo was run by Foxy’s daughter and named for the family’s Labrador Boo. The taxi drove past the building on a gravel road that appeared to end at some trees, but the driver stopped short. We got out into the hot sun. We asked where to go from here.
“Head for those trees,” the driver pointed. “See the blue paint?” We didn’t, at first, but following his outstretched arm was a tree with a big blue blotch on its trunk. “Follow the blue marks on the path and it will take you to the pool.”
We approached the tree with the blue blotch and stepped over some shrubs. We couldn’t see a trail, but a rock above us was splashed with another blue blotch and a blue arrow that pointed the way. Although it didn’t take long to get to the top, it was still a hot, dusty walk surrounded by thorny brush and sharp rocks. At the top we got the first glimpse of the pool.
A couple with two young boys were already enjoying the small, perfectly round pool of water with a small beach that fanned out behind it before turning into scrub brush. As we walked down from the rocks, the man and woman below yelled for the boys to get out. The boys ignored all pleas. As we dropped our backpacks and removed our sandals, we watched the boys disappear inside a white whirl of bubbles. They emerged laughing.
The boys finally succumbed to their parents’ pleas and for a brief moment we had the pool to ourselves. We discovered the wave size varied from low and rolling before building into tumultuous, churning white water every few minutes. Between the rocks was a small channel where we could see the approaching waves. It looked like each wave would crash into us like a bag of bricks. However, some flat rocks that barely broke the surface took the brunt of the wave’s power. These rocks broke the wave into pieces creating the effect that made the pool so special.
Soon a group of six people from St. Thomas and a foursome of older travelers from a cruise ship docked in Tortola joined us. We all laughed as wave after wave crashed over us. Like the boys earlier, we didn’t want to leave. Soaked, tired and hungry, my husband and I finally dragged ourselves from the pool. We climbed back up the trail above the pool and were rewarded with an expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean in all its blue fury crashing into the rocks below.
After a long, hot walk back to Taboo, we enjoyed a pizza for lunch, with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and pepperoni. From our table we watched as boat after boat moored in Long Bay, each with a crew hungry for lunch. The question now was how to return to White Bay.
Our taxi driver said he would be back in the afternoon, but we didn’t see a single car in the restaurant’s parking lot. Then we noticed a boat on Taboo’s dock that said “Water Taxi.” Hopeful, we asked the captain for a ride. The passengers on the boat turned out to be the St. Thomas group we encountered at the Bubbly Pool. They had chartered the water taxi for the day and were headed to White Bay to visit the Soggy Dollar Bar. In exchange for a round of Painkillers, they allowed us on board. On the ride back we enjoyed the cool breeze and views of Sandy Spit and Tortola as we motored around Jost. The trip took only 10 minutes.
As more people visit the Bubbly Pool and people like me write about it, the area will become increasingly popular. The Callwood family has plans to turn Taboo into a full-service marina with overnight lodging. Until then, the Bubbly Pool is a unique natural wonder that can be difficult, but not impossible to find.
If You Go:
You need a passport to visit the British Virgin Islands. The only way to get to Jost van Dyke is by boat. You can fly into either the US Virgin Islands using Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas or the British Virgin Islands using Terrance B. Lettsome Airport on Tortola. From either of these islands are public and private boats to Jost.
Ivan’s White Bay