From an elevated position on the cliff top, it feels as though we may be the only people privy to the final pink hues of sunset fading beyond the Caribbean horizon. Of course, there are other guests enjoying the view here at Secret Bay, but it would be impossible to know. Twelve private, sustainably-crafted villas dot the forested hillside of Dominica’s west coast but each is hidden from the other amongst the lush canopy.
Secret Bay, as the name suggests, puts privacy first. The sprawling, residential-style villas are designed to represent the cutting edge of ethical luxury - with environmental responsibility and guest comfort the property’s twin pillar approach.
The two-storey Zabuco Honeymoon Villa II, our home away from home, has been created from sustainably sourced Guyanese hardwood, with the furniture - from headboard to dining table - handmade from Dominican Red Cedar on site. Ocean vistas don’t need to be enjoyed from the same spot; pick a comfy armchair on the expansive terrace, a cushioned hammock on the lower deck or a lounger by the heated private pool. It’s a welcome choice.
A meticulous pre-arrival questionnaire ensures visitors have an entirely customised experience – from the firmness of the mattress and pillows to the provision of a GoPro and snorkels for those keen to explore the nearby turquoise waters.
Each villa has an individual host, though Rhona could better be described as our Dominican fairy godmother. From topping up a bubble bath (a necessity given the tub is cavernous) to rustling up pancakes and local speciality salt fish for breakfast in the vast kitchen, no request is too ridiculous for Rhona and Secret Bay’s legion of smiling staff.
Dinner can be taken in or out of the villa, with Zing Zing Restaurant offering a hyper-local ‘off menu’ dining experience that includes ingredients foraged from Secret Bay’s forests. The Gommier Spa and Bwa Mang Wellness Pavilion offers treatments and yoga with a serious view, while the Gwiyave’ Lap Pool & Bar is nestled beachside, among the swaying coconut palms.
Excursions can, and should, be arranged across the Nature Island, which is rich in biodiversity thanks to an array of rivers, rainforest and subterranean volcanoes. Swimming in a crystal pool at the foot of Dominica’s highest waterfall, Middleham Falls, the overwhelming feeling is one of disbelief that we are the only ones there. Dominica is a more rugged, less established tourist destination than many of its Caribbean neighbours, but this is unquestionably its charm. ‘Hustle’ and ‘bustle’ are simply not part of the Dominican vocabulary.
Back in our villa-cum-jungle citadel, relaxing amid the sound of chirping parrots, it is difficult to envision that just five years earlier, Hurricane Maria whipped through the island and left a trail of destruction in her wake. Dominica’s lush landscape was stained brown as trees were uprooted and homes destroyed. Now the hillsides and valleys are once more a sea of green. The resilience of the ecosystem, and of the people, has been nothing short of remarkable.
Secret Bay did not escape damage and a focus on regeneration and growth has been central to the property’s journey. The next phase of that is an exciting new ‘Residences’ development led by owner Gregor Nassief, whose Lebanese grandfather emigrated to the Caribbean a century ago. Clifftop Estates customers will have the opportunity to own a small piece of Dominica’s spectacular cliffside, with exclusivity still guaranteed among Secret Bay’s 33 acres. A second restaurant, saltwater infinity pool and curated art gallery are among the accompanying projects.
Before leaving, we embark on another micro-adventure, to the eponymous ‘Secret Bay’ itself. Inaccessible on foot, it can only be reached by kayak. A gentle five-minute paddle around the cove reveals a short stretch of sandy seclusion. Flanked by dramatic cliffs, with Rhona’s expertly packed picnic at our side and an empty ocean ahead, the beach feels emblematic of the wider property. This isn’t a hotel stay, it is an exercise in exclusivity on an island of untapped potential. Our advice: visit before the secret’s out.
WHAT: Zabuco Honeymoon Villa II
WHERE: Secret Bay, Tibay, Dominica, Caribbean
TEL: +1 767 445 4444