Advantages a truly awesome experience
Disadvantages can I have some money for the diamond shops please
“You will be bored in Antigua – it’s only for beach lovers”, quoted a colleague.HOW WRONG THEY WERE!
I was very fortunate this year to find myself preparing and looking forward to my second holiday this year headed for two weeks of bliss in Antigua, Caribbean, West Indies.As my regular readers will know, I’m a keen fan of travelling, this trip for me was the furthest I’ve travelled yet (watch this space!) - apart from a New York shopping trip in the eighties, that is.
I took a direct scheduled flight from Gatwick which I found to be comfortable, good food, leg room not too bad compared to the usual short haul destinations, plus a wide selection of movies and radio channels to fiddle with during the 8 and a half hour flight.I did read a couple of negative reviews on my chosen accommodation prior to take off, the Jolly Beach resort. However, I was more than happy when I got there. I’d chosen a single supersaver room as this comes with no single supplement. I was accompanied by my father, and was also meeting a friend whom I’d met in Turkey 3 years ago there who flew in from Heathrow the very next day, so the single supersaver rooms suited us all.
The Jolly Beach resort houses 462 rooms, 5 restaurants (seafood, greek, Italian, pool grill and international buffet) and 7 bars. It also boasts a gym, wedding gazebo, watersports, beach towel service, daily and nightly entertainment team and comes as an All Inclusive package deal. Staff are very friendly there and aim to please at all times. The food is of an excellent standard, offering lots of choices plus the added bonus of choosing which restaurant to dine in, provided you book in via Reception by 4pm that day. I had read the comment in the Rough Guide and was rather anticipating the worst as they had said the food was and I quote “nothing to write home about”. But I choose to differ.The Resort also boasts a mile long palm-tree studded beach which gentle shelving white sands backdropping onto the most turquoise “Caribbean” blue waters you ever did see. Fantastic.
All in all then, the Caribbean people are warm, oodles of fun, vibrant and energetic people with a real zest for life. Vendors on the beach (yes there are some I’m afraid!) are polite and friendly, and if you do say no thank you will go away without too much hassle. However, do not be so quick as to shun the Trip Organiser vendors away; they will offer you some freebies - if you see Wesley and book the Island Tour you get a free sunset cruise as well – something the Tour Companies don’t! Also the ladies selling the sarongs and jewellery too do offer discounts, they are so lovely too, so do not be shy, go up and have a talk, they are the most lovely you will find. My favourite was Claudia, take her a Shirley Temple and her eyes will light up, you will find her on the beach just opposite the fantasy pool and pool bar.She is so lovely and will even let you take the items away for you to make your mind up, don’t worry you can pay her another day.
Antigua then is a wonderful island, 108 square miles in total, and ruled by us Brits until 1981 when they claimed their independence – quite rightly so. The British influence is still strong – from the place names to the driving on the left. St John’s is a safe enough city where you can browse around at your leisure. Go check out the diamond shops in Heritage Quay where you’ll be trying on diamonds and the like for a cool £2-5,000.00During my stay we had the West Indies Test Match on and discovered the whole of the West Indies and Australian teams were lodging in the hotel which was an attraction for the male of the species! The atmosphere was a happy one as West Indies won that particular series, local people selling food and drink on the streets, people honking their horns – wonderful.
The flora and fauna are wonderful also – I learned all about the birds of the island – the bananaquits who will quite happily steal your packet of sugar when having a cup of tea, the very bossy carib grackles (similar to our starlings!), the laughing gulls, bullfinch, pelicans on the beach, and my particular favourite, the hummingbirds who will love to dip their beaks into the hibiscus flowers all around you, with their ever powerful wings. A few lizards and geckos also live at Jolly Marina, just around the corner. Also from my room (we were ground floor) I was able to see several mongeese running around, apparently an introduced species to get rid of all Antigua’s snakes, of which there are now none, you may be glad to hear! Trouble is, the mongoose having no natural predator has multiplied so you may see several of these little chappies running around – but they are very cute!Throughout the duration I only saw 3 insects – couple of crickets and a beetle, but I would urge travellers especially those with sensitive skin like myself to step up on insect repellant – I did get bitten but you do have to put it on morning noon and night not just at night, because they are the most hungry early morning and late afternoon also – so beware. But once I applied 3 times a day the bites stopped coming – and I am very prone to them – so please follow this regime and you should be okay!
Whilst enjoying my paradise break, I also did a few trips which I’ll try to briefly tell you about:Island Tour – with Kokomo Catamaran Cruise – takes you around the whole of Antigua, stopping for lunch and snorkelling at Green Island, dropping you off at Nelson’s Dockyard, where a taxi takes you to Shirley Heights for the steel band party on Sunday evening. Fish are so colourful near Green Island, please use the flippers, black sea urchins are prevalent in this area. Well worth a visit to all.
Barbuda – again another tour with Excellence Cruises – visiting 2 beaches on this lovely island, Princess Diana used to holiday here. Pink coral sand awaits you – more snorkelling opportunities, go you won’t be disappointed. Also visit the Frigate Bird sanctuary by a small boat – they have 6 feet wing span and you will see them in close detail. The babies were there when we visited.Swimming with the dolphins – visited Dolphin Fantaseas – where you can kiss and stroke the dolphins – magical. Also fed the stingrays – good fun but remember to pull your thumb away when they are taking fish!!
Montserrat – took the ferry (1 hour each way) to this very active volcanic island, following the major eruption in 1997. Marvellous sights and get your video camera ready. If you want to see some pictures, visit the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory on the internet. Learning about pyroclastic flows, a fascinating and interesting day. Beware ferry can be rough especially on the return route! so only go if you don’t get sea sick!All in all then I had the most wonderful time in Antigua and would recommend to anyone – please go, it is a truly wonderful place. I only said to myself this was a once in a lifetime holiday but am already planning a trip to Dominican Republic as I would like to see more of the Caribbean in my life! I fear this may face a tough challenge to match up to the beauty of Antigua, but I shall soon, dear reader, hopefully see. Keep reading the reviews!
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