Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
March 1 1996
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Last update 2 Mar 96 1800 utc
PUBLICATION SCHEDULE: PLEASE NOTE THAT THE CTR WILL BE PUBLISHED ON APRIL 1, MAY 15 AND THEN ABOUT JULY 15 AS IS THE USUAL SUMMER SCHEDULE.
1/ PRESS RELEASE
A number of months ago, I received a request to publish a Club Antigua promo from Dana Lauren of Herman Associates Public Relations in New York. As it so happened I had already made flight arrangements to visit Antigua in February. I asked if a recommendation could be made for a resort on Antigua. A few weeks later I received an invitation to spend a complimentary week at Club Antigua. Of course, I accepted. A much more detailed report on Club Antigua and the island itself will appear in the April CTR. However, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the stay at Club Antigua. Since I was their guest, I tried to reduce my own bias by polling other guests on what they thought about the property. Everyone with whom I spoke was very positive about the resort and thought it offered good value for money. Probably the most impressive aspect of my visit was that I NEVER ENCOUNTERED, NOR DID ANY OF THE OTHER GUESTS WITH WHOM I SPOKE, ANY RUDE OR DISCOURTEOUS STAFF MEMBERS. IN FACT, THEY SEEM TO GO OUT OF THE WAY TO HELP THE VISITORS. This is somewhat unique in my travels in the Caribbean.
Based on my own observations and those of other people, I have no reservations in recommending this property. In the April edition of the CTR I'll provide more details and more clearly define who would enjoy the resort the most. Contact your travel agent for booking information.
Here's their latest press release.
CLUBS INTERNATIONAL LOWERS ALL-INCLUSIVE RATES AT CLUB ST. LUCIA AND CLUB ANTIGUA
Clubs International has lowered the rack rates at the all- inclusive Club Antigua and Club St. Lucia resorts, making a Caribbean getaway an unbelievable bargain for 1996 -- particularly for families and singles. Both resorts allow children under 12 to stay free and provide a free daily children's program for four- to 12-year-olds. In addition, the new rates reflect no single supplement (half of double rate), making these resorts an excellent value for singles, too.
All-inclusive prices per night for Club St. Lucia from now through April 14th, 1996, range from $227 for two adults in a Standard room to $307 for two adults sharing an ocean view room. Single room rate per night ranges from $114 to $154. Per night rates from April 15th to Dec-ember 23rd, 1996, range from $200 to $280 per room for two adults; $100 to $140 for singles.
All-inclusive rates at Club Antigua from now through December 23rd, 1996, range from $187 per night for two adults sharing a minimum room to $280 per night for two adults sharing a family room. Rates per night for a single person in a room range from $94 to $140.
Both resorts provide guests with all meals, snacks and beverages (including alcohol) in a selection of restaurants; a full array of watersports with free instruction on large on-site beaches and free-form pools; tennis, aerobics, volleyball and other sports activities; daily classes and activities; nightly entertainment in a selection of bars and discotheques; plus on- site shopping arcades. Guests of Club St. Lucia are also entitled to complimentary use of the renowned St. Lucia Racquet Club, located on the resort's grounds. Guests of Club Antigua can enjoy use of a mini casino featuring three Black Jack tables, a Roulette table and 50 slot machines. Both hotels also offer a daily professionally-supervised kid's program plus free organized evening activities for teenagers and private babysitting services (for an additional fee). Affordable on- site wedding and honeymoon packages are also available at both hotels.
For more information, see your travel agent, or call Clubs International at (800)777-1250; (212) 251-1709 in New York State.
CLUB ST. LUCIA 1996 RATE INFORMATION
The all-inclusive rack rates (cost per room) per day are as follows:
DEC. 19, 1995-APRIL 16, 1996 Standard A (ceiling fan) $227-double share $114-single Standard B (air condition) $253-double share $127-single Family Room $280-double share $140-single Oceanview $307-double share $154-single APRIL 17-DEC. 23, 1996 Standard A (ceiling fan) $200-double share $100-single Standard B (air condition) $226-double share $113-single Family Room $253-double share $127-single Oceanview $280-double share $140-single CLUB ANTIGUA 1996 RATE INFORMATION The all-inclusive rack rates (cost per room) per day are as follows: DEC. 19, 1995- DEC. 23, 1996 Minimum with Fan $187-double share $94-single Minimum with A/C $200-double share $100-single Standard A (ceiling fan) $213-double share $106-single Standard B (air condition) $226-double share $113-single Family Room $280-double share $140-single
Cost at both hotels includes daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, all beverages (including alcohol), free daily children's programs and all sports and recreational activities (including use of beaches and swimming pools, watersports, tennis, aerobics, plus a variety of classes). One child under 12 can stay free in a standard room; two children can stay free in a family room (with two paying adults). Triple-share rates available.
2/ JOURNEYS FOR MARCH 1996
ANGUILLA BY MAUREEN SULLIVAN
We just returned from a WONDERFUL 9 days on Anguilla. We are now converted Anguilla lovers (thanks to all of your reports, we chose this wonderful island). The first thing I want to say is that we have never been there before, so we cannot give comparisons since the hurricane. We flew into St. Maarten and took a cab from the airport to Marigot and then the ferry to Blowing Point. It was $10 for the cab and $20 ($10 per person) for the ferry. There was also a $2 pp departure tax from St. Maarten. The ferry ride was about 20 minutes long and was filled with native Anguillans so we already started making friends and talking to everyone. We took a taxi from the ferry pier to our rental villa, which was located at Corito Point ($10). We had rented a car from Island car rental. They had left the car parked with the keys in it at our villa with a note to stop by later in the week to do the paper work. Our villa was wonderful, in a beautiful place, and very well-equipped. We unpacked and went to the grocery store to stock up on the essentials like coffee, wine, etc.
During the 9 days, we never shut the door on the villa, either while we were sleeping or while we were out. We constantly picked up people to give them rides. We never even took the keys out of the car. I can't believe that in 1996 we lived like this.
The people are wonderful and friendly. They try to help in any way they can. Of course, when you ask directions, they say turn right at the big tree or turn left at the upstairs house. There are only 6 lights on the entire island and none of the streets have names.
The beaches are beautiful. We spent time on: Meads Bay, Rendezvous Bay, East Shoal Bay, West Shoal Bay, and Cinnamon Bay. Our one disappointment was that the snorkeling was lousy. It was VERY windy. The Anguillans said it has been that windy a lot since the hurricane. The people in the villa next-door to us had spent two weeks there last year and said there was not one day near that windy.
We ate breakfast at The Olde House--the fresh laid eggs were wonderful as were the banana pancakes. $15.00 for 2.
We ate lunch at Ernie's and loved the burgers and ribs-about $15.00 for two with beer and rum punch.
Each dinner we ate out was wonderful. The Olde House was great-- had fresh conch. About $60.00 for two. Cyril's Fish House on Isl. Harbor was great and worth the trip. I had garlic crusted red snapper Jim had blackened Grouper. About *80.00 for two with tip and drinks. The Ferry Boat Inn is near the ferry and was wonderful. I had Caribbean Lobster and Jim had Red Snapper. About $80.00 for two with tip and wine. We also had a WONDERFUL dinner at the Palm Coast at the Cinnamon Reef Hotel. The food was Fantastic and beautifully presented. About $120 for two with wine. The other nights we bought fresh fish from The Fishery, which is up the road on the left from the Vista Market and cooked on the grill at the villa. BTW we did our grocery shopping at the new IGA Market in the Valley.
We noticed a lot of palm trees missing their tops, and several building having their second floors worked on. But we didn't feel that the island is not ready for tourists. They were without electricity for 5 weeks in October. But their spirit is so great and they are the friendliest people we have ever met. We also tried "rotis" one day for lunch...chicken and potatoes cooked in a curry sauce and rolled in a tortilla-like dough and baked. GREAT! I hope that gives you an idea. Thanks for all the input which made us go to Anguilla. We cannot wait to go back. If anyone has any specific questions, I will try to answer. Back in gray, cold, and rainy Maryland is the pits.
P.S. Waited too long to get reservations at Blanchard's...reputed to be BEST restaurant on island...plan ahead!
ANGUILLA BY MIKE DEUPREE
Just got back from 10 days on Anguilla.
It was our 11th visit, and we noticed some effects from Luis, but if you had never been there before, you probably wouldn't suspect anything much had happened. Some areas, like Cocolobo and Cap Juluca, are still not up to speed. In general, though, if anybody tells you that because of hurricane damage you should go somewhere other than Anguilla, pay no attention.
The job done by the local people is incredible when you look at photographs taken immediately after the storm.
To us, the main thing different this time was that some things were visible that had not been visible before because of vegetation. For example, from Sandy Ground you can see much more of the development on the hill and along the road at the top of the hill.
Some of the beaches were not as nice as before. Rendezvous, especially, is still terrific but shorter than it was in the past. No longer can you walk it all the way to Cap Juluca.
On the other hand, some beaches are nicer. And the hurricane may actually have helped the situation at Ferryboat Inn. View from the restaurant is stunning, and there's a nice white sand beach. If you haven't been there, give it a try. John and Marjorie run a very nice little place.
Arlo's is closed, but supposed to reopen soon. It was one of several establishments that changed hands just a few weeks before being devastated.
Smitty has moved into a large two-story building just a few yards down the beach from his former shack, and he hasn't raised his prices ($15 for crayfish, $20 for lobster). We didn't go to Scilly Cay, but the operation there is in full swing and looked more extensive than before.
Seas were fairly high and rough during our visit, water wasn't very clear. It was a little windier and a little cooler at night than we remembered, but not significantly so.
American Eagle is running only two flights each way from San Juan this year, except on weekends when a third is available. W
We stayed at Seahorse on the Blowing Point end of Rendezvous Bay. Ronni has done a fabulous job recovering from a lot of damage. A couple of trees gone, also the barbecue pit, and the beach directly in front of the unit is too rocky to use. But another section of beach adjacent to it -- where the ``Minnow'' used to rest -- is fine.
ARUBA BY ALFORD LESSNER
We just got back from our week at Costa Linda and are ready to go back.
First of all: DING DONG, THE RUST ROYAL'S GONE. We watched as the last of the Rusty Royal came down this last week. There is nothing showing now above the rubble. So you have the t/s that Divi took over and then empty space. We watched as every day the remainder came down piece by piece.
Well our flight on Air Aruba out of Newark was terrific. It left on time and arrived on time. Waited at the airport for our friends to arrive on AA from Boston via Miami. The airport was literally a zoo. The flight from Miami came in followed immediately by the flight from San Juan and on top of that one was the KLM flight from Amsterdam. It poured all of those people into the airport at the same time. Friends of ours that have t/s at Playa Linda had to wait an hour and a half for their luggage. Real chaos. Our friends on the Miami flight, flew FC (advantage miles) so they were first off the plane, then had to wait 45 minutes for their luggage. While we were waiting went over to Thrify to pitch up our car. What a mess that was. Only one gal to handle the contracts, bring the car around and take the returns. Plus she did not have anyone's reservations on her list. After about twenty minutes of this nonsense, and watching her give everybody a hard time, I walked over to National, who have always used. Got an air-conditioned, automatic Toyota Tercel for $235 for the week. My Thrifty reservation was for the same car at $204, but the aggravation wasn't worth it, and the guy at National who is there every year dated my contract ahead so I could bring the car back at 4:30PM instead of 3:00 without a penalty. Definitely worth it.
Well, our friends finally got there luggage and we were off to Costa Linda. Everything was smooth getting ourselves settled in. Great people, great place.
We set out for Valentino's the first night (Friday). Got a reservation for 7 PM (only time we could get) so we took it. Food was good, not great as before, and the prices were higher than before. I think they raised them slightly. However, found out later that the chef they had is now at La Trattoria Fero Blanco at the lighthouse. Could not get a reservation before 9 PM all week. Big disappointment, because we did want to go there.
However, we did go to Papiamento with a whole big group, our friends from ABC and PL, and it was excellent. They gave us a nice big table outside. A little slow on the service, BUT who cares.
Also ate at El Gaucho, had Gaucho steaks, great as usual. Brought the leftovers back. Also ate at the Sun Club at Costa Linda, which is very good. Excellent chef. Supervises the kitchen for the Sun Club, and the pool restaurant which is great. Jean, he's a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park. CIA = Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Had dinner Tuesday night at Chez Mathilde, outstanding as usual. Also had dinner at the Ventanas del Mar at the new Tiera del Sol Golf Course club house. Excellent. Also now if you are a member of a Sun Development resort, they give you a white plastic card that is good for 10% off any of the restaurants at any of the other Sun properties AND La Trattoria Fero Blanco at the Lighthouse. Last night there ate at the Ruinas del Mar at the Hyatt and sat out on the terrace overlooking the pool with the black swans.
And last but not least, we disliked the place so much we bought another week at Costa Linda. We now have weeks two and three there and can't wait to go back. But we did get a bonus week, so we will get back again before January for a week. Not too many left for high season. They are about 65% sold for the year right now. We were lucky and got one three that were left for week two. Luckily the unit is two doors away from our current unit. They have a big board showing what's available, and it gets less and less every year.
Also met a lot of first timers, who couldn't believe the island. Sat at a Blackjack table with a guy who said he'd been to every island in the Caribbean, but Aruba and that this was his first trip, and definitely not his last.
Speaking of the casinos My wife honored all the slots with a donation. First time in the last three years she came home broke. I started out with a bang. First two nights, about $150 ahead. Then it was downhill from there. But a lot of fun. A worthy donation.
ARUBA BY MAIDA WEBSTER
We just returned from our first trip to Aruba, stayed at the Hyatt and thought I'd share a few impressions after getting so much help here!
Had a most wonderful week - I don't think I've ever been so COMFORTABLE in terms of weather on any Caribbean vacation before. The wind makes it perfect - no humidity so you're never uncomfortable. I kept thinking we must have lucked out in terms of temp, but people around us kept saying it's almost always like this.
The Hyatt was beautiful - we did look inside the lobby, etc. of the Marriott and it also was lovely looking, but I didn't get to see their rooms.
Restaurant thoughts -
Papimento was romantic and wonderful, as everyone suggested. We also really liked the restaurant at the Lighthouse, wonderful view and ambiance.
The first night we arrived we were tired, and thought we'd just eat at the hotel. Wandered down early, and tried Ole and asked to sit outside. Well they took us to this amazing little table for 2 (the only one they have outside) where you are surrounded by the waterfall, fish, swans, etc. One of the prettiest and most unusual sites we've ever eaten. (A word of caution, the paella was NOT good, but the Sangria was perfect!) If you want an interesting and pretty and completely intimate table for 2, call or go early and ask for it!
Snorkling - As some of you may remember, I asked many questions because I love snorkling, but have asthma and am nervous about getting into difficult situations. We went first to baby beach, which strangely turned out to be the least workable. It was probably just horribly windy that day, but there were NO fish inside the lagoon, as the water and wind were rough, so you had to go outside the inlet where the few hardy souls there said it was too frightening due to the high crashing waves. I think we just ended up there on the wrong day.
A note of caution however. As we were leaving, we were flagged down by an older man and his kids in their 20's, who had rented a jeep. Apparently the jeep can't lock, so they had taken their bag of belonging, stashed it under a treed when they went in briefly swimming, and when they returned it had been stolen with all their keys, belongings, etc. Needless to say they were most unhappy. Word to the wise....
Next day we went to De Palm Island, which was PERFECT! I've never seen such a variety of enormous beautiful fish in such calm, easy water. Was a terrific experience. We had a car for a few days, so just took their ferry. It leaves every half-hour, cost $6.00 each roundtrip which included a drink (or for $12 you also could get lunch), and access to the best snorkling we found. A great way to spend an afternoon - we highly recommend it.
Lastly we went on the Red Sail 4 hour snorkling day, which included 3 stops. It also turned out to be a little rougher than expected, but the catamaran was terrific. Interestingly, I saw MORE fish on their first stop than anywhere else, but not as pretty a variety as De Palm
We went nightly to casinos, and I ended up with small winnings nightly which kept me going back for more! Much fun.Favorite casinos were LaCabana and Hyatt. Lastly, we did go to the Jewel Box Revue. Was funnier than I expected - female impersonators with great humor. The best was the Joan Rivers character, hysterical!
Anyway, hope this is of some interest. Many, many thanks for all your suggestions. I would definitely return again (maybe next week!!!)
BELIZE BY HARRY S. PARISER
(Ed Note: The following information is extracted from the Third Edition of The Adventure Guide To Belize by Harry S. Pariser. Copyright 1995, Hunter Publishing.)
For more information about The Adventure Guide to Belize contact Harry S. Pariser at (415) 665-4829 or write 1327 9th Av., No. 1, San Francisco, CA 94122. Or e-mail email@example.com All rights reserved in this feature. Also Harry informs the CTR that he now has a WWW site so you can sample an extensive array of his output. Check out: http://www.Catch22.COM/~vudu/ for more material. )
Three alternatives for staying with the Maya (and near the villages) in Southern Belize.
Village Guesthouse Program
One way to explore the area is with the Village Guesthouse Program designed by the Toledo Ecotourism Association Village Guesthouse Ecotrail Program. Lodges have been built in Laguna, San Pedro Columbia, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and San Miguel. The basic lodges are generally thatched with cohune palm, and there are eight bunk beds in each; men and women are segregated, and the charge is BZ$16. Bathrooms are detached. Each meal--all with different Maya families--costs BZ$6. Tours of local attractions are BZ$5 ph. Musical performances are also available. Access to the villages is either by local transportation or by charter.
Many visitors to Belize maintain that a stay in the village was the highlight of their trip. For information and reservations contact TEA, Box 75, Punta Gorda, or call 07-22119. While in PG, stop by Nature's Way and chat with Chet. Be sure to give him (or mail him) the evaluation program so that the program may be monitored. sights and attractions:
Laguna offers a cave with pictographs and another with bats, a swamp with great birding, and hiking. Santa Cruz has a park (the Ro Blanco), waterfalls and pools, as well as nearby Uxbenka ruins. At San Pedro Columbia, you can visit Lubaantun, ride in a canoe, and visit old cacao groves. San Miguel offers visits to caves, hikes to Lubaantun, and river canoeing. The most remote of the Maya villages participating, San Jose may only be reached by horse or on foot at times; it offers hiking.
The Indigenous Experience
This innovative project is the brainchild of the Villorias and is an attempt to facilitate contact and cultural exchange between locals and outsiders. For a BZ$10 fee they connect you with a Maya family homestay. You can stay with a family, share a lunch or dinner of pumpkin stew and corn tortillas or a breakfast of eggs and tortillas. As there are no special facilities or tourist amenities offered, nor is there any privacy, it's not for everyone. You'll bathe by moonlight in the cool river, stoop on the outhouse and use a corncob to clean yourself (if you wish), watch tortillas being shaped by hand, sleep in a hammock in the same room with the kids, and generally experience life in a similar fashion to the way it's lived by billions all over the world. If you wish you can have a "hands on experience" such as picking corn in the fields, harvesting coffee and cacao beans, threshing rice stalks, or chopping firewood--all of the innumerable activities that make up a sustainable subsistence lifestyle. But there's one typical "Third World" experience you won't have--being kept awake all night fending off mosquitoes: there are none. Rates (of which all the money provides badly needed income for the family) are BZ$10 for a hammock and BZ$4 for each meal. For more information contact the Villorias at PO Box 73, Punta Gorda and enclose US$3 to help defray duplicating costs. If you're already in PG, visit their offices by the ferry pier (under "services" above). Again, remember to fill out the evaluation forms. If you have complaints and/or suggestions, be sure to let them know.
Translating as "Place of the Fallen Stones"--which is the modern but not the original name--this is the foremost Maya archaeological site in the nation's S. A major Late Classic ceremonial center, the site sits poised on a tall ridge near San Pedro Columbia which the Mayans leveled off--building up to form a roughly rectangular shape, about 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, featuring square courts surrounded by pyramids once topped off by thatch buildings. Constructed upon a core of rocks, smaller stones, and layers of earth, the structures were faced with hard crystalline limestone blocks which resembled marble when viewed from a distance. What makes the site unusual is that there are no stone buildings set on platforms or pyramids, very little stone sculpture, and no stelae. It is thought that decoration was done in wood. From its highest structure you can just barely see the Caribbean more than 19 mi. away. layout: Its five main plazas include 11 major structures grouped around five main plazas and three ball courts. Lubaantun differs from other Mayan sites in a number of ways. For example, other than ball court markers, there are no stelae or sculpted monuments, and the entire site is essentially one temple complex. Unlike other Maya temples, no mortar is used. Rather than leveling off the site, the Maya systematically shaped and added fill to the slopes, and the tallest structure rises to 40 ft. The site is crumbling badly in the aftermath too many visitors scampering to the top for a view. There isn't much to see here, but the serenity and ambience--augmented by the whir of cicadas and the crisp crackles of birds and the haunting rattle of a boring woodpecker--is wonderful. Keel-billed toucans and brocket deer frequently visit the ruins late in the afternoon. getting here: To get here, make the first R after the village church, then proceed down the clay and gravel road, turning L when you see the sign--about 20 min. from the village in all.
Lubaantun apparently was occupied only briefly near the end of the Classic Period between 730-890 AD. It is believed that cacao was used to trade for the imported objects (jade, obsidian, and lava) found at the site--a thesis which the excavation of a ceramic musician wearing a cacao-pod pendant in 1970 supports. The site first came to attention when it was uncovered by members of the Toledo settlement in 1875, and it was first excavated by Thomas Gann in 1903. Harvard University's R. E. Merwin visited the site in 1915. Taking the first photos, he spirited away three carved ball court markers (each depicting two men playing the game) to Harvard's Peabody Museum. Another of the men who worked here was the famous archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson in 1926-27 under the sponsorship of the British Museum. As Pusilha, 30 mi. to the SW, seemed to be more interesting, the British Museum expedition virtually abandoned this site during the late 1920s.
In 1970 a group of Cambridge archaeologists and geologists under the leadership of Norman Hammond continued to excavate the site, finding it to be larger than originally thought--a suprising discovery in light of the fact that it was in use only from approximately AD 700-889 or possibly as short a time as AD 730- 750. Although the stone was quarried locally, smaller objects such as blades and axes where imported. Some stone carvings have been found on ballcourt markers and on walls. the crystal skull: The site's most controversial find is a crystal skull unearthed by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, daughter of expedition leader and Atantis researcher FA Mitchell Hedges. Coincidentally or not, she found the skull on her 17th birthday. Its origins are uncertain, but all agree is a remarkable piece of work. A similar skull is found in the Musee de l'Homme in Paris. Today the crystal skull abides with Anna in Ontario, Canada. For a rather zany view of the crystal skull, written by "New Age" folk in Marin County, CA , read The Message of the Crystal Skull.
Note that it has Lubaantun situated incorrectly on its Belize map! practicalities: The site is open 8-5. The caretaker may or may not be present to collect admission. In terms of ambiance, the best times to visit are definitely dawn and dusk. There's nowhere to stay, but it should be no problem to camp. Or you can stay in San Pedro as part of "the Indigenous Experience" or at the Village Guesthouse which will afford you a bit more privacy (see above). You can ask the caretaker to ferry you back to San Pedro in a dory; tip him a couple of dollars.
Fallen Stones Butterfly Ranch:
A roller coaster of a road leads up about a mile from the entrance to Lubaantun ruins to Toledo's most remarkable lodge, one notable for its views, wildlife, and overall tasteful ambiance. It is the product of one man's vision.
fauna: Right around the vicinity of the farm you can see magnificent blue morpho butterflies and the lesser-known but nonetheless spectacular white morpho resides some four mi. away. There are also three species of owl butterfly as well as a number of heliconids. All three of Belize's toucan species are here as are hummingbirds and other flying wonders. You might see an agouti come right up on the property feasting on coconut chunks, and jaguar tracks may be seen on nearby trails. There're also a couple of nests of the stingless Maya bees which each produce about a pound of honey per year.
the butterfly farm: Outside visitors may pay BZ$3 to visit the butterfly farm. Owner Ray Halberd been interested in butterflies since he was eight, but his employment in tropical agriculture kept him busy over the decades and it is only in recent years that his long-held dream of operating a butterfly farm has come to pass. Ray operated a butterfly farm in the Philippines (on the island of Panai in Iloilo City) for 2.5 yrs. until one day when seven gunmen showed up with the intention of kidnapping him for ransom. Luckily, he was not on the farm that day. After that "I wasn't very keen to go back and stay there". The kidnappers were eventually apprehended: "One was shot dead while resisting arrest, and the others are languishing in jail".
There are two rooms filled with eight different species of butterflies. As the butterflies have a tiled roof over their heads while Ray himself lives under a thatched roof, his workers consider him to be "a bit deranged." The farm's highlight are its blue morphos who live only about 12 days but spend their days filling the world with color. There will be some 4-5,000 blue morpho caterpillars in total when the farm is fully operational. The eggs resemble little drops of water. As it's difficult to tell the dew drops apart from the eggs in the morning, it's probably a technique used for camouflage purposes. every butterfly has a different colored pupae; some are jade green. You might see a newly-hatched one hanging on its pupae. You'll note that the resting blue morphos resemble the owl butterflies except that the eye is not so large. In flight it goes from something expertly camouflaged to something frighteningly bright. Each of the passion flowers found inside the enclosures caters to a different species--sort of like jocks choosing their brand of beer. Another serves as a processing area where the pupae are fed.
When the farm will be full operating, 600 pupae of 35 species will be exported to Europe and the US every week which should bring in a BZ$3,000 gross. However, the process is extremely labor intensive, and the pupae must be transported by courier, so this cuts down on the profitability. The lodge is intended to help support the butterfly ranch. Ray's intent is to turn the area around the lodge into a breeding ground for butterflies through clearing an area for them and by enriching the natural vegetation with food and nectar plant sources.
practicalities: The cabins are a combination of Kekch and European-design elements. You can sit on your porch and view the Columbia and Maya Mountain reserves: only a vast expanse of jungle stands between you and San Ignacio. There are seven rooms in all; some can accommodate up to four. Solar power provides light and operates a fan, and shower water is heated via individual heaters. Food is highly imaginative and suprisingly well prepared; vegetarians can be catered to. Meals are loosely based on Maya cooking, but an international dish (such as a West African peanut stew) is served for Sun. lunch which attracts a wide variety of outside visitors as well. Repasts are served in the Chiclero's Restaurant and Bar as well as the open-air Columbia View Restaurant which commands a view of the village of the same name. Room rates are around BZ$130 s, BZ$155 d, BZ$180 t, and BZ$205 quad, and meals cost BZ$12 for breakfast, BZ$16 for lunch, and BZ$30 for dinner. BZ$100 OW is charged for transport to or from PG for one to three. For more information write Box 23, Punta Gorda. In PG itself contact Alistair King (07-2126, 07-2104) at the Texaco Station at the N edge of town.
BONAIRE BY JOHN BLOXOM
My wife and I have just returned from a week's vacation on Bonaire and thought that we would share our experience there for those who may be interested.
We chose Bonaire after reviewing the many Web pages that address the so- called "ABC" islands. At the time of our departure there were about 50 or so pages which responded to the query "Bonaire" in any of a variety of search engines. One such page was the home page of the Harbour Village Resort, and it was the content of that home page that led us to chose that resort for our stay. The Web pages available on Bonaire are excellent, and we would recommend that anyone interested in visiting the island consult them.
We booked our trip through Air Aruba and its agent, Travel Impressions, for Sunday to Sunday stay (the package having been located on one or another of the Bonaire Web pages). Our flight down was direct out of Baltimore- Washington International Airport and took about 3 and one-half hours to Aruba with a short lay-over there and a final, 25 minute flight to Bonaire. The flight back was Bonaire to Aruba, Aruba to Newark, New Jersey, and Newark to BWI. The only problem with the return flight was that on the last leg, it was very hard to de-plane into freezing temperatures knowing that in 10 minutes, the plane would be back in the air bound for Aruba.
For those who may not be familiar with Bonaire, it is a desert, somewhat hilly island located about 50 miles north of Venezuela and 30 or so miles east of Curacao. The island is oriented generally southeast to northwest with elevations at the southeastern tip being just a few feet above sea level and peaking at the northwestern tip at 784 feet.
The southern end of the island is dominated by a large inland lake and associated saltworks. These areas are fringed by a perimeter road which runs along a narrow strip of land separating the saltworks and lake from the ocean. There is only sparse building in this area.
On the leeward side, there are 30 or so shore diving sites, a couple of dwellings, and two areas of slave huts dating from the early 19th century. On the windward side, apart from a very rough broken coral beach and a lighthouse (about 100 or so feet tall, and affording an excellent view of the southern end of the island) there isn't a lot to see.
As one moves up the coastline on the windward side of the island, almost adjacent to the saltworks is Lac Bay, a shallow, sandy-bottom, windswept bay that is home to the Sorobon Beach Resort, a clothing optional resort property, and Jibe City, a windsurfing facility. Beyond that the island rises, and the coast is dominated by barren, windswept, rocky plains that stop abruptly with vertical drops (50 or so feet) into the turbulent sea.
Wind-driven waves constantly pound the rock cliffs which form the shoreline of this area, and the trade winds waft the resulting salt spray several hundreds of yards inland, scouring out topsoil and salt-poisoning what little is left behind. The result is a stretch of waste a few hundred yards in width on which nothing is built and nothing grows. This waste gradually yields to the cacti, bushes and other plants that form the flora of the desert.
The northern side of the island is dominated by the Washington- Slagbaai National Park, a must-see area on the island. The park comprises about 13,500 acres of undeveloped, beautiful, hilly land and rocky shore line. Rather than further describe the park here, I suggest that you check out the materials on it that are available on the Web.
I will mention, however, that at Playa Funchi there is a very amicable colony of lizards, including several iguana measuring into the multiple foot range, which a resident near the trash receptacle and which have grown accustomed to being fed by the divers who frequent the nearby beach. As one approaches the area, they come out of the bushes and approach looking for handouts (to the considerable distress of those who are not expecting their appearance). If one sits on the ground there, as I did, several dozen of the smaller specimens will scamper onto one's lap so as to gain the advantage of elevation in the ensuing contest for food. They like crackers, so it's a good idea to bring some along.
Bordering the park on the west is a large tank farm for petroleum products. Moving down the leeward side of the island from there is a large undeveloped, beautiful area with numerous shore diving spots. South of that, opposite of Klein Bonaire, more intense development begins, and a bit south of that is the capitol, Kralendijk, also the main harbor for the island. This city is perhaps ten blocks in length and, at its widest, perhaps six blocks in width. Since cruise ships call here, there are numerous small tourist shops of the usual kind and many restaurants.
The island has a very safe and friendly feel about it. At no time did we feel at all threatened or ill at ease.
The Harbour Village resort is situated opposite Klein Bonaire a mile or so north of Kralendijk on a peninsula bounded on one side by a yacht harbor and on the other by open water. Although the property comprises four acres or so, there are only 72 guests rooms. The result is a relaxed, very uncrowded atmosphere that is a welcome relief from the usual high-density approach of newer resort properties.
The buildings housing the guest rooms generally are aligned with the narrow peninsula with rooms fronting on the yacht harbor and the beach (on the outside) and on an interior courtyard (on the inside). Their construction, as with all of the buildings on the property, is a pumpkin colored stucco nicely finished with wood trim, white and green architectural details and surrounded by copious plantings. The entire property is meticulously maintained.
At the end of the peninsula (where the entrance channel for the yacht harbor and the beach meet) is an open air cocktail lounge and restaurant at which lunches are served. From there the beach, ample in width and planted with palms sufficient to provide sanctuary from the sun, runs a hundred or so yards to the boat livery (sunfish, one-design day sailors and kayaks) and dive shop operations.
The primary restaurant, Kasa Coral, is located near the base of the peninsula and on each of the standards of food, atmosphere and service, it was easily the best restaurant on the island at which we dined.
Our room overlooked the beach. It was large, floored with white tile, air conditioned, very nicely furnished and opened onto a large balcony.
The health club and exercise facilities were stunningly large, well-equipped and overstaffed.
In all, the Harbour Village is as fine a property as any at which we have stayed in the Caribbean. We would recommend it to anyone who wishes to enjoy a relaxing, pampered vacation in a beautiful, first class establishment.
So far as activities go, Bonaire is a very quiet place. Diving, of course, is the main attraction. Although I free dive, due to an injury sustained years I cannot take compressed air, and so I cannot offer any meaningful comments on the overall quality of diving the island. I did explore six or so sites to a depth of about 50 feet, and it was very enjoyable. I would not compare the experience to free diving the Caymans, but I would say that it was close on to that standard.
We dined at several restaurants on the island and can recommend a few of them as follows: as mentioned above, Kasa Coral, at Harbour Village, a first class gourmet experience; Richards, a very high quality waterfront dining experience; and the Green Parrot (at the Sand Dollar), a mid-range, casual restaurant, reasonably good food with tables overlooking the water (but a bit noisy and crowded). We dined at several other establishments which while good, are not worth mentioning We would recommend against Zeezicht.
We are hopeful that others will find these thoughts helpful in planning a visit to this very pleasant island.
BVI: TORTOLA BY DONNA SIEFERT
Just got back from a 12 day vacation-3 days on Tortola. Have been to other islands of BVI/USVI but this was our first stay on Tortola.
Here are some of our impressions in the hopes they may be of help/interest to other first timers-
First off, though, I want to thank all those who contribute to the BB under this subject-accrued a lot of hints from all of you first-hand experts.
Tortola is an island I would like to visit again-just having 3 days-didn't have time to cover all ground, beach, surf, whatever. I guess that statement in itself is something of an endorsement.
Highlights for us include-visiting Sage Mtn. by horseback-views on the way were GREAT. Once in the cloudforest we dismounted and hiked around. After returning to Shadows Stables we walked up to Skyworld, it was drizzling.
We stepped in the door and torrential rains began. So much for the view-you couldn't see 20 ft-but lunch was decent.
Our favorite meal, though, was at Mrs. Scatliffes. Food, service, entertainment-all excellent. What a delightful change compared to resort food, karaoke "entertainment" offered other places, other islands.
For architectural wonders, Bombas and Smugglers Cove restaurant and hotel were standouts.
Bit of a disappointment-our daysail to Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, etc., was canceled due to big swells, iffy weather forecast. We were disappointed but it gave us more time to enjoy Smugglers Cove.
Stayed at Long Bay Beach Resort-had an ocean front unit. Nice decor and spacious, worked well for us. Their restaurant though, left much to be desired in the food and service depts. We only ate there because it was so late upon our arrival, and we were so tired, it was convenient-but that's all.
Sensorial memories of Tortola to tuck away and retrieve on cold and /or stressful day-listening to roosters crow w/ the sounds of the surf ever present in the background, seeing the beautiful views from higher elevations, watching the surfers at Apple Bay, Tasting the yummiest conch fritters at Sebastians, feeling the refreshing waves wash all winter blahs away-AAHHH
Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of our Tortola trip were the road conditions-Disney was never like this. We Loved the ride esp. on windy hill after the big rain. Lotsa squealing going on (of the tires, that is) We left the driving to the "experts" so we could enjoy the ride
CAYMAN ISLAND BY TOM TESS
Just got back from Grand Cayman a few hours ago. I thought that I would get this out while it is still fresh in my mind. This was our third trip to Grand Cayman but the first time that we stayed on Seven Mile Beach. The weather was sort of off normal. We had three days of rain in a row at the beginning of the trip. Fortunately we were at a seminar so if it had to rain, that was the best time. We had one other rainy day in the ten days we were there. We used that one to go shopping in Georgetown.
We spent three days at the Hyatt. Friendly people, excellent service, beautiful grounds. The hotel is aging as gracefully as one could expect in the tropics. There was some blackening around the air conditioning vents, some of the patio door hardware did not work, etc. but other than that it was in good shape. Cost, well that was another issue. Our room was a pleasant third floor unit with a garden view, ordinary in size but nicely furnished. The seminar rate was $220 per night plus a $22 room tax and plus a $22 room "gratuity"...and that was the good news. The bad news was that those numbers are in CI dollars and that converts to a pricey $330US for a hotel room.
If you haven't been to the Caymans you will have to get used to the currency conversion. US dollars are worth 80 cents CI and conversely CI dollars are worth 1.25US. Here is an example: Say you take a cab from the airport to your hotel. The fare is $12CI. You give the driver $20US. You know that $12CI = $15US so you expect $5US change, right? Wrong. They always give you change in CI dollars. You will get $4CI back. It doesn't matter much for something as small as a cab fare but you will want to understand it when you are settling up your $350 car rental.
We walked down seven mile beach from the Hyatt's Beach Club to the new Westin. The Westin's beach area is expansive when compared to the Hyatt's (which is on the other side of West Bay Road from the hotel). The Westin was full so we were unable to see a room. The front of the hotel is impressive, as is the lobby area, restaurants and pool area. Prices for food and drinks were comparable to the Hyatt, dinner entres in the $18 to $25CI range.
By the way, room service at the Hyatt for a full breakfast was $13CI. Not bad for a luxury hotel in the Caribbean but I would not want to feed a family that way for a week or two. Service was always within 15 minutes and the food was great. Back to the Westin, I wonder if the architecture will age as well as the classic colonial style of the Hyatt.
Georgetown and seven mile beach have changed since our last visit...there are more shops, restaurants, hotels and condos. Making a right turn on West Bay Road (remember you drive on the left here) can turn into a five minute ordeal. If you want to cross West Bay Road on foot, bring your track shoes. It is busy, noisy, lots of teenagers with cool cars and stereos cranked...not quite our idea of a vacation.
After three days at the Hyatt we switched to a villa at Cayman Kai on the north side of the island. For the same price per night we had a two bedroom home with a full kitchen, living and dining areas and a big screened porch... right on the beach. The beach was practically deserted compared to the shoulder to shoulder crowds at the Hyatt, Westin and Holiday Inn beaches.
The CICPI (Cayman Island Consumer Price Index) is better on the northside. The CICPI is made up of a marketbasket of goods...in this case two cheeseburgers and two Red Stripes. Hemingways at the Hyatt was $32CI, Rum Point was $23CI and the Kaibo was $18CI. Rum Point has been overhauled by the Hyatt, connected by a ferry, and billed as their second beach club. They retained the turquoise picnic tables although now there are 30 or 40 of them. The bar, grill, restaurant, gift shop and dive shop are all in nice new buildings. The boardwalk is made out of plastic lumber.
The concrete pier looks as good as a 400 foot scar on a beautiful beach could look. The whole place reminded me a bit of Disney World but it could have been much worse. They require reservations for the restaurant. Reservations at Rum Point! Incredible! For those people in search of nostalgia, the Kaibo is like the Rum Point of old. It is a mile or so down the road, smaller, casual, fun, better food and lower prices. If eating out every night is not your thing, here is a representative list of grocery items and costs in US$:
Romaine lettuce $1.49 Special K Cereal 7oz $3.11 Lays Pot Chips 6oz 2.99 Loaf Bread 2.36 6Pack Tonic Water 4.49 1/2 gal Orange juice 3.74 Decaf coffee 7.16 Promise (two tubs) 2.19
We purchased everything at Fosters. Big selection, everything you want and some strange stuff I am sure you do not want! (Do people really eat parrot fish?) Kirk is supposed to have a better selection of international items. Chisolms on the north side is like a convenience store with slightly higher prices but it does save the 40 minute trip back to Georgetown.
One of the big advantages to Grand Cayman has always been the friendliness of the people. I noticed a change that I suppose was inevitable. Most of the service jobs are now held by Jamaicans, English, Irish, etc. Same thing in the building trades. Native Caymanians can get better jobs at the banks. I know that is good for them but I really miss seeing more of some of the friendliest people on earth. Georgetown really isn't south of the tension line any longer. The one or two daily cruise ships overpower the towns capacity. Clerks are stressed out. Best place to view the mayhem is from the open air second floor of the Island Tastes bar and restaurant. If the crowds are here to stay, it would be nice if the government would develop West Bay road as a nicely landscaped four lane boulevard with occasional traffic lights to ease turning and crossing.
Grand Cayman may not be perfect. It certainly is expensive. However it still is the best island destination we have found in our 20+ years of traveling the Caribbean