While there is an abundance of highly desirable island resorts from which to choose in the Caribbean, the pleasures of high-end exclusivity may best be enjoyed on the uncrowded, sand-dollar-flecked shores of private island resorts.
Words by Scott Rose.
Here are three that offer world-class service, bountiful natural beauty and, perhaps most importantly, far-above-the-fray privacy.
SANDALS ROYAL CARIBBEAN
Montego Bay, Jamaica – The very best of both worlds
Sumptuous mahogany furnishings, impeccably manicured tropical gardens, private butler service – these exemplify the escape to cosseted relaxation available at the Sandals Royal Caribbean – an all-inclusive resort along Jamaica’s picturesque, sun-caressed Montego Bay.
Yet the glory of this vacationer’s sanctuary is only fully appreciated when one indulges on the private offshore island of Bali Hai, an exotic isle providing the ultimate extravagance of a resort-within-a-resort. Take a dragon boat across the glassy sea to this private cay, where a myriad of temptations await. Pamper yourself with a private cabana massage behind billowing white curtains – as gentle waves lap the shore, dine on Thai-style cuisine while delighting in the uplifting ocean vista, or frolic on the exquisite sugar-sand beaches.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, the stately elegance of the porte-cochère entryway speaks to delights hidden just beyond. Choose one of the graciously decorated swim-up suites – complete with a private butler to attend to your every desire – and you will be able to go directly from the soothing waters of the Crystal Lagoon into those of your private deep soaking tub. Then again, for a profoundly restful experience, opt for a luxurious treatment at the resort’s Red Lane Spa, where European services make use of natural island botanicals – think green coffee beans, bamboo crystals and comforting aloe vera.
Le Jardinier, one of the resort’s many restaurants, serves French-influenced cuisine, while the beach-front grill, Bamboo Shack, specialises in authentic Jamaican fare. Smoked marlin with tropical fruit salsa, a medallion of beef tenderloin with herb brandy sauce and a Caribbean coconut pie dessert as well as many other scrumptious delicacies can be special ordered for a private candlelight dinner under the Island Gazebo on Bali Hai – just ask your private butler to arrange it.
Other vacation-within-a-vacation pleasures to be enjoyed include reggae afternoons on the beach, tennis lessons with the pro, windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving, exploring tidal pools full of sea urchins as well as a wealth of vividly-coloured tropical fish – and, for those in a mood simply to kick back, there is always the beach-front, fresh-water pool with its swim-up bar.
Revelling in a best-of-both-worlds' experience, it is simple to drink in the sheer easy-living joy readily available at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay.
The Bahamas – Far from the maddening crowds
Add “pinch-yourself, can-this-be-real?” natural beauty to quintessential barefoot chic and you get the 97-acre private island of Kamalame Cay, just off the northeast coast of Andros in The Bahamas. This very personal elite resort, the lovinglycultivated vision of the Hew family, features generously-spaced cottage and beach suites, a custom villa, the central Great House and even a fully-staffed, four bedroom private villa – the Cove – atop a scenic rocky bluff.
Tastefully appointed with classic Caribbean lofty peak ceilings, dwellings are characterised by a sophisticated mix of plush furnishings with Indonesian accents, endless windows with dramatic views, and French doors with removable muslin curtains, all chosen to maximise the indoor-outdoor design.
Golf carts – automatically assigned to guests upon arrival – underscore the pleasant, unhurried pace of this secluded Caribbean Shangri-La; hammocks strung between towering palm trees swing in the warm breeze, inviting one to laze the day away, while the never-ending dock tempts an early evening amble to ponder the splendiferous Caribbean sunset. Yet Kamalame abounds with opportunities to enjoy more dynamic pursuits. Sport fishing in these environs, particularly for bonefish, is unmatched, and day trips with seasoned guides are easily arranged by the friendly staff. Other adventurous options include sea kayaking – during which one might observe dolphins cavorting – snorkelling, tennis, nature walks, tours of nearby towns and even an exhilarating seaplane ride to explore nearby sand cays and where a private gourmet picnic on the secluded sandy shore can await.
Off Kamalame’s pristine shores lies the world’s third largest barrier reef, a marine replenishment zone; like a mermaid’s song, it calls one’s name, inviting a plunge into undersea adventure around colourful coral gardens. Conveniently, Kamalame’s PADI dive centre offers instruction from beginner through to advanced specialty levels, including classes in digital underwater photography.
Kamalame Cay throws its annual “I Love Lobster” food festival in August, when guests can travel out to the reef to see the crustaceans caught live, and then take lessons in lobster preparation. During the rest of the year, meals feature fresher-than-fresh local seafood, tropical fruits and other assorted delicacies served in the Great House.
If a spa can only be as relaxing as its ambience, then Kamalame Cay’s Overwater Spa constitutes a premonition of nirvana. Poised above turquoise waters at the terminus of a 200- foot pier, the spa’s treatment rooms feature glass floors and floor-to-ceiling windows to capture the breathtaking azure expanses of the Caribbean Sea. Whether indulging in the rejuvenating Body Melt Back Therapy or the heavenly Seaweed Botanical Wrap, reposing in this unique locale, with its endless ocean panoramas, reminds of Jacques Cousteau’s marvellous insight: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” The same might well be said, of the ultra-private, one-of-a-kind getaway that is Kamalame Cay.
SCRUB ISLAND RESORT
BVI – The discerning yachtsman’s private utopia
Brand spanking new, and scheduled to complete its alliance with the esteemed Marriot Autograph Collection in early 2012, Scrub Island Resort seats all visitors securely in the lap of luxury. Whether standing on one of the many private beaches, the docks in the marina or a suite’s spacious veranda, the jawdropping beauty of infinite open skies, sapphire waters and poetic island outcroppings await.
Exotic wood panels, natural stone flooring and gourmet kitchens typify the high-end décor of the accommodations, while personalised concierge service is as delightful and unobtrusive as an ocean breeze. Fortunately, owning a slice of this other-worldly oasis is as simple as it is satisfying: real estate opportunities on Scrub Island Resort range from partial to full ownership of existing homes to the purchase of an unspoiled land parcel where one may employ one’s own architect while still having full access to all the private resort’s five-star amenities.
A cornucopia of epicurean offerings may be savoured in Scrub Island’s diverse dining establishments. At the fine-dining Caravela, enjoy continental classics with a Caribbean twist while revelling in the natural beauty of the surrounding Marina Village and Camanoe Island. Perched above Pavilion Beach, a fifteen-foot waterfall and the crystalline, lagoon-style pool, the open-air Tierra! Tierra! offers lighter fare to tantalise the taste buds. Meanwhile, private dining can be arranged anywhere on the island, including in one’s suite, at Whale Watch Point or on a secluded, romantic stretch of the beach. And, to top it all off, Scrub Island chefs can prepare, to your specifications, any catch landed during your local sport fishing expeditions.
As this resort was designed around the 55-slip marina, it is a quality destination for water sports’ enthusiasts. The Marina Village is home to a full-service dive shop, facilitating scuba diving or snorkelling excursions that could well bring you face-toface with such magnificent marine creatures as the queen triggerfish or the sea goddess nudibranch. Guests may also enjoy kayak eco tours with the resort’s knowledgeable staff biologist, personalised charter trips out to the North Drop in pursuit of blue marlin, or a jaunt over to Tortola for a tour of historic Dutch settlements.
The Ixora Spa, named for the flowering tropical plant often used in Hindu worship and Indian folk medicine, is not to be missed. Situated in a hillside villa with uncommonly spacious treatment rooms and picturesque views, the spa is already drawing worldwide praise with the inventiveness of its superexclusive offerings such as anti-oxidant serums, facial masques and exfoliating body scrubs.
Relaxing on your private Scrub Island, whether in pool, tub or sea, the resort casts a lingering luxury spell, certain to leave you dreaming of the high seas.
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