By Eileen Ogintz
JUMBY BAY, Antigua (DAY ONE) — I’m sitting in front of “our” infinity pool at “our “ beach watching an Egret in the clear Caribbean water. Nice!
When I woke up in our beachfront villa at Jumby Bay, the exclusive Rosewood resort on its own private island just off the coast of Antigua, there were two catamarans anchored just offshore. We’ve done bareboat sailing in the Caribbean, including Antigua and I’m smiling thinking of my kids jumping off the boat to swim and snorkel years ago. Yes, it was a lot of fun.
But here on a pre-holiday annual getaway with my three oldest friends, I’m glad to be ensconced in this villa within the upscale all inclusive. That means everything is included—snorkeling and waterskiing, kayaking and sailing, the excellent food and for the grownups, all the tropical drinks we want to sample with names like Nelson’s Armada, Moonlight Waltz and without alcohol Honey Passion Smash.
Unlike most all inclusive resorts, there are more villa accommodations here than rooms—36 villas, some that can sleep 12 or more. The Lazy Lizard is 18,000 square feet with a pool larger than many hotels.
Ours is three expansive bedrooms, full kitchen and amazing indoor-outdoor living room, deck pool and beach. No wonder this place is a favorite of well-heeled families. There are kids’ activities, tennis, fitness center and spa. “The moment we found Jumby Bay, we fell in love with the place,” said Sue Venton, who has been coming here with her family for years from London.
Last summer, she and her three children decided they wanted to mark the first anniversary of her husband’s death here. “We have the most amazing memories and special moments here,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a hard day and the staff made it very special for us.”
From Antigua’s small airport, we were whisked in a five minute cab ride to Jumby Bay’s ferry for a seven-minute ride to get here. The staff, many who have worked here a decade or longer, greets us at the dock as if we’re family returning after a long time away.
“They are the best,” said Venton, adding that her family has hosted Genevieve George, one of the resort’s long-time bartenders at her home outside London three times. “My kids call her Grandma Gen Gen,” she said.
We get around by golf cart. There are no cars on the island where sheep graze lazily and Pasture Beach is a protected nesting site of the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. In the water, I see big red sea stars.
We learn that Christopher Columbus discovered an ancient coral reef here in 1493. It was claimed by the British in 1632 and takes its name from the Antiguan word for “playful spirit.” Today, the island is owned by the homeowners and managed by Rosewood.
What to do? A lot or nothing. “It doesn’t matter your age,” said Venton. “There is always something to do and someone to talk to. I’d never get bored at Jumby.” One son, she said, spends a lot of time fishing; her older son water skiing while her teenaged daughter is happy to hang on the beach.
We began our day with yoga taught by local Lyn Pearce and then head off kayaking about a mile away to Maiden Island where part of the group went snorkeling just off the beach.
Last night we toasted friendship with dinner at the Estate House overlooking the sea and surrounded by gardens of hibiscus and wild orchards. We feasted on local snapper and grouper, seafood risotto and kiwi and passion fruit sorbet for desert.
It’s impossible not to relax.
“It is a very special place,” says Venton. “I cry every time we leave.”