The scent of nutmeg, coconut, limes, seething foliage, and warm tropical largesse surges from the Caribbean island of St Lucia like a primeval memory. This is one of the Windward Islands, between Martinique and St Vincent. The climate is peach-perfect. Clouds one moment purply-dark and rain-bearing are followed by white sky-fluff, then pure blue. When the thermometer begins to soar, permanent breezes stop the beaches from baking.
The island’s natural mixture of luxuriant tropical vegetation in a mountainous landscape, with long white beaches and sparkling clear seas is incredibly beautiful: a magnet for lovers of Nature and sunshine and sport. Laze on the sand, cocktail in hand, plunge among the fishes in the turquoise Caribbean, watch the sleekly expensive yachts bobbing in the bays and inlets, buy bananas in the market, go fishing, or sailing, or bird watching, join the jazz parties, see the cricket, hike up into the rainforest, walk among the trees, breathing in the deep fragrance of frangipani …
For peace and beauty, St Lucia’s Marigot Bay is one of the most delightful places on earth—named by writer James Michener ‘the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean’. It may even seem familiar: the gorgeous landscape, with its swaying palm fronds and clear blue waters, was the location for Rex Harrison’s Dr Dolittle. And now, making the most of this amazing place is the five-star resort Capella at Marigot Bay, the international hotel group founded by the legendary Horst Schulze, formerly president of Ritz-Carlton, whom Forbes once described as ‘the man who defined the luxury hotel experience’.
Luxury apart, you can see at a glance why Marigot Bay would have been a favourite haunt of pirates: it offers so many coves and inlets in which to hide. In the 18th century, the British navy outsmarted the French by secreting their entire fleet behind the sandspit in the inner bay and tying palm fronds to their masts. The French sailed by, as planned, giving the British the advantage of a surprise attack. A mural of the British conquest hangs on the wall of one of Marigot Bay’s restaurants, Boudreau, named after a schooner captain who arrived in the 1950s, fell in love with this place, and built the first hotel and bar.
By the 1960s, the Marigot Yacht Haven, as it was then known, was the place for the glitterati to be seen. Film stars and heads of state flocked here, and, such was Marigot’s reputation, that after the first moon landing the astronauts were sent here to relax and unwind. Now, 40 years later, Marigot Bay is no longer a sleepy fishing village, or hiding place for adventurers and astronauts, but it is still magical. At night, the edge of the bay is a circle of twinkling lights and on nights around the full moon it becomes a sheet of silver.
The underwater experience is also magical: the glass-bottom boats chug the coastline, their captains describing the sealife in an eloquent stream. Marigot Bay is on the edge of a marine park: among the fumaroles and turrets, the brain corals (disturbingly cerebellum-like) and the fan corals, the funny vents and lozenge-shaped gloomy apertures, peace seems to reign. The witness in the boat, or the snorkeller, merely skims the surface. For bigger fish, take a twin-engine launch offshore and wait for whales or spinner dolphins.
A sport-fishing zone lies off the beaches. The tuna caught are mostly yellowfin; the other target game fish is marlin. Any sea angler who reckons he is tough will raise an eyebrow at this: local fishermen haul in marlin on hand-lines. On first being told this one imagines one is being teased. How can you hand-line an 800lb marlin? Indeed, how can you hand-line a 200lb marlin? Answer: you can’t. But the fishermen from St Lucia can, and do.
They go out at dawn in narrow clinker-built boats. Hard plastic foot-soles serve as washers for the double rowlocks. Bait is netted in seines and consists mostly of small needlefish. The men leave port in their high-prowed ocean craft standing up; far out you see them powering on, breasting major waves still erect, as stationary as telephone poles. They have phenomenal physiques.
Capella Marigot Bay lies on the west coast of St Lucia, five miles south of the capital, Castries, and a few miles north of Rodney Bay. To get about, it is best to hire a car or use taxis or water taxis. The resort has every possible modern facility, including 124 rooms and suites carved into the lush, tropical hillside with dramatic views of the sea and the Marigot Bay marina.
All rooms are Caribbean-inspired, with elegant aqua, coral and rainforest green colour palettes.and hardwood floors, large balconies or patios, living rooms and kitchens, and the comforts of air-conditioning and ceiling fans, cable TV, music systems, telephone, Wifi internet access, with espresso machines, tea-making facilities and in-room refreshment centres with complimentary soft drinks. Large bathrooms incorporate walk-in ‘rainforest’ showers, bidets, telephones, makeup mirror and dual basins set in slate vanities.
The rooms and suites are in lush tropical gardens designed by leading landscape gardener Veronica Singleton-Smith, a regular guest on Gardener’s World. The ‘managed wild gardens’ are aimed at softening the edges of the buildings by planting ‘the colours and scents of the rainforest’. There is a spa, fitness centre, shopping, bars and restaurants.
As to food, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, including the hotel’s own signature restaurant overlooking Marigot Bay, and a rum cave, with its menu of small sharing plates and long list of rums. These are one of the glories of St Lucia: try St Lucia Distillers’ Admiral Rodney and 1931 blends, which are sublime.
Capella’s marina location has advantages beyond its natural beauty. It feels like being part of a small seafaring community. Stroll along the dock and you come upon a little clapperboard development of shops—a bakery, supermarket, bank, police station, plentiful taxis (both cars and boats) and some decent inexpensive restaurants. Here you can arrange your jaunts: charter a yacht or motor cruiser for a half-day, day or week; or plan a game fishing trip for marlin; or go out whale watching; or simply take a ride in a glass-bottom boat. In a bay of this beauty, nothing beats messing about on the water.
Members enjoy exclusive rates and VIP advantages in this luxuriant tropical island oasis. For availability and full details please call Member Services on 020 7399 2960 or follow the link below.
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