Q & A : BONNIE BLOOM / ANGUILLA
I got to chat with my friend Bonnie Bloom in Anguilla. Thanks Bonnie!
Bonnie gives us the local’s lowdown on this pristine Caribbean island. She currently lives on Anguilla and is co-developer of the ultra luxe Ani and Kamique Villas. I love how well Bonnie balances the luxury vacation dream with cool, down to earth experiences.
Q: Where in the world are you?
A: Anguilla is a small island in the Caribbean, close to St. Martin and St. Barts. The easiest way to get here is to fly into St. Martin and take a ferry or speed boat shuttle (only 20 minutes). You can fly directly via Puerto Rico on smaller airlines like Anguilla Air Express or Cape Air.
I moved to Anguilla almost 10 years ago, in 2004, after many years in Shanghai. To make a very long story short: My husband Ira and I gave up our corporate jobs in search of what we believed to be a better quality of life. We wanted to be where the sun shines often and pollution is at a minimum. End result: we went from a city of 14 million to an island of 14,000. Ira and I now work together on our dream project: developing luxury villas here, and elsewhere in the world. Our 12 year old son Tobie goes to school on St Martin; he takes a speed boat to school every day with 17 other children! When Tobie is asked where he’s from he always sighs, “My Mom is Danish, my Dad is American, I was born in Hong Kong and have grown up in Shanghai and Anguilla. Oh, and I go to school in another country every day!”
Q: How did you fall for Anguilla?
A: We were living in China during the SARS outbreak and evacuated ourselves to the States until the virus was no longer a threat. During that time we took a trip to Anguilla. We rented a car and drove all around the island without a map. We traveled every road, paved and unpaved, exploring ever corner. We were amazed by the differences between the East and the West and noticed how nice people were everywhere. We discovered beautiful beaches (the likes of which we had only ever seen in the Maldives), excellent restaurants (extraordinary for such a small island), open space, fresh air and quiet. You can go to a beach here and “own” it; there’s often nobody else in sight. We had only been on Anguilla for a few days when we decided that THIS is where we wanted to live.
Q: Where do you take your best friends when they visit?
A: We boat over to Prickly Pear or Sandy Island, outlying islands that are uninhabited except for one small restaurant on each. We snorkel and have a barbecue with the best, freshest fish and crayfish you can imagine. Another favorite with guests is kayaking from Crocus Bay to Little Bay (about 15 minutes), hands down, the most intimate beach on the island. The water is crystal clear so we can see a few turtles as we swim, snorkel and explore the caves – an adventure the kids love! On Sundays, when we’re in the mood to chill, we go to Da Vida’s on Crocus Bay. We’ll sip a frozen mojito on the beach and eat a delicious lunch while listening to the local musical star (former cricket player turned musician) Omari Banks.
Q: Best time to visit?
A: High season in Anguilla is mid December to mid April. However, in our opinion mid-May through November is just as amazing and most hotels drop their prices by about 30 percent. This is a great time to enjoy the tranquility of Anguilla. This “off season” is hurricane season, but nowadays threats are discovered 4-5 days in advance so there is time to make arrangements and make your way home. (If you do travel to Anguilla during off season, get travel insurance and you’re covered.) If you’re into Samba, Soca and Carnival, August is your time! The local Summer Festival (aka Carnival) begins in early August and lasts for about two weeks.
Q: Something about Anguilla that people may not know?
A: Anguilla’s beaches are never crowded. On a 17-square-mile island with over 30 beaches everyone can enjoy their favorite. If you ask the concierge where to go, they will likely give you the name of Anguilla’s five biggest beaches. Don’t listen. Just grab a map and go exploring! A few small gems that no one may tell you about? Lime Stone Bay is absolutely fantastic, so romantic and almost always deserted. Captain’s Bay, to the far east, is heart poundingly dramatic; When the waves are high it is so beautiful, I almost forget to breathe.
An 800 pound Blue Marlin was caught here some years ago. If you’d like to go after one of your own, call ”Nature Boy”, a real salt of the earth Anguillian, who knows everything about fishing here. He’s s not in “the book” so ask around!
Corn on the Cob at our favorite restaurant, Picante, is the best thing I have ever tasted. And Crayfish is a must try when in Anguilla! Crayfish is a small, spiny crustacean similar to lobster, but sweeter and more tender. For a fine dining experience try them at Veya; for an affordable option at sunset, go to On Da Rocks.
Q: Tell us more about your dream project!
A: We’ve built two luxury villas in Anguilla: Kamique and Ani. Aware of increasing demand for luxury villas, we imagined a new concept: a private villa experience with the 5-star services and amenities one expects from the world’s best hotels. At Ani Villas, we designed large luxurious rooms and lots of private space, with pools, hot tubs, private roof decks and a full staff. Yes, there are servers, a private chef and even beach butlers! Want to have your dinner served on the beach lit by 100 tiki torches, plus a bonfire for s’mores? No problem, coming right up! The project was a bit of a gamble as we didn’t have an “Aman” type name behind us, but we got the concept right and built a successful reputation by word of mouth. With these villas established and in high demand, we are getting busy on a few new projects – look for us in Dominican Republic, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Want to learn more?
Map and Muse suggests, from the New York Times:
Watch this video (also from the New York Times): 36 hours in Anguilla
(Photos Left to Right: 1. Sailboat in Mead’s Bay 2. Ani Villas Luxury Resort overlooking Little Bay 3. Ferry Terminal. All photos by Bonnie Bloom)
Posted on December 18, 2013