Ambergris Cay, Turks & Caicos
Whether you are seeking a 'get away from it all' holiday or a second home, somewhere reclusive to write that novel you have been storing up for years, or to escape with family in peace and quite, a private place is getting harder to find. Moreover, getting that elusive privacy combined with a little adventure and activity is even more difficult. As the world shrinks and everyone discovers everywhere, that special place where it is possible to get away from it all but where life can still be fun in a naturally beautiful environment remains elusive – but fortunately not impossible.
Originally home to Taino Indians, Ambergris Cay is a private island in Turks and Caicos, which is now providing an exclusive idyll for owners in search of a modern-day private paradise, where a life in the great outdoors is combined with creature comforts and nature’s bounty. Covering around one thousand, one hundred acres and with eight miles of coastline, Ambergris Cay is home to Turks & Caicos Sporting Club, where owners have found a perfect world. The island was purchased by Canadian developer and businessman Henry Mensen in 1995. After bringing electricity to his paradise via the sun and the wind he met with Peter Pollak and Steve Schram, both of whom saw the potential in Mensen’s island, and together they fixed on the idea of creating a new kind of private community.
Pollak and Schram are partners in DPS Sporting Club Development Company, which has created unique communities around the world that are based on the concepts of a “life, well played.” These communities provide homeowners with unique environments that offer privacy with a life in the outdoors.
At Ambergris Cay, their team of architects, engineers, planners, developers and conservationists, along with other key experts and professionals, has created a special place that offers a sense of adventure as well as exclusivity. The entire island is members only, which means that it is open only to those who own property there and their invited guests. Across the island, land is allocated for what will eventually be 550 custom designed homes in 12 different neighbourhoods. There are no condos, timeshares, hotels or cookie cutter apartments. Those who want in on this rare and unique community can purchase an ocean view home-site between one to ten acres, starting from around a competitively priced US$600,000 up to US$6 million, all of which are government guaranteed freehold. There are a number of ways of going about creating a dream home at the club, but there are certain boundaries within which owners must remain.
Owners can choose land and home designs from the sporting club’s ‘menu’ or engage their own architect to custom design a home, which will be reviewed by the club’s Architectural Review Board to maintain both environmental and architectural integrity. The aim is to make owner’s feel almost like pioneers, creating their own idylls in a new land that blends in with the Cay’s precious natural beauty. Preserving the environment is fundamental to the development. As the outdoors is one of unique selling points for the club, the pristine beauty of the ocean, beaches, and natural landscape is as important as the beauty and aesthetics of the architectural development. Life, at Turks & Caicos Sporting Club, is lived as much in the spaces surrounding the homes and buildings as in the dwellings themselves.
Aside from being a place for humans to live life, the natural environment of Ambergris Cay is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, indigenous to Turks & Caicos, such as the Caicos Island Orchid, the Turks’ Head Cactus, Gumbo Limbo Trees, Milk Tree and the Green Buttonwood. Among this abundance of plant life flit rare birds, such as the Bahama Hummingbird and the Yellow Billed Cuckoo, and the Bark Anole Lizards bask in the sunshine changing colour in the blink of an eye. One third of the island has been set aside as the Mensen Preserve, in name of the island’s previous owner, and the developers say the preserve stands as the very essence of the island – “what is wild, beautiful and true.” The developer’s commitment to the natural environment ties in well with the Turks & Caicos government’s commitment to the conservation and preservation of the country’s delicate eco-systems. Last year was declared the ‘Year of the Environment’ and TCI hosted the Caribbean’s first international environmental conference with Al Gore as keynote speaker. Both Peter and Steve’s vision of architectural integrity, environmental sensitivity, and responsible development proved their commitment to Turks & Caicos Islands, which in turn was recently rewarded and honoured with status of ‘belongers’.
The developers of Ambergris Cay also recognise that the natural environment is a key element in the attraction for those who want to buy property on the island. No one gains if developers don’t ensure that the creation of these new homes does not undermine the beauty of the environment. The idea is to design and build homes that merge into the natural landscape without harming or distorting what makes the community attractive in the first place.
Nature trails and treks offer members access to the great outdoors, and by using the existing environment to enhance the development, the club is much more than an exclusive residential community. The natural landscape offers owners access to fishing in crystal clear waters, kayaking through the mangroves, hiking the high bluffs or biking to the historic sites, and adheres to the ethos of the sporting life which underpins the concept of this unique community.
With no cars and only golf buggies allowed alongside the bikes, kayaks and boats (a fire truck being the only exception), the club can lay claim to significant green credentials. The Environmental Learning Centre, with an aquarium, terrarium and library, that is now under construction is due to be completed by October of this year, according to Peter McKinney, the Development Director. McKinney also said that the major infrastructure is now fully complete and that the community has come of age in the last eighteen months in the sense that the developers can now supply water through reverse osmosis, as well as electrical power and a waste management system. Recycling is also a key element in the community management strategy, with glass crushed for reuse in concrete production. The fire department is also now finished, making the community virtually self sufficient.
There are now 12 completed cottages on the island where owners are already enjoying life and more are under construction, each taking around nine months to complete from foundation to landscaping. Most of the club’s communal amenities are expected to be completed by the end of this year, but many, such as the restaurant, bar and pool at Calico Jack Pavilion, an area of the club that offers a more casual style of living, are already open. The all important airport and runway are also operational and cleared to receive international flights up to category six aircrafts (GV or Global Express). The Sporting Club held a special launch party to mark the airport’s certification in June and, of course, to offer the chance for potential new owners to see for themselves what Ambergris Cay has to offer.
With more facilities such as the Har-Tru tennis courts, which have just been completed, and the spa well under construction, members have access to a true sporting life, as promised by the developers in this idyllic and private setting. In the meantime, owners and guests at the club can already enjoy homage to the body beautiful with Lindsay Mensen, who as well as being one of the club’s environmentalists (and daughter of original visionary Henry Mensen), offers an early morning yoga programme on the beach that she says plays in well with the lifestyle of Ambergris Cay, which is all about discovery and relaxation.
Buying a property at the Turks & Caicos Sporting Club is essentially investing into a private but natural lifestyle that offers owners the beauty and seclusion that many of us crave in the modern world but struggle to find combined with a sense of adventure and discovery – so who says you can’t have it all?
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