Jan. 4, 2009 -- Visit one of Barbuda's white or pink sand beaches, and odds are you'll find yourself there alone. That's because Barbuda, unlike its more populated neighbor Antigua, has one of the smallest populations in the Caribbean. Only about 1,500 people call this small island home.
"You know it's just a place of great beauty -- natural beauty -- not created by man," said Mackenzie Frank, a Barbudan senator. "You get that feeling here of rest, of comfort."
Barbuda, located in the Eastern Caribbean, was first inhabited by Amerindians from South America before being colonized by the British in 1666. Later, in 1685, the island was leased to the Codrington family for a price of "one fatted sheep on demand." The Codringtons used the island to produce food and slave labor for their sugar plantations on neighboring Antigua, and today the island is part of the small nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
One of Barbuda's best-known residents is the Magnificent Frigate bird. More than 5,000 of them live on the island, in one of the largest colonies of frigates in the world.
"If you see the Magnificent Frigate bird … you think God, where do these things come from?" Frank said.
"The wingspan goes for between four to six feet across," said Calvin Gore, a guide to the frigate sanctuary. "They're the lightest sea bird of that size in the world, and they can fly for … about a month without landing."
Male frigates have large red pouches that develop during the bird's mating season, which usually lasts from September to March. The pouch is meant to help attract female birds, which choose their mates from among the males.
"The female flies over, and he has to sit on the bush and look handsome, with his big, red pouch," Gore said.
Unlike the many volcanic islands in the Caribbean, Barbuda is made of limestone. This has made it possible for a series of ancient caves to form along the Eastern side of the island, some of which contain artifacts from Barbuda's original settlers.
"Most of these Caribbean islands were underwater millions of years ago," Frank said. "And [the caves] were formed by the movement of the sea in and out, until they were left just like this."
While some caves are still used by Barbudans for camping near the beach, others have never been visited.
"They're virtually untouched," Frank said. "There are caves that people have never been inside … pristine in their condition."
Barbuda's pink-and-white sand beaches ring the edge of the island, with some stretching unbroken for as many as 17 miles. Combine this beautiful landscape with Barbuda's nearly deserted nature, and it's easy to see why locals have a hard time naming a favorite place.
"All the places, all the beaches that I've been to in Barbuda are favorite places," Frank said.
"There is no beach in the world like this beach here in Barbuda," said Jacklyn Beazer-Joseph, a local resident and visitor to the pink sand Palm Beach. "It's totally different, it's all secluded. There's no one but you and nature."