Nonsuch Island Bermuda
Originally known as Nonesuch Island, this 14.25 acres of land sits at the eastern entrance of Castle Harbor with a highest elevation of 50 feet. The island is part of the St. George Parish. Although not too far away, it is one of the isolated islands in Bermuda and had unspoiled flora and fauna. You will need to take a boat to reach this island. It is now part of Bermuda's Nature Reserve and excellent for a hike.
Retired conservationist David Wingate has spent much of his life to restore this island to a state that existed when the first settlement took place. It was in 1609 when Sir George Somers and his men came to St. George and started the first ever human settlement in Bermuda. Wingate wanted to conserve and restore Nonsuch so that it would become what Somers and his men had seen those days.
Wingate spent much of his life almost like a hermit in this island, planted thousands of trees himself to restore Bermuda's original plantation in Nonsuch and brought back Bermuda's national bird The Bermuda Petrel
(also known as the Cahow) from 300 years of near extinction. One of Wingate's success stories includes introduction of non-native birds called the yellow-crowned night herons.
Why did he do that? The land crabs in the island having no natural predators, were fast becoming pests. These herons were one of the rare birds who would feed on the land crabs and kept them under control. So it was a great balancing act of nature's ecosystem. Nonsuch was once a barren island. Today it's like a wildlife sanctuary with a freshwater marsh and densely wooded area.
Once you reach the island by a boat, you will need to go across a narrow partially submerged dock along an iron hulk. Then climb up the steep stairs up a cliff through a dense forest area. The narrow winding trail in one direction takes you to the conservationist's house where Wingate lived. Or you can take the other direction to get into the woods.
As you walk around, you will see a number of pristine bays and water areas. There are unspoiled vegetation all endemic to the island. Among the trees you will see red cedars and palmettos. By the way, Wingate actively worked towards conservation of the red cedars because these were exploited by human beings to near extinction right from the early settlement days. However, you will not see Hibiscus and they did not exist when Somers and his men came in. So they were not original to Bermuda.
You will also come across a tiny cemetery. There are only couple of headstones here that too weather worn.
It will take about an hour for you to go around this island although access to many areas are quire restricted. But budget some more time if you can not resist taking a break at one of those natural and beautiful bay beaches of Nonsuch Island.
Nonsuch Island Fact Sheet
1860: It was purchased by the colonial government and used as a yellow fever quarantine area. A hospital was built here.
1928 - 1931: It was loaned to New York Zoological Society and used by William Beebe and John Tee Van as a marine research station for their famous bathysphere dive.
1934 - 1948: Used for Nonsuch Junior Training School for delinquent boys.
1951: The bird Bermuda Petrel (or the Cahow) was re-discovered that was thought to have been extinct for nearly 300 years.
1964: Bermuda Government takes up the entire area. Conservationist Dr. David Wingate takes up residence as the warden and initiates his "Living Museum" project to restore the island to its original habitat of flora and fauna.
The Ascendant Group in Bermuda has struck a private-public partnership with the government to contribute towards preservation of the nature reserve at nonsuch island. They have recently launched a Boston-whaler boat so that the conservation staff can access the island with more ease and carry out their work effectively. The boat was launched at the dock of Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo
. The group has also committed to spend $50,000 annually for 10 years towards conservation & restoration of the island. So with such commitments, we can expect the island to flourish over time.
How to visit Nonsuch Island
Here is a message received in October 2014 from the Senior Conservation Officer and Warden of the Nonsuch Island about how to visit the island (note that the island is a restricted area):
" Hello this is Jeremy Madeiros, Bermuda Government Senior Conservation Officer and Warden of the Nonsuch Island Living Museum and Nature Reserve. Please be advised that due to the sensitivity of the restored habitats and critically endangered species on Nonsuch Island, that this island has no public access except as part of a guided tour during the spring and fall periods. It is closed completely to visitors during July and August and January and February.
Anyone wanting to visit the island must call the Department of Conservation Services at (441) 293-2727 to see if a tour is possible. Anyone landing on the island without permission will be subject to prosecution, and boats can not tie up to the docks or be brought up on the beach. However, rental boats can anchor offshore to snorkle around the wreck and reefs on the north side of the island, which usually have a good variety of reef fish (no fishing is allowed, however)."
... Jeremy Madeiros (October 2014)
If you want to rent a boat for snorkeling around the wreck & the reefs located at the north side of nonsuch island, Blue Hole Water Sports operating from Grotto Bay Beach Resort in Hamilton Parish would be a good and convenient choice. Go through Boat Rentals
to get all details of the operator and few others.
Update April 2013: Earlier Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) used to organize limited guided trips to Nonsuch Island for special interests group for a fee. The funds thus raised went towards the research work of the institute.
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Visitors' Reviews & Comments
Mary Sumpter (April 2013)
I have been on the tours that used to be organized by BIOS, but having enquired today (29th April, 2013), I find they no longer do this. They referred me to the Aquarium, who in turn referred me to Jeremy Madeiros (441) 505-0042. Jeremy is now the caretaker of Nonsuch Island.
Linda (August 2011)
Do you know if it is possible to go to Nonsuch Island? I have seen conflicting information about this on various sites. Some say the island is private and others say that David Wingate offers tours once a week. Do you know which is correct? Thanks in advance.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) August 2011
It is possible to go to Nonsuch Island. The island is now a nature reserve. While there are some restricted areas, there is a winding trail that goes through the forest and various parts of the island including small bays, a cemetery etc, which one can access. David Wingate is a retired conservationist who once lived in the island and toiled his whole life towards the conservation of the reserve.
To my knowledge, there are no regularly organized boat tours available to access the island. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (located at Ferry road in St. George's Parish, Phone: 441/297-1880) sometimes organizes boat trips for interested groups. You will need to contact them to check out their schedules. Otherwise, you can also charter a small boat from Tucker's Town and reach the island.