Friday, July 11, 2014

Paradise found in the BVI’s Guana Island

White Bay Beach, Guana Island  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
GUANA ISLAND, BVI, July 11, 2014 – Now that the wicked winter weather that enveloped much the U.S. in a shroud of snow and ice is a distant memory, the warmth of the Caribbean still beckons, even if it is off-season. And if Mother Nature ever went on vacation, Guana Island might be one of the places she would choose.

Guana Island from the air  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean side of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, Guana is an 850-acre private wildlife and nature sanctuary just waiting to be explored.

For nearly 4-decades, Guana’s owner, Dr. Henry Jarecki, an American academic, psychiatrist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and his wife, Gloria, have cultivated their island treasure into a haven for birdwatchers and lovers of the environment in an elegant pristine setting.

In the 18th century, two families came to Guana as part of the “Quaker Experiment” in the British Virgin Islands.  Using African slaves, the Quakers cultivated sugar cane for about forty-five years.

In 1975, the Jareckis purchased Guana from another American family, and they have been improving accommodations and facilities ever since.  Today, Guana Island can host up to 36 guests in stone cottages nestled along the crest of one of its small mountain peaks.  There are seven white sand beaches, four of which are accessible only by boat, three reefs, a salt marsh and more plant life species than any island of equal size in the Caribbean.

Anegada living room  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Don’t look for telephones, TVs, restaurants or shops.  In fact, food for the superbly prepared culinary meals on Guana must be brought in by boat from neighboring Tortola.  What you can expect are magnificent sunsets, pervasive solitude and casual elegance.  So much so that in its earliest years, when Guana had no electricity or running water, guests still dressed for dinner
Guana is one of two islands the Jareckis own in the BVI.  The other is the uninhabited Norman Island which is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island.”

Life on Guana is eternal summer, and the livin’ is always easy.  White Beach Bay is the closest, and most accessible, beach to the island’s facilities.  Visitors can walk down from their rooms that nestle along the spine of the mountain or they can arrive by jitney.  Service is not a problem for guests who spend the day in the sun and sand, they just ring the ship’s bell and a jitney will arrive to provide drinks, lunch, towels or any other “necessities.”  This is no place for the television’s “Survivor” because no one would ever be voted off the island.

Timeless beauty   (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Lunch and transportation will also be arranged for those who wish to enjoy the seclusion of one the four “hidden” beaches that ring the island.

A natural veranda faces a breathtaking setting for nightly sky-shows that seem to swallow the heavens in a palette of brilliant yellow, gold and orange as visitors absorb the twilight through their pores. 

Peering down to the rocky shores below, some 50 species of birds glide along unseen currents of air as if they are drawing the darkening curtain of night across the water to envelope the surrounding cliffs that plunge to the sea.

Pathway to Paradise  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Hikers can enjoy a network of 20 trails that lead past flocks of Caribbean flamingos, colonies of brown pelicans, hundreds of species of insects and plants and fourteen species of reptiles and amphibians. 

Guana is not a place for travelers who enjoy glitzy nightlife, neon lights and crowded pubs that close in the wee hours of the morning.  It may take several hours or a day to ease yourself into Guana’s own unique rhythm and beguiling charms.  Be warned however, Guana is infectious, and once you yield to its contagious allure, it may take weeks to recover.

Typical room at Guana Island  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Rates are seasonal for a Sea View Cottage at $695 a night, per person, double occupancy to a high of $1,550 a night, PPDO.  Rates include three meals, wine at lunch and dinner, cocktails, most recreational equipment, laundry service and round-trip taxi and boat service for stays of four nights or longer.  There is a 17 percent tax added to the bill upon departure.

It is possible to rent the entire island of Guana if you have a group that wants to savor the experience of having an entire island to themselves.  Based upon 32 guests, the lowest exclusive rental is from October to mid-December at $22,000 per night.  The highest rate is $33,975 a night from mid
December until January 3rd.  Rates can also be quoted for less than 32 guests or for a maximum of 36.

Room with a view  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Getting to Guana is relatively easy.  You can fly into Beef Island Airport at the end of Tortola where Guana’s staff will pick you up for the short boat transfer to their elegant world of privacy and seclusion.  Commercial carriers offer service to Beef Island via San Juan, St. Thomas and Antigua.

Water, water everywhere  (Photo: Guana Island Club)
Just in case you were wondering, the iguana shaped rock formation jutting from Monkey Point is the source of the island’s name.  

If you’re looking for a total escape from the cares of the world, Guana Island might just be the answer, for it, too, is a “Treasure Island.”  Mother Nature would agree.