Pitch Perfect Paradise: Carlisle Bay, Antigua
Discreetly tucked away in a lush corner of Antigua’s enchantingly unspoilt south coast, a world away from the Islands less salubrious resorts, Carlisle Bay remains one of the most talked-about hotels in the Caribbean. It has won praise and much decoration for its pioneering style, vision and service, including Tatler Travel Guides Hotel of the Year. Its setting is truly a Caribbean piece of paradise, and given that Antigua is celebrated for its beaches, it is no wonder that the secluded bay and backdrop of rolling hills and rainforest makes Carlisle Bay a retreat worth investigating. As a result, this smart sanctuary has emerged as the urbane gentleman of the Caribbean and has given the cognoscenti a tempting alternative to staying aboard ones yacht.
Upon arrival I was immediately struck by the overwhelming sense of comfort and distinction created in the resort and its rainforest interior – a world of pristine elegance yet exuding a laid-back holiday glamour. All 82 suites, ranging from the couples-only Ocean Suites to the family friendly Beach and Carlisle Apartments, are either located directly on the gleaming golden arc of sand (a luxury in itself in the Caribbean) or just a step or two back from the leafy tropical hinterlands.
After acquainting oneself with the suite comforts, one can continue the relaxation process by spending countless hours sauntering seamlessly between loungers under the lush palms on the jetski-free bay, or, by lounging at the side of the curvaceous swimming pool in supine fashion to feed on endless heavenly cocktails. Perhaps languorous loafing is not your style? Carlisle Bay is perfectly equipped to entertain you with its other luxurious extras, including the state-of-the-art private cinema, which showcases a new movie daily, and the celebrated pop-art library, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Saatchi showroom, which is replete with a collection of top beach reads. Above all, this privately-owned hotel exudes an incredible sense of tranquillity and seclusion so lap it up at your leisure!
But don’t get too comfortable! With its state-of-the-art gym, a huge spa, extensive on-site tennis grounds and a serene exercise pavilion, has ensured Carlisle Bay remains the pre-eminent destination for fitness experts to provide in-house residencies for the guests. Amongst this glittering catalogue is world-renowned yoga guru, Maya Fiennes, who hosts one of her Escape Weeks (and I could not find a more appropriate title if I tried!) during my stay. This runs alongside the hotels Vitality Programme, which combines a compelling mix of exercise, activity and nutritional guidance.
Maya Fiennes, a magnetic Macedonian beauty, is one of those annoying people who seems to succeed at everything she puts her mind to, having enjoyed past musical acclaim as a concert pianist and singer, tantalised planet fashion with her clothing brand, Planet Maya, and now in her latest award-winning incarnation, she leads a class of keen enthusiasts through the mystical rites of Kundalini Yoga, the most spiritual of all yogic practice but no less physically demanding.
Apparently the perfect place to practice this brand of yoga is outside: in a forest, on top of a mountain or on a sandy beach, so perfect for Antiguas Carlisle Bay then. Maya tells me: Kundalini Yoga is a science, a technology. Well, I’m keen to get started with this weeks experiment and achieve a celestial yogic glow! Yoga has long since ditched the hippy chick image with all manner of people now jumping on the health and holistic bandwagon, although the odd New Age soundtrack cannot be entirely ignored! Early advocates include the likes Sting and Madonna, but classes attract many well-heeled, fit and terminally stressed men and women eager to find out more about Kundalini, the yoga of awareness. Incorporating some 108 different asanas (postures), commanding methods of movement, breathing, chants, mantra and sound vibration at varying degrees of intensity in order to awaken and enliven the spirit. Every set of these exercises has a purpose, such as strengthening the back, cleansing the liver and even speeding up the metabolism and preventing certain types of cancer.
Over the course of the week I learnt that the mind is capable of diminishing physical discomfort. Make friends with the pain! Maya sings after a few minutes of front-crawl arm movement begins to take its toll. I try to cling on to her claims. Nearer to 10 minutes and I actually experience a huge surge of energy giving me Olympian swimming capabilities to keep going amazing!
With a total of nine floodlit tennis courts, Carlisle Bay has to be one of the best places to brush up on ones backhand. During my stay I undertook two rigorous cardio-tennis clinics, which measured more than just the grip of my ground strokes and velocity of my volleys. On court with a monitor strapped across my chest, I’m instructed to run, jump, skip and perform other exercises in constant kinesis in between strokes to complete the rigorous exercise while my heart rate is monitored against every action and movement.
Following such exertions, you may have developed something of an appetite. Colourful, exotic fruits and fresh juices were my personal preference, but other nutritional, healthy options titled Vitality Dishes feature on the menus for fitness-conscious guests. All specially created by Carlisle Bays executive chef, Alex Grimley, who trained under both Jean Christophe Novelli, the nations favourite French Chef and Marco Pierre White. Alex oversees both the refreshingly casual Caribbean cuisine at the Carlisles Indigo on the Beach, and the more formal dinners at East, a captivating restaurant serving a twist of Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian dishes.
Supplementing the Vitality Week packages, there are many thrilling excursions on offer, being blissfully stranded on a paradise island, water sports are naturally the only way to go and Antigua offers some of the best sailing in the world. Paradise Ahoy my hearties!