A little luxury in Lugano

We decided to come to Bequia for three nights for a bit of diving and relaxation before a week of partying in Barbados to celebrate Spencer Jones' wedding. We were last here seven years ago on a sailing trip and are interested to see how the island has changed. We remember a relaxed and friendly place, good diving and simple home cooking at waterside bars and restaurants.

Fabulous room at the Splendide


First impressions are that there has been a lot of building in the past 10 years including a smart new addition to the Gingerbread hotel (above) where we are staying. Otherwise Port Elizabeth, the rather grandly named little town in Admiral's Bay seems rather run down with lots of the shops shut. It turns out that we have arrived on "Heros' Day", celebrating the original inhabitants of the islands who repelled the British. The next day everything is open, some lively tourist stalls are touting their wares to a group of mostly German visitors from a small cruise ship, and there is plenty of choice of pretty spots for meals and cocktails. We sample the Whaleboner in town and Jack's Bar in Princess Margaret's Bay for cocktails (both good), and the Fig Tree, Fernando's, and Laura's for lunch and dinner. The goat roti for lunch in the Fig Tree was very good, Fernando's very atmospheric, and Laura's had probably the best food that we tried.

The Reichstag

You can stay in different spots around the island. Divers that we met were in small hotels and guesthouses in some of the other bays and some new, smart resorts have recently sprung up on the other side of the island. But Admiral's Bay is where most of the action is and, despite recent development, is still relaxed and friendly. One reason it is popular is the great natural harbour. March is the peak of the yachting season as boats sail up and down the Grenadines island chain in steady eastern trade winds. We can see about 100 boats from our seafront balcony, ranging from sleek ocean going yachts to the more ungainly catamarans more popular with casual sailors wanting to cruise up and down the islands. Hidden among the basic shops and bars in Port Elisabeth you can find places like Doris's Chandlers where you can restock your yacht with champagne, pesto and artichoke hearts - not the ingredients that you find in a typical Caribbean store. A narrow boardwalk (above) runs from the town all around the bay, turning into a path that climbs over the cliffs if you want to go to the further beaches down the coast.

We are here for the diving. There are two dive shops on the water front and we have booked into Dive Bequia. We have dived with them several times in the past and always found them friendly and safe. They operate two large, covered motorboats and most of the dive sites are less than 15-20 minutes north and south from Admiral's bay. Our first dive, Flat Rock, is up the coast in a little bay occupied by camping fishermen. The dive is pretty typical of Bequia diving - lots of soft coral and sponges on a gently sloping reef with abundant reef fish. We see big schools of fusiliers, an eagle ray, lobsters, moray eels and box and trigger fish. From previous visits I also remember the very pretty irridescent blue and pink sponges which I always associate with diving here.

Other dive sites that we visit are Brown Bay to North Point, the Boulders and Almond Tree. All are enjoyable drifts in quite gentle current. Some have small walls while Almond Tree was more spread out reef mixed with sandy bottom (complete with garden eels) and sea grass. It is great to see that the waters have not been fished out and the coral gardens are very pretty. We have been spoilt from our diving in recent years with many fabulous dive sites in Indonesia and the Indian Ocean but we still enjoy it here. Besides the Grenadines offers friendly people, fresh grilled fish, relaxing bars and great rum punches. What is not to like? Click on the beach below for more diving and scenic photos.