Visiting Sandy Island in Carriacou
Sandy Island is one of Bunny’s favourite little islands in the world. Actually, it is not even that much of an island, more like a gorgeous little sandbar with a handful of palm trees, lovely soft white sand and inviting turquoise waters around it.
It is famed for its postcard-perfect looks, marine life, bird watching (Bunny loves the pelicans), and of course, the beach. If you are looking for a Robinson Crusoe-like backdrop for a lovely day trip, Sandy Island is your place.
What and Where Is Sandy Island?
Sandy Island is located off the west coast of the small Caribbean island of Carriacou, which is part of Grenada. The distance between Sandy Island and Carriacou is less than a kilometre and the views in both directions are spectacular.
Sandy Island is basically a narrow white sandbar that is about 150 metres long with a little vegetation.
The gorgeous white sand beach is located on the southern side of Sandy Island. The northern shore has almost a wall-like structure of washed-up coral that looks manmade. This was actually formed as a result of hurricane damage a few years ago. The same hurricane also created a couple of pools of water, almost like wading pools, close to the northern shore.
Spectacular coral reefs are located on the north and west ends of the island. This is some of the best snorkelling in the area.
How to Get There
If you are in Grenada, you will first have to make your way to its sister island Carriacou . You can either take the fast(ish) 90-minute journey on the Osprey ferry that runs every day or hop on the Dolly C ferry that makes the trip in 3.5 hours one-way three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri).
Flying is also an option, unless you are spooked by the small propeller planes that make the trip from Grenada to Carriacou. Flying takes about 20 minutes, so it’s certainly fast and easy. The local airline serving the connection between Carriacou and Grenada is SVG Air.
Whichever way you choose to get to Carriacou, Bunny strongly recommends you stay at least one night, preferably longer. Carriacou is the quintessential, gorgeous, quiet Caribbean hideaway that is becoming increasingly rare to find these days.
Once in Carriacou, reaching Sandy Island is very easy. You can:
Go from Paradise Beach Club
One of the best ways to visit Sandy Island is to eat at the excellent new bar/restaurant, Paradise Beach Club, right in the middle of Paradise Beach, and take their motorboat to Sandy Island. You can set the time for your return journey or even make a provisional order for lunch or dinner if you prefer to eat after your trip to Sandy Island instead.
Customers eating a meal at Paradise Beach Club get a discounted price for the boat transfer, a very reasonable 20 EC (7 USD) per person.
Take a Water Taxi
Another easy way to visit Sand Island is to hire a local fisherman from Paradise Beach or Tyrell Bay to take you there in their motorboat. They’ll simply drop you off on the island and come back to pick you up at an agreed time. The trip takes no more than 10 minutes and you can negotiate the price yourself.
Visit by Sailboat
If you are doing a sailing charter around or near Carriacou, you are almost guaranteed to stop by at Sandy Island. It is a very popular spot for charters, including for overnight stops. Check out Bunny’s blogpost on How to Do a Sailing Holiday in the Caribbean for more insight.
Yes, it is also possible to kayak to Sandy Island! Bunny regularly sees kayakers on Sandy Island and she has made the journey once by kayak herself.
Sea kayaks can be rented at Off the Hook Bar & Grill on Paradise Beach. There is a little bit of current to watch out for as well as some boat traffic but all in all it’s a pretty easy gig, provided the winds aren’t howling. If you just keep paddling and aim your kayak accordingly, you will hit Sandy Island before too long.
Bunny’s next goal is to swim to Sandy Island while Mr. Bunny follows alongside in a kayak. Stay tuned for the results.
Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area
Sandy Island is part of a marine protected area established by the Government of Grenada in 2010. It comprises extensive reef systems with a wide variety of coral species, oyster beds, mangrove forest and sea-grass beds as well as small islands. The habitat supports two species of sea turtles, the hawksbill turtle and the green sea turtle, although you are not very likely to bump into either one due to their shy nature. If sighting sea turtles is your thing, you must definitely check out Tobago Cays.
As a result of Sandy Island’s marine protected status, a couple of restrictions apply:
- Extraction of coral, shells or sands is prohibited. Don’t be tempted.
- Harvesting of turtles or turtle eggs is prohibited. Don’t even think about it, Bunny says!
- For those arriving by sailboat, anchoring at Sandy Island is strictly forbidden. There are buoys just off shore.
What to Do There?
There are usually a couple of sailboats moored around Sandy Island but you do not have to be particularly lucky to find yourself completely alone on this tiny little piece of paradise. It may be small, but there is plenty to do. So much so, that it’s easy to spend half a day on Sandy Island.
Swimming and Sun-Bathing
The long sandy beach on Sandy Island is perfect for sun-bathing and swimming. The water does get pretty deep quickly, but the swell is gentle and you can even do (long) laps, if you follow the shoreline back and forth.
Although the sand on the beach is very soft, there are pieces of broken coral once you enter the water. Wear water shoes if, like Mr. Bunny, you have sensitive feet.
On the northern side of Sandy Island, there are some picnic tables, including in a shaded area. It is a cozy place for a picnic if you haven’t brought your own picnic mat. Otherwise, picnicking anywhere on the beach is just fine.
Just remember to take all your rubbish back with when you are finished, Bunny says. She is a firm believer in the death penalty for all litterers.
Bunny loves snorkelling around the northern end of the sandbank. There are plenty of colourful reef fish, amazingly clear water and the snorkelling is pretty easy, suitable even for beginners.
Just make sure you don’t cross over to the northern side of the island as the current gets quite strong there. It is quite easy to see and detect where this “line” is, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally crossing it.
If you do venture past this point, it is almost impossible to get back to the island from that side because of the rough seas, broken coral and hidden sea urchins. You would have to traverse the whole length of the island and get back to shore once you reached the southern end. Although that’s doable, it would require some good nerves.
Stick with the sandy side of the island, Bunny says. You can see plenty of marine life there. Bunny has spotted rays, turtles, pufferfish and octopuses at different times.
Apparently, there is some good and easy scuba diving around Sandy Island. Bunny is not a diver so she hasn’t tried it but many of the dive shops in Carriacou include areas around Sandy Island on their diving trips.
Bunny’s Practical Tips
Sandy Island is a true tropical paradise but there are a couple of things to bear in mind when visiting:
- There are no facilities, not even toilets, on the island.
- As there are no restaurants, beach bars or souvenir shops (thank god), you will have to bring with you all the drinks and food you’ll want to consume.
- There is some (limited) shade on the island but it is best to wear a hat and bring a lot of sunscreen to avoid sun burn.
- Visit only when the weather is good. There is not much to do if sun bathing and/or snorkelling is prevented by foul weather.
Sandy Island is the perfect place for a lovely deserted island adventure. Grab a picnic blanket, some snacks, a couple of cold beers and your snorkelling gear and you are all set to go. And make sure to bring your bloody garbage back with you! Let’s keep Sandy Island the special place of beauty that it is.