Anguilla’s luxury resorts are some of the Caribbean’s most prized gems, but the island’s real treasures lie in the wild spaces between, says Lauren Jarviswho visited in March 

I’m at the Pink Flamingo at 7am, the March sun already hinting at the tropical temperatures to come, while a cobalt clear sky confirms Anguilla’s much-preferred take on the Monday-morning blues. 

Although firmly in Caribbean holiday mode, I’m not here to slurp on a hair-of-the-dog rum punch, nor am I still propping up the bar from a decadent night before (Me? Never). I’m here to meet one of the island’s most famous and handsome residents: Martin. 

Flamboyant and with a definite strut, he’s not hard to find, and I soon spot him standing casually on one leg under a tree, surrounded by a gaggle of birds, every inch the beauty I believed he would be. 

“Martin’s a man of mystery,” says Jackie Cestero, who has been closely following his movements since he first visited the island in 2015.

 “We still don’t know where he came from, and although he used to arrive with a partner, now he’s usually seen alone. He stays for long periods of time before disappearing again, and seems to really enjoy our seafood.” 

A fully-fledged vegetarian, I realise Martin and I aren’t a match, so I capture some shots on my SLR and leave him to preen in peace amidst his admirers – a bonafide American flamingo is a superstar among birds after all, even in tropical Anguilla! 

Force of Nature

Renowned for its stylish, high-end resorts and dreamy, white-powder shores – 33 stunning beaches and bays on an island just 16 miles long and three miles wide – Anguilla is a also haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers. With an active National Trust that runs marine, coastal and terrestrial conservation projects, this British Overseas territory in the Lesser Antilles has over 20 wetlands and salt ponds, including 16 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), designated by BirdLife International.

Like Martin, American-born Jackie used to be a regular visitor to Anguilla, but unlike the solo flamingo, great blue herons, glossy ibises and snow geese that spend winter here and move on, she and her husband decided to stay, buying land in the territory in 1995, days before Hurricane Luis hit. After her husband passed away in 2010, Jackie set up eco-tourism company, Nature Explorers Anguilla (natureexplorersanguilla.com), to introduce visitors to the island’s wild side.  

Later, when explorations are on hold during the travel ban, she dedicates time to her Bring Back the Buttonwoods project, restoring valuable mangrove habitats damaged by 2017’s Hurricane Irma, and preparing itineraries for when tourists return. 

 

Anguilla is incredibly resilient, and the island has responded well to this latest challenge, with just three confirmed coronavirus cases, all thankfully recovered,” she says over email on my return. “I’m hopeful we’ll succeed in opening up safely, and I’ll be guiding visitors to discover the beauty of our amazing wetlands and offshore cays again soon

Twitching Hour

I join Clarissa and Tashim from the Anguilla National Trust  

(axanationaltrust.com) for a nature hike along the island’s rugged coast, with its limestone and sandstone cliffs. We watch soaring brown boobies and pelicans catching the wind, as scarlet pope’s head cacti peek out from the crags, and turtles rise and fall in the dazzling blue waters of Little Bay below. 

Hunted since the time the Taino people first arrived from South America to inhabit the island 4,000 years ago, Anguilla’s turtle species are now protected. The turtle fishery was shut down in 1995 and a moratorium banning all harvesting of turtles and their eggs introduced, with the majority of local fishermen adhering to the new regulations. 

 

"The Anguilla National Trust monitors the nesting sites of leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles on the main island and surrounding quieter islands and cays [...]Our night-time turtle tours, which run throughout September and October, offer an incredible opportunity to watch them coming ashore to lay their eggs."

Tahim from the Anguilla National Trust

Outside of nesting season, visitors can enjoy exciting turtle encounters snorkelling or diving through the coral gardens of the reef, or kayaking above the seagrass beds around the island: rich feeding grounds for young green and hawksbill turtles. 

Night Fever

For an added splash of magic, head out on to the ocean at night with Liquid Glow, paddling your own transparent, illuminated kayak, shining a light on Anguilla’s amazing aquatic world below. 

Glowing purple, yellow, blue and green, the kayaks’ see-through bottoms offer close-up views of spectacular sea creatures swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea: VIP guests at a neon-lit nightclub of the deep. 

For over an hour, we watch sleek tarpons torpedoing through the waves, paddle gently above graceful spotted eagle rays, and glide over green turtles, somnambulantly scouring the shallows for a midnight feast. 

Attracted by our lights, tiny slivers of silver baitfish, known locally as ballyhoos, jump into the boat, hitching a ride and a rest until carefully caught and released back to join the party. It’s almost too fantastical to leave, floating under a star-spangled sky, and bobbing along on the best ‘ocean view’ in Anguilla. 

Healing Hands

Next morning’s sun-drenched scene comes a close second, as I step out of my Beach View Villa at Carimar Beach Club, walk through the resort’s parrot-patrolled tropical gardens, and step on to one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated beaches, Meads Bay. 

The perfect sweep of empty sand, softly lapping sea and backdrop of lush, green palms would be greeting enough, but the addition of a massage table, uber-Zen soundtrack and island wonder-therapist, Big Joe, is the best ‘Hello’ ever – which reminds me that singer Adele was pictured holidaying with Harry Styles a few doors down at Blanchards Restaurant and Beach Shack (blanchardsrestaurant.com) this January. But back to Joe. 

Every morning should start with Big Joe’s big healing hands soothing your stresses and strains away, while a Caribbean breeze whispers in your ear. Founder of La Severine Fitness & Massage, Joe runs a gym and studio in the island’s capital, The Valley, but will bring his massage table to you, with no rush and no hard product sell to ruin your 60 or 90 minutes of bliss. 

 

Who needs a boutique spa? Although the island’s high-end resorts are eye-poppingly glamorous – drop in to neighbouring Malliouhana, Tranquility Beach, or Four Seasons Resort for a super-luxe fix over drinks or dinner – the family-run Carimar shares the same beautiful stretch of beach and sea for a fraction of the cost. 

That means more of your holiday dollars are freed-up for fun, to spend directly with the people who need it most – locals running independent businesses at one of the toughest times Caribbean travel has ever known. 

My last afternoon on the island is spent kicking up my heels on horseback, riding along the silky sands of Cove Bay, as kiteboarders fly from the white-caps, whipped up by the trade winds offshore.  

Tonia, owner of Seaside Stables (seasidestablesanguilla.com) leads the way, guiding us down from the beach and into the waves, where our steeds are reborn as seahorses in the surf. 

Just a week later, the world goes into lockdown and, for a while at least, all paradise seems lost. Now, as Earth’s special places open up it’s time to make every journey count and a tourism-dependent natural beauty like Anguilla is a good place to start. 

Previous
Next

Here's how to do it

Lauren stayed at the Carimar Beach Club in a self-catering Beach View Villa and flew from London Heathrow with KLM via Amsterdam (you can also fly with Air France via Paris) to neighbouring island St. Maarten and took a speedboat transfer to Anguilla with Calypso Charters. 

For more information on Anguilla, click here!

Half Shell Heroes

The MCS Marine Turtle Conservation Programme coordinates conservation research in the UK and Caribbean to help protect these ancient mariners. mcsuk.org

I’m at the Pink Flamingo at 7am, the March sun already hinting at the tropical temperatures to come, while a cobalt clear sky confirms Anguilla’s much-preferred take on the Monday-morning blues. 

Although firmly in Caribbean holiday mode, I’m not here to slurp on a hair-of-the-dog rum punch, nor am I still propping up the bar from a decadent night before (Me? Never). I’m here to meet one of the island’s most famous and handsome residents: Martin. 

Flamboyant and with a definite strut, he’s not hard to find, and I soon spot him standing casually on one leg under a tree, surrounded by a gaggle of birds, every inch the beauty I believed he would be. 

“Martin’s a man of mystery,” says Jackie Cestero, who has been closely following his movements since he first visited the island in 2015.

 “We still don’t know where he came from, and although he used to arrive with a partner, now he’s usually seen alone. He stays for long periods of time before disappearing again, and seems to really enjoy our seafood.” 

A fully-fledged vegetarian, I realise Martin and I aren’t a match, so I capture some shots on my SLR and leave him to preen in peace amidst his admirers – a bonafide American flamingo is a superstar among birds after all, even in tropical Anguilla! 

Force of Nature

Renowned for its stylish, high-end resorts and dreamy, white-powder shores – 33 stunning beaches and bays on an island just 16 miles long and three miles wide – Anguilla is a also haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers. With an active National Trust that runs marine, coastal and terrestrial conservation projects, this British Overseas territory in the Lesser Antilles has over 20 wetlands and salt ponds, including 16 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), designated by BirdLife International.

Like Martin, American-born Jackie used to be a regular visitor to Anguilla, but unlike the solo flamingo, great blue herons, glossy ibises and snow geese that spend winter here and move on, she and her husband decided to stay, buying land in the territory in 1995, days before Hurricane Luis hit. After her husband passed away in 2010, Jackie set up eco-tourism company, Nature Explorers Anguilla (natureexplorersanguilla.com), to introduce visitors to the island’s wild side.  

Later, when explorations are on hold during the travel ban, she dedicates time to her Bring Back the Buttonwoods project, restoring valuable mangrove habitats damaged by 2017’s Hurricane Irma, and preparing itineraries for when tourists return. 

 

Anguilla is incredibly resilient, and the island has responded well to this latest challenge, with just three confirmed coronavirus cases, all thankfully recovered,” she says over email on my return. “I’m hopeful we’ll succeed in opening up safely, and I’ll be guiding visitors to discover the beauty of our amazing wetlands and offshore cays again soon

Twitching Hour

I join Clarissa and Tashim from the Anguilla National Trust  

(axanationaltrust.com) for a nature hike along the island’s rugged coast, with its limestone and sandstone cliffs. We watch soaring brown boobies and pelicans catching the wind, as scarlet pope’s head cacti peek out from the crags, and turtles rise and fall in the dazzling blue waters of Little Bay below. 

Hunted since the time the Taino people first arrived from South America to inhabit the island 4,000 years ago, Anguilla’s turtle species are now protected. The turtle fishery was shut down in 1995 and a moratorium banning all harvesting of turtles and their eggs introduced, with the majority of local fishermen adhering to the new regulations. 

 

"The Anguilla National Trust monitors the nesting sites of leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles on the main island and surrounding quieter islands and cays [...]Our night-time turtle tours, which run throughout September and October, offer an incredible opportunity to watch them coming ashore to lay their eggs."

Tahim from the Anguilla National Trust

Outside of nesting season, visitors can enjoy exciting turtle encounters snorkelling or diving through the coral gardens of the reef, or kayaking above the seagrass beds around the island: rich feeding grounds for young green and hawksbill turtles. 

Night Fever

For an added splash of magic, head out on to the ocean at night with Liquid Glow, paddling your own transparent, illuminated kayak, shining a light on Anguilla’s amazing aquatic world below. 

Glowing purple, yellow, blue and green, the kayaks’ see-through bottoms offer close-up views of spectacular sea creatures swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea: VIP guests at a neon-lit nightclub of the deep. 

For over an hour, we watch sleek tarpons torpedoing through the waves, paddle gently above graceful spotted eagle rays, and glide over green turtles, somnambulantly scouring the shallows for a midnight feast. 

Attracted by our lights, tiny slivers of silver baitfish, known locally as ballyhoos, jump into the boat, hitching a ride and a rest until carefully caught and released back to join the party. It’s almost too fantastical to leave, floating under a star-spangled sky, and bobbing along on the best ‘ocean view’ in Anguilla. 

Healing Hands

Next morning’s sun-drenched scene comes a close second, as I step out of my Beach View Villa at Carimar Beach Club, walk through the resort’s parrot-patrolled tropical gardens, and step on to one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated beaches, Meads Bay. 

The perfect sweep of empty sand, softly lapping sea and backdrop of lush, green palms would be greeting enough, but the addition of a massage table, uber-Zen soundtrack and island wonder-therapist, Big Joe, is the best ‘Hello’ ever – which reminds me that singer Adele was pictured holidaying with Harry Styles a few doors down at Blanchards Restaurant and Beach Shack (blanchardsrestaurant.com) this January. But back to Joe. 

Every morning should start with Big Joe’s big healing hands soothing your stresses and strains away, while a Caribbean breeze whispers in your ear. Founder of La Severine Fitness & Massage, Joe runs a gym and studio in the island’s capital, The Valley, but will bring his massage table to you, with no rush and no hard product sell to ruin your 60 or 90 minutes of bliss. 

 

Who needs a boutique spa? Although the island’s high-end resorts are eye-poppingly glamorous – drop in to neighbouring Malliouhana, Tranquility Beach, or Four Seasons Resort for a super-luxe fix over drinks or dinner – the family-run Carimar shares the same beautiful stretch of beach and sea for a fraction of the cost. 

That means more of your holiday dollars are freed-up for fun, to spend directly with the people who need it most – locals running independent businesses at one of the toughest times Caribbean travel has ever known. 

My last afternoon on the island is spent kicking up my heels on horseback, riding along the silky sands of Cove Bay, as kiteboarders fly from the white-caps, whipped up by the trade winds offshore.  

Tonia, owner of Seaside Stables (seasidestablesanguilla.com) leads the way, guiding us down from the beach and into the waves, where our steeds are reborn as seahorses in the surf. 

Just a week later, the world goes into lockdown and, for a while at least, all paradise seems lost. Now, as Earth’s special places open up it’s time to make every journey count and a tourism-dependent natural beauty like Anguilla is a good place to start. 

Previous
Next

Here's how to do it

Lauren stayed at the Carimar Beach Club in a self-catering Beach View Villa and flew from London Heathrow with KLM via Amsterdam (you can also fly with Air France via Paris) to neighbouring island St. Maarten and took a speedboat transfer to Anguilla with Calypso Charters. 

For more information on Anguilla, click here!

Half Shell Heroes

The MCS Marine Turtle Conservation Programme coordinates conservation research in the UK and Caribbean to help protect these ancient mariners. mcsuk.org