By Warren Woodberry Jr.
On an island where monkeys out number people, one may think Nevis is sparsely developed and lacking modern luxuries, when in fact its picturesque landscapes fused with intelligent lifestyle designs where fast food chains and mammoth cruise ships are banned bring balance in a place where travelers can escape from it all yet be hip at the same time.
Not familiar with Nevis? Some aren’t, but many make the connection when noted the well-known St. Barts is one of its neighbors in the Atlantic.
Nevis has been as a secret celebrity hideaway for those like Jay-Z and Beyoncé, pop singing sensation Britney Spears, and Mary Louise Parker of Showtime’s hit series ‘Weeds’. Such VIP guests don’t get the attention of star-stuck fans that they came to shy away from. On St. Barts where new money in some eyes has over popularized the ritzy island, vacationers are discovering peace, quiet and privacy on Nevis.
“We want more traffic but we want a particular type of traffic. Nevis is not for everyone,” says Deputy Premier Honorable Mark Brantley. “There is not a whole lot to do here for the traveler who is on a budge. It is not a place set up for mass tourism.”
Nevis is nowhere as expensive as St. Barts but many who visit spend an average of $1,000 a day. With a population of 12,000, tourism is the number one industry here. The island is not focused on numbers, but expense. Nevis can be considered an English version of St. Barts, and in recent travel seasons the island has seen a slow trickle of vacationers from St. Barts.
Nevis was once considered the gem in the Queen’s crown as a wealthy sugar colony. It gained its independence from Britain in 1983. Nevis is the island in Saint Kitts and Nevis and is a commonwealth still legally under control by the Queen of England. Nevis is situated in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean roughly 1,200 miles from Miami, 1,600 miles from New York and 4,000 miles from London. A connecting flight into Vance W. Armory Airport on Nevis can be made from Puerto Rico or St. Maarten via Cape Air, with most vacationers coming from New York and the United Kingdom, followed by Chicago and Dallas. Nevis is no stranger to visitors, for it had been conquered by the French, Spanish, Dutch and lastly the British. Today the majority of the island inhabitants are of African descent and English speaking.
Nevis is a lush green island of rain forests, reefs and historic ruins. No matter where you go Mount Nevis, a dormant volcano cloaked in mist can be seen sitting center-island.
“It is very much what the Caribbean used to be,” said Brantley.
Goats, sheep, chickens and many, many, many monkeys among other animals roam wild throughout the island. Often there are far more animals than people along road sides making driving a bit of a challenge on winding, twisting roads that cut through grassy fields and wooded lands. Monkeys are the local celebrities here. Where islanders find them a nuisance, visitors may find them entertaining as they are often grabbing your attention.
For those who are not big on connecting with nature, Charleston, the biggest town is bustling with people. With it colonial-era architecture, Charleston is where many come to chop in the markets and catch ferries to the neighboring islands. Its surrounding communities are rich in crafts and traditions that fuse Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean cultures.
History buffs would enjoy visiting the historic churches that date back centuries or learning about the island’s most popular citizen, Alexander Hamilton, best known here as America’s U.S. Secretary and for gracing the $10 bill. The Bath Hotel was the first is the Caribbean, now home to the island’s government offices. The former hotel was built around the springs that flowed from the volcano, used by royalty for therapeutic needs.
For all that Nevis has to offer, what may not be found here are just minutes away by ferry on other islands. Historically the neighboring islands have competed for travelers, but now new thinking has them collaborating to leverage their proximity and share in travel dollars. Those on St. Bart’s can find golfing on Nevis, while those on Nevis can find gaming and casinos on St. Kitts, or ferry 15 minutes away to St. Barts for French food.
One of the best times to visit Nevis is September, the low for travel season here. At times it may appear as if you’re the island’s only tourist, finding yourself alone while stretched out on the beach, or sitting at an empty bar with only the bartender to keep you company. That intimacy is what makes tourism leaders think Nevis would be a draw to those tired by new money that have in recent years popularized nearby island St. Bart’s as a vacation getaway destination.
“It’s a nice time to come enjoy Nevis,” said Greg Phillip, Chief Executive Officer of the Nevis Tourism Authority.
Bumming on the beach all day isn’t for everyone though. For those who like to keep active there are a variety of activities. Guests of the Four Seasons Nevis Resort can enjoy biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, golf, cricket, tennis and hiking to name a few.
“We have the finest mix for anybody if they are looking for anything,” said Phillip.
In September spectators enjoy horse racing on a rugged course where the calming ocean sounds are cut by trampling of hoofs in the sand and hearty cheers of excitement.
“Our horse racing is not what you see at the Kentucky derby,” said Phillip.
September also hosts Nevis Race Week with a marathon and running festival which launched last year with 64 runners participating in a 10K, half and full-marathons. Car enthusiasts take part in drag racing on at track built next to the sea. As the only race track in the Caribbean, competitors bring vehicles from neighboring islands even from as far as Trinidad and Tobacco.
October is a catch for anglers snagged by a fishing tournament followed by a triathlon in November, and the peak of the travel season hits in December and January with tourists who flee frigid temperatures in the Northern U.S.
March is a month for Pisces but swimmers of all kinds take to the waters for the swim race between Nevis and St. Kitts. The two-mile swim between the islands takes on average 59 minutes for experienced swimmers.
The height of the travel season begins to wind down in April but there will be a major sailing event performed by the Nevis Yacht Club and for the first time Nevis will host a Blues festival. For more information on the Blues festival visit www.nevisbluesfestival.com
Through late July and early August the island becomes festive during Culturama when, “You get to see and feel Nevis culture,” said Phillips.
July is a celebration for mangoes in what Phillips says, “It’s our sweetest resource on Nevis.”
With 40 different kinds of mangoes growing on the island, the tourism board recruits a celebrity chef to prepare mango-related cuisines at restaurants that agree to include them on their menus.
Throughout the island there is superb dining that can please the most discerning palate. Notable establishments include Hermitage Plantation, Qualie Beach, LIME Beach Bar and Sunshine’s Bar & Grill. The Four Seasons offer a dine-around program that lets guests experience other dining establishments on the island or they can dive with a chef to catch and cook their own lobster.
Tourism here is the main industry. There are 420 hotel rooms available, but on Christmas day all rooms are booked with vacationers there for a warm holiday. The only Four Seasons in the Caribbean is on Nevis. All other island hotels there are small, upscale, intimate lodges. Stays can be made at mountain-side villas, luxury five-star resorts or historic plantation inns.
Nevis is relatively a safe place where many people know each other and people welcome you as their own. Wait staff is always present and nearby to assist, eager to make your stay quite enjoyable.
Learn more about Nevis and how to plan your vacation getaway at www.nevisisland.com
GOING GREEN IS NOTHING NEW ON NEVIS
Nevis will be a Caribbean pioneer in green energy when $60 million US brings geothermal energy to Nevisian homes and businesses by 2018.
Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and Nevis Renewable Energy International, Inc. (NREI) under a concession agreement with a US investor and Nevis look to supply1/3 of the island’s power with renewable energy by the end of this year, with the entire island going completely green in 2018.
“We will be the greenest place on planet earth,” said Deputy Premier Honorable Mark Brantley. “We’re not just talking about sustainable electricity – we are actually doing it and living it.”
Already, Nevis is the only Caribbean island with a windmill farm. It will now convert waste into energy after sealing its agreement with a US based company in 2014.
The island will harness the geothermal energy caused by the volcanic activity of the island’s dormant volcano, Mount Nevis.
It’s estimated the investment can help generate more than 100 megawatts of available geothermal power, which can also be shipped to St, Kitts just two miles away.
Like many nations, Nevis is trying to wean off fossil fuels. There would be no need for fossil fuels, no greenhouse or carbon emissions.
As investments take shape here, island employment is rising.
“There is a burgeoning weight of expectation among the island,” said Brantley.