Just as I’m about to tuck into a wildly over-elaborate breakfast, I’m joined by an uninvited guest. As it hops towards my plate I shout, “Bugger off”. It takes off into a nearby bush. I take a sip of my tea then look around. A few hundred metres away waves clatter a solitary wooden hut, which is sitting on a jetty beside a secluded cove. Behind it, a blanket of dense, thorny bushes climbs a steep bluff, punctuated by jagged rocks and slightly leaning palm trees, which are swaying in a gentle breeze. It’s not even 10 am and I can feel the sun penetrating my ever-receding hairline.
There’s not a soul in sight. The air is fresh. So fresh that every in-breath eases my tight, asthmatic lungs. It’s a far cry from my previous morning, waking up in Camberwell on my mate’s sofa to soggy-towel grey skies. ‘This is how every day should start’, I think to myself. But just as I’m about to tuck into a steaming stack of pancakes bigger than my head, the irritating creature returns. It once again makes a beeline for my grub. I snatch the heavy metal room-service lid from the table, slam it on top of my pancakes and retreat to my bungalow to dine alone, all the time wondering whether I’m cut out for island life.
I’m in Petit St Vincent Island (PSV) where I’ll spend the next five days. PSV is a chicken leg-shaped private island the size of around 54 football pitches, located on the southern tip of the Grenadines in the Caribbean. Accessible by a 50-minute flight from Barbados and a 15-minute boat from Union Island, it’s the sort of place every kid brought up on caravan holidays in the North East of England dreams about. Daz-white beaches are lined with palm trees that face an inviting turquoise and blue paisley ocean.
PSV’s gardens are groomed like those of Buckingham Palace and its beaches combed throughout the day. The island also boasts a fancy rooftop spa, a 4,000-bottle wine cellar, two high-end restaurants, Boris-style bikes (that you can leave just about anywhere), tennis courts and a dive centre run by Jacques Cousteau’s son. Paradise is a word used too sparingly in bad travel writing, but this is as close to it as I’ve ever come.
PSV is a (semi) digital detox resort so won’t find TVs anywhere on the island – including in your room. There is, however, a Bose speaker should you wish to hear something other than the meditative sounds of nature. You can get wifi in a room just off the main restaurant, which is located next to the bar. Here you’ll find guests huddled together on their phones frantically uploading emergency Instagram pictures. If you’re mad enough to want to use the internet here, be careful not to step on the tortoises which roam nearby (they were introduced to the island).
The accomodation on PSV is made up of 22 one and two-bedroom bungalows. All are made from rock from the island’s quarry. Each unit – some positioned on the beach and others tucked into the bluffs – has an open-plan bedroom/ bathroom, a living room, large, wrap-around decked terrace and hammock (some with their own private beach). As well-stocked mini bar and fresh cookies that are dropped off daily.
Each of the bungalows, some of which hide behind colourful flowers and thick vegetation, are positioned carefully with enough room between them that you can’t be seen or heard by neighbours. Cottage doors don’t have locks because, well, there’s no need. And each building comes with a bell that staff will ring whenever they (rarely) enter the property.
Inside, the décor is homely as per the island’s theme. Bungalows feel more like posh family cottages in the Lake District than five-star hotel suites – in a good way. Furniture is woody and down-to-earth, and the interior colour palette reflects that of the trees, sea and sand that surround. From every corner of my bungalow, I can see the ocean. The views are framed by floor to ceiling windows and produce a sense of liberation, clarity and freedom that you only get from being beside the sea.
Service takes centre stage on PSV and guests get what they want when they want it. One of the most impressive offerings is the ability to pick a spot anywhere on the island to dine. Once you’ve found your dream location, place your order by putting a form into a bamboo pidgeon hole then sit back and wait for it to be hand-delivered as you sway in a hammock or float in the sea. It’s amazing how quickly time can go here doing nothing but reflecting and unwinding.
Each morning breakfast is served whenever you want it. Just pop your envelope in the bamboo shoot the night before specifying a time. You can walk down to the restaurant to eat, dare I say, with other guests. But who’d want to do that?
A lot of the food on the island is plucked from the surrounding waters. Fish so fresh you have to check it to make sure the hook isn’t still attached and plenty of buttery lobster. But, for me, breakfast is the best meal of them all. Not only is the food good, but the full experience personifies life on PSV.
On my final day, I decide to go all out. I order a quinoa, spinach and chickpea wrap in a chilli sauce, fruit salad, croissants, green smoothies galore and a pot of tea. At exactly 7.17 am – as I specified on my order sheet, just for the hell of it – a bell tinkles and a chap puts my breakfast banquet on the table outside and leaves.
As I settle in and inspect my feast, a black bird – the same kind I’d told to bugger off on day one – hops onto the table. He, Wilson I decide to call him, tilts his head to one side ever so slightly, the way birds do. He looks at me square in the eyes then hops another 10 cms closer to a white ramekin full of teabags.
Instead of telling him to clear off, I pull out a book called ‘Birds of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ from my bungalow. It’s Yellow pages-thick with hand-drawn pictures of hundr of local birds. I thumb through a few pages, trying to identify him. As I do, from the corner of my eye I see him pluck a Rooibos teabag from the bowl with his sharp, knitting needle-like beak then retreat to a nearby bush.
I leave a few pieces of croissant on the table in the hope he’ll return. Sure enough, he does. I flick through a few more pages. ‘A Black Noddy? Maybe a flycatcher?’ I mutter to myself between bites, sharing my breakfast with my new mate.