Judith Baker goes to an island with a unique history and enjoys the food and the relaxation
Early evening and the sun is setting on the little island of Anguilla. Down at Rendezvous Bay, at the rickety driftwood beach shack Dune Preserve, the beers and rum are handed round as Bankie Banx takes centre stage.
Bankie is Anguilla’s answer to Bob Marley and Dylan combined, and although he is now in his 60s, his music still pulls crowds of all ages
I first heard of Bankie (and Anguilla) from a New York friend who came to the island as a youngster with her parents who rented a beach house here in the 1970s. She recalled coming back with her own daughter some 20 years later to find Bankie still in residence , maybe idly smoking a joint or hosting reggae concerts at the island’s annual music festival Moonsplash.
It speaks volumes about Anguilla’s unique charm that characters like Bankie appeal to all generations, and also that his modest beach bar Dune is just steps away from barefoot luxury hotel CuisinArt with its gourmet restaurants, top spa and Anguilla’s only golf course.
Anguilla is a real taste of the Old Caribbean – it remains unspoilt and uncommercial, even though it regularly attracts famous faces who love its privacy and laid-back ambience. Accommodation ranges from affordable guest houses to the upmarket recently opened Zemi Beach House at the eastern side of the island, but there are no big resorts of all-inclusives here
Cuisine capital of the Caribbean
Anguilla is also one of the best places in the world I have visited to eat. Although only 25 square miles it is home to hundreds of restaurants ranging from simple food stalls selling home-style rotis and curries to upscale restaurants such as Veya (the name means ray of sunlight in Amerindian)
Veyas chef Carrie tells me that she came to the island from her native Pennsylvania because even years ago the island had a ‘food scene’ and now she enjoys the fact she is ‘on first name terms with the snapper guy’ and other local fishermen who provide fresh produce for the restaurant.
Over at CuisinArt’s Japanese restaurant Tokyo Bay, another American chef Joe Richardson says the flavours found on the island lend themselves perfectly to ‘Japanese cuisine with a Caribbean twist’
Although more US visitors come here than British, Anguilla is a British territory and has a colourful history. Colonised by Britain in 1650, its terrain and climate made sugar a difficult crop, so the plantation system which defined the history of many of the other colonized Caribbean islands never worked here. In 1967 opposition to include Anguilla in an associated state administered by St Kitts culminated in the ’bloodless revolution.’ Saint Kitts and Nevis gained full independence from Britain in 1983, but Anguilla happily remains a British overseas territory.
I found the best place to learn about Anguillan history is at the Heritage Museum, East End, run by local historian Colville Perry who is always happy to chat to visitors and show off his collection of local historical objects, shells and images.
Other Things to do
Work off the food with some Anguillan adventures! The island has plenty of activities to suit everyone, from horseriding along the beach, snorkeling and diving, cycling, stand up paddle boarding and kite surfing.
- Beaches – Anguilla has 33 lovely beaches, ranging from stretches of sand bustling with life, music and beach bars to secluded bays like Little Bay, only accessible by boat or a swinging rope from the rocks.
- Desert islands – Imagine you are Robinson Crusoe on Anguilla’s off shore islands – Sandy Island, Scilly Cay, uninhabited Prickly Pear cays or Sombrero island.Many have beach bars which serve great food and rum punches
- Sailing – Anguilla has a boat building and sailing tradition and there are a number of races and regattas throughout the year. But my favourite way to sail here is on a traditional sailing sloop like Tradition which feels like a journey back in time when pirates and rum runners sailed these waters.
Get close to Nature
Anguilla is a heaven for ‘twitchers’ – at least 135 species of birds are seen on the island which has over 20 wetlands and you can also spot iguanans, whales and dophins .From April to November, many beaches become nesting grounds for leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles.
Getting to Anguilla:
Flights to Antigua start from £617 Fly via Paris with Air France to St Martin and then take the ferry to Anguilla, http://www.funtime-charters.com
Liat have now introduced a daily connection flight from Antigua to Anguilla which starts from $269 return