This island had one of my favorite excursions ever, Reef Riders and snorkeling. First off, it’s amazing riding around Antigua as it is part of a nation with Barbuda, only 30 nautical miles away and it got barely a scratch from Irma. Now for the reef riders you take a 30 minute van ride to the pier where the reef riders are waiting. They’re rigid inflatable boats that hold two people, the driver and rider. You sit on a bench like on a jet ski, but you have standard boat controls with a steering wheel and throttle. The boats are powered by a 25hp outboard motor. They are a LOT of fun to drive.
You start with an 8 mile drive out to the reef location, following the lead guide. It’s a beautiful ride out and the reef itself is a 2 mile reef. Once there, the guide anchors to the reef and then ties the rest of the boats to his. I actually don’t snorkel, my wife does, and she said the snorkeling was pretty good. Not as good as some other areas, but the water was beautiful and the location beautiful.
I think we had about 40 - 60 minutes at the reef. It was plenty of time. Now the WORST part about the excursion is getting back into the boats. They don’t have a step, nor do they have rope along the middle so it’s near impossible to get back into the boat by yourself. The guide gets himself in and then pulls you in. If they would add a single step to the side of the boat or a rope along the bench, you could probably pull yourself in.
At about the halfway point of the ride home, you come to a large area with a beach on one side. At this point, the guide will stop you and let you know you have 5 minutes to ‘go have fun’ with the boats. As I said, these boats are a LOT of fun to drive and I used this time to do a lot of sliding around with them. They go quite fast for a 25hp motor as they come right up and out of the water. If you’re looking for something fun and different, this is a great excursion, even with the pain of getting back into the boat.
If you choose to walk around the city, let me say that Antigua is a very difficult port city to walk around as the infrastructure is not that great. You will find very rough and often very crooked sidewalks that slant down into the roads. This is a very difficult area for those who cannot walk well and I would not encourage wheelchairs or scooters to simply roam around the port city. It’s VERY crowded and very difficult to move around even just walking.
People were very aggressive in trying to get us to purchase items both from the stores and also in the streets. This was the most aggressive we have seen folks outside of Falmouth, Jamaica. So just be aware of that. This may have been due to the influx of refugees from Barbuda, but it’s something we noticed right away when the van driver dropped us off back at the port. We had to run a gauntlet of people in the shopping area as we walked back to the ship.
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