Alluring Anguilla

Published: May 13th 2007
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Oh my, my, my! What a wonderful summer this is! So far, the weather has been just as gorgeous in Kentucky as it has been in the Caribbean! We have many beautiful lakes and mountains to explore, but I still have to constantly have my fix of palm trees and magnificent beaches! Not to mention-my sinus and allergy issues completely disappear in the Caribbean! It's so wonderful to be able to breathe! : )

We just returned from Anguilla, and, as usual, I have tons of awesome information to share with you! There is no way I will be able to squeeze everything into one issue, so you will get at least two issues out of this island!

Anguilla, which rhymes with "vanilla', and means "eel" because of the eel shape of the island, used to be known as the Caribbean's best-kept secret! Well, luckily for us--NOT ANYMORE!!!!!!!

The island's secret was let out in the 1990s when the opening of some awesome superexpensive hotels attracted a sophisticated jet set to the island. Now Anguilla is one of the most chic destinations in the Caribbean! Many of the American tourists refer to Anguilla as the "South Beach of the Caribbean".

One thing I adore about this island is that even though it has been "discovered", the island has managed to remain fairly tranquil. If you are looking for casinos, jazzy nightclub action, duty-free shopping plazas, nude beaches (against the law in Anguilla), and cheap junk food, this is NOT the island for you!

The majority of the operations on Anguilla tend to be small and informal, as the island government has succeeded so far in controlling development and conserving natural beauty and resources. So, if you're looking to rest, unwind, and be pampered, or enjoy watersports such as world-class diving, sailing, yachting, windsurfing, or fishing, this is DEFINITELY the island for you!

The opening of some moderately priced hotels within the last 5 years, in addition to a fabulous new 18-hole golf course, mean even more vacationers now visit and enjoy Anguilla's standards of tropical luxury.

Anguilla is the northern most of the British leeward islands in the Eastern Caribbean. It is a 16 mile long coral formation consisting of numerous bays, salt ponds, and gorgeous beaches! It is only 3 miles wide at its broadest point. The island has a population of approximately 9,000 people.

At one time quite barren, this low-lying island became home to numerous pirates and smugglers. Slaves were brought to the island and turned loose to make a living from the thin sandy soil. Well, as it turned out, they developed quite a remarkable reputation for their carpentry and boatbuilding!

The twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda achieved independence in 1981, followed by St. Kitts and Nevis in 1983. Anguilla and Montserrat have elected to remain British Crown Colonies. As a result, the majority of the islanders remain very conservative.

Anguilla's lack of rainfall, though good for us beach lovers, makes for unproductive soil for foliage and vegetation. Therefore, the locals now work primarily in the tourist industry or they fish for lobster.

To explore the island in any depth, it's best to rent a car. Although they are paved, just as in Antigua, be prepared for the poorly maintained roads. Four-wheel drives are not necessary, as I suggested for Barbuda and Montserrat. Several rental agencies on the island issue the mandatory Anguillan driver's license, which is valid for 3 months. All you need to do is present a valid driver's license from your home country and pay a one-time fee of $20. Headsup--watch for the goats that still wander the streets! Don't you just love it!?

I took a cab from the airport for about $16, got settled, had a cocktail, and then called and made arrangements with a rental car company. They will deliver the car directly to you. This type of awesome customer service exists throughout Anguilla!

Aside from renting a car and doing it yourself, which, as you know, is usually my preference, another great way to get an overview of the island is on a taxi tour.

In about 2 ½ hours, a local cab driver, all of whom are guides in Anguilla, will show you everything for about $40. The first time I visited Anguilla, I did this, and I was even able to arrange for the driver to drop me off at the beach for a couple of hours and then return to pick me up and take me to my condo. Like I said, the customer service in Anguilla is spectacular!

If you want a fully organized tour, upon my inquiry, many vacationers responded that they felt quite satisfied with Bennie's Tours at Blowing Point.

In the middle of the island is The Valley, the capital and administrative center. There is not much in The Valley by way of shopping or restaurants, but a fabulous "must see", is the Anguilla National Museum. It presents changing exhibits on local themes related to Anguilla's history and culture. The Museum is also home to The Anguilla National Trust, which can arrange natural history walks, bird-watching, visits to the Amerindian sites, and tours to see hawksbill turtle nesting grounds.

I highly recommend taking advantage of some of the activities arranged by the Trust. On this particular trip, I chose to learn more about the hawksbill turtle nesting grounds. Absolutely Incredible!

A satellite tracking study of nesting green and hawksbill turtles is in full force in the islands. This project aims to track the turtles as they migrate from the nesting beach to their foraging grounds, as it is known that they do not stay around once the nesting season ends.

As explained during the tour, transmitters are physically attached to the turtles, (I know what you are thinking! However, according to the professionals, this does not harm the turtle in any way). Attaching the transmitters to the turtles enables researchers to track the movement patterns at different phases of the turtles' life cycles. This provides a much clearer picture of their geographical range and allows for improvement of protection and conservation efforts, not just on the nesting beaches, but also in other essential habitats. Definitely a Caribbean Contessa "must see"!

Anguilla's most colorful annual festival is Carnival. It is right around the corner, so if thinking of visiting Anguilla, that would be a fabulous time to go! Boat races make up much of the Carnival celebration. The festival begins on the Thursday before the first Monday in August (did you get that?) and lasts a week! The first day for this year's Carnival will be August 2nd. Carnival is a celebration dating back to Emancipation Day, or what the locals referred to as, "August Monday", in 1834, when all enslaved Africans were freed!

Goodness, I can't believe how much I have already saturated you with! I told you I had tons to share! I will stop for now on Anguilla, so that I'm not guilty of information overload! However, in our next issue, I will get into the fabulous beaches, (there are more than30!) and the UNBELIEVABLE dining opportunities! Trust me, there is a reason for the common t-shirt phrase on Anguilla which states, "Life's a beach, and then you dine"!

Until Next Time,

Happy Travels!

Kelly Durham
The Caribbean Contessa


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