I’m not the first to say this, but when you think of “tropical island,” Sandy Island is the kind of island that comes to mind. Narrow, a few yards wide at the narrowest point and not much wider than that. Long stretches of clear sand, palm trees and grasses growing in the narrow interior, and most of the island itself surrounded by reefs. In fact, you’ve likely already seen pictures and video from this island in a number of TV and print ads!
About Sandy Island
Sandy Island is part of the Marine Protected Area surrounding Point Cistern on the west side of Carriacou. Mabouya Island, Sister Rocks, and the waters off Paradise Beach all fall into this protection zone. It even covers the mangroves and oyster beds on the north side of Tyrrel Bay. Grenada’s Marine Protected Area wardens do a good job of patrolling the waters.
Sandy Island has changed drastically over the past two decades. When you cross the island to the northern shore, you’ll notice “seawalls” made of coral. At first glance you may think that these walls of coral are manmade, because they create a number of nice little pools around the north shore. No, nature did this. It was Hurricane Lenny in 1999. Although Lenny passed well to the north of Carriacou, it created such a swell that most of the beaches in Grenada and Carriacou were badly eroded. It actually picked up the reef and deposited it on the island’s shores. There is a lot of dead coral in the waters off the south shore too, but there is great snorkeling on the east end of the island.
Going ashore you may also notice the “stunted” palm trees. They’re not stunted, they’re just new. Most of the vegetation was stripped off of the island during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Worries of total erosion prompted some of the locals to plant trees and grasses. Sandy Island is on its way to looking somewhat closer to its former self.
Visiting Sandy Island by Sailboat
Picking up a mooring is obligatory at Sandy Island so as to not disturb the sea bed – it’s a feeding area for sea turtles. There are a good number of moorings and most people don’t stay overnight, so they’ll usually free up throughout the day. If all the moorings are full, you can head a half-mile south to L’Esterre Bay and dinghy into Sandy Island.
The moorings are fairly new and have been installed within the last couple of years; fees are $25EC or $10US per day.
Some guidebooks call this a day anchorage; others make no difference. It all depends on the conditions. In a strong northeast swell, some of that can make its way down to Sandy Island and make it slightly uncomfortable. Additionally, really strong blows will kick up a chop through the long fetch of Hillsborough Bay that you’ll definitely feel at Sandy Island.
When I went to bed with easterly swells of 4-6 feet and easterly winds of 15 knots, I’d get bumped every now and then but it wasn’t a problem. Then around 4am I woke up when the winds picked up to beyond 20 knots and the chop was a little uncomfortable. I got out of bed to check on the mooring lines and was fortunately able to fall back asleep for a couple more hours.
Visiting Sandy Island With a Tour
There are a number of locals who run little businesses taking tourists out to Sandy Island for the day, for picnics and even cookouts with fresh-caught fish. You can get transportation as simple as a water taxi or arrange for a local barbecue.
While I was there walking around the island, I came to some stands of palm trees. Walking closer I noticed that I had stumbled into one of these cookouts put on by Lambi Queen & Simply Carriacou Island Tours– they were totally hidden until I was right on top of them! Even on an island this small, it’s still possible to have some privacy. This group of about a dozen people looked like they were having a great time. That explains the Lambi Queen skiff that was tied up to the beach.
Add Sandy Island to Your List of Must-See Carriacou!
Sandy Island should certainly be on your list of places to see in Carriacou! It’s so close to Hillsborough that even in a small, slow sailboat like mine you can be there in less than an hour. Stay for the day and return back to mainland Carriacou before nightfall if you need to; otherwise stay the night and enjoy the sunrise and a cup of coffee at this picture-perfect desert island.