Whereas Papillote Wilderness Retreat is all homespun, rustic and very simple, Secret Bay veers dramatically in the opposite direction. A hideaway with only eight spacious villas, it clings to the cliff tops south of Portsmouth on the north west sheltered coast of Dominica. There is no restaurant, and no bar. You can stock up the perfectly equipped villa with provisions to cook yourself – there’s everything you need – or your personal attendant will cook for you. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just drinks – just ring on the iPhone they provide and someone pops along.
We are in Mapau bungalow, a two-storey tree house with stunning (an overused word, we acknowledge, but appropriate here) views from the living area, the spacious deck or the bedroom right across the water to Portsmouth. So, let’s get the weather out of the way. It’s early February, supposedly dry, warm, reliably sunny. Well, we’ve been in this part of the world for nearly two weeks and, frankly, it’s rained every day. Our last day sees the sea quite wild and local boats cannot pick guests up from the beach for excursions. It’s warm rain, but rain nonetheless. How did that happen? We’re not expecting any sympathy, mind.
They have an interesting business model here at Secret Bay, though we’re not completely convinced. There’s no restaurant but a “Souce Shack” where meals are prepared and then delivered to your room by your personal attendant. It makes for a quiet and secluded event and the food is really good, but there are a couple of issues; the food isn’t really hot by the time it’s been carried around the resort on a tray (even with those shiny metal plate covers) and the whole lot is served at once. This means that your main course is hanging around, sometimes on your table, whilst you eat the first course. You move swiftly from course to course so the whole dinner is over in 15-20 minutes. It’s really convenience eating rather than an occasion, despite the views and the candles. Better to have a restaurant, we think. Or, better still, self-cater using their provision list, and the well equipped kitchen, complete with olive oil and spice selection. Oh, and they usually serve around 6-6:30 – a bit early for us stay up Europeans.
Expeditions (in the mildest sense) from Secret Bay allow us to explore the rainforest of Dominica. You quickly climb up from the beach level up into the Morne Diablotin National Park, established in 1977 as a reserve and then as a National Park in 2000, mainly to preserve the habitat of the endemic parrots – especially the imperial parrot, found only in Dominica. We are guided by Dr Birdy (you couldn’t make it up) and are amazed by the trees and the agriculture alongside the park as much as the wildlife within. We enter the park via a side path and, on approaching the visitors centre at the end of the walk we realise we should have had USD$5 passes. The NP officer offers to go and get his handcuffs.
The bird life is interesting but, unlike Africa, resembles a variation of European species; well, there are parrots in south west London. Apparently.
Similarly, a boat trip up the Indian River reveals more wildlife; we see coots and moorhens reminiscent of those in our garden at home, as well as herons and kingfishers. Something to do with British colonisation, we suspect. More importantly it was the setting for the hideaway of Tia Dalma (Calypso) in Pirates if the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which we visit up a little side channel. Cocktails are available to boost the flagging bird watching skills, and we try Dynamite in its original setting – not the bush bar where all the cruise ship tourists go, but you can walk through the woods to the original bar in Glanvillia nearby, where they actually make the stuff. Dominican rum (Soca and Redcap) is very potent – so potent they don’t always put the strength on the bottle. Dynamite is local rum with knobs on. Best avoided.
Resort Secret Bay, Dominica