Exploring the hidden gems of Bermuda.
Sometimes tours can be hit or miss. You get crammed into a tour bus with dozens of other tourists, carted around from place to place without enough time to explore the sights completely. Thankfully, this was not the case at all with Hidden Gems of Bermuda. In fact, I can confidently state that it was the best tour that we’ve ever taken. The concept of the Hidden Gems tour completely peaked our interests: an all-inclusive, fully interactive, island eco-tour where we would explore many off the beaten path destinations. Sounds good to me! Join us as we take you around Bermuda on a virtual eco-tour of the island.
Our tour guide, Ashley, picked us up at our hotel for our full-day tour. We spent seven hours in total with Ashley – an entire day discovering Bermuda’s beautiful natural spots, including jungles, caves, and nature preserves. We were fortunate because we were the only couple on the tour, making it very much a private excursion for the two of us. Typically, a small group will travel around the island with Ashley, so it would still be an intimate experience. Our first stop on our journey was Tom Moore’s Jungle.
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Tom Moore’s Jungle
Tom Moore’s Jungle, also known as the Walsingham Nature Reserve is located in Hamilton Parish. The jungle is named after the Irish poet, Tom Moore, who wrote many of his famous works in Bermuda. Here you will discover a forest, trails, caves, grottoes, mangroves, and many varieties of flora and fauna. The first place that Ashley showed us a crystal clear pool called the Blue Lagoon. Much of the water that flows into the caverns and ponds of the jungle comes from the nearby Castle Harbour. To our surprise, this pond was home to many kinds of fish! We could see many species of fish as we looked down on the pond, though the amount of fish became even more apparent to us after we viewed our GoPro footage later that evening. The largest resident of the Blue Lagoon is the Rainbow Parrotfish, although we kept seeing this gorgeous beauty called the Princess Parrotfish.
We continued our walk along the nature trails of Tom Moore’s Jungle. Bermuda had recently experienced an intense hurricane, which damaged many trees and paths in the jungle. Thankfully, most of the island remained unscathed and a full clean-up was underway as we visited. Ashley would typically take guests to the Blue Hole, but the path was blocked while we were there. No worries, there were plenty of other areas to explore in the jungle and we were thoroughly impressed by all of them. Our next stop was the Subway Cave.
We were each provided with a backpack complete with appropriate gear while venturing through the caves. Justin and I put on our helmets that had head lamps on them. These were very handy while exploring the caves as we were able to easily see in extremely dark places. Ashley also brought a higher-powered flashlight that could even be used underwater. The caves are not marked with signs in Tom Moore’s Jungle. It was very handy to travel along with a local guide who knew exactly where all of the best spots were located. As you can see from the photo above, the cave was quite concealed. I wouldn’t have even known there was such an impressive cave buried beneath the greenery and sprawling tree roots here.
The Subway Cave was a fascinating dry cave beneath the forest floor. Many stalactites hung down from the ceiling. On the outside, they look like regular rock formations, though the inside of the rocks shimmer and sparkle like crystals. Unfortunately, some of the stalactites are covered with a black soot as early cave explorers, lacking the technology of flashlights, would bring torches and open flames into the caves. Thankfully, the stalactites are growing back (though at a very slow rate) and are recovering from being burned.
We really had to watch our heads as we crawled through some of the narrow passageways in the cave. Some of the thicker stalactites of various lengths could actually be “played” as a natural pipe organ. When striking the sides of the stalactite with your hand, various tones would sound. Don’t worry, this didn’t harm the rocks in any way – they were incredibly sturdy and weren’t going anywhere.
Our next stop was the Walsingham Cave, a partially drowned cavern that we were able to swim inside to view the interesting rock formations. Justin and I had both packed our water shoes for the occasion, and it wasn’t a bad idea as the rocks can be a little bit sharp as you enter or leave the pool. The cave was fairly dark, but plenty of natural light flowed in and we were able to see fairly clearly. Ashley also gave us her underwater flashlight so we could shine light to the farthest rock walls and beneath the water. As we swam inside the cave, we saw one huge rock that looked exactly like a bear! The cave water was a little bit chilly, but we got used to the temperature once we started swimming around.
As we walked around Tom Moore’s Jungle, Ashley talked about some of the plants that grew there and how Bermudians would use them as natural remedies. For instance, it is highly recommended that you do not use bug spray in the jungle itself due to all of the chemicals in the product (if you’re going to use it, please spray it on well in advance before you enter!). While you won’t encounter many mosquitoes in the jungle, you could always use the leaves of the Surinam Cherry to keep them away. It also treats bug bites if you take a few of the leaves and rub them vigorously on your skin. The Warwick Spice Tree also grows in the jungle, which smells strongly of cloves if you scrunch up its leaves and rub them in your hands. We also scrunched up the leaves of the Shell Ginger plant, which smelled like a calming eucalyptus scent from the spa. The root of this plant is used to make the island’s famous Ginger Beer!
Black Horse Tavern
After our cave and jungle explorations, it was time for lunch. Ashley drove us over to the Black Horse Tavern, a restaurant on St. David’s Island where you will find the most authentic Bermudian cuisine. Many of the locals frequent this restaurant, and it comes along with a gorgeous view while you dine there.
Ashley called and ordered our food while we were back in Tom Moore’s Jungle, as to not waste any time waiting for it being prepared. While we waited for only a short period of time, we strolled around the restaurant’s property and down to their small dock for some amazing views.
They had a vegetarian/vegan option at the Black Horse Tavern: a delicious chickpea burger with a side salad and fries. If you’re vegetarian, you can consider eating the coleslaw instead of the side salad. The restaurant even has gluten-free options if you require them. The chickpea burger was crispy and incredibly flavorful. It was very filling and gave us the energy that we needed to keep going for the rest of the day. Alongside the meal, we were served Bermuda’s original beverage that is produced there – a Ginger Beer! It was very refreshing, sweet, and tasty.
St. David’s Lighthouse
After lunch, Ashley drove us to St. David’s Lighthouse for a panoramic view of the island. St. David’s Lighthouse was originally built in 1879. It is the most authentic lighthouse on the island, with its walls constructed using Bermuda Limestone, and an interior staircase built from the island’s endemic Bermuda Cedar. You must walk up the 85 steps to the top of the lighthouse for the brilliant 360 degree views. From here, you will be at one of the highest points in Bermuda, and can view many brightly painted homes and the sparkling blue ocean all around.
From St. David’s Lighthouse, we traveled to Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, near the site of the NASA station in Bermuda. Until 1995, the site of Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve was occupied fully by the United States Military. Nowadays, members of the public can enjoy its twelve acres of unspoiled beauty. We visited a beautiful sandy beach called Long Beach, Cooper’s Island. This beach was quite secluded, and we may have seen maybe one other person there. We had this pretty beach entirely to ourselves. It proved to be quite the amazing snorkeling site, as we saw several species of fish including large schools of parrotfish. Ashley provided us with all of the snorkel gear, as well as pool noodles if we needed them (we didn’t end up using them). We had plenty of free time to swim around with the fish on our own.
Admiralty House Park
For our final adventure, we went to Admiralty House Park to go cliff jumping! Admiralty House Park is located just outside of the city of Hamilton, at Spanish Point off the North Shore. We walked down the park’s main path towards an underground passageway to the Admiral’s Cave. There were tunnels and passageways that we navigated through to reach the edge of the cliff. This is a popular spot with the locals for cliff jumping, especially the island’s daring teenagers. We jumped several times from the rocky ledges and felt pretty courageous for having attempted this! After each jump, we swam towards the cove and back inside the cave. From there, we walked through the cave and back up to the top for another jump.
A HUGE thank you to Ashley for showing us all of the amazing places that Bermuda has to offer! We had the experience of a lifetime. I highly recommend that you take a tour with Hidden Gems the next time that you’re in Bermuda.