Grace’s field notes from the Caribbean

From Jumby Bay to St Barts

Grace – from our London team – spent a week undertaking some in-depth field research in the Caribbean. Below are some highlights and reflections from her travels around – and through – the glistening vibrant waters of Jumby Bay and St Barts. Two tropical oases, one blissful trip.
An essential bit of research, this was another chance for us to ensure that each of our luxury travel experiences is tried, tested, and loved by us – and (subsequently) you. So, let’s dive straight in.

Over to you, Grace.

jumby bay beach

The arrival

A typical journey to a private island paradise usually involves a jumble of flight changes and long boat rides over open waters. But not this one. After just a ten minute boat ride off Antigua’s north east coast, we’re pulling up at the jetty. We’ve arrived. Walking along the wooden panelled walkway lined with flickering lanterns, I cast my gaze across a dusk-lit resort. This is Jumby Bay.

As I’m shown my beachside suite, I can barely contain my excitement. Vibrant puffin prints, white and dark pink orchids, chic and spacious rooms. Heaven. Resembling a Swedish beach house, shell and wooden ornaments decorate each space, while hanging canvases of bright acrylic reflect the vivid blues of the ocean. It’s beautiful. And I’m very happy that I get to call it mine – for the next few days at least.

Waking up early the next morning to warm sunlight, I stroll straight out onto pristine white sands. Between Bahia thatched roof huts and lush clusters of sea grapes, some snowy white egrets take flight across a setting of swinging hammocks, waving palm trees, and calming ocean waters. This is the life.

turtle caribbean
caribbean snorkelling

A world of wildlife

We make our way down to the jetty. A boat bobs gently on the water, awaiting our arrival. From Jumby Bay, we sail out on the open sea, towards Great Bird Island. Passing mangrove forests and rocky islets, it’s unsurprising – yet still spectacular – to see so many birds in one place. Red-billed tropicbirds soar overhead, their long tail feathers streaming behind them as they go, while West Indian whistling ducks peak out from behind leafy mangroves and brown pelicans dive into clear waters on the hunt for fish.

For another perspective on this protected oasis, we jump into the calm Caribbean Sea in search of sting rays and Hawksbill turtles. We’re not disappointed. It’s not long before we’re floating side by side with these gentle creatures who pay us little mind as they glide on by through this blue planet they call home. A tranquil haven of sunlit shallows and rainbow-hued reefs. And in our case, made all the more vibrant by the sighting of a lone sting ray and a group of ten turtles. There’s peace to be found here, beneath the surface, and I savour these soothing moments before climbing back aboard our boat. Lunch is alfresco, between sea and sky. Barbequed chicken. Sweet yams and peppers. Freshly baked banana bread. I wash it down with a cold beer, refreshing and sweet. Stomachs full and photos snapped, we head back to Jumby Bay for our final stop of the day.

Swapping boat for bicycle, I pedal to the northern flank of the island – to the quiet, secluded sands of Pasture Bay Beach. This is a nesting ground for the endangered Hawksbill turtle (famous for its sharp, pointed beak), and the site is a place of wild beauty where these baby creatures hatch and rush towards the open sea. Sadly, none do during our stay. But the unspoiled loveliness of this sanctuary remains – glittering waves roll in from the Atlantic, palms and sea grapes infuse shades of green into soft white sand, and barely a soul can be seen. If you’d like to experience this for yourself, our luxury Travel Experts will make sure your visit coincides with prime nesting times, giving you the best chance of glimpsing these tiny turtles’ first steps.

After a few more days, I’ll be heading to Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport – for the next leg of my journey – but for now I enjoy a stroll along this crescent-shaped beach, soaked in sunlight.

eden rock st barts

Onwards and upwards

From Antigua, we make our way north – over the tropical seabed of the eastern Caribbean Sea. Flying over verdant hillsides dotted with the red tin rooftops of Gustavia, above arcs of white sand bathed in the clearest waters – my next destination is St Barts (and a hotel called Eden Rock). Touching down on a runway only accessible to those with a special license to land – we arrive in paradise. Again.

From where we land, I see secretive villas peeking out from behind slanting palm trees as rugged peaks rise in the not-so-far distance (a drive around the entire island takes but an hour). A warm tropical breeze carries the scent of sea salt. Drifting grains of white sand sporadically make their way onto the pavement. And it is here, on the bordering bay of St Jean, that our private beachside villa resides.

Arriving at the rather aptly named Villa Rockstar (a showstopper if ever there was one), we’re met with our in-villa chef, butler, and front of house team. It is a place of perfect pairings; a grand piano and extensive wine bar, a palm-fringed pool and jacuzzi with ocean views. Where all our needs are catered to around the clock.

hike in st barts

Seascapes at sunrise

The following morning is shrouded in darkness – at least at first. The island is yet to wake as we set off to explore. Leaving the slumbering village of St Jean behind, we head inland – deep into the green forested hills. We’ve woken early to avoid the full heat of the sun later that day, and embark on a hike along a winding trail to a hidden cove – Gouverneur Beach. Along the way, the first glimpse of daylight begins to make itself known; warm orange hues fall on fragrant pink and yellow frangipani and breathe life into the greenery lining the path towards the coast.

Our arrival at Gouverneur Beach is dazzling. You step out of the forest and there, right before you, is a glittering expanse of ocean – sunlit and coral-filled. We make our descent, accompanied only by a few frigatebirds who soar above us and the occasional green-throated carib flitting across our path. I take off my shoes and feel the soft sand sink between my toes. As I wander along – between sea and green-speckled rock – I hope to spot a particular cave; it is here that French pirate Captain Monbars is said to have hidden (and never recovered) his beloved treasure. Or so the legend goes. Sadly, no such luck.

The air is warm and the sea is calling. With snorkel in hand, I take a dip between the rocks peppered throughout the shallows. Swimming in what feels like a private bay, I spot sea urchins and vibrant blue chromis – alongside a handful of sergeant major fish (so-called for their military-like stripes). With this underwater world all to myself (more or less), my lack of success in the treasure hunting department is soon forgotten. I’ve always been more of a coral kind of girl anyway.

coral reef caribbean

Bobbing along

By the time the midday heat hits the beach, we’ve returned to the now-lively St Jean. Hungry, we dine on local delicacies in a shaded restaurant beside the shore – waves lapping at our feet. Steamed vegetables, grilled lobster, fresh coconut milk. This is all to boost my energy up for my second dip in the water that day; only this time, I’ll be exploring by seabob. A first for me.

Heading out with one of the water sports team from Eden Rock, I grip on tightly to this swim-like-a-dolphin invention. Fitted with an electric engine, this little machine allows us to effortlessly explore beneath the surface of the sea. Pulled along, we glide through this underwater world. Pop up for air. Dive back down again. Repeat. This seems to be the order of the day for now (no complaints here). As I whizz between brightly-coloured reefs, I spot a pair of turtles swimming along.

But turtles are not the only thing we’ve come seeking. Slightly further out, I’m directed towards a mass of rust-encrusted grey – a plane wreck from many years ago. Here clusters of coral have formed on its rugged, metallic surface and shoals of fish swim freely through it, unperturbed by eery surroundings. A world of marine diversity thrives atop broken wings and once red-hot engines are cooled by calm blue waters. We loiter a few moments, circling around the abandoned wreckage before turning back towards the beach.

Back on dry land, we head to Gustavia Lighthouse, which still guides sailors today. Big and bold, red and white – the lighthouse is reached from the town by a winding stone walkway, and is encircled by a handful of aloe vera plants and jet-black 17th century canons. Perfectly positioned, as the sun sets on this enchanting island we toast the evening with a deliciously fresh grapefruit cocktail. Don’t mind if I do.

grace in caribbean
flight to st barts

The departure

It’s been a week of wonder. A week of me wondering how I’ll ever bring myself to leave. I’ve snorkelled and ‘seabobbed’ alongside Hawksbill turtles and visited their safely-guarded nesting sites. I’ve hiked to hidden coves at sunrise and tasted sweet cocktails at sunset. If you asked me to choose between Jumby Bay and St Barts, I know what my answer would be. I choose both. Because why settle for one Caribbean oasis, when you can explore two. But maybe that’s just me.

Curious about the Caribbean?

Whether you’re dreaming of sun-soaked desert islands, vibrant tropical waters, or simple barefoot luxury – we can’t wait to hear from you and start designing your trip. Completely bespoke, of course.