Sandy Cay National Park
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Sandy Cay was privately owned for 40 years by Laurance S. Rockefeller, who maintained the island for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Rockefeller’s conservation management team planted over 200 palm trees, instituted a long term bird and turtle monitoring programme, and created a trail network for visitors to explore the 13.57 acre island.
Sandy Cay’s Ecosystem
The landscape includes a wide sandy beach, dry coastal woodland, salt pond, mangrove wetlands and rocky cliffs. The island is an important nesting site for the hawksbill turtle (Erectomochelys imbricata), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), laughing gull (Larus atricilla), bridled tern (Sterna anaethetus) and red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus).
Non native animals can have a devastating effect on the natural ecosystem of a small island, including domestic animals. Sandy Cay’s ecosystem was threatened by rats that scavenged the nests of birds, turtles and disturbed other wildlife. A rat eradication project was conducted in 2003 which removed all rats from the island and a monitoring programme is ongoing to ensure that rats are not reintroduced.
Marine Protected Area Zoning
Coral reefs and large sandy areas surround Sandy Cay, although vessel anchors and hurricanes have damaged some areas over the years. The National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands, with the assistance of the Island Resources Foundation have developed a recovery programme to restore Sandy Cay’s marine environment. This recovery includes zoning the marine areas around the island for use.
The National Parks Trust has installed mooring buoys in Zone 4, in order to protect the seabed from anchor damage. A National Parks Trust marine conservation permit is required by law to use the moorings. Permits can be purchased at Customs and all BVI charter companies. The maximum vessel size permitted to use these moorings is 70ft or 35 tons. Overnight use of National Parks mooring buoys is not permitted.
Failure to adhere to the National Parks Regulations (2008) may result in a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of 1 year.
The marine conditions at Sandy Cay vary throughout the year, with access to the island being particularly difficult during the winter months when north-east swells are common. Visitors must use caution at all times when accessing the beach by dinghy and swimming in the surrounding marine environment.
The following activities are NOT permitted:
1.Camping, campfires or the use of cooking equipment;
2.Removal or destruction of vegetation;
3.Removal or disturbance of seashells, sand, rock or minerals;
4.Removal or disturbance of wild fauna, particularly seabirds and sea turtles;
5.Commercial filming or photography, without an approved permit;
6.Introduction of pets or any other domestic or wild animals or invasive species, with the exception of service animals for people with physical or other disabilities;
7.Scientific research or monitoring, without an approved permit;
8.Contamination or pollution of the soil, water or air, including the dumping of garbage, sewage, ashes or any other material;
9.All terrain vehicles, with the exception of personal transport vehicles for people with physical or other disabilities;
10.Beaching of sail boats, motor boats, personal watercraft, jet skis or other motorized watercraft;
11.Use of the HMA for geocaching, orienteering or other competitive games and sports;
12.Use of personal motorised and non-motorised watercraft;
13.Use of any portable music devices, or creating noise that disturbs the natural peacefulness;
14.No permanent or temporary structures may be erected on the island;
15.No special events are permitted on the island without prior permission from the National Parks Trust;
16.Moorings are not to be used beyond the 90 minute time limit and are not for overnight use.
17.Fishing within the Habitat Management Area.
Area: 14 acres