Our luxury travel aficionado Varun Sharma takes us to the Caribbean paradise of Antigua, and more specifically, the private island of Jumby Bay.
The cold chill of a harsh English winter is finally ebbing out of my bones and I am looking forward, perhaps too optimistically, to a gorgeous spring and summer.
Although I have a delightful lifestyle in the heart of the Dorset countryside, I am often asked where I would live if money were no object and I always give the same answer – Jumby Bay Island in Antigua.
Jumby is just 300 acres in area and sits off the coast of mainland Antigua. The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and is now one of the most wonderful beach destinations in the world – offering private residences and an ultra-luxury resort. The likes of Lord Sainsbury, the author Ken Follett and Robin Leach (host of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous) have owned homes on the island.
The resort has always been passionate about its privacy – its management famously once persuaded Princess Diana not to stay because of the unwanted publicity she and her entourage would attract. This paparazzi-free island has seen its fill of celebrities from Sir Paul McCartney to Jim Carrey walking on its pristine beaches. Antigua boasts 365 beaches – one for every day of the year.
There are just 40 accommodations on offer in the resort. With 28 suites (some with outdoor swimming pools) and 12 octagonal luxury garden villas, even at full capacity, there are never too many guests on the island. Of course, there’s a superb spa, a selection of on- and off-beach dining options, sports facilities including tennis and croquet, and a plethora of water sports. There are no cars on Jumby – you get around using golf buggies or by bicycle. The weather is truly tropical in Antigua and happiness for me on Jumby is walking around the island in the rain when the rain drops are fat, warm and plentiful…ah, bliss.
I have always had issues with “service” in the West Indies. It never seems as professional as it is in the rest of the world. When I first visited the Jumby Bay resort over a decade ago, service was just a word, now, under new management, it’s a way of life. Out of all the hotels and resorts I have visited in the Caribbean, this one rates top for service.
While Jumby Bay offers the height of seclusion, the mainland is just a five-minute motor-launch ride away.
Antigua offers something for everyone. If it’s shopping you are after, then the capital St John’s is filled with duty-free boutiques with all the major brands are represented. There are some fabulous golf courses, historical sites (Nelson’s Dockyard for instance), bird watching, dive sites, rum factories, and entertainment – West Indian style – for instance, at the weekly “jump up” at Shirley Heights, which is one of the most famous dance events in the world.
I love cricket and on my last visit, I watched India thrash the West Indies in a One Day International at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Here, the crowds are encouraged to make as much noise as they can so the trumpets blare, the drums are beaten and the whistles are blown with abandon. Even if you don’t like or know cricket – trust me, it’s a grand day out.
You can see why Antigua … and indeed Jumby Bay does it for me.
– It’s only a 7.5 hour flight to paradise from London.
– Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort, offers total seclusion in an amazing setting.
– The beaches are filled with white, fluffy sand.
– It is very safe for families.
– Rum is cheaper than fruit juice so each “rum punch” is outstanding.
– There are few rooms and suites – ensuring personal and faultless service.
– Antigua guarantees sunshine and the kind of warmth that hugs the soul.
– The mainland is close – offering a change from the sedate Jumby life.
– No golf course.
– No nightlife.
– The only way on and off the island is by boat.
– Jealousy towards the homeowners!
– Having to leave.
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