Monday, September 3, 2012


Text by Baz Dreisinger, executive summary by Darmansjah

The lack of a flight to St.Vincent making this Caribbean island is relatively
untouched by mass tourism. Property is the biggest Buccament Bay. Five-star resort that houses 360 rooms - enough to hold five times the number of tourists to St.Vincent today. Visitor growth is starting to feel, because that is a new international airport will open at the end of 2013. Come before the island is crowded by human visits.

Sometimes you do not find the Caribbean you expect. Land on one of the bigger islands of this sun-kissed region, and your vision of delicate, deserted beaches and palm-fringed perfection can be all but lost in the long blocks of hotels lined up, almost back to back, along the seafront.

But when I arrive on St Vincent, I realise I have tumbled into exactly the Caribbean I was expecting.

This is the Caribbean of the imagination, an archipelago of 32 islands - St Vincent and the Grenadines, to give it its full, grand name - scattered luxuriously across the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. From St Vincent, the largest, in the north, they trail south, towards Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and eventually, South America - a ribbon of land in the blue of the ocean.

This is not Barbados, where paparazzi-dodging celebrities lounge and pout, but a pristine place of wilderness and genuine isolation. Only seven of the islands are inhabited.

So it initially seems strange to me that Harlequin Hotels is opening St Vincent’s first five-star, all-inclusive resort - at Buccament Bay, on the south-west coast. 

On paper, it sounds exactly the thing whose absence lends St Vincent and the Grenadines its appeal. You can certainly find no shortage of people championing the island’s status as something of an untouched gem (despite it being a regular cruise stop).

But the resort's charms quickly grow on me.

Arriving on St Vincent just before sundown, I make the transfer from the modest airport to the resort by catamaran, pulling up on the beach to be welcomed with a fresh rum punch. 

As taxi services go, there is little to beat this, offering me the chance to make a start on my tan while keeping an eye out for dolphins and flying fish.

It is the beginning of a busy evening for this sleek vessel. I have barely eased out of my travel clothes before I see it heading out again, this time taking guests out for a sunset cruise that lets them look back at the island as shadows drape across its crags and peaks.

But if there is sunshine on my first evening, it does not last. I wake on my first morning to tropical rain.

There is compensation, though. This makes for a chance to visit the resort’s spa centre - where I defy anyone not to relax. The aromatherapy massage is so good that, though the clock says I have been in the room for an hour, the experience seems to be over in minutes. I walk out floating several inches above the ground.

Within moments of my second day starting, I decide that I may need a second massage. By this point I am trekking - calves aching, lungs bursting - to the top of St Vincent's volcanic peak.

This is a six-hour trek up and down endless bamboo staircases, across fossilised lava flows and finally up a gritty, fern-covered slope. It leaves me perspiring by the bucket-load and craving another trip to the spa. 
But the effort is worth it. La Soufriere, as the volcano is known, is topped by a mile-wide crater straight out of The Lost World.

Dropping away for at least a hundred metres beneath my feet, bright green stepped cliffs enclose a prehistoric landscape, stretching into the clouds ahead. 
With the wind beginning to gust and spots of rain fast becoming another shower, I inch as close to the abyss as I dare - and snap as many pictures as vertigo will allow, before retreating. 

Buccament Bay is in a state of constant evolution, new areas seemingly opening every day. When I arrive, the Bay Beach Club restaurant is a busy mess of breeze blocks and bare boards. Four nights later, when I pull up a chair, not a single plate is out of place.
Likewise, the resort’s programme of entertainment is only just getting going. But then, noise and nightlife do not seem to be a high priority here. The resort is a well-behaved, tucked-up-by-11pm kind of place. And I feel no need to complain. All that volcano-climbing - and adjusting to the time difference - leaves me more than ready for a series of early nights.

But if you are feeling energetic, there are plenty of ways to exhaust yourself - such as sea kayaking, which takes you into the neighbouring bay, home to a recently-abandoned eco-hotel (called Petit Byahaut. It is on the market if you have a cheeky $3.4m to spare), and back via a marine bat-cave.

Or a one-to-one football coaching session, with ex-professional players, on the best training pitch on the island. I am put through my fairly sluggish paces by Marlon James, a 34-year-old striker who still represents his country. Liverpool (who sponsor the resort’s football centre) regularly bring their youth team out to train with, and play against, the St Vincent national side - who arrive for training just as my session comes to an end. I decide it's the perfect moment to leave the pitch.

I realise that it would be easy to spend my entire stay cocooned within the hotel - but I also know it would be a crime to come here and not explore the Grenadines.

So it is that, at nine in the morning the next day, I jump into a boat and make for open water. 

Not by myself, of course. I have some help. And once I've forgiven the pun, Fantasea cruises live up to their name. The crew crack open the rum punch as soon as we pick up speed - resolutely pouring from a 10-litre plastic jerrycan as we crash through the waves. 

Picking up passengers at Bequia (the largest of the Grenadines after St Vincent), we roar south towards Tobago Cays, past Mustique, and many other millionaires’ boltholes 

Aside from being the location for much of the filming on the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, Tobago Cays is home to a protected reef and turtle sanctuary, where even the most inexperienced snorkeller can get within arm’s reach of marine beauty.
I flop gracelessly into the water, but - two or three lungfuls of salt-water later - am surrounded by fish of all shapes and sizes. Two sea turtles lazily flap their way through the turquoise water.

On the way back we stop at Mayreau, an island home to only a couple of hundred people. There is one small hotel, and a glorious beach that, on a sunny day in June, I have almost to myself. 

This is very much the Caribbean of my imagination. And it remains there long after I leave.

Travel Facts

Kuoni (01306 747008, offers seven nights at Buccament Bay Resort on an all-inclusive basis, in a junior garden-view suite - including flights from London Gatwick with British Airways (, and transfers. 
Prices for September 2011 start at £1,749 per person, based on two sharing.

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