Antigua - meaning 'Ancient' in Spanish - is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. It's known for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and tropical climate. Many tourists enjoy the island's various water sports, such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and sailing, and the island is also home to several historical and cultural attractions, including forts, churches, and museums. Antigua is an independent country, but it's also part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Its official language is English, and it has a diverse population of African, European, and Caribbean descent.
My partner and I recently took a trip there and stayed at the adults-only Cocos Hotel in Saint Johns, on the west of the island. The resort is all-inclusive and designed for couples who want to relax, enjoy good Caribbean food, and get some lovely winter sun. Located on the stunning white sandy beaches of Jolly Harbor, we were amazed at the views upon arrival.
The accommodation of Cocos hotel is made up of fifty wooden cottages that sit on a high incline. Each cottage has its own outdoor shower, mosquito-netted bed, and a balcony with a hammock that looks over the sea. Most of the stay we spent relaxing by the beach, enjoying each of the 3-course meals - with specials offered each day of the week. We did a few tours to break up the week, though.
Our first tour on Thursday was a scooter snorkel tour, which began with a taxi ride from the resort. We were picked up by a chap named Damon, whom we got to know well on our journey. He had dropped out of medical school to pursue this snorkelling tour business. Upon arrival to the changing rooms, we were briefed on the rules for navigating the tour in the water and operating the scooter. With the scooter, you hold it in front of you and using your thumbs, you can propel forward at three speeds, so you can go on a much longer journey through what was known as the British harbour.
In this harbour, we saw sea turtles hovering by the seagrass below and a plethora of coloured fish when we plunged down with our snorkels on. We went out far into the rocky sea to take a couple's snapshot of the pillars of Hercules. I admittedly struggled on the way back as it was my first time snorkelling. Thankfully, I finally made it to shore... without drowning.
On Friday, we hired a jet ski for an hour. We were provided with life jackets, and they attached a safety lanyard from the jet ski to the coat. It was recommended to stay at around 5-10mph until we were further away from the shore. There were moments when we were at full speed, adapting to the direction of waves, so it wasn't as rocky. It was super fun, and we explored the islands, ensuring to keep our distance from the other boats and keeping far enough away from the cliff rocks.
We took a morning out of our Saturday to go and explore laviscounts island, a sanctuary for rescued tortoises, lizards and exotic birds. We booked a taxi there which took us to the island's east. We had an interesting chat with the taxi driver, who told us about Antigua's school system, the history of when he was younger, and how the island has developed over the past fifty years. He said cars were non-existent and donkeys were used instead, houses were made of clay, and beds were made of stuffed grass. I couldn't help but ask the taxi driver about the bright-coloured shack housing owned by the residents. I wanted to know if they'd be vulnerable to the hurricane season (which happens between June and November).
The taxi driver assured me they generally are, although he told us a funny story about one resident who'd inherited an ancient property from his grandfather. This man was apprehensive about residing in this dwelling with the upcoming hurricanes. He noticed that his neighbour had built this brand-new 'modern-looking' house. His neighbour offered him a place to stay during the tough months ahead. However, when the hurricane flew in, the entire ceiling of the neighbour's new house flew off, leaving both exposed to the strong winds. They ended up running back to the man's old wooden house, which was unaffected.
Upon arrival to the east of the island, we boarded a small boat to the laviscounts island, where a big collection of large tortoises existed. Approximately fifty giant Aldabra Tortoises, the planet's oldest living animals. We fed them with carrots, unaware that they'd stop at nothing to tramp on anything in their way - even other tortoises.
They'd also unknowingly bite your leg, thinking they'd be eating plantation. We had to keep aware of our surroundings to ensure they didn't all coagulate in one concentrated space, so we kept moving around to keep them apart. Luckily speed isn't on their side, or we'd have been in trouble.
The giant tortoises are actually native to Mauritius and were taken in to be looked after by this sanctuary. We saw the other red-footed tortoises native to the Caribbean. They roamed the island as we walked through the navigable path. The tour offered an extended option to swim with Stingrays, which we decided against.
Overall, my stay at Cocos Hotel in Antigua was a much need relaxing holiday. The hotel's beautiful setting, excellent amenities, and friendly staff made for the perfect tropical getaway. I highly recommend Cocos Hotel for anyone looking for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation in the Caribbean.