We just spent a week in Barbuda. Quite possibly our favourite Caribbean island so far. Together with Antigua, it forms the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda is clearly the poorer island, at least in monetary and infrastructural terms. But certainly not when it comes to natural beauty and wildlife. With pristine, almost pink beaches that go on for miles, mangrove and palm trees and one of the world’s largest frigate bird colonies, it is a cruisers paradise. But it is also a potential paradise for the rich and famous. There have been a few smaller resorts around the island, including the K Club, which was Princess Diana’s favourite retreat. But the island has also attracted investors with grander development plans. Something that has been eagerly encouraged by the government in Antigua but resisted by the local community. The roughly 1,600 Barbudans claim that they own the island communally and that land therefore cannot be acquired by anyone.
One of these investors is the Hollywood actor Robert De Niro. His plans for a $250 million luxury resort were reportedly blocked until the island was struck by Hurricane Irma four years ago and 95% of all buildings were destroyed. The capital injection needed following the disaster appears to have given Robert and his Paradise Found project the kickstart it needed and the construction was in full swing when we were there. He had already built a private airport and a Nobu sushi restaurant on the beach. I don’t for a second want to stick my neck into what must be a locally toxic debate, but it would be a shame to see this unspoilt gem develop too much. I really hope Robert’s post Irma investments will aid the disaster struck community but also that he doesn’t destroy the paradise he claims to have ‘found’ in the process.
We decided to give Robert’s New York style sushi restaurant a miss and settled for Shack-A-Kai instead. A beach bar where Enac will barbecue freshly caught lobster for you as long as you bring your own cutlery.