CULTURE CLUB • September 2019
During BA’s 100th year of connecting Britain to the world, here at The Club we’ve been thinking a lot about islands and the unique cultures that spring up in places surrounded by sea. That’s why we headed to our favourite island hotels around the world to ask locals what makes their home so special, and what to do once you’ve made the trip...
The view from the island: Elijah Jules, chef at Jade Mountain St Lucia
I’ve spent my entire life here – I was born in the town of Soufrière on the idyllic west coast. Though I’ve travelled to other islands and major cities around the world, I’d never want to leave St Lucia. There is a magic in the air, especially here in Soufrière, which is, I believe, the prettiest part. We have excellent views of the famous Piton mountains. Some of our guests say St Lucians are born with a smile on their face, and the most important thing about the island is the people. There’s much that’s unique here – let’s not forget we are the only country in the world named after a woman and I cannot think of anywhere else that has a drive-in volcano. First-timers should climb up Gros Piton before rejuvenating with a dip in the Botanical Gardens hot thermal waters. And don’t leave without trying our ti ponch rum punch, our national dish (green fig and saltfish) and some freshly made cassava bread from a road-side stall.
The view from the island: Aurelie Rougier, spa manager at Dinarobin Beachcomber Resort & Spa
I’m a proud Mauritian, and feel very blessed to call my home what others call their holiday. Every day here offers up new opportunities to hike around Unesco sites, swim in bright blue lagoons and explore the island's natural heritage, with a climate that’s pleasant year round. In Creole we would say tou corek – that feeling when everything is great. For me, one of the best parts of our culture is the harmony; the island has no indigenous population and yet our peaceful diversity has become one of our biggest strengths. While here, make sure to hike Le Morne Brabant - a single peak with breathtaking views overlooking our hotel. For something else out of this world, visit the 7 Coloured Earth Geopark of Chamarel – it’ll leave you perplexed and amazed.
The view from the island: Jennifer Linder, well-being manager at Santiburi Koh Samui
I backpacked around South East Asia about 20 years ago. On a very tight budget at that time, I could only look longingly into the Santiburi grounds and dream about staying here… When the Well-Being Manager position was advertised, I jumped at the opportunity. Koh Samui has a very laid-back vibe. I love to head away from the hectic ring road (the main road which circles the entire island) and get lost, finding hidden waterfalls, beautiful viewpoints, and spying coconut monkeys in the treetops – a unique feature of living on ‘Coconut Island’. The Magic Buddha Garden is not on every visitor’s radar, but it should be. Freshen up with a swim and a snorkel at Silver Beach and support the Elephant Sanctuary with an afternoon visit. To finish the day, dine with your toes in the sand at the coolest beachfront restaurant in all of Samui – our very own Beach House.
The view from the island: Steven Boodna, hiking guide at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
Born and raised in Glacis on the northern side of the Seychelles’ largest island, Mahé, I love the very thing that attracts our tourists – that slow and easy-going lifestyle. There’s also tropical weather year round so I can spend all my time outside enjoying our incredible beaches, forests and National Parks. As a hiking guide, I will always tell visitors to get their walking shoes on. Try the Anse Major Trail in Mahé’s north, with stunning views over the cliffs, before heading to the Bazar Labrin in Beau Vallon beach – a beach party with amazing Creole street food. If you’re on Silhouette Island, home of the Labriz Resort & Spa, I’ll take you to Grand Barbe, one of the most difficult but most rewarding trails, where guests can discover all the secrets of Silhouette and walk among our famous giant tortoises.
The view from the island: Santi Roggio, head concierge at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily
I have, what I like to call, a true Sicilian soul – born and raised in the ancient city of Catania on the island’s east coast. There’s a huge richness to Sicily, whether you’re gazing at the snow on top of Mount Etna in winter or lazing on some of Italy’s most beautiful beaches come summer. We islanders have a unique sense of hospitality, which I think is derived from our family traditions. Visiting Etna is particularly special – watching the volcano erupt and the sky fill with lightning is a one-of-a-kind Sicilian moment. When it’s not erupting, be brave and take a wine tour at one of the vineyards on the slopes. Besides taking a boat to the Aeolian Islands (Salina is my favourite), I love sitting back with an aperitif on the Literary Terrace of the hotel. This, and enjoying a breakfast of Sicilian granita with a brioche – the best simple pleasure there is.
The view from the island: Samuel Dixon, marine biologist at Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi
I may have been born in the UK, but having lived here for two-and-a-half years, I definitely consider myself an islander. I travelled to the Maldives as part of my Masters in Marine Environmental Management from the University of York, assessing Maldivian Coral Reefs, coming back later to collect data on whale sharks before getting this job with Fairmont hotels. By far the best part of the Maldives lies beneath the ocean, but there’s so much more than just pristine beaches and incredible marine biodiversity. Visit local villages, discover indigenous handicrafts, taste local cuisine – we take hotel guests out to sea on a traditional Maldivian Dhoni to learn how to fish. And don’t leave without trying a fresh coconut, while looking out across one of the island’s incredible panoramas.