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Island Idyll

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 8 January 2021 | 0 Comments

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8 January 2021
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When Catherine Ryan traded life in the UK for the flawless powdery beaches of Canouan, she discovered sea turtles, mesmerising sunsets and 89 percent proof rum in a small, barely five-square-mile nation. She shares her love of the island with the Celebrated International Caribbean World Magazine. 

Catherine Ryan

Growing up in the UK I would always dream of far-off tropical islands in the sunny Caribbean. I lived in East London and would wander around the Caribbean markets selling their delicious tropical fruits and would peruse the record stores for records (vinyl) of various Caribbean artists. I loved Harry Belafonte and fell in love with many genres of Caribbean music from different islands. The first Caribbean island I was lucky enough to travel to in the early 90’s was the beautiful island of St. Lucia. Seeing the majestic Piton Mountains for the first time is forever engrained in my soul, I still get a rush today seeing them, even on a photograph.

Today I am lucky enough to be living and working in Canouan, a stunning and unspoiled island that is like stepping back in time to how the Caribbean Islands used to be many years ago. Life transpires at a slower and calmer pace and it’s very relaxing. The island is very small only 5.6km x 2km (3.5miles x 1.25 miles) with a population of around 1700. The name “Canouan” comes from the Carib word meaning “Island of Turtles”, of which you will see many of them freely meandering slowly around the whole island. Canouan is located in the Southern Caribbean, its tropical climate has little seasonal temperature variations, the year round average temperature ranges from 24-30 degrees Centigrade (75-86 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning outdoor activities can be enjoyed year-round. The crescent-shaped island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, wide shallows and coral reefs, making it a water sport lovers paradise, excellent for boating, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving.

When I’m not working, I really enjoy reading and given the chance I can read for hours a day on one of the five beaches to be found on Canouan Estate. I just finished the Robert Galbraith series which I loved, thrillers and suspense books are among my favourite. Another amazing thing to do in my downtime is enjoy the sunsets - they are absolutely stunning and there are some great little bars and restaurants directly overlooking the water which are perfect for watching the sun go down with a locally crafted cocktail or ice-cold beer in hand. One of the popular local beers is Hairoun Beer, brewed in Kingston, St Vincent since the mid 1980’s. You can find this beer on most menus on the island. “Hairoun” translates as “Land of the blessed”, of course!  Shell Beach on the estate has a great little restaurant and bar, serving traditional Caribbean fare throughout the day such as jerk chicken wraps and fresh catch of the day. For a casual hang-out spot on the island for local food there is also Scruffys Bar. 

My advice to anyone visiting Canouan for the first time is give these 5 tips a try -  really shouldn’t be missed! 

Must Eat 

Salt-fish and Bakes (Bulijols) 

Usually found on the menu in most of the local restaurants, Salt-fish and bakes is a classic dish comprising of fluffy and airy bakes filled with salt-fish, seasoned with onion, pepper, tomato and oil. Brimming with local flavours and eaten cold, a perfect lunchtime dish to eat al fresco under the sun. 

Roasted Breadfruit and Fried Jackfish 

Roasted breadfruit and fried jackfish is the national dish of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and no trip to the island would be complete without sampling it once or twice. This combination is usually enjoyed as a filling lunch option. Tasting somewhat like a potato, there are twenty-five different varieties of breadfruit to be found on the island and many varieties can be found on most menus in local restaurants and hotels. There is even a breadfruit festival in St Vincent held every August in honor of this most beloved local fruit. Breadfruit can be baked, roasted, fried or mashed with garlic and oil. Traditionally, the whole breadfruit is roasted over an open fire until it is slightly charred from the outside, whilst the inside remains soft and tender. The Jackfish is usually marinated in lemon juice before it is dusted with flour and fried until crispy and served with a sauce consisting of onions, tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Must Drink 

Sunset Very Strong Rum” 

Rum can be found everywhere on the island and this one is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Produced in Georgetown, St Vincent, by St Vincent Distillers Ltd. they produce a few different varieties including the very famous “Sunset Very Strong Rum” which is 84.5% alcohol (169 proof), one of the strongest commercial available rums in the world, Captain Bligh XO and Sunset Rum Punch. The Sunset Very Strong Rum is generally drinking straight and chased with a glass of water or soda. 

Must See 

There are 32 islands and cays in the Grenadine Islands, located only three miles from Canouan are the Tobago Cays which include five small uninhabited islands with powder-soft white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and reefs and an abundance of flora and fauna, excellent for boating, snorkeling and scuba diving. Here, there is a good chance you will see green turtles as they are in abundance. This trip is seriously not to be missed and should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Canouan.

Must Try 

Hiking to the top of Mount Royal takes you to the highest point on Canouan at 267.31 meters (877 feet) above sea level! The trail winds up a steep, single track through a thick forest. On the way you will spot turtles, hummingbirds, tree-climbing hermit crabs, orchids and aloe plants. At the summit your efforts will be rewarded as you get a stunning north view toward Mustique and to the south Mayreau, Palm Island, Union Island Petit St Vincent and on a clear day Grenada. 

Looking ahead...

We are in a reflective but positive mood here in Canouan in 2021. This past year of course has been extremely difficult for everyone in the tourism industry, the Caribbean especially. The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has of course been extremely cautious regarding arrivals in to the island, implementing COVID-19 protocols and quarantining for arriving guests. Luckily, Canouan Estate Resort & Villas has been designated a “Bubble Resort” by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. This designation means, that once a guest takes a COVID-19 antigen test on arrival and it returns as being negative (usually within an hour), guests can enjoy the facilities the resort has to offer without quarantining, including the usage of our four beaches, restaurants and golf-course. Canouan Estate is also fortunate to have its own resident doctor on staff to administer testing, a COVID-19 PCR testing machine has also been ordered for the estate, and should arrive late March 2021 making pre-departure vaccination requirements for guests returning home a breeze. On property, strict policies have been put in place regarding the cleaning and sanitation of our villas, suites and public area, plus social distancing measures are in place. PPE is worn by all staff and issued to guests on arrival. 

Now that the vaccine is becoming available we are seeing some green shoots on the horizon, including an uptick in requests especially for the Festive season. The majority of  requests are for our villas, which offer complete privacy and seclusion located on up to 5 acres of land. There has also been an uptick in requests for multiple villas for extended families and friends who have been apart for so long, wanting to celebrate missed milestones, birthdays and anniversaries and to enjoy quality time again together on a warm and friendly tropical island. Many of our recent guests are choosing to fly by private jet, the runway on Canouan can accommodate planes as large as a Boeing 737. We have also entered an agreement with PJS Private Jet Services and are looking into charter flights in the near future from a variety of major gateways. 

There is definitely pent up demand globally and we look forward to getting back to some sense of normality in the upcoming months, when it does the floodgates will open and the team at Canouan Estate Resort &Villas will be ready and waiting with open arms. Like many people all over the world I’m personally counting the days until I can travel again, as I am longing to see my family and friends back in Ireland and the UK, as soon as I am able to. 

Catherine Ryan is the Director of Sales & Marketing

at Canouan Estate Resort & Villas

Website: www.canouan-estate.com

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