Stylist’s designer Danni Finlayson escapes to an over-water bungalow with its very own butler
What I’m about to tell you is a first for me. I have a butler phone. I repeat, I have a butler phone. Yes, a phone solely designed for calling or texting my butler whenever I need to, which has been thrust into my hand along with a strict instruction that while I am here, “You do no work!”
The first time I hear that phrase – which is uttered frequently during our stay – Angela (one of my two butlers; she and her colleague Kaydene alternate shifts so as to offer us 24-hour service) is trying to help me untie my shoes as I tell her that’s really not necessary.
The double-butler thing is just one of the ‘pinch me now’ moments I encounter as we arrive at our private over-water bungalow at Sandals South Coast, Jamaica. A moment that has my eyes doing a disbelieving sweep of the scene in front of us: double bed adorned with shells spelling out ‘Welcome home’; glass floor over blue water; peeks of paradise through every window. Nope, I definitely don’t plan on doing any work here, although I think I can handle my own shoes.
We’re 90 minutes south of Jamaica’s ‘second’ city Montego Bay (Jamaica only has two major cities, the first being its capital and cultural hub Kingston). With Montego Bay being known for its tourism and beaches, it makes sense that our bungalow (alongside 11 others, all recent additions to the Sandals couples’ resort here) is set in a 500-acre nature reserve; ocean vista on one side, quiet beach on the other, all bordered by vast green mountains. It’s typically Caribbean but with a dose of the Maldivian due to the over-water nature of our room.
Relaxing is definitely a sport here, whether it’s in your bungalow (we have outdoor decks with over-water hammocks, an outdoor shower, bathtub for two and steps right down into the ocean) or around the resort, and it’s your choice how intensively you’d like to do that relaxing. We spend the first few days recovering from our jet-lag induced early mornings, choosing between butler-service breakfast in bed or heading to the Bayside Restaurant for a buffet. Sometimes we opt for both, because if you can’t have two breakfasts on holiday, when can you? Lazily, most of the restaurants (the resort has a total of nine places to eat) are just a short walk along the beach, or you can be driven by your butler in a golf cart because, yes, walking is seen as ‘work’ here.
Post-breakfast, we hit the aqua centre for ocean kayaking, snorkelling on the reef (not quite so successfully for me; I swallow more water than I see fish) and paddle boarding over clear blue water, an activity that sees us drifting past a pier as a wedding takes place – we try in vain to duck out of their photos. But, to be honest, lying on the beach in a private cabana is also a pretty decent pastime (even in the winter here, temperatures reach 30ºC) and Angela, who is fast becoming my favourite person, reserves us one each morning – our own decked area with sunloungers, a cool box stocked with water, beer and soft drinks, and, importantly, USB charging points to keep that phone charged for making your friends at home extremely jealous of your stay.
One afternoon when we are swimming in the ocean, Angela arrives at our cabana with bellini cocktails and four pizzas from Giuseppe’s Italian restaurant without us even asking (yes, four pizzas, but again, we’re on holiday so it’s definitely OK). The cabanas are situated at the quiet end of the beach, but close enough to Schooners Seafood Grill and one of the four swimming pools and swim-up bars if you want to grab a drink or a bite. The Jerk Shack is great for an afternoon snack of traditional jerk chicken or sausage, and Cafe de Paris – a Parisian-style patisserie that’s open all day – for pastries and ice cream. Another great restaurant for a fancy dinner is Eleanor’s, the only restaurant where you are required to dress up to enjoy their signature dish of Caribbean snapper fillet and a mean Trinidad boneless lamb curry – a hearty traditional meal I wish I could sample again.
Jamaica doesn’t just have beautiful beaches and blue waters, it’s also the Caribbean’s third largest island and inland it’s dominated by mountains and covered in luscious green rainforests and rivers. We book a few day trips through Island Routes (islandroutes.com) and travel up the winding ‘Reggae Roads’ – named so because you can’t help but ‘feel the rhythm’ due to the bumps and potholes. Our first trip takes us to YS Falls in Saint Elizabeth – seven waterfalls cascading into natural pools surrounded by lush gardens, where the best views are captured while overhead on a zip-line. Our food stop here offers the locals’ favourite of goat meat, and we stay safe with a delicious but ‘mild’ jerk chicken and rice as our tour guide warned us it was what they call, ‘tourist hot’.
Back in our bungalow, as we order yet more room service, we realise with horror that soon we would need to hand back our butler phone, and that our best friend (and virtual right arm) for the week will soon be looking after another couple lucky enough to stay here. Angela offers to pack for us but we decline: we’d better get used to fending for ourselves again, more’s the pity.
Seven nights at Sandals South Coast in an Over-The-Water Private Island Butler Honeymoon Bungalow from £6,925 per person. Price includes accommodation, Butler Elite Service, 24-hour room service, economy flights from London Gatwick and resort transfers. For more information, visit sandals.co.uk
Images: provided by Sandals South Coast