Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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CURAÇAO– Combining the comfort of a stay at a prime resort with the underwater marvels of one of the world's top dive sites, the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino is now offering a brand new package for 2000 created especially for scuba diving enthusiasts. Available now through December 18, 2000, rates for the Curaçao Marriott's dive package range from $202 per night to $365 per night and include: deluxe resort view accommodations; two tank dives including tank rental and weight belt; welcome cocktail; invitation to the general manager's cocktail party; complimentary use of health facilities and unlimited use of the tennis courts. >From now through December 18, 2000, the dive package is priced at $202 and $255 per night (based on single and double occupancy, respectively). Prices are subject to availability and the last night of any stay must be at a rate other than the dive package rate. No minimum stay is required, but at least a three night stay is recommended due to diving regulations that require guests to refrain from diving on either their arrival and departure dates. The dive operator is Caribbean Sea Sports, a PADI 5-star Golden Palm Resort facility conveniently located on the grounds of the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino. PADI training and certification are offered for inexperienced divers. The island of Curaçao has been rated by Rodale's Magazine as one of the world's top 15 favorite dive destinations and features water temperatures between 75 and 81 degrees year-round. Its reef is home to over 57 species of coral and more than 500 species of fish. Numerous dive sites present divers with beautiful underwater gardens flaunting delicate coral and brightly colored tropical fish or sometimes reveal massive coral formations that extend into the depths of the Caribbean. Among the most popular sites are the Mushroom Forest and Hell's Corner, both located in Curaçao's spectacular "Underwater Park." The Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino enjoys a prime beachfront location on the southwest coast of the island in Piscadera Bay. The resort features 247 guestrooms and 10 suites, each with its own private terrace or balcony. When not diving, guests are welcome to lounge by the resort's free-form oceanfront pool with swim-up bar, play tennis on the resort's two lighted courts or sample the cuisine at one of the resort's several restaurants. The resort also features a fitness center, massage services, children's program, two large whirlpools, variety of water sports and 5,000 square foot Emerald Casino. Guests may also play golf at the Curaçao Golf and Squash Club, visit the Curaçao Seaquarium, experience the Senior Curaçao Liqueur Factory or tour historic Willemstad, an UNESCO "World Heritage" site. The Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort is a member of Marriott & Renaissance Offshore Resorts. For additional information or reservations, call your travel agent or dial the Marriott Resort Desk at 1-800-223-6388. Visit us on the web at www.offshoreresorts.com.
Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has been recognized for the second year as the most environmentally friendly small hotel in the Caribbean. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill opened seven years ago in Jamaica committed to operate as an environmental and community oriented operation. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill is the benchmark of environmental standards for intimate resorts. "Bigger is not always best " claim the hotel's managers and their guests. Guests rave about this boutique hotel, their personal service and outstanding restaurant "Mille Fleurs". Aside from the cost saving benefits of running a hotel that saves resources, their guests select the hotel because they support this "green" philosophy. Fresh produce, handmade recycled paper and body care products made from natural ingredients are some of the things that are enjoyed during a stay at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill. Barbara and Shireen, the hotel's managers believe "that every enterprise has an obligation to protect the environment and to offer tangible benefit to the community. Business can add value to the economy and make a positive contribution". Their environmental management philosophy is incorporated into every aspect of the hotel's operations. This philosophy ranges from protection of forests, flora and fauna within their environs, to purchasing their supplies from local suppliers, and to offering items that are fresh and seasonal. Other efforts focus on water conservation and waste reduction. In addition, the hotel supports a local school , partially through the contributions of their guests. A second Green Globe Certification and the Green Globe Commendation Award is an international recognition of their contribution and excellence. "It is important to us to demonstrate how tourism can contribute not only to the economy of the island but to also be a leader in environmental conservation and community involvement. Every effort, however small, makes a significant contribution. Small businesses enjoy the advantage that they do not place a large burden on the environment." Information is available at: http://www.hotelmockingbirdhill.com <http://www.hotelmockingbirdhill.com/> or via E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> or by calling 1-(876) 993-7267.
CANCUN--You'll find lots of unusual information and candid opinions about Cancun at http://www.cafecancun.com, home of the Cancun User's Guide. It's filled with honest reviews, recommendations, advice, and fascinating cultural background by an American family living and working in Cancun since 1983. Among the off-beat stories on this provocative travel resource are: "Swim With the Crocodiles" All you ever hear is "Save the turtles!" But crocodiles deserve some love, too. Despite all the development, Cancun's tiny tribe of crocodiles manages to survive against all odds. "Why Buy a Cow If Milk Is Free?" When you get to Cancun, the free information is everywhere. You'll receive full color magazines, maps, really great guides, on the plane coming here and in the airport as you leave the baggage area. But how free is this information, really? "Special Report on Local Ruins" Two new major archaeological sites opened 15 minutes from Cancun Hotel Zone. Complete details on museums and ruins you can visit in Cancun area. Book Excerpt--"Shopping in a Mexican Supermarket" Whether you're staying in one of those fully equipped Cancun luxury condos or just want to make a picnic lunch, you'll find these tips from longtime resident Anita Brown a life-saver for those times when restaurant or dining room food just won't do! The Cancun User's Guide is the work of celebrated author Jules Siegel (Playboy, Rolling Stone, Best American Short Stories). There's no charge for looking through all these insider's tips. The Cancun User's Guide can be purchased as a printed book or ebook on the site. The book is not available in stores, so there's no worry that these local secrets will be discovered by the masses!
(www.caribbeanjobfair.com) SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten - The Caribbean Jobfair, an Internet website matching labour demand and supply in the Caribbean, has launched its second Island Hopping program with St. Lucia being the next country in line out of 35 island-nations/countries to be targeted for the year 2000 campaign. Primary focus is on key economic sectors and will include Information Technology (IT), Hotels and Airlines. To ensure duly attention for each island or nation, the Caribbean Jobfair will highlight a particular island over a four-week period in the months to come. A comprehensive promotion campaign for each island/country will accompany the campaign. The intention is to cover over 35 islands/nations by the end of this year. The campaign will address public and private institutions and associations as well as individual employers in the targeted strategic sectors. This will be carried out by combining efforts of public relations and promotion. Personal letters, linkages to related island websites and news flashes, will complement press releases, interviews and advertisements. The emphasis of the campaign will be on the contribution the Caribbean Jobfair is able to offer to alleviate shortages in the quantity and quality of the manpower force, often caused by migration of students and other well-qualified nationals. It goes without saying that during the campaign period, all islands will be serviced in the usual way by the team of Qualitivity (St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies) that is responsible for the smooth operation of the Jobfair. QUALITIVITY, THE PROFESSIONAL MATCHMAKERS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT OUR PR OFFICER RODDY HEYLIGER AT TEL.: 599-544-3064 CELL: 599-592720, VOICE MAIL: 599-564217 FAX: 599-544-3319 E-MAIL:firstname.lastname@example.org NOTE: Could you let us know if you would use the release and when this would take place. Roddy Heyliger Communications Consultant - Caribbean Information Provider Email: email@example.com Tel. (00 599) 544-3064, 544-3829, Cell: (00 599) 592720, Voice Mail: 564217 Fax: (00 599) 544-3319 St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies Visit St. Maarten/Saba Web Sites: www.mrstm.com For Caribbean Vacancies visit: www.caribbeanjobfair.com
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I (August 24, 2000) – The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort in St. Thomas invites couples to run away together to a Caribbean paradise with the new "Escape to Romance" package. Available now through December 15, 2000, the "Escape to Romance" package is priced at $170 per night and includes: a deluxe island view room with its own private balcony or terrace; daily breakfast for two in Baywinds restaurant or served privately in-room by room service; complimentary champagne upon arrival with commemorative Renaissance Grand Beach 2000 champagne glasses to take home as souvenirs; and the choice of either a romantic sunset sail or half day snorkel sail. Also included are a free introductory SCUBA lesson, complimentary snorkel gear, and all non-motorized water sports as well as use of the resort's six lighted tennis courts and fitness center (including steam room, sauna and exercise classes). A three- night minimum stay is required and rates are subject to availability. The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort on St. Thomas is nestled in 34 acres of lush tropical hills that meet the turquoise Caribbean Sea at its own white sand beach. The resort's 290 guest rooms include 36 suites, all featuring their own private balcony or terrace, perfect for quietly watching the sunset together. Lined with brightly colored tropical blooms and lush greenery, the resort's winding paths encourage romantic hand-in-hand strolls, especially to the top of the hillside, which offers a scenic view of the ocean. Along the resort's beach, couples can find comfortable hammocks swaying between the palm trees that are big enough for two to lounge the day away. When not spending time alone together, couples will enjoy the range of facilities and activities the resort offers. The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort boasts three restaurants and bars with special theme nights, large oceanfront swimming pool and smaller secluded pool, on- site dive center, various water sports and six lighted tennis courts. In addition, the resort's fitness center features a steam room, sauna and Lifecycle equipment along with a selection of luxurious spa treatments that can be administered either in the massage room or on the beach. Wedding services are also available at this romantic retreat, varying from a simple ceremony to extravagant packages complete with all embellishments. The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort is just seven miles from the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, which offers world-class duty free shopping. Other popular pastimes on the island include sailing excursions to St. John or the British Virgin Islands, helicopter sightseeing tours, horseback riding and deep sea fishing. Golf is also available at the Mahogany Run Golf Course, just three miles from the resort. The Renaissance Grand Beach Resort is a member of Marriott & Renaissance Offshore Resorts. For additional information or to make reservations, call the Marriott Resort Desk at 1-800-223-6388. Visit us on the web at www.offshoreresorts.com.
My husband, teenage daughter and myself spent 14 extremely happy days at Club Rockley, Barbados. We stayed in the Orange Hill rooms, which were bright and spacious. The whole of the properties were well maintained as were the extensive golfing grounds. There were 4 restaurants to choose from, one in the golf house, which served similar to pub grub, one self service restaurant which was excellent, the menus were extensive, and 2 a la cartes, one at the main area and one at the beach, both of which you had to book in advance for. The food was really excellent. The staff were extremely attentive and polite. I can recommend the catamaran trips, to swim with the turtles, the 4 x 4 safari adventure, Harrisons Caves, the Rum factory, we hired a car to take us round the island and found many places of interest. Bridgetown itself has wonderful jewelry shops, the perfume seemed to be cheaper than at the airport on the way out, which may be worth remembering. The beach is lovely, you can walk there, but we took the shuttle bus which takes about 5 - 10 minutes to get there. There is a beach bar and restaurant for your lunch. There are plenty of water sports with people to teach you or to take you on Hobby-Cat rides, or you can lay under the palm trees and watch the sea. There are plenty of fish in the sea, so worth snorkeling. I would certainly recommend Club Rockley.
I spent 12 days on Caye Caulker in early June 2000, staying at the Iguana Reef Inn. This inn is undoubtedly the nicest place on the island, and the owner, Mario, was quite nice and helpful throughout my stay. His girlfriend, however, was different. She obviously disliked Americans (although she had never visited the USA) and it showed in her attitude and behavior. She was the only unfriendly person I met on the whole island. Rooms were VERY nice, air conditioned, and quite well decorated/furnished, but I felt the price was a bit high in comparison to other lodging available on the island. The food on this island was quite good, with the Sand Box Bar and Restaurant, which seemed to be the favorite of the locals, standing out in particular. The food was always good, but the service was a bit lacking. Other restaurants were also good, such as the Oceanside, the Happy Lobster, Syd's, and a little Italian place on the main street (operated by a little Italian lady who was SO nice! Food was quite excellent!). Restaurants that were not good were: Sobre Las Olas (meager portions, TERRIBLE service), Popeye's (food was VERY bad, so was service). Food was mostly inexpensive by US standards, with a person being able to eat quite well (3 meals) on a budget of $20-$25 US per day. Bars: The Sand Box was again my favorite, The Lazy Lizard my least favorite (the bartender was constantly trying to cheat you/shortchange or overcharge). You had better like rum, or acquire a taste for it when there, as the selection of alcohol is a bit limited. The local beer, Belikin, was pretty good. The island itself, is a bit "impoverished", bordering on third world status, IMHO. Living conditions for most of the residents looked pretty "grim". The residents of this island were quite friendly and laid back. The "Rastas" were not much of a bother, and pretty much left you alone, except for the occasional panhandler or dirtweed dealer, looking for a handout or a sale. Crime is definitely NOT a problem on this island. You were able to walk the streets freely at night without worry. The night life was not bad for such a small island either, but not much action for singles. Definitely a destination for couples. The SCUBA diving was nothing less than AWESOME there, and well worth the trip just for that alone. The reef was very well protected and preserved, visibility was excellent underwater, with an abundance of sea life. We used Frenchies Dive Service while there, and were quite happy with them. Alex, Abel and Carl (their divemasters) were very good and worthy of a big fat tip at the end of the day, IMHO!. Alex was our favorite-super nice guy, great guide! Getting there: After landing in Belize City, I recommend you take the flights on Tropic Air to the islands, avoiding the taxicab ride to the water taxi port, and Belize City altogether. I did NOT care for Belize City at all, and felt quite uneasy while there. Very scary place, IMHO! All in all, I would recommend a 1 week stay on this island, especially if you are a diver. That seems to be about the right length of time to see and do most everything this island has to offer. Be sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellent! BTW, there are no good beaches on this island, just a strip of sand near the "split". If you are looking for a beach, this is NOT the place. Using a 5 star rating system, I rate this island 2 1/2 out of 5 stars. Good diving, but not much else to offer.
The Plan We have visited Bonaire many times. Yet, no previous trip had been as anticipated as this one. Planning began back in 1996 and by October 1997 we held reservations for a group of ten family members at the Sand Dollar. This was no ordinary dive trip and everyone was psyched to celebrate Christmas and New Years 2000 in the Caribbean. Every detail of our trip was carefully planned; from the limo ride to the airport to what foods we would bring and who would carry the Christmas presents and artificial Christmas tree. Even ALM's best efforts to lose our reservations could not deter us. Millie and I, along with our three children (Aileen 17, Emma 12, and Robert 9,) Ralph Sr, and our nephew Michael departed in the early morning hours from Boston's Logan Airport on Delta. We were to meet up with Millie's sister MJ and MJ's son and daughter-in-law (William and Leslie) in Atlanta for the ALM non-stop to Bonaire. Despite some confusion about where to check-in at Atlanta and a somewhat minor delay by ALM standards we were on our way to Bonaire. The one thing that we hadn't planned on was a nasty interloper by the name of Hurricane Lenny. Hurricane Lenny Just as our anticipation was at a peak we started to hear reports about hurricane Lenny over the Internet. Sand Dollar called about a week before our departure and offered us a refund. But that was too late to stop the momentum of our group. Our bags were packed and the wheels had been set in motion. So we decided to make the best of whatever awaited us. When we set down at Flamingo Airport we were greeted by the warm night air. The sights, the sounds, the smells: all said Bonaire as usual. The damage wasn't evident until we checked in and walked down to the waters edge. Lenny, although the storm itself never reached Bonaire, created a storm surge and wave action that hit Bonaire from the northwest. On a calm and clear day in November huge waves battered Bonaire's shore- front structures and shallow coral reefs. When it was all over much of Bonaire's shoreline was in a shambles. Many reefs that were protected either by the northwest point of the island or Klein Bonaire were undamaged. At other sites the damage was nearly complete. The remains of reefs were thrown up on the shore and at the Sand Dollar little remained of the dive shop and Green Parrot restaurant except shattered concrete and splintered wood. The shallow portion of Bari Reef, in front of the Sand Dollar, was a desert of white sand and coral rubble. A new beach was formed to the right of the former dive shop. Sand Dollar/ Den Laman Our group was assigned to side by side units. We had a three bedroom unit (E1) that was the most nicely furnished unit we have stayed in. This pleased everyone. Despite assurances by the Sand Dollar office that food service and a bar was in operation at the pool area this was not the case at all. The staff at the Sand Dollar seemed to be in a state of shock and little was offered in the way of activities. This is where the staff of the Den Laman restaurant really stepped in and saved our vacation. They allowed us to run a tab for the two weeks that we stayed on Bonaire and really made us feel welcome despite being under-staffed. The youmg folks in our group could come and go as they pleased for meals, snacks, etc. We even had our own designated table. Thanks, Den Laman. Diving During our first week we did shore dives and got our tanks from Sand Dollar who were operating from a tent set up in front of the remains of the old dive shop. We dove the undamaged sites north of Andrea I & II. Old favorites such as Thousands Steps and Ol' Blue were much as we remembered them. The big difference now being that these sites are crowded with many divers and snorkelers. Because Sand Dollar was transporting divers to the marina beside Harbor Village for their boat dives we decided to give a relatively new operation a try. Photo Tours Divers is located on the premise of the Caribbean Court Condos which is on the canal behind the Plaza Resort. The office is run by Dos Winkle and his family. Dos, who has published several photo books on Bonaire, spends much of his time teaching U/W photography courses. They employ several divemasters who run the boat dives. A very friendly group. They use a center-console outboard that can quickly access dive sites off of Klien Bonaire. Normally we had 8-10 divers but they probably have more at times. Because they were called Photo Tour Divers and advertised photography as their specialty I assumed that the divemasters would point out hard to find and unusual photo subjects. They did not. That and the fact that the dive ladder on the boat was hard to negotiate were the only negatives. Everything else about their operation was great. We dove sites on the south side of Klien that were undamaged. Sites like Bonaventure, Capt. Don's Reef, and Rockpile were in good shape. But again, competition for these remaining spots was fierce. Most of the time we were forced to pick an alternate site because the intended site was already occupied. Fish life was more abundant than usual, or at least it seemed so. Even octopus roamed in the open during the day. In my personal opinion this is due to the fact that much of their habitat has been destroyed. Large horse-eyed jacks cruised close to the reef ready to grab an easy meal. Lots of nervous fish. Restaurants etc. Restaurants that were our favorites on previous trips were disappointing. Richard was among the missing (reported to be in Montana) and the restaurant that bares his name has suffered. Suprisingly, The Rum Runner at the Habitat was one of the best that we ate at. Mosquitos were a problem throughout our trip and insect repellent was difficult to find, even at ten dollars U.S. a can. We chartered the Samur for a day of snorkeling, eating, drinking and sailing. Everyone had a great time although Lenny was to interfere again. The Samur used to take it's passengers to the shallow acropora reefs on the west side of Klein. Those corals are now bleaching on the shore, sadly. New Years Eve on Bonaire brought lots of partying and fireworks. It was quite a sight to see fireworks going off all along the western shore of the island while we enjoyed drinks at Buddy's. The next morning we left for the airport early. The streets of the town were painted red from the expended fireworks and revelers were stumbling home in the morning light. A fine time was had by all. Summary We were saddened to see that many of our favorite reefs were destroyed. We liked Photo Tours Divers but were disappointed in the Sand Dollars and there seeming lack of effort to provide service for their quests. Is there still good diving on Bonaire? Yes. Will the damaged reefs recover? Probably, but not in my lifetime. Will we return to Bonaire? Yes, absolutely.
Trip: 7/00 It must be understood that the crew and I, that is to say Nancy and I, greatly enjoy our Caribbean sailing vacations. We both like sailing, traveling, vacationing and the Caribbean. It's just that our cadence is slightly different. The crew finds our travels satisfactorily long on Caribbean, long on traveling and long on sailing. It's shortness on vacationing that silently vexes her and, for reasons that will appear, alarms me. Surely, this is not an uncommon condition. The terms sailing and vacationing are far from synonymous, just like the terms travel and vacationing are sometimes almost in opposition. There's no denying that the best salt airs and the finest oceanfront views are among sailing's special virtues. But there are choppy seas, minuscule bathrooms, stingy hot showers and clammy bed sheets, too. When we sail, our fun quotient's always high, in fact, it maxed this year as six of us, all good friends, shared our rented boat, but the privacy index teetered, too. Then there's the issue of the skipper's shipboard behavior. On land and under no stress, trifling character flaws go undetected but aboard and underway, especially when things go awry, the very worst of Bligh's soul becomes incarnate, reigning and raving in its eighteenth century way. These things coalesce to a horror: what if the crew didn't reup next year? Without crew, a wannabee sea captain would sail the courses of his bathtub, that'd be it. So a smart course's been set, a course to enhance the vacationing part. On charter, we do all the stuff charterers usually do but we also stop midway to take a room with a bed that never pitches, rolls nor yaws and a head that minds its manners. On this year's 7 day British Virgin Islands charter our choice was the comfortable Anegada Reef Hotel. When charter's over, we remain for a few days at a super duper resort, or maybe two, the posher the better. This year we picked world class places. First, The Ritz-Carlton, reached by ferry to St Thomas, and thereafter onward by seaplane to St Croix and The Buccaneer. Somebody might say, "Now, there goes a real chump. Redundant lodgings while the boat's meter runs! Ravished by rack rates and interisland transportation charges! He's ‘right off the boat' in more ways than one." My answer: never underestimate the kindness extended to chumps. Our story's like our strategy - in three parts: Anegada, St Thomas and St Croix. ANEGADA. To date, there's been no CTR articles about Anegada, second largest of the British Virgin Islands. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps. Anegada stands alone nearly 20 miles northeast of the principal archipelago. That's not the only distance separating Anegada from her sisters, stunning beauties courted by tourists struck with their desirable mountain topography. By contrast, Anegada's lucky to get a date, her landscape is so flat and rough complected. There's been no previous CTR report because nobody goes there. That's one explanation, here's another. People go to Anegada, they love it. They love its many miles of undeveloped, wide, pristine beaches. They love its broad fringing reefs and beach snorkeling. They love eating lobsters grilled on the beach and watching nature's splendor in the evening skies. But what they love the most is Anegada's charm, the rare charm of a Caribbean place remote, underdeveloped and, best of all, blessed with low tourist density. Visitors vow secrecy about Anegada, committed to a covenant of silence lest widebodies learn of the place. The truth is somewhere between the two. In fact, few people visit Anegada. Some like it, others don't. But one thing's for sure, the island is definitely outside the vacation destination loop. Visitors are mostly daytrippers, usually boaters and vacationers staying elsewhere in the Virgins. They've come over to experience the fabled northside beaches, snorkeling and nifty beach bars. Why only daytrippers? Maybe people don't like Anegada's stubby, scrubby desert looks. But if looks like this killed destination tourism, Anguilla would be confined to St. Martin's day trade, and that's not the case. Lack of hospitality? Doesn't cut it, the 200 or so resident Anegadians are especially cordial to visitors. There's no all-weather, deep water harbor, but air travel's the thing and has been for decades. It's none of the above, the answer's more obvious: Anegada doesn't have a single resort, not one. There's just nowhere to stay overnight, save the handful of villas and cottages or the only hotel, the pleasant but small Anegada Reef Hotel. How is it that time has passed this island by? The answer requires comment from somebody versed in the history, culture and economic development aims of the place. I'm not. I'll stick with its visible effect. If the benefits of development are what you like - the resorts themselves, the variety of fine restaurants, shops, boutiques and structured playtime activities - give it a pass. Desperately needy you'd find it, a quirky doldrums. On the other hand, if a risen Bogie seeks your counsel about a joint to replace his now condo- covered Key Largo, suggest Anegada. The West Indian elan here, bottled in a time warp, might be what he'd be looking for. Elan's nice, but it trailed at the bottom of our wish list when we checked into the Anegada Reef Hotel ("ARH"). What we wanted was an attractive, clean, well maintained place with spacious, air conditioned rooms. Our bunch likes the outdoors but nobody's in denial, so we wanted comfiness in ultimate proximity, meaning a little pampering and a room practically on the beach - not near the beach, just about on the beach. We wanted our service prompt and friendly, not glacial and begrudging. We also wanted pleasant beach companions, like an open air restaurant and convivial bar. We especially wanted a menu of finger lickin', lip smackin', homestyle Caribbean cooking. After all, given the obligatory full American plan at ARH we'd be in bondage to the hotel kitchen. Submission without regret was our aim. We got just about all we wanted, plus a good measure of elan. But, first, the trip. For boaters like us, getting there's an adventure, even if melodramatized in the lore of bareboat chartering. In the age of sail, some 300 vessels were lost on the surrounding reefs. The reefs still demand respect but today with a GPS the danger is considerably lessened, to the point where it's comparatively easy. Beam onto the sea buoy marking the pass through the reefs and from there the channel, albeit not a deep one, is laterally defined with reds/greens, just like at home. Without a GPS, it's not much harder. A compass, chart, bearings off Gorda Peak and binoculars to spot Anegada's palms and pines are really all you need. No weekend sailor with basic piloting skills and ordinary prudence should have the slightest hesitancy, the ghosts of 300 navigators notwithstanding. Each year the principal anchorage, Setting Point, grows a little more crowded, indicating more charterers are making the trip. No boat, but you'd still like to arrive by sea? Going to take some resourcefulness. There's no ferry service here. Trip's too long, passengers are too few, I suppose. For you, it's either the weekly headboat trip from Bitter End Yacht Club's dock [currently Wednesdays] or one of the entrepreneurs out of Virgin Gorda's North Sound/Yacht Harbor or Tortola's Roadtown, mostly catamaran operators. The cats sail irregular schedules, so current info is needed. Air is the more reliable, less exciting way, trusting of course you're not spooked by little planes. Clair Aero flies little planes four days a week out of Tortola, several flights a day, $59 pp roundtrip. Also, there are air charters from Tortola and Virgin Gorda that offer discounted deals on airfare, lunch, snorkeling gear and transportation to the northside beaches. One was priced at $110, pp. The airport itself is a smilin' jack affair, located in the middle of the nowhere that's everywhere in Anegada, consisting of an air sock, runway and a few buildings, including customs/immigration. Transportation to the beaches is easily arranged. For boat arrivals, there's no public dock, landings are at the ARH dock or at its neighbor, Neptune's Treasure Restaurant. You could, I suppose, stop here and go no further. There are, after all, beaches right here. But you'd miss the best ones. The northside beaches are wider, whiter and prettier with reefs accessible for beach snorkeling. Around Christmastime, though, I'm told that northerly winds raise Atlantic swells, resulting in the southside beaches being the more desirable, at least for swimming. Snorkeling is inferior on the southside no matter what the season. Regardless, the best southside beaches are not at AHR or even close by, they're distant from the anchorage, out near the isolated Pomato Point where there's a nice restaurant. But one way or the other, most daytrippers end up using island transportation to get to the beach. Are you a city type given to elbowing neighbors out of the way to grab the first cab? Give it a rest in Anegada. Besides, why on earth would you want the first cab? You'll want to linger at ARH's beachside gazebo bar. There, you'll be initiated into the friendly, casual way things are done around here. Off hours, this is an honor bar where you fix your own drinks, calling for a barkeeper only if slaking your particular thirst requires a special mix. Call for one. Here, there's no fakin'. You're gonna get an ecstacy slakin'. Detained in walls of glass but eagerly awaiting liberation in quenching's noble cause is the house drink, the pure liquid velvet known as rum smoothies, pronounced "smoodies". Your companions say it's too early for a smoothie? Don't like drinking alone? No problem. Look up Charlie, the hotel's pet goat. Never met a smoothie he didn't like, never met a bar bill he didn't duck, Charlie will happily hoof on over to join you for a round, assuming you're buying. Charlie knows all the cabbies but you won't need an edge. The cab loading zone here is practically adjacent to the bar. Choose a leeward side stool and you'll leap right into one. Smoodie empowerment. Anegada's generally treeless, there's little natural shade. You'll know of what I speak if your cab is an open, safari type - a truck with benches mounted in the bed but without surrey top. It's a fun ride under glorious tropical skies, but there's no mitigation of that relentless sun. So if you're UV conscious, bring not only lots of sunscreen, but wrap-ups too. Consider wide brimmed hats and even long sleeved shirts. This year, I gifted my skin-sensitive pal, Bill, with a French Legionnaire's hat, extra long peak with a flap that covers the back and sides of the neck. Good thing to have, as is a large water bottle for sipping. Anegada Reef Hotel's for romantics. So pretend if you like that you've arrived by pumpkin carriage, but then get a grip - there'll be no footman here to greet you. Check-in's efficient but as unassuming and laid back as the place itself. In our case, it was conducted outdoors using a little table that was moved around into the shade. We'd arrived by favorable tide and on the wind, easterly tradewinds forward of the beam. Nature's accelerants, notoriously indifferent to check-in times, caused us to be earlier than expected, a circumstance inviting a real attitude. But what attitude? An attitude to accommodate the guest, or to accommodate the staff's routine? We were accommodated. But the subject was moot. Our plan was to begin island explorations without delay, so we jumped into our reserved vehicle and roared off. It was a mini-version of an island safari cab, a small, open truck holding two in the cab with benches behind for 8 or, more comfortably, 6. It was Dick, I believe, who questioned our choice of land transport, declaring we looked like migrant workers headed for the fields, which I took to be wholly insulting. To migrant workers, that is, given our briny, disheveled look. It's true the classes travel differently but trading places on holiday was an enlightening, not to mention butt jarrin', thing. Those benches were hard. The most desirable beaches extend about 15 continuous miles, a ribbon banding the island's entire northside, west end, east end and portions of southside. This prime mileage is virtually 100% undeveloped, remote and accessible by foot. Typically, though not universally, there's road access, too. Inspired by a determined will, pricked by a spirit of adventure and helped by an accommodating cabbie, you could go just about anywhere you darned well pleased. But most people prefer one of three northside beach locations, each with resident beach bar, restaurant and beach shade. We've visited all of them during past trips, but confined ourselves this year to just one, plus an island tour with our first timer friends. Loblolly Bay with its Big Bamboo Beach Bar is the default destination of the cabs, 5 minutes from the airport, 20 from the dock. The others are Flash of Beauty Beach Bar located on adjacent Loblolly Bay East and Cow Wreck Beach Bar, several miles west on a bay of same name. By Anegadian standards, the beach at Big Bamboo is getting congested. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. Mac's Campground is so well tucked behind the dunes you're barely able to see it. But this year, Mac's will be joined by a house now under construction. In a similar vein, at Cow Wreck there's two small cottages, unobtrusive and set back at such an angle from the beach you'd have to climb up on the dunes and crane your neck to see them. But, still, they're there. So if you are a purist and only a wholly undeveloped area will do, then it's Flash of Beauty for you. Big Bamboo has a small, shaded bar conferring a beach view once ranked among the world's prettiest by a major travel magazine. Seashore indentations here are called "bays" but are more like small coves. Typically, this one is protected by wide reefs that break the incoming waves about ½ mile out. Dramatic surf lines result, like the kind you'd associate with the South Seas. For most of the year, the lagoon inside the cove is a placid and refined snorkeling host. The sea bears the color and clarity of gin, not unlike Bahamian out island waters. The tropical daytime skies are normally bright, beautiful and encouraging of the indolence, goofing off and day dreaming that should properly accompany a Caribbean holiday at a drop dead magnificent location like this. Later, those skies banish the frights of night by retaining a measure of their brightness, ablaze with stars of every constellation. Lunch and dinner are served on picnic tables under a pavilion located behind diminutive seagrape trees and other natural shrubbery, though the beach and sea remain visible. Hammocks are strung in the trees, there to be snagged by snoozers. But why snooze when lunches like this are available? Grilled fish, ribs and chicken are served with rice and Caribbean veggies, as are alternative dishes for puerile tastes, the latter served without age discrimination, just like the tastes themselves. But the speciality is lobster, caught locally. You'll find them pricey but lobsters demand a visitor's attention in Anegada the way Chesapeake crabs do in Annapolis - they're the hometown favorite, and for good reason. They're grilled here over driftwood coals giving the lobster meat an unfamiliar but remarkably tasty, smoked flavor. The size and cost of lobster may be excessive for lunch, but dinner is another story. The crew loves beaches. Loves to find ‘em, sit on ‘em, walk ‘em, swim off ‘em and just look at ‘em. And when she's beachless she likes to think about ‘em. Anegada is the crew's Brigadoon, and small wonder. Under chartered sail, we've visited much of the Lesser Antilles during the past decade. To our knowledge, there's no other uninterrupted strand of this length and character except perhaps leeward Barbuda, north of Antigua. But we've never visited there so we know it only by reputation. Here in Anegada, the beaches are wide, serpentine, seemingly endless and devoutly spiritual, offering a vision so beatific the angels genuflect. Anegada's isolation helps keep the beaches generally free of jetsam and washed up flotsam. The sand is soft and white, rising gently to form picturesque and protective dunes. It's a type of pulverized coral, aptly called coral sand. It's as pretty as beach sand gets, and cooler under foot than most. The sun's afire at midday but the sand is comfortably walkable. You won't see many footprints, though, except perhaps those of sea turtles and harmless iguanas. At the beach bars, oversized umbrellas, framed in wood and thatched with fronds, keep the beach furniture and their occupants in ample shade. They say if you've never snorkeled Belize, Seychelles, Maldives, the Red Sea or the Western Pacific, you're unqualified to comment about outstanding snorkeling. I haven't, but I'm going to anyway. What I like about Anegada is beach snorkeling. I'm not crazy about boat snorkeling. The setup here is suitable both for beginner and veteran snorkelers. Beginners will enjoy the many good coral heads close in to the shore, in water not too deep nor so shallow they'll fear scoring their stomachs on the coral. Within reasonable swimming distance are splendid, full scale reefs to be investigated by the more experienced. A combo like this may exist elsewhere, it's just we've never found it. The crew and I like to mosey in and out of the water when the spirit moves us, grabbing a little snack or nap on the beach, then returning for more snorkeling when the spirit returns. That's the good life, a life not livable on the schedules required for boat snorkeling. The coral itself is extensive, varied, healthy and vibrant though at Big Bamboo there was bleaching close in. Fish were likewise plentiful and varied, even a few sea turtles. Currents were manageable, though Flash of Beauty's are strong enough to warrant alerting rookies of drifting and potential fatigue. One year, the crew had a near run-in with a large gray presence but scooted back to shore before making a positive identification. I figured it was a nurse shark, scary but harmless. She figured it was a shark, period. The crew and I haven't used our C cards for years but no matter since scuba diving is currently banned. The ban is intended to further environmental goals but that's a vague, dubious justification when the ban serves to protect the indigenous lobstering industry. Loblolly Beach is every bit as breathtaking as it's cracked up to be. Flash of Beauty is comparably pretty and completely undeveloped. But our preference is Cow Wreck. Maybe because it took us several visits just to find the place. Perhaps it's the karma here of uncertain destinies, perfectly fitting since Robinson Crusoe fretted over his in a like setting. Whatever, it's our favorite. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the snorkeling and dining are on a par with the others, maybe even a tad superior. Hurricane Lenny ravaged much of the Caribbean but it brought a positive change to Cow Wreck. There's a new bar, closer to the beach than the old one, offering unparalleled views of the superb beach and environs. We had the place to ourselves, not another soul around, other than the manager who made us rum drinks rivaling our pet one. Se spoke of the Anegadian school system, her daughter's attendance there and things like that, things of universal interest to parents everywhere. We drove to Anegada's sole town, more like a small village, called the Settlement, a place catering almost exclusively to the locals with only a few stores, presentable but undercapitalized in the third world way. The action spot in town is the electrical generating plant. We've heard a town bar has local music some nights but have never tried it out. Teeth of every ilk, especially sweet ones, were content after our visit to Dotsie's bakery. Tourist shopping is confined to two cottage industry pottery shops outside town and a well stocked gift shop at ARH. Other than desert terrain, domesticated goats, donkeys and cattle, there's little to see on most of the island's roads. Structures are pretty much confined to the Settlement, its environs and the anchorage area. There are few pedestrians. 95% of the roads are crushed limestone and sand, many sections are in poor repair. The sole paved section is in excellent shape, but it seems mainly intended for traveling between the airport and the Settlement, a phenomenon that may serve the locals, but less so the tourists. From the airport, the latter are headed in the opposite direction, towards the beaches. Maybe it's less a road than a concrete political statement, offering a clue about the absence of resorts. . The balance of the roads, the 95% previously mentioned, are maintained by crews of agoraphobes. These crews are committed to the abolition of outside travel. Rough-and-tumble would be one description of the roads, rough and barely ready for vehicles would be another. If the potholes don't get you, the soft sand will. But there's a silver lining to that cloud. Anegada offers the fun of off road driving, but on the road. There are few vehicles, not many intersections, zero traffic lights, no stop signs and generally straightaway roads. Other than driving on the left, there are not many traffic rules. The unposted speed limit, 30 mph or so I believe, is largely academic because on these roads the rental vehicles can't go much faster anyway. There are roads over the dunes, the road to Cow Wreck is one, that are nothing short of roller coaster rides. Up and down over the little hills of packed sand, hanging on for dear life. One year we rented a van, battle scarred with tropical corrosion. Returning from the beach over the dunes and near crazed with smoodie thirst, we yelled to our designated driver, "Floor it". He replied, "It's floorless". He meant it. The floor was just about rusted out, explaining the draft. Floorless or not, the beauty part of having your own vehicle is a chance to cruise the rarely traveled northside road. It offers access to secondary roads branching out to the more remote beaches, including the roller coaster road to Cow Wreck. Eastbound, past the point where the overhead power lines stop, you must start dodging patches of soft sand. The auto rental agents make clear: if you get stuck, it's your risk, towing is extra. We've never rented a four wheel drive, so we quit where the power lines do. I've read accounts of travelers who've tackled this area with two wheel drive, including forays westbound from Loblolly Bay. Didn't make it. The massive interior salt pond is best seen from the same northside road. Where we view it, with power lines in sight, the hazards of soft sand don't intrude. The pond, more a tidal, inland saltwater lake really, is a naturalist's paradise, surrounded by a multitude of desert flowers, bushes and plants. But the flocks of flamingoes are the scene stealer. Shy and elusive, the birds command patience and binoculars as the price to see them in the nooks and crannies of the pond's craggy shores. This year we missed them but they were out there somewhere. Tranquility's afoot when these stately, graceful creatures stand so very still in their own habitat. But it's more than nature's awe that pleasures here. Add in the smug feeling of knowing that by dint of vehicular determination you've made the flamingoes' habitat your own private wildlife preserve. For dinner at ARH we expected one of the prime beach side tables that are set aside for hotel guests. But it had rained and the skies spoke ambiguously of their future plans. Ambiguity's a vice, as is vacillation, according to our waitress. So beach or pavilion, either/or, choose it now, irrevocably. We chose a table under the pavilion from which we grieved as the stars came out. Our varied, grilled dinner selections were all delicious, service was otherwise fine and the setting satisfactory though dining on the beach would have been better. Next morning, under skies unequivocally opposed to rain, we were served a full breakfast at a location closer to the beach under some pleasant shade. Returning to the service at dinner for a moment, be advised that guests here are expected to place their dinner orders before 4:00 pm, as is the custom everywhere on Anegada. Guests are then given a dinner seating time. But a heads up on a key point about outdoor barbeques is withheld - the barbecued food won't be served for an hour or more after arrival time. The practice is to serve diners nearly simultaneously and I guess it takes some time consuming coordination to get different entrees just right when you're cooking over driftwood coals. But it does cause grumbling among hungry patrons unfamiliar with the practice. My advice: don't dwell on the practice, focus on the opportunity presented. Time, place and justification have joined to absolve any excess of the smoodie glass, not to mention its custodian. We didn't pull up a stool this particular night, but the bar had its usual eclectic crowd, consisting of a few overnighting fishermen, yachties off their boats, hotel guests and locals who'd stopped by for a drink. You meet interesting people at the ARH bar. The locals are great conversationalists, seemingly well informed and inclined to share opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Visitors are equally interesting. One year we sat with a retired New York City detective who was on an extended visit trying to decide whether to move here. Another time, there was a gang, presumably rich and famous, over from Necker Island for snorkeling. Once, we chatted with a Vancouver university professor and his wife who'd dinghied in for refreshment. Later, a young couple from England honeymooning at the hotel sat down. Sometimes it's hard to strike up a conversation unless you speak German or French. Anyway, it's a pleasure to be in the company of people who aren't exactly like yourself. On that subject, I've never seen a certain hoofed patron after sunset. Nocturnally, he must prefer the company of those exactly like himself. The gals had first dibs on the room so we fellows hung around a little while, then returned to the boat. Lynne, Maryann and Nancy reported everything was up to high standards. The well maintained, air conditioned room was graced with a spiffy floor, marble or simulated marble, that set a good tone for other fine appointments, the functional island furniture, the comfortable twin beds and an equally comfortable cot that was brought in for the third person. A coffee maker was stocked and ready to go. The bathroom had all the niceties you'd expect at fine lodgings. Everything worked. The power didn't fail. The water ran. The toilet flushed. No bugs. By our count, there are 20 rooms here in a single, one story building, 10 of them facing the sea and the remaining with garden views. Landscaping is desert frugal. There's no pool but the Caribbean waters are calm and inviting. We didn't have time to try the sea kayaks but these waters seem just right for them. Public areas are not fancy but are nicely maintained, including the small indoor reception area stocked with books, magazines and easy chairs. Although it's set in a tropical desert, ARH's atmosphere compares with sea coast hotels in Great Britain where the crew and I have stayed a few times. Pleasant and well run places, their relaxed, holidaymaker tone is counterpoised by an unmistakable edge of British orderliness. The crew and I like that atmosphere. We sensed it here. ARH's proprietors are Lowell and Sue Wheatley. Mrs Wheatley hails from Manchester, England. This must contribute to the atmosphere I mention. Comments of our party were universally affirmative, everyone enjoyed the beach, snorkeling, lodgings, the food, the elan and the island's wholesome atmosphere for family vacations. Of course, we are all in our fifties so our tastes, ideas of a good time and observations should be weighed accordingly. If weighed by travelers in their twenties, handicap them accordingly. The crew, as fond of scrabble as she is of beaches, estimated that in a place like Anegada she could easily knock off a half dozen games a day, knowing there would not be the slightest risk of any distraction. So if these are the things you like, you'll love Anegada and the Anegada Reef Hotel.
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