The New Bermuda
As an island that’s become synonymous with honeymooners and pensioners, Estella Shardlow investigates whether Bermuda has anything new to offer the modern traveller.
My hands are slipping and my biceps are aching. Beneath me there’s a 10ft drop onto a rocky surface. Banyan hang all around in thick tendrils, enveloping the soaring trunks of their host trees. “You can make it,” come the encouraging cries of my group. It’s been a matter of seconds since I pushed off the edge of the walkway and swung towards the opposite tree, but it seems like eons as I hover halfway across the gap, the world’s slowest and most graceless pendulum.
Bermuda isn’t somewhere I thought I’d need a head for heights and serious upper body strength. Then again, there was a lot about this horseshoe-shaped island that took me by surprise. Vine swinging was just the beginning…
Unless you’re a retired American cruise-shipper or possibly a honeymooner, then Bermuda probably hasn’t been on your holiday radar. This is, after all, the destination branded as being for ‘newly-weds and nearly deads’, a lonely mid-Atlantic island known for shorts, aviation mysteries and not a huge amount else.
But that’s set to change. Thanks to the Bermudian government pumping $23.1m into tourism this year and a vigorous social media campaign (Bermuda Tourism’s Facebook followers have soared 91% in the past year), the island is finally casting off its tired old image.
At the vanguard of the New Bermuda is Ashley of Hidden Gems eco-tours; she who incited me to dangle Tarzan-style from the Banyan. We’ve come to Southlands, a rambling overgrown estate built by businessman James Morgan and now colonised by sunbathing lizards.
The daughter of a botanist, Ashley’s knowledge of the flora and fauna is unrivalled, and we follow her among the forest-smothered ruins like a troupe of eager Boy Scouts. I pocket a handful of Match Me If You Can leaves, which apparently cure everything from colds to muscle pain, and spy my first tequila plant.
Later, on the pink sands of Marley Bay and Warwick Long Bay – the colour is caused by tiny organisms that live on the coral reefs – we come across wild fennel and Jamaican pepper plants. The scent of spice and aniseed carries on the breeze.