Bequia – one of my favourite places in the world
Bequia has long had a name for its hand-built boats and its skilled seafarers – and the fact that its seven square miles also happen to be sensationally scenic means that this green jewel can float in the imagination like some emerald vision of Caribbean perfection.
At least, that’s how thoughts of Bequia (pronounced Beckway) have been for me – I first heard of the island some 25 years ago, but the place is not exactly on the tourist map – few tour operators based in this country or anywhere else for that matter are set up to oblige. So, despite a quarter of a century of yearning, I’d never been.
Not surprisingly, the island’s off-the-well-beaten-track status has paid dividends – indeed this is how Frome-based travel experts, Just Bequia, introduce the island: “It stands as a reminder of how the Caribbean was 50 years ago, when only a few visitors ventured this far.”
I had been warned that the flight to Bequia was going to be a treat – the 25-minute hop from Grenada takes you right up through the Grenadine Island chain passing impossibly romantic places like Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Palm Island, Canouan and Mustique along the way.
But first our little Island plane dropped off two local passengers at Carriacou before heading north across the dreamy isles mentioned to arrive at the green, green jewel of Bequia.
From the small new airstrip we were taken by specially adapted pick-up truck – which is the ubiquitous form of public transport on this island – to the wonderful and luxurious Bequia Beach Hotel, where I could happily have retired from journalism and just about everything else forever.
The resort is set on the slopes of the hill which run down to palm strewn gardens and a beach. Friendship Beach to be exact – which has now entered my list of Top 10 beaches in the world. Think warm seas washing soft sand, shaded here and there by dramatically drooping trees and punctuated at one point by the hotel’s bar and excellent restaurant.
It wasn’t the busiest season when we were there and the only things we shared the beach with were pelicans and crabs. When the heat got too much our large, air-conditioned, sensationally decorated apartment was a stylish refuge if ever there was one.
A complete island tour took just three hours despite the fact we never went above 10 mph – and included stops at different altitudinous viewpoints, visits to wild beaches tucked beyond mighty palm groves, and a fascinating tour around Bequia’s turtle rescue centre.
There are about 5,000 Bequians – they’re of African, Scottish, Irish, French, Indian and Carib descent – and English is the main language spoken. I’d heard that these islanders have an open friendly attitude to visitors and it is true – you can experience the full and jolly brunt of it if you spend a morning or afternoon in the tiny capital Port Elizabeth.
Nothing much happens save for the comings and goings of the St Vincent ferries, as well as the pick-up truck taxis – there’s a small market, quite a few intriguing shops and the general laid back buzz that somehow pervades the numerous restaurants and eateries where you can order all manner of Caribbean foods and dishes. I went for conch salad – which was excellent in a chewy kind of way.
And Port Elizabeth – like all of Bequia – is beautiful to look at. Sublimely, dreamily, enticingly, beautiful.
As you sit there sipping a cooling cocktail it is easy to think that this is the best location for a holiday in the world – until you remember all those other idyllic isles you flew over to get there.