THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE ON THE ISLANDS OF BERMUDA THAT YOU’LL WANT TO RETURN AGAIN AND AGAIN TO EXPLORE IT ALL. Whether you’ve arrived by air or ship, by now you’ve surely seen enough of Bermuda’s astounding beauty to be intrigued. This is no ordinary island; it is pure oceanic wonder: a small paradise tightly packed with more history, culture and character than you can imagine. This 21-square-mile archipelago has more than 500 years of history that are still palpable in the many sites that are open to the public. Bermuda prides itself in the preservation of its heritage. Historic buildings, primeval marshes and woodlands, and even entire villages from another era remain nearly intact. And that’s just what’s on the land. Below the surface thrive some of the healthiest reef systems, teeming with sea life that can be viewed up close, as well as numerous shipwrecks that have now been claimed by their marine resting places. AU NATUREL Upon arriving in Bermuda, the first thing that will impress you is its natural wonders. The beaches take top prize, of course; but the rest of the landscape is equally breathtaking. There are a number of nature preserves on the island, with each offering a distinct presentation of the endemic flora and fauna. Those looking for an introduction to many of Bermuda’s most beautiful spots, contact Hidden Gems of Bermuda Ltd. Their informative tours explore exquisite natural locations, perfect for the adventurous and inquisitive traveller with an appreciation for all things Mother Nature. Amongst Bermuda’s natural wonders is Gilbert Nature Reserve in Sandys Parish near Somerset. It has five acres of walking trails and impressive specimens of Bermuda cedar trees. This type of cedar was once prevalent on the island, but a blight of scale insects that began in the 1940s nearly extinguished the tree population and, with it, several animal species that depended on it. The surviving trees have proven resistant to the destructive insects and are now part of a carefully monitored restoration programme. Nearby is Heydon Trust, a 43-acre property with well-manicured gardens surrounding one of the oldest churches on the island. More like a chapel, this tiny house of worship was built in the 1620s and continues to offer services Monday through Friday. The recently opened Vesey Nature Reserve is an eight-acre site that is home to two quarries, a natural limestone sinkhole and a variety of natural habitats. It is located off Middle Road between Evan’s Bay and Rockaway in Southampton. Farther east, you can visit Warwick Pond, a nine-acre preserve that has the second largest freshwater pond in Bermuda. Closer to Hamilton you’ll find Paget Marsh, which comprises 25 acres that reflect the island’s ecosystem as it was centuries ago. Because it is largely a peat marsh, an elevated boardwalk takes visitors through the various habitats, offering them a closeup view of what the island was like when settlers first arrived. This and Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, on the south coast of Smith’s Parish, offer great bird-watching opportunities. Spittal Pond encompasses 64 acres of wetlands along the south shore and is home to a variety of resident, migratory and rare bird species. It is also the site of the oldest evidence of human activity in Bermuda. Along the coastal path, look for the Portuguese Rock. Formerly called Spanish Rock, this slab of limestone features the carved initials “RP” and the date “1543.” Long believed to have been inscribed by Spanish sailors, research has revealed that it was actually Portuguese mariners who arrived here after their ship crashed against the reefs. They spent a few months on the island, building another ship that they used to reach Puerto Rico — this rock was their passing but bold claim on behalf of the king of Portugal (Rex Portugaliae, or RP). In Hamilton Parish, you can visit Walsingham Nature Reserve, more commonly known as Tom Moore’s Jungle. Its nearly 12 acres of privately owned land is open to the public, and it offers some of the most fascinating hikes in Bermuda. Its popular name derives from the famous Irish poet Thomas Moore, who lived in nearby St. George’s for three months in 1803 and often wrote under a calabash tree on this property. The main attraction here is the Blue Grotto, a large limestone pond with deep blue water. This area of Bermuda harbours an extensive system of limestone caves. Many small ones can be seen from the trails. For a more controlled and safe descent into the darkness, you’ll want to visit Crystal Caves and Fantasy Caves, in nearby Bailey’s Bay. Crystal Caves opened in 1907 after two children looking for a cricket ball stumbled upon the underground system. In Fantasy Cave, startling white crystal formations are brought to life with a stunning guided tour through a floating walkway above the underground lakes. Another way to commune with nature whilst learning about the area’s history, flora and fauna is on a walking tour. Don’t miss the Bermuda Railway Trail, a walking and bridle path divided into seven sections with each requiring a few hours to explore. It follows the old track of the former local train service, which ran from 1931 to 1948. Along the way, hikers can enjoy the native flora and the scenic views, as well as the warming sun. You can also join the locals in the Walking Club of Bermuda for an informal six- or seven-mile outing on Sunday mornings. This is primarily an exercise club for locals, so you’ll be in good company with folks who are happy to share details about their island home with those who show interest. Bring your water bottle, sunscreen and walking shoes. For a current schedule, visit walk.free.bm.
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