The phone rings. It’s 7:45am, the front desk of the Four Seasons Nevis calling.
“Excellent news, Mr. Danzig,” a Nevisian accent (pronounced Nev-ee-shun) beams on the other end of the line. “They found two turtles!”
“That is great news!” I groggily exclaim and jump out of bed and head for the beach.
Just a few hours earlier I had been combing a dark, isolated stretch of sand known as “Lovers Beach” on the Southern part of the island with fellow turtle searchers trying to intercept massive female hawksbill sea turtles that local experts had prophesized would come ashore to lay their eggs. The Sea Turtle Conservancy leads this extraordinary effort to temporarily capture the hawksbills once they have laid their eggs on the beach, then attach a GPS transponder to their shells and ultimately release them back into the sea. Aided only by moonlight (no flashlights or any other lights could be used to see—artificial lights confuse the turtles), my search team gave up after several fruitless hours sometime after midnight. Luckily one of the other search parties had struck turtle gold on different isolated beach and thus elicited the 7:45am turtle wake-up call.
So now it was time for the morning release. After outfitting the pair with their trackers, the 200+ pound gentle giants, dubbed “Sylvia” (representing the “silver” 25th anniversary of the Four Seasons Resort Nevis) and “Sundrop” by local Nevisian schoolchildren, are ready for departure. A crowd gathers on the beach to watch the thrilling release “ceremony” and line up an imaginary runway to the sea. Large boxes holding the turtles are opened and they awkwardly flap their way down the sandy beach until they hit the waterline and then—whoosh—they shoot into the deep at warp speed, not to return for 2-years when they will return to Nevis to lay another batch of eggs.
Magic moments like this where mankind and nature unite are not uncommon on the island of Nevis (Pronounced NEE-vis), the little-known, under-the-radar Caribbean paradise that lays just across a sea channel called The Narrows from the larger (and far more touristy) island of St Kitts. Pull it up on Google Maps and the two neighboring islands, now part of a 2-island federation, form an exclamation point with St. Kitts as the line and Nevis as the small dot below.
Nevis’ history reads something like a Pirates of the Caribbean novel, a tale of beginning with Christopher Columbus’ discovery, several hundred years of sugar production, slavery and a longstanding colonial tug-of-war between the English and French culminating with the island gaining its independence from England in the not-so-distant-past of 1983. Ruins of sugar mills still dot the landscape, many now incorporated into the design of boutique hotels and restaurants. And speaking of independence, one of our own founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, (yes, that Alexander Hamilton—the one on the $10 bill) was born in Nevis and lived there before he sojourned north to lay down his oversized signature on our Declaration of Independence.
But today most come to Nevis for its blend of exclusivity, luxury and the liberating experience of tropical isolation without a bustle of cruise ship excursions clogging up the town and beaches. A common expression on Nevis is “limin” (pronounced lye-mon) which means “relaxing”—and there are plenty of opportunities for that.
The Four Seasons Nevis, the island’s 196 room, suite and villa property creates a luxe service culture that melds sing-songy island charm with big-city speed and efficiency. Situated at the base of the dramatic 3,232-foot Nevis Peak, an extinct volcano that looks like a Hershey’s Kiss with the very tip bitten off, the property wraps around Pinney’s Beach, a soft, brown sand stretch that faces due west, producing a backdrop for world-class sunsets. Five restaurants, 3 infinity pools, a spectacular Par 71 Robert Trent Jones II golf course and a world-class spa easily earn the collection of “best-of” accolades upon which the property has been bestowed over the years. If you can’t experience “limin” here, there’s something seriously wrong with you.
After a glorious week on the island there is only one thing left on my Nevis “to do” list. See a monkey—more specifically a wild African green vervet monkey. These small, svelte creatures reside in the Nevisian hills in large packs with blonde fur, masked faces and tiny red eyes that look like pomegranate seeds. They, too, are guests on the island: African slave traders let some loose several hundreds of years ago and now they outnumber the human population 3-to-1. But somehow, despite these odds that I would have seen one by now, they had eluded me.
I take a late afternoon tour with some Four Season guests on golf carts and we head out onto the golf course at dusk. After driving up a number of monkey-free fairways, we come to #15, a long par 5 golf hole that starts at an elevation below the base of Nevis peak and gloriously descends downward towards a green that overlooks the aquamarine Caribbean. Midway down the fairway we hit the jackpot: several dozen vervets monkeying around like kids in a school yard, looking for food and playing. They let me approach them closely—but not too close—and I offer the throng some bits of banana. The feeling is one of rational exuberance at the sight of these adorable creatures as they playfully chase one another and hang upside-down from trees.
Just then, a larger monkey comes into view with something dark affixed to its chest: it’s a newborn, maybe just a few days old, with dark fur and a pink face, clinging upside-down to its mother’s torso. It’s the ultimate Nevis nature moment…or so I think. A few moments later I pan back to take in the scene—glistening ocean behind us at sunset, vervets everywhere and a mountain peak towering above. It just can’t get any better. But it’s at that precise moment that a rain cloud passes above and connects with the rays of the sunset, casting a perfect rainbow arching right into the summit of Nevis peak. Like discovering a mythical pot of gold, I have my Nevisian magic moment.
Know if you go
Getting to Nevis is half the fun. Most of the year travel from Atlanta will require a stop either in Miami or San Juan, PR and then a flight to St. Kitts, followed by a scenic 40 minute ferry across the channel. American Airlines flies to St. Kitts from Miami with the most regularity www.aa.com. But this holiday season Delta Airlines www.delta.com will offer a special holiday direct flight from ATL to St. Kitts on most Wednesdays and Saturdays from December 17th-January 14th. Ferrys run almost hourly from St Kitts to Nevis but I highly recommend taking the Four Seasons’ private ferry across and docking right at the property’s private pier.
Four Seasons Nevis, a AAA 5-Diamond Award winner creates luxury in an eco-friendly environment with best-of-the-best service and staff you will feel compelled to hug goodbye when you depart. The spa ranks as one of the best in the Caribbean with individual treatment cottages and a plunge pool with a view of Nevis peak. The Robert Trent Jones Course is a joy to play with most of the 18 holes possessing either mountain or oceans views. Doubles start at $399. www.fourseasons.com
To find out more about the extraordinary efforts of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and track Sylvia and Sundrop visit www.conserveturtles.org