Rendezvous Bay is billed as Montserrat’s solely white-sand seaside; all of the others are volcanic black. After we reached it, the secluded cove was abandoned. We adopted enormous, tractor-like tracks left within the sand by inexperienced turtles, and floated within the heat, crystal-clear water as pelicans dived for sprats overhead. Then we dried off – and pulled on our strolling boots. This seaside doesn’t get crowded as a result of it may well solely be reached after a stiff hour’s hike.

The Caribbean will not be an apparent mountain climbing vacation spot however one firm is attempting to vary that. Hike Caribbean launched final September to supply “holidays with hikes” to individuals who don’t need to simply laze on a seaside all day. It’s not a full-on mountain climbing journey: most walks take a most of half a day, so there may be nonetheless loads of time to chill out with a rum punch. And there’s no roughing it with a backpack and a tent – the lodging is lush by the requirements of most mountain climbing holidays. Our lodge in Antigua, Sugar Ridge, had three swimming pools, two eating places, a spa and free shuttles to the seaside.
My sister and I began our journey in Antigua, the place Hike Caribbean is predicated. We had a week-long, two-island itinerary; these with extra days might slot in three islands. Actually eager hikers can sort out the five-peak problem: 21 days of mountain climbing to the best factors on Antigua, St Lucia, Guadeloupe, St Kitts and Nevis. Extra islands shall be added in future, comparable to Dominica, which has a number of the greatest mountain climbing within the area however continues to be recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Montserrat’s Rendezvous seaside. The one white-sand seaside on the island, all of the others are volcanic black. {Photograph}: Alistair Homer/Alamy
Our first hike in Antigua sounded idyllic: by the rainforest within the south-west of the island, right down to a string of hidden seashores. Sadly, the climate was towards us: three weeks of freak rain had made the route too treacherous to try. As a substitute, our larger-than-life information, Vorn, took us up Boggy Peak, aka Mount Obama, one of many aforementioned 5 peaks. Normally this hike begins from Sugar Ridge, however the rain pressured us to reroute and set off by Jeep.

We started knee-deep in water. I had climbed Mount Obama on a earlier go to to Antigua with no issues, however torrential rain and squelching mud made it a totally completely different proposition. Vorn stored our spirits up along with his tall tales and encyclopaedic information of the island’s wildlife; we appeared to move a plant to remedy each ailment beneath the solar.
Fortunately, the following day the solar got here out as we drove to Galleon Seashore. From right here, we adopted a beautiful coastal path as much as Shirley Heights, a former army lookout. We stopped on the Mermaid Gardens, the place the ocean has carved out a pure swimming pool – although the often flat water was raging as a result of latest rains, so we couldn’t take a dip. We walked by cacti and clouds of butterflies to the summit, with its views over Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour and much past.

In his stride … Vorn leads a hilltop hike.
Again on the lodge, we stretched out our sore muscle groups in a sundown yoga class – Hike Caribbean additionally provides journeys combining mountain climbing with yoga, swimming or birdwatching. Sugar Ridge is constructed into the hillside and the out of doors yoga terrace is correct on the prime, a surprising setting for a couple of solar salutations.

From Antigua, it’s a thrilling 20-minute flight in an eight-seater aircraft or a stomach-churning 90-minute boat journey to neighbouring Montserrat (we took the aircraft there and the boat again). Right here, the mountain climbing stepped up a gear. In addition to the seaside journey, our new information, Scriber, took us on a five-hour trek alongside a difficult new path within the Centre Hills. It was critically steep going, however the tropical forest was enchanting. Midway up, Scriber stopped to name the Montserrat oriole, the island’s nationwide fowl. As if by magic, a pair appeared: an olive-green feminine and a shiny yellow-and-black male. The species was critically endangered till 2016 and continues to be classed as susceptible, however conservation efforts are bearing fruit.
Sadly, the identical can’t be stated for the mountain rooster, a much-loved big frog that has been decimated by illness and habitat loss. Formally, it’s critically endangered in Montserrat and Dominica, its two surviving relative strongholds, however Scriber thinks it’s now extinct on his island. He turns into visibly emotional: “The forest was a symphony – the male might name from nightfall until daybreak.” The species is being bred in captivity, and Scriber hopes will probably be reintroduced efficiently.
As we climbed increased, we reached an elfin forest, a uncommon ecosystem that includes miniature timber. On the prime, the thick cloud parted for a treasured jiffy earlier than swallowing up the hills once more.
After the hike, we headed to the Attic restaurant in Olveston, which specialises in rooster roti and contemporary juices constituted of tropical fruits, comparable to soursop and starfruit. The must-try dish in Montserrat is goat water, a thick, clove-scented stew usually eaten at weddings and funerals. I attempted it at an area household’s home, however additionally it is served on the Individuals’s Place in St Peter’s district on Fridays.

Feathered pal … Montserrat’s native fowl, the oriole. {Photograph}: Alamy
Life in Montserrat modified irrevocably for people and wildlife alike in 1995, when the Soufrières Hills volcano started erupting; additional eruptions in 1997 killed 19 individuals. The capital, Plymouth, was destroyed, two-thirds of the inhabitants emigrated and greater than half the island continues to be an exclusion zone. Islanders needed to begin from scratch, relocating all the pieces from properties and hospitals to the airport. The volcano continues to be thought-about lively however hasn’t erupted since 2010 and is extraordinarily intently monitored. Guests can watch a documentary on the eruptions on the Hilltop Espresso Home, a wonderful cafe-cum-museum.
Previous to 1995, Montserrat was an upmarket vacationer vacation spot. The Beatles producer George Martin opened a recording studio there in 1979, and stars such because the Rolling Stones made albums within the sunshine. (We stayed in Martin’s former house, Olveston Home, which is now a guesthouse.) Right this moment, the vacationer board is advertising and marketing “the buried metropolis”, Plymouth, as a modern-day Pompeii. As it’s so near the volcano, you continue to want a authorities allow and a police guard to go to – which Hike Caribbean can organise – and it’s an astonishing, unsettling, sobering sight. I wandered across the deserted streets, previous a college, a lodge and a grocery store, all of which have been buried beneath volcanic mud and ash. Pictures reveal a two-storey workplace constructing that when stood 5 storeys excessive; the spire is all that is still of the church.
However past buried Plymouth, life is returning to the island – ash is an efficient fertiliser and the hills are lush and inexperienced as soon as extra. Montserratians hope the vacationers will return, too, and mountain climbing is simply one other good cause to take action.
Approach to go
The journey was supplied by Hike Caribbean, which has a seven-night journey to Antigua and Montserrat from £1,395, together with B&B, 4 guided hikes and inside flights or ferries. BA has return flights from Gatwick to Antigua from £420
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