Anguilla: Surely It’s Eden

(Published in Turning Point Magazine)

One of the Caribbean’s most popular hidden treasures, Anguilla, is awash with cultural fare during the summer, this year from July 30-Aug. 9 when the island’s annual Summer Carnival comes to town.

Along with the Carnival, the island, with its sandy white beaches, balmy blue skies and emerald water, hosts a variety of events, including boat racing, Anguilla’s national sport. Boat racing began here around the 19th century. Anguillans took to the sea as sailors when it was discovered that the island couldn’t sustain sugar cane crops and other commercial agriculture. At first, the boats were simply used to race home fast after a long day on the sea, but gradually the racing grew into a traditional competition. On August Monday, the first Monday of the Summer Carnival, the boars that have been expertly modified and redesigned over the years will be on display for the exciting board races.

Other activities during the popular summer festival area the international night of dancing and music, a youth night dedicated to Anguillans school children, celebration of emancipation, a food fair and bizarre, local teenage beauty pageants and several boar races leading up to the Champion of Champions Race on the last day. Visiting calypso bands and local artists will perform nightly.

Sixteen miles long and three miles wide, Anguilla lies five miles north of St. Maarten, 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, and is the Leeward island’s most northerly spot. Although Anguilla is a British territory, the island’s 8,500 residents are governed by a predominately black government. The island has been under self-rule since the townsfolk wrestled their freedom from colonialism through a revolution capped by a 1969 declaration of independence.

More of Anguilla’s rich history can be found all over the island by visiting sites such as the Heritage Collection, archives of Arawak artifacts and historic documents, and the Wallblake House, a traditional 18th century plantation house that displays distinctive woodwork and architectural design. The Wallblake House is currently under restoration.

Another not to miss site (besides the beaches, several that have been voted the top beaches in the world) is the Dune Preserve, a fort-like structure made of driftwood, boats and colorful canvas. The Dune has two entrances, both carved with moons and starts that wind upwards from the romantic Rendezvous Bay. The staircase opens to several sitting rooms and a small cocktail parlor where the lights and mounts of St. Maarten can be viewed.

Sandy Ground, a local hangout on Road Bay, is populated with several festival night spots. Johnno’s Beach Stop hosts local live bands playing soccer reggae and jazz, giving the locals ample time to teach the tourists a few moves on the dance floor. Raffie’s Back Street is an after hours pub overlooking Sandy Bay. The Pumphouse is a catch-as-catch-can conversational spot, where whatever political wind has blown over the island will be hotly debated.

If the tranquil winds, warm azure waters and sandy white beaches aren’t enough of a lure, Anguilla is also known for its award-winning culinary. Several members of Anguilla’s National Culinary Team pocketed 22 trophies and medals at the 1997 “A Taste of the Caribbean” Culinary and Bartender Competition. Among the exquisite dinners prepared, the team’s Escovitch of Red Snapper served on a bread fruit pancake won the award for most creative Caribbean dish. Snorkeling, sailing and scuba diving are just some of the other activities for the “down time” visitor or the romantic looking for that perfect isolated spot.