Posted by: ktzefr | June 17, 2014

On Machioneel Bay…Solar Power and Seagrass

One morning a few days ago I was sitting in the shade of a seagrape tree on the beach at Machioneel Bay, Cooper Island when a big boat pulled alongside the dock. This was unusual. Most of the boats off shore were catamarans, yachts, small motor boats, and dinghies.  Though big ferries transport locals between the larger, more populous towns of the British and US Virgins to work, school, shopping, etc., they don’t stop at the smaller islands.

At Cooper Island, BVI; Photo:KFawcett

At Cooper Island, BVI; Photo:KFawcett

This was a field trip.  The boat was full of kids.  They came ashore laughing and talking and generally having a good time with a few adults supervising in the background.  I learned later that they came from the Bregado Flax Educational Centre on Virgin Gorda.  One of the teachers, Lyn Weekes, had brought his environmental science students to see the sustainable projects in action on Cooper Island.

photo-1This is a tiny island with a lot of interesting things going on, making it a great place for a school field trip.  The Solar Power Array here provides 75% of the energy consumption. A Bio-Reactor treats waste water and recycles it for garden irrigation. Some fruits and vegetables are grown on island, and they use organic amenities in the cottages. There’s LED lighting, furniture made from recycled teak (including reclaimed fishing boats), and the mosquitoes are zapped electronically instead of being drowned in pesticides.  We also had a resident lizard that stayed with us the whole visit, pacing back and forth by a small opening in our window screen, zapping any mossies that had managed to elude the electronic traps.

Machioneel Bay, Cooper Island; Photo:KFawcett

Machioneel Bay, Cooper Island; Photo:KFawcett

There are more than 40 islands and cays in the British Virgins, and Cooper Island lies alongside “wreck alley,” a popular scuba diving site.  Just off the beach there’s good snorkeling for those who enjoy swimming with the fish.  Others who don’t want to get wet can still check out the marine life by viewing the online video from two underwater cameras that are part of an ongoing project to study the seagrass beds and coral reef. One of the densest areas of seagrass in the British Virgins is just off this beach. The grassy beds help improve water quality and provide habitat for sea turtles and  many species of fish.  All the data is being recorded at Ocean Classrooms’ headquarters in Boulder, Colorado where students are able to study a wide variety of Caribbean fish species right from the classroom.  

Bright lights make night viewing also possible.  Check it out…

I was still on the beach when the kids headed back to the boat to return to their school.  I remembered my own field trips on the yellow school bus, the places we went, the shared experiences — so far removed in time and place and possibilities from this island-hopping excursion.  And yet…the voices that leaped across the water, the laughter, and the obvious camaraderie among friends seemed entirely familiar.  









  1. Fascinating post! So much good going on on such a small island. I’m definitely going to share this with Cate – she’s interested in environmental science and sustainability.

    • Yes, Stacy, Cooper is just a little rock in the sea. There are only 4 or 5 properties outside the resort (“resort” is sort of stretching it, too, as there are only 12 cottages). But there are goats and chickens running wild, lots of lizards, and more hermit crabs than I have ever seen in one place. I would not go again in summer, however, as the solar energy supports only slow fans and no air conditioning, so it got quite warm at times.

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