The three islands of the lesser Antilles, are back to shine after the devastation of hurricane Irma. Our messengers tell us the secrets of rebirth, the new environmental awareness and what to see including beaches, seaside resorts and nature reserves
Step sports of those who have pursued for years by the waves of California and a smile that is a welcome on the island. “I’m in the Caribbean, and in the lesser Antilles, for more than thirty years, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten (half French, half part of the kingdom of the Netherlands) I found my landing place, my street,” says William Welch on the terrace-viewpoint of Loterie Farm, an estate of 55 hectares, is the only one in the whole of the island to boast, in a private area, a tropical forest that you explore along the trails, tapping sugar plantations or jumping from one tree to another thanks to the cable cars. Nothing to do with bungee jumping: use of ropes, robust (can be as long as 500 meters) and a harness to “experience nature from within, to discover the habitat at a slow pace, spotting iguanas, monkeys, colorful doves, the Caribbean Where. We are only interested in this, to protect the forest, and especially the tropical rainforest, a heritage for all”. Here, as Anguilla and Saint Barthélemy (also called Saint Barth) the crucial issues of today, protection of the environment, reforestation, repopulation of the seabed, are a priority.
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The caribbean, back in the paradise of the lesser Antilles
The lesser Antilles: the projects of environmental protection
As if the passing of Irma, the furious hurricane that was on the 6th of September 2017 has resulted in many victims, untold damage (the estimate is three billion dollars), for almost a year, the disruption in tourism (80 percent of the buildings suffered damage or were destroyed), had brought new attention to the territory and its protection.
In Saint Martin, for example, the French government has modified the Pprn (Plan of prevention of natural risks) by requiring the not build within 50 metres from the coast. Still, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to implant the first fragments of coral reef in the area of Man of War Shoal Marine Protected, thanks to a project launched in collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association) and the Dutch Caribbean Natureand Alliance.
In Anguilla, however, the National Trust is rebuilding, inside the Little Bay Marine Park, the habitat of the spiny lobster in the caribbean (Panulirus argus), also thanks to the casitas, admissions submarine that you can spot while snorkelling.
Saint Martin beaches, resorts and restaurants
Of course, there is still much to be done, but those looking for a island hopping in this part of the Caribbean found, after two years, coastal postcard, natural parks, enclaves, protected, and allure that he never surrenders to the fashions, to the enchanting passenger. To Saint Martin just to climb up to Fort Louis to realize the scenery of the island. The ruins are disappointing, but it’s like looking into a pair of binoculars: the great bay of Marigot, Nettle Bay, Simpson Bay, the so-called Low Lands. On the island, after the devastation of Irma, everyone has done his part. “It was terrible, six hours of sky color and pitch, and the winds from the unimaginable power”, recalls Philippe, chief gardener of the legendary Belmond La Samanna, an icon of the hospitality of the island, since the times of Onassis and of the young Rolling Stones; “today there’s the rich real estate of New York, and many chefs, attracted by our kitchen: there are those who also stopped three months”. The gardens are up the hill, beautify the pool, define the paths between the rooms (there will be soon another renewal that leaves the white walls and the furnishings in aquamarine, ton-sur-ton), steal the look at the sea, they are so powerful, lush. The pride of this property, designed by a businessman who flew here in the Sixties in Palm Springs, and they never went away, it is the inlet, the long, stained with a blinding light. “We’ve spent more than a year to cleaning up the beach and the rooms closest to the sea,” explains Philippe Aries, who knows one by one her plants, flambojant from the bright red hibiscus, the flowers of the tiare, jasmine.
The coastline is spectacular, the sand, the dunes just designed, turquoise waters and on the eastern tip, a handful of houses that leads to the other two bays are less well known, Baie aux Prunes and Baie Rouge. The beach bar welcomes all, “and there are those who would never want to go away,” says Romel Castor while he prepares a Samanna Kiss of rum, the juice of a passion fruit and coconut water. On the horizon you can see the boats of the local fishermen. Think of the poems of Derek Walcott won the Nobel prize in ‘92, and his idea of the Caribbean: “I’m Not an idyll, not for the native” (lived many months out of the year to St Lucia, where he was born).
The other beaches of Saint Martin? Best to avoid the eastern side where the waves crashing on the coast, difficult, and often besieged by the algae, and head towards the village of Grand Case, in part reborn after Irma, with a long sandy beach, the colorful houses, some converted into guest house, shops for the home as Voila. The evening lights up with the lights, music, scents of broiled fish. Grand Case is known for its restaurants, Spiga (Italian cuisine), l’auberge Gourmand (French), Piazza Pascal (also pizza). The sunset is over the promontory, on the terrace, the Sunset Café, where a team of young people, offering burrata, ham, fish. Opposite, Creole Rocks, ideal for snorkeling ($50 for an hour and a half). Orient Bay is a crescent of two kilometres, deep, sandy, well-equipped for every activities (surf, kitesurf, diving). Many americans on the board under the umbrellas of the Kontiki Beach (reborn together with Kakao and Bikini) who has rebuilt the pavillon and restaurant terraces where to order fillet of pork in pepper of Kampot and shrimp with coconut and ginger. Pinel Island, which is forbidden to jet-skiing and fishing, and is famous for its sandy beaches and transparent sea, is a coral atoll marine park is a ten minute ferry ride from Cul De Sac. Diving with marine biologists in the season accompanied by the snorkeling.
As well, the island of Tintamare, on the northeast coast, is a paradise in miniature. There are the remains of an old dwelling, of cotton plantations, signs of an ancient airport, Baie Blanche, is perfect for swimming. We dive on the south coast, Dutch owned, in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park: “the reef is in good conditions and many ask for it (by paying an entrance) to dive, but we know very well that climate change and the human impact threaten the ecosystem,” says Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern, biologist specialist in corals. A warning to all.
Anguilla: what to see and do including beaches, music and street food
Never a cause, never an item out of scale. Anguilla, island of the lesser Antilles and british colony, is the epitome of good humor, abandonment, conscious, and the rediscovery of the truest things. Landing in the boat as you glide on that arm of the sea which separates it from Saint Martin, in not even half an hour of navigation (customs is at the port). The pace is more slow, relaxed, to capture the light and moods of an island that barely reaching the 26 miles of coastline and extends as a platform in the blue (Crocus Hill, height of 73 metres, is home to some of the villas overlook the ocean and the unit). There is a cinema or theatre, but is flooded with music, improvised concerts in the cafés on the sea, in the stalls of the capital city that resembles a village, with low houses, fruit markets and a dirt road where the weekend is in a race to offer the best street food and the most delicious national dish, rice, peas and fish.
The ultimate worldliness is the race to the end of may, when Anguilla celebrates its separation from St Kitts: we are all, children included, for a circumnavigation that has the flavour of a trip around the world. “It is a peaceful island and one of the keys to understanding the spirit is the natural attitude to hospitality,” says Chris Richardson, the former manager, now consultant and writer who has recounted in Nature’s Terrorist. Hurricane Irma reactions and effects caused by the cyclone. “We immediately started to clean up the island, to give us a hand with one another, the anguillani have shown to be resilient. You can talk about a second life for Anguilla,” adds the writer, a native of St Kitts, on the island since she was seven.
The old England peeps out here and there, in the colonial architecture of certain houses in the countryside, in the simple villas, color green apple, with a patio and gardens of hibiscus. The oldest residence is in 1767, but here they all look to the future and to the new codes of welfare and reception: June was declared the month of the wellness involving locals and tourists alike in the walks, sessions of water aerobics, yoga on the beach will be repeated next year.
A lot of attention to the environment: by 31 march, the government banned the import of disposable plastic. Must pay attention to the many tourists (more 58,4 per cent, according to the data of June 2019, the tourism authority), who each day commute from the beaches to the postcard of Eel (around 23), Meads Bay, Little Bay, Crocus Bay, Shoal Bay and the infinite Maundays Bay, the creek to the half moon, where it widens the legendary Belmond Cap Juluca, a village of taste moorish courtyards, lounges and ivory, works of art, stone arches, water jets and royal palm trees that fan out on the rooms. An oasis of refined, but relaxed, where the cuisine of the peruvian Cesar Landeo is “the call of the sea, the jungle and the countryside”. There will soon be a vegetable garden, but in the meantime, the lovely Cip’s by Cipriani, two steps from the sea, invites you to enjoy the starry nights on the ocean.
Where to sleep in Saint Barth, the island green
The waters of the bay of Grand Cul de Sac are the colour of malachite, of lapis, emerald. If you are lucky you will swim with the turtles. It is one of the five areas that the small (21 square kilometers), but the famous Saint Barth (St Barth), protects as a natural reserve. Colombier is magnificent and invites you to snorkel around the reef; the Petite Anse offers swim among the fish. Along the trails, in the bays, on the hillside of Colombier there is no more trace of the damage of the last hurricane. “The strong economy of this island has allowed us to rebuild very quickly, hotel (ten of which are five stars), villas (2.100, many for rent), restaurants (80),” says Nils Nufau, at the head of the local tourism office, along the road that leads to the waterfront of Gustavia, the capital. “At Christmas we had the best season of the last years”, and yet after Irma “there is a need of quiet, of natural rhythms, of the ” dolce far niente”. This will be the success of the refined resort in The Peaceful, family venezuelan Contreras has his feet investing over $ 20 million dollars (18 million €), ensuring to its regulars, a refuge away from everything and everyone, surprisingly simple, devoid as it is of decorative excesses, of avant-garde design of artificial lighting.
The vacuum left by the storms of rain and wind of the hurricane has been filled by the woods of oak, the warm wengé wood, from the chairs by Franco Albini. The elegance of the rigorous choice by the designer Christian Liaigre is the stylistic, even on the outside, where the dominating natural colors and the infinity pool overlooks the bay of Grand Cul de Sac. The tufts of the palm trees supported with solid trunks remind us of the power of nature. That asks for respect and protection.