GO­ING THE EX­TRA ISLE

EMILIA BONA MAKES THE MOST OF HER FIRST TRIP TO BAR­BA­DOS BY HOP­PING OVER TO GRENADA FOR AN EX­TRA SLICE OF CARIBBEAN PAR­ADISE

Llanelli Star - - Getaway -

OISTIN’S fish fry is buzzing. Laugh­ter fills the warm evening air as a ca­lypso band strikes up a tune on the near­est street cor­ner. Laid out in front of me are rows of long tres­tle ta­bles packed with groups of peo­ple drink­ing rum punch and tuck­ing into team­ing plates of freshly caught fish.

It’s a Fri­day night, and the streets around Oistins are alive.

Nes­tled on the south coast of Bar­ba­dos, Oistins is a busy fish­ing town which en­cap­su­lates ev­ery­thing there is to love about the Caribbean.

On week­end nights the town is a hub of ac­tiv­ity, as tourists and lo­cals alike de­scend on the fish fry at Oistins Bay Gar­dens, where fresh tuna, sword­fish and mahi-mahi are cooked on the spot in front of you and served up in an in­for­mal set­ting.

This was my last night in Bar­ba­dos and it was the per­fect end­ing to a week spent un­wind­ing in ab­so­lute par­adise. I’d never been any­where in the Caribbean be­fore, so I hadn’t re­ally known what to ex­pect other than those stock im­age screen­savers of clear blue seas and white sand beaches.

Ar­riv­ing at the San­dals Bar­ba­dos re­sort, I got an im­me­di­ate in­tro­duc­tion to the kind of Caribbean hos­pi­tal­ity that would make my trip so spe­cial.

Greeted in the ho­tel lobby by my own per­sonal ‘but­ler’, I was handed a phone and told to call him for any­thing I needed dur­ing my trip.

From order­ing room ser­vice to re­serv­ing a spot by the pool – or even run­ning a bath ready for my re­turn to the room – the staff at San­dals couldn’t do enough to make you feel at home.

Lo­cated in the pop­u­lar St Lawrence Gap area of the is­land, San­dals is an adults-only, allinclu­sive re­sort that could con­vert even the most un­sen­ti­men­tal sin­gle­ton into a hope­less ro­man­tic.

Pitch­ing it­self as the ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion for “two peo­ple in love”, the re­sort is full of loved-up cou­ples, hon­ey­moon­ers and peo­ple tak­ing a once-in-a-life­time an­niver­sary trip to­gether.

San­dals’ lux­ury re­sorts are all-in­clu­sive, mean­ing pretty much ev­ery­thing you could ever want comes in­cluded, from un­lim­ited premium drinks to scuba-div­ing.

The com­pany’s new sis­ter prop­erty San­dals Royal Bar­ba­dos was right next door, mean­ing you could stay at one re­sort and take ad­van­tage of the fan­tas­tic choice of fa­cil­i­ties at both.

I barely had time to scratch the sur­face of the seem­ingly end­less food of­fer­ings, with 17 res­tau­rants and 12 bars, in­clud­ing a swim-up bar and a beach bar.

While some cou­ples were ris­ing early to re­serve their favourite spot by the pool, I was get­ting up to make the most of the Spices break­fast buf­fet, which fea­tures an omelette sta­tion, fresh lo­cal pro­duce and hot plate of­fer­ings from around the world.

But one of my favourite parts of the re­sort was the rooftop bar at the top of San­dals Royal, which has its own in­fin­ity pool and some of the most breath­tak­ing sea views you’ll find any­where on the is­land.

While ev­ery­thing most of us could ever want comes in­cluded, San­dals of­fers guests the op­por­tu­nity to pay ex­tra for some added lux­ury ser­vices.

On my last day, I booked my­self into the Red Lane Spa to in­dulge in a 90-minute Rain­drop Dreams Mas­sage (£153), a full body aro­mather­apy mas­sage de­liv­ered in a se­cluded tree-top spa hut.

If, like me, you’ve never been to Bar­ba­dos, you can’t ask for a bet­ter in­tro­duc­tion to par­adise than an all-day Cata­ma­ran cruise around the is­land, stop­ping off for lunch plus guided snorkellin­g ses­sions in the crys­tal blue wa­ters. Spot­ting tur­tles swim­ming along­side us in the ocean is a mem­ory that will stay with me for a long time af­ter my tan fades.

The beauty of hol­i­day­ing in the Caribbean is how easy it can be to hop from one is­land to an­other, tak­ing in a to­tally dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tion as part of your trip.

On my vir­gin voy­age to par­adise, I took a short plane jour­ney to Grenada, renowned for its spice mar­kets, dark choco­late and ma­rine-pro­tected oceans.

Span­ning less than 350 square kilo­me­tres and with a pop­u­la­tion of just over 105,000, Grenada feels a world away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of Bar­ba­dos’ beach towns.

The is­land might seem like a less ob­vi­ous des­ti­na­tion than its more pop­u­lar Caribbean cousins, but that lends it an air of seclu­sion and calm that lets you to­tally un­wind.

One thing the two is­lands do have in com­mon, how­ever, is the spec­tac­u­lar food on of­fer. Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Grenada, I headed straight to BB’s Crab­back – a har­bour-front restau­rant that’s ru­moured to be one of Oprah’s favourites when she’s in town.

Tuck­ing into a per­fectly cooked, suc­cu­lent tuna steak, ac­com­pa­nied by a gen­er­ous help­ing of mac­a­roni and cheese (£25) was the ul­ti­mate in­tro­duc­tion to Gre­na­dian din­ing. If the fresh fish and home-cooked ac­com­pa­ni­ments weren’t enough, the restau­rant is lo­cated in the heart of St Ge­orge’s har­bour, a stun­ning area of the is­land lined with colour­ful busi­nesses and boats.

Sit­ting look­ing out on the ocean is bound to en­tice you out on a boat trip – and there’s no bet­ter way to do it than by tak­ing a snor­kel­ing trip to the Mo­linere Un­der­wa­ter Sculp­ture Park.

I had never been snor­kel­ing be­fore, but once you get into the wa­ter it’s easy enough for even a to­tal be­gin­ner to get in­volved.

Rest­ing on the seabed are a set of ar­rest­ing sculp­tures. The strik­ing con­crete fig­ures are in­stalled along the ocean floor, with de­pic­tions of a ring of chil­dren hold­ing hands, a soli­tary mu­si­cian play­ing pi­ano and even a sculp­ture sit­ting on a bench tak­ing a selfie.

Div­ing down into the wa­ter, sur­rounded by trop­i­cal fish and spec­tac­u­lar sculp­tures is truly a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence that’s not to be missed.

Tired of all the ad­ven­ture, the thought of head­ing back to San­dals Grenada to sink into a ready-run bath laid out for me on the bal­cony was a very wel­come prospect. The lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion and in­cred­i­ble food op­tions at the re­sort are bound to have you rush­ing home for the night to make the most of what’s on of­fer.

Butch’s Chop­house is an ab­so­lute must and com­fort­ably con­firmed it­self as my favourite restau­rant in the re­sort. Your choice of steak cooked to ab­so­lute per­fec­tion, with sides of steamed as­para­gus, pep­per­corn sauce and chunky chips to ac­com­pany.

The lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion, post­card-wor­thy vis­tas and in­cred­i­ble hos­pi­tal­ity will leave you dream­ing of the Caribbean af­ter your flight touches down back in Bri­tain.

Whether you’re af­ter the ul­ti­mate in re­lax­ing beach breaks or a week packed with wa­ter sports and scuba-div­ing, there is so much to see and ex­plore on an is­land hop­ping trip to par­adise.

Fresh tuna, sword­fish and mahi-mahi are cooked on the spot in front of you and served in an in­for­mal set­ting... Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Ois­tons Fish Fry

Emilia takes the plunge on the Tiama Cata­ma­ran cruise

View from my bal­cony at San­dals Grenada

San­dals Grenada oc­cu­pies a stun­ning stretch of white sand beach with crys­tal clear wa­ters

Above: Butch’s Chop­house at San­dals, Grenada. Below: Re­lax among the tree­tops at Red Lane Spa in San­dals Royal Bar­ba­dos

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