The pleasant temperatures and sunny skies of autumn in Bermuda make it an ideal time for sightseeing, zipping around in a Twizy electric minicar, and dancing at the annual International Gombey Festival. We tapped local expert and Gombey authority Irwin Trott to show you the season’s best moves.
“Gombey dancing is typically dominated by male culture, but I was introduced to it by my mother,” says Irwin Trott, the founder and managing director of Warwick Gombey Troupe. As a child, Trott’s mother would take him and his siblings to performances around their neighborhood and, by the age of six, Trott was dancing himself. Today, he drums and performs with his troupe at Gombey events all over Bermuda, and beyond.
Gombey has its roots in African, Native American, and Caribbean traditions, and is a cultural touchpoint unique to Bermuda. “Over 200 years ago, Gombey was considered uncivilized by slave owners, but today, it’s embraced as integral to the island’s multi-cultural heritage,” Trott says. “My island’s—and my family’s—history is woven deep into the fabric of Gombey. My goal is to keep this national treasure alive, to teach it to Bermuda’s youth, and share it with the world.”
Every October, the island’s International Gombey Festival attracts travelers from around the globe for days and nights filled with peacock-feather headdresses, hand-painted masks, flowing capes, drumming, and dancing. “The drums represent thousands of years of African and Native-American storytelling, and the beat physically speaks to the dancers,” Trott says. “Our peacock feathers represent great pride, and the mirrors on our capes scare away evil spirits so the dancers can perform freely.” Gombey’s rich history, colorful regalia, and energetic dances make the Gombey Festival an animated, eclectic and can’t-miss cultural event for locals and visitors alike.
When travelers want a break from all the dancing and drums, Trott suggests taking advantage of the island’s perfect weather. “Fall is ideal for exploring the history of Hamilton and the Town of St. George. The temperature is very comfortable and crowds can be lighter,” he says. “St. Peter’s Church, the Unfinished Church, and King’s Square are less busy this time of year.” With roughly sixty-percent of Bermudians having African ancestry, Trott also recommends the African Diaspora Heritage Trail. This trail traces the legacy of Bermuda’s slavery and includes dozens of monuments and museums scattered around the island. Rent one of the island’s many Twizy electric minicars to zip between sites with ease.
Since all this sightseeing will leave even the heartiest traveler hungry, Trott suggests grabbing an oceanside table somewhere and refueling with a quintessential Bermudian meal, which may include starting with an appetizer like fish croquettes, shown above.
“The White Horse Pub & Restaurant in the Town of St. George is one of my wife’s and my favorite places for seafood,” Trott says. “All I know is that when I travel, I like to see and experience what the locals like. There’s nothing like a good bowl of conch stew and Gombey dancing to show people what Bermuda is really like.”