When tourism is the No. 1 industry in your country, providing thousands of jobs and the infrastructure for your economy, nothing can be more devastating than a natural disaster.
The fall of 2017 saw just such a catastrophe hit many parts of the Caribbean as hurricanes Maria and Irma plowed through the region like back-to-back freight trains, leaving some countries flattened and residents scrambling to survive and rebuild.
The tiny island of Anguilla in the British West Indies is recovering from just such a disaster after Irma slammed into the country on Sept. 7.
But recover they are. In a few short months, many hotels, restaurants and shops have reopened their doors to visitors looking for sun, sand and upscale dining and accommodations, as well as the friendly vibe of the island country just off the coast of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
The only change for Canadian travellors wanting to visit Anguilla this season is the route they will take to get there. Many, if not all, Canadian airlines have pulled their winter flights to St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport, which was closed for several weeks due to hurricane damage. It reopened later in the fall. Prior to that, the primary route to Anguilla was to land in St. Maarten, then jump aboard one of the many ferries to nearby Anguilla.
Options now include routing through the U.S. or flying to Antigua, then making the hop to Anguilla.
Both work-arounds would be well worth it. If any place embodies the old phrase, “great things come in small packages,” Anguilla would be it.
The island, renowned for its 33 postcard-perfect beaches along just 90 some sq.-km of land, is a perfect landing spot for those trying to escape a cold Canadian winter.
With so few roads, it’s the kind of place when touring around you find yourself thinking, hey, we we’ve gone past that place before, and before, and before … because you have.
Our tour started by checking into the lovely, relaxed, Shoal Bay Villas, with roomy efficiency suites overlooking the stunning Shoal Bay East beach, known for its pristine white sand and snorkelling opportunities. Perhaps the best known beach on the island, it’s home to many restaurants and bars but the section where the villas are located is quiet and the perfect spot for suntanning and beach reading.
I know. Why aren’t we there now?
I was privileged to stay in a ground-floor, walk-out suite, enjoying coffee, fruit and yogurt for breakfast from the groceries we picked up on the way to the villa upon arrival. There may be nothing more relaxing and rejuvenating than gazing out on the most pristine white sand beach and turquoise waters when starting the day.
Later, we were to return and do the full sunbathe, swim, repeat, routine, which was equally blissful.
Along with the gorgeous beaches, the island is also renowned for its amazing cuisine, including the freshest fish imaginable and thriving beachfront barbecue joints. (I’m loath to mention specific eateries, lest they not yet be back on their feet post-Irma, but many, many establishments are going full force again. You will eat well on Anguilla.)
When you need a respite from sunbathing, swimming and eating – well, just a brief respite. Let’s not do anything rash – there is interesting island history on display at the Heritage Collection Museum in East End Village, lovingly curated by Colville Petty, who has well documented the island’s past, from its indigenous peoples to its colonial roots and eventual revolution fifty years ago. The island was also once a large producer of salt.
While you’re out and about, also stop by The Valley, the island’s capital, on a Saturday morning where you’ll find Miss Mabel and her family ladling out her famous corn soup.
Started by Mabel Gumbs many years ago, she has since passed on the hard work of producing and serving soups and other delicacies like Johnny cakes to the younger generation, but she and her friends are still there to preside over the impressive weekly operation. It’s obviously a go-to spot for local folks, who kept the place hopping the morning we were there.
The last part of our amazing stay on this fantastic island was check-in to the ultra-luxurious Cap Juluca resort, which has since closed for extensive renovations after being purchased by the Belmond group of London and rebranded as Belmond Cap Juluca. I mention the property, despite its closure, as one to watch for later in the 2018 season.
Sitting on gorgeous Maundays Bay, the resort was already a pretty magnificent place with its Morocco-meets-Greece theme, upscale restaurants and amazing suites.
I can only imagine what awaits those lucky enough to stay at the new version.
No matter where you call home during your visit, Anguilla is an island that you will yearn to return to time and time again.
OPEN NOW OR OPENING SOON
- Carimar Beach Club never closed. The hotel has been housing clients from the British government, UNICEF, relief workers, and taking guest reservations.
- Shoal Bay Villas and Paradise Cove.
- Four Seasons Resort is planning for a March/April opening.
- Zemi Beach House is planning for a Feb. 15 opening.
- Belmond Cap Juluca, which had closed for renovations prior to Hurricane Irma, will reopen later in 2018.
- The CuisinArt golf resort was scheduled to open in December with the hotel scheduled for June. The Reef by Cuisinart will be opening April 10th, 2018
- Frangipani Beach Resort, Quintessence Boutique Hotel, La Vue Boutique Inn and Masara Resort were planning for late 2017 openings.
- Ce Blue Villas & Beach Resort, Fountain Residences and Rendezvous Bay Hotel looked forward to welcoming guests for the festive season.
- Several villas rentals should also be on the market now, including Sunset Homes’ Spyglass Hill, overlooking Sandy Ground; Properties in Paradise villas Beaches Edge, East &West; Cerulean, Santosha, Arushi, and Zenaida and Leviticus Lifestyles.
- A complete list of what’s open can be found at: www.irma.ivisitanguilla.com
- Anguilla Tourism: www.ivisitanguilla.com
- Shoal Bay Villas: www.sbvillas.ai
- Belmond Cap Juluca: www.belmond.com/hotels/caribbean/anguilla/belmond-cap-juluca/about
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies