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Dreamy days and starry
nights in the Caribbean
The Caribbean as it used to be
On Barbuda’s Long Bay, we eat breakfast at the top of the Lighthouse admiring the stunning 360 degree view of the Caribbean. A frigate bird passes by, but otherwise there’s nothing in sight. At night, we return to the lighthouse for cocktails. There are stars by the million, but we feel like the only people on earth.
‘Look there’s Jupiter!’ says Mo, the hotel manager, as if greeting an old friend. Son of a master mariner, he points his telescope at the inky sky which seems suddenly a mass of stellar wonder.
Watched by Jupiter, we concentrate on succulent lobster cooked by chef
These days Guyana born Lennox is resident chef at Barbuda’s newest luxury hotel, Lighthouse Bay, where he will also provide private Caribbean cookery lessons for anyone tired of walking on the deserted beaches or relaxing by the mosaic fringed pool.
The only way to get to Barbuda is via Antigua, and we chose to get from A to B by a 15 minute flight. We approached Lighthouse Bay by pontoon across the Codrington lagoon – the Caribbean’s largest - but we could have arrived in style by the hotel’s private helicopter, which promises to have guests on the carefully raked beach in under an hour from landing at Antigua’s international airport.
Lighthouse Bay opened last year and has extra suites and rooms planned for next, but for now there are just nine glorious ocean front suites. A stroll on the sand that fringes the hotel is like a walk in our own personal grounds. The resort lies with the Caribbean sea to the west and the lagoon to the east, so remoteness and exclusivity make it feel like a private island.
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The population on Barbuda seems largely to consist of the graceful Fregate magnificens, or frigate bird. Thousands of the birds flock over head. But I am alone walking along the beaches tinged with sparkling baby pink crystals. I sidestep a crab or two who seem to be the only other leavers of footprints on the sand.
Barbuda lies 27 miles north of its bigger, noisier sister, Antigua. The main town housing the tiny airport here is Codrington, officially the capital but referred to by all as ‘The Village’. Codrington consists of just a handful of streets and offers a glimpse of the Caribbean as it used to be.
Well dressed schoolchildren and casual visitors share the winding streets with donkeys and goats, and fast food outlets and noisy bars don’t exist. The main square is called Madison Square, which sounds deceptively grand. With no paved roads, guests roam as freely as the red-footed tortoise.
Over a homemade chicken lunch cooked by Jackie, the owner of t Wa’Omoni’s Best, one of Barbuda’s best known local restaurants. I learn that hunting is a perfectly acceptable pastime here, where wildlife includes white-tailed deer and boar.
The town is named after Sir Christopher Codrington, who leased the entire island from the British crown in 1691, with it remaining in the family's hands until 1872.
While sugar cane was the livelihood in Antigua, poor soil and an annual rainfall of around 38 inches made sugar cultivation impossible in Barbuda. Therefore, Sir Christopher introduced deer, wild boar, and guinea fowl for hunting, and cattle for raising.
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Back at Lighthouse Bay, we plan a day which centres around being spoilt by the attentive service of 25 staff. Our activities don’t get very strenuous but we consider beachcombing and fishing. Guests are invited to go bone or lobster fishing and bring their catch back to the kitchen for Lennox to prepare. We decide to switch off and opt for sunning ourselves on our terrace secure in the knowledge that should our Blackberries not work here (they do as it turns out) international calls from our sumptuous suite are free of charge.
I am impressed by the male frigate bird , who not only dons a huge red balloon breast to attract the females, but also broods the eggs himself on nests built precariously on the mangrove. I venture to the Frigate Bird sanctuary. Accessible only by small boat it lies at the north end of Codrington Lagoon, where the mangrove bushes stretch for miles. Sailors were known to refer to the frigate bird as the "man-o'-war bird" or the "hurricane bird" because of its impressive eight-foot wingspan, which enables it to soar up to 2,000 feet.
At Barbuda's highest point (124 feet) are the ruins of the Codrington estate, Highland House, and on the island's south coast still sits the 56-foot high Martello castle and tower, a fortress that was used both for defence and as a vantage from which to spot valuable shipwrecks on the outlying reefs. The 90 sunken shipwrecks in the crystal-clear waters still offer an opportunity for exploration either by snorkelling or scuba diving.
We hike to the Caves at Two Foot Bay to look at faded Amerindian petroglyphs on the cave walls. A popular spot with locals for camping and picnicing, it is called Two Foot Bay because before the roads were built the only way to get there was ‘by your two foot’ Visitors climb down into a circular chamber through a hole in the cave roof. I dangle ungainly, wondering if Princess Diana did it the same way.
Life here is not always so tranquil. Barbuda can party as well as the next island. If one were to come in May the island jumps to the Whitsuntide festival of Caribana.
For now the only music is the lapping of waves and the only fairy lights are those Mo is examining through his telescope. We leave Lighthouse Bay with a glance back at the perfectly straight horizon, where the sky is glowing its goodbye with a perfect rose pink sunset.
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Flights to Barbuda
British Airways operate daily flights from Gatwick to Antigua. Lighthouse Bay provides complimentary helicopter transfer form Antigua's VC Bird International Airport to the resort.
Alternatively, from Antigua, the Barbuda Express (www.antigiuaeferries.com) offers a 90 minute catamaran journey or Win Air (www.winair.com) flies twice daily to Barbuda.
Lighthouse Bay, Barbuda (www.lighthousebaybarbuda.com) cost $1099 per room per night for a junior suite in High Season (check latest rates), including breakfast, lunch and dinner and one way helicopter transfer from Antigua airport to the hotel for stays of less than 6 nights, round trip helicopter transfer for stays over 6 nights. Prices are exclusive of Antigua and Barbuda tax.
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