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Living the high life in Nevis

Press AssociationPress Association 5/04/2016 Ben Wright

A hummingbird buzzes past me as I relax in my private pool, mulling over whether I should spend the rest of the day here or at the beach. I watch intently as the small bird pauses to hover above a pink hibiscus flower, but before I have time to pick up my camera, it darts off at an impossible speed.

It's no coincidence these tireless birds are a common sight around the gardens of Paradise Beach on the West Indies island of Nevis, as the gardeners have specifically selected oleander, firecracker and hibiscus plants to attract them to the grounds stretching down to the peaceful beach.

At the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago and neighbouring St Kitts, picturesque Nevis was named Oualie (land of the beautiful waters) by early Caribs.

Much quieter than other Caribbean islands, it's an unspoilt idyll overflowing with flora and fauna. The luxurious seven-villa Paradise Beach resort opened in 2015, and offers the only beachfront villas on the island, with concierge and butler service.

Meticulous care has been taken in the design of the villas to ensure the resort lives up to its name.

Each bungalow has its own pool with cabana for eating outdoors, as well as loungers where guests can lie back and enjoy their own corner of paradise.

The indulgence continues inside with a giant four-poster bed dominating the main bedrooms, along with a powerful outdoor rain shower in the en suite, which is so welcoming and decadent I find any excuse to have yet another shower.

The air-conditioned villas, with Balinese glass walls and sliding doors overlooking the gardens and ocean, are decorated with tastefully chosen artefacts from around the world, and are fitted with bespoke furniture complete with sofas and cushioned daybeds.

For those who cannot fully shed the real world, there is Wi-Fi throughout, flat-screen televisions in each room and even an office space.

At the centre of the living space is a fully equipped kitchen allowing you to enjoy the gourmet delights of the island without having to leave your bungalow.

The resort can provide a chef to prepare meals for you, or those keen to show off their culinary skills can conjure dishes at their own convenience. A butler will happily stock the fridge with all the locally sourced ingredients you could wish for.

One evening our cook, Paulette, prepares a traditional meal of mahi-mahi fish and fried plantains, and each morning she awakes our senses with a range of zesty juices.

She also introduces us to the Nevitian breakfast speciality of saltfish with Caribbean Johnny cakes - a delightful break from my usual muesli routine.

Another highlight of the resort is its tranquil beach, which has its own bar and loungers. There's a wonderful view across to the neighbouring island of St Kitts and guests can rent kayaks and paddle-boards for an afternoon of soft adventure on the calm sea.

While swimming in the bath-warm Caribbean waters, I'm amazed to see a frigatebird as large as a pterodactyl circling above before flying off to play-fight with its friends.

Below the surface, there are also many unusual creatures to admire. Keen scuba divers can explore the surrounding reefs, wrecks and volcanic vents, and those lucky enough may even encounter giant leatherback and hawksbill turtles.

Guests can reach higher states of relaxation by taking part in jet lag-busting yoga sessions on the beachside decking, or enjoy massages in their rooms or accompanied by the sounds of the waves on the beach.

The feeling of escape and privacy goes beyond the borders of the resort. Nevis, which has a population of just 12,000, was the hideaway of choice for Princess Diana and also delighted Horatio Nelson, who was stationed here and ended up marrying Fanny Nisbet, the daughter of a plantation owner.

At only 10 kilometres across, the island, serviced by a small airport, is easily accessible by bicycle or car and only a short ride from the resort is the capital Charlestown, a quaint high street of souvenir shops, banks and stores, all painted in the bright colours of the Caribbean.

Nearby are equally colourful, relaxed bars and restaurants serving high-quality spicy seafood accompanied by potent rum cocktails - no trip is complete without a Killer Bee concoction at Sunshine's or grilled red snapper at Bananas Restaurant.

At the centre of the green island is the "potentially active" volcano Nevis Peak. One morning, we set off to explore its densely forested slopes with the help of our local guide, Baba, who leads us on a trek to some spectacular waterfalls. Along the way, we stop to study the vegetation and he explains the many creative uses islanders have for the different bark and plants. Sarsaparilla is apparently used to "boost sexual energy".

But whether hiking the forests, taking catamaran trips to snorkel with luminescent fish or enjoying sunset horseback rides, my lasting memory of Nevis is of a blissful retreat from the stresses of everyday life.

* The writer travelled as a guest of ITC Luxury Travel.

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