Another of Kwajalein Atoll’s fine islands is Bigej, a popular little getaway for Kwaj residents.
I had only been at Kwaj for just over a month when a new friend of mine at the time invited a bunch of people out on a couple of B-boats (Kwaj’s 22-foot Boston whaling twin-engine rental powerboats) to go up to Bigej for the day.
Bigej (pronounced BEE-gee) is an island partway up the east reef of the atoll (not quite halfway), and as far northeast as you are allowed to go in the B-boat rental area. It takes about 30-45 minutes to get from Kwaj to Bigej on full speed in the twin engine boats. Driving on the lagoon side of Bigej Pass is always fun, as there is a large, often rough ocean pass in the reef between Bigej and the next island south, the northern end of a long chain of islands connected by a causeway all the way to Ebeye. We anchor on the protected lagoon side, but as you pass by that pass, you’ve got to be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Bigej is a pleasant, jungley island, and just what you might think of for a deserted tropical island. There are a few Marshallese who have homes there, though, so we are supposed to get permission from the RMI office on Kwajalein a few days in advance if we want to step foot on the beautiful beaches. They are quite friendly people, and sometimes bring us bags of beautiful cowry shells they have collected.
Most of the time people go up to Bigej to go snorkeling and enjoy the more luscious corals and peaceful atmosphere. I have made it up there a few times, both on powerboats and once on a sailboat, and it’s always a lot of fun.
My first time sailing (for more on that adventure, see my Kwaj blog post from the time), we went only as far as Gugeegue (pronounced about how you might expect), a couple islands south of Bigej, as the winds were not very strong and it was already promising to be a long day.
Despite the slow voyage, it was quite exciting for my first trip, and once we arrived, I went snorkeling for the first time with sharks. I was a bit nervous at first, but my excitement quickly overcame any fears I had, until I realized they were much more scared of us than we were of them.
Another time I went sailing on the Panacea, one of the largest sailboats here. We went up to Bigej for a fine day of snorkeling and tacos. One of the wonderful things about going sailing here is that because they are privately owned boats (most of them anyway), we can stay out all day, instead of having to return in 4.5 hours as we do with the rental B-boats. More people tend to own sailboats than powerboats, but all but one of the rentals are powerboats.
For a few more photos of my relaxing sailing and snorkeling trips, check out my little Flickr set from sailing, Bigej, and Gugeegue. Some of the underwater photos from my Kwajalein Atoll scuba and snorkel Flickr set are also from Bigej.