Blacktip Island’s Caves Become ‘CaveBNB’ Vacation Lodgings

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Blacktip Island property owners have begun renting furnished cave lodging to visiting tourists. (photo courtesy of Rusty Goby)

Inspired by the popularity of vacation rental services VRBO and AirBNB, some Blacktip Island residents are now renting furnished island caves to vacationers seeking unusual lodging on the small Caribbean island.

“The private rental market’s overloaded,” cave owner Sally Port said. “Some of us figured we’d take advantage of an overlooked aspect of the housing some of our forefathers used. We’re offering ‘unique’ and ‘offbeat.’ Not everybody can say they spent their holiday in a real cave.

“Me, I cleaned up the cave behind the house, tricked it out with a generator and comfy beds and couches and whatnot and marketed it to tourists,” Port said. “It’s cozy and watertight and has all the modern amenities you’d find in a standard home. Mostly. We’re calling it CaveBNB.”

Some owners noted the caves’ lack of uniformity.

“‘Modern amenities’ is a bit strong for some of the listings,” Rusty Goby said. “Some have electric lights and fridges, sure, but some are candlelight and bring-your-sleeping-bag, bog-standard grottoes. With roaches and snakes and whatnot. That’s what some of the more adventurous guests are looking for, though.

“Wind can be an issue in some of the low-end caves, but the nicer ones have house facades and doors built on to their fronts,” Goby said. The great thing about all the rental caves is it’s always right around 75 degrees inside, so they’re cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”

Guests were generally upbeat about the lodgings.

“It’s like glamping, but more upscale,” scuba diving guest Bill Fisch said. “My wife calls it ‘clamping,’ and we couldn’t be happier. It puts us back in touch with our prehistoric ancestors. Cooking over an open fire’s kind of fun, too. I haven’t done that since I was little.

“The kiddos just love playing caveman,” Fisch said. “When they got rowdy last night, we gave them Crayons and had them draw sea creatures on the walls. It looks like an aquatic Lascaux in there now. There’s bats, too, and the owner doesn’t even charge extra. You just have to cover your drink at dusk when they fly out.

Island officials are still evaluating the new lodgings.

“We’ve some issues we’re looking into, but if rental caves get more overnight visitors to the island, we’re all for them,” chamber of commerce president Ledford Waite said. “Now, there’s the issue of electrical wiring needing to be up to code. Rusty’s cave has a big-ass, ten-gauge extension cord running from the power pole into his cave, and we had to nip that in the bud.

“Sanitation’s an issue, too,” Waite said. “Lodgings should have chem toilets, at a minimum, but some owners are old school and just have a hole in the floor that empties into the water table. Waste gets washed away to God-knows-where. It’s cheap and effective, but it’s not right.”

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