She’s not much to look at… a long thin scruffy strip of an island off the north shore of St. Maarten. But you can feel yourself succumbing to Anguilla’s charms almost immediately. The island’s warm hospitable people, crystal clear turquoise waters and relaxed vibe are a tonic for the soul. There’s not a lot to do on Anguillla — and that’s the key to her success. It’s a place to relax and renew.
Here’s a quick rundown of 5 ‘need-to-knows’ about Anguilla:
If you don’t arrive on your own yacht or your own jet, you’ll have to travel via St. Maarten (Air Transat, Air Canada and WestJet are offering flights this winter) then catch a ferry ride or air shuttle on Winn Air or Trans Anguilla Airways for the 7 min. hop to Walblake Airport’s air strip.
Anguilla is not a mainstream, mass market type of island. The hotels are quite small and private villas are popular with the wealthy celebrities who frequent this quiet little slice of paradise. But even the super rich, or perhaps especially the super rich, are not travelling the way they used to, so Anguilla is hungry for clientele to fill their resorts and over 300 private villas. Rates have dropped from high season rack rates of $500 – $1,000 per night to special offers at around $400 per night, including lots of extras. Weekly rates at some of the most deluxe 5 – 9 bedroom villas can run to $27,000 in peak season, but are going for less than half.
There are no fast food joints or chain restaurants on Anguilla. The food is excellent whether you are eating at an upscale resort or private restaurant or a simple open air spot on one ofAnguilla’s many white sand beaches. Fresh caught fish and seafood, especially the local Anguillan spiny lobster and crayfish, are plentiful, but menus offer a surprising variety of culinary styles and fresh ingredients. Whether you dine barefoot on the beach under the stars, at a picnic table in an open air hut, in an elegant restaurant or at an outdoor patio – the quality is always superb. The culinary team from Anguilla led by Chef Glendon Carty recently took home top medals in every category at the Taste of the Caribbean competition. Carty himself (of Ripples Restaurant and the Cap Juluca resort) was voted the Caribbean’s Top Chef.
There isn’t a lot to do – but that’s the point. Boat racing is the national sport and draws sailing types to the island. Sport fishing and scuba diving excursions are easily arranged. Snorkelling, walking and bird watching are wonderful leisure activities. Although eating and listening to the local live music seems to be everyone’s favourite pastime. Most islanders are always ready to grab a guitar, keyboard and microphone and start to play. Especially Anguilla’s most famous musician and local legend, Bankie Banx. Bankie’s Dune Preserve is the most eclectic spot you are likely to happen upon anywhere. The legend himself plays each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. A loyal entourage is always on hand and newcomers are welcomed like old friends.
Anguillans value their relationship with visitors – the island’s largest industry by far. And Anguilla also values its people. Island policies help ensure employment for locals and the balance seems to result in a relatively prosperous population with a good education system and proud heritage. The people are welcoming and crime certainly doesn’t seem to be much of a factor. When the topic came up, it was revealed how embarrassing a rash of petty crimes a few years back involving a few break-ins and minor thefts were to the island’s reputation. A young person was arrested and the community was so disapproving of the perp’s misguided crime spree it may have served as a lesson to anyone else with similar intent. Let’s hope that the lure of bigger developments chasing more dollars doesn’t upset the wonderful balance visitors currently enjoy.
Photo credits: Suzanne Christie