JAMAICA August 22, 2005 — “What can you know — and feel — about a place when you don’t meet the people who live in it?” Travel Editor Tom Swick challenged in his famous “Columbia Journalism Review” article (The Road Not Taken, 2001).
Island Outpost invites the media to experience true Caribbean color and character. Interview the staffers at the heart of each exclusive resort. Talk to the bartender that wove the thatch roof. Chat with the gatekeeper who encourages his three-year-old son to become a pilot. Learn the night-fishing secrets of a beach attendant (and his popular theory linking rum and longevity).
Much has been written about Island Outpost Owner Chris Blackwell. After all, the record mogul launched Bob Marley, U2, among others. But he recognizes that the staff is the source of the chain’s charm.
It’s all about the spirit. Sensibility. And Heart. Island Outpost is about a feeling. The rush of discovery. The bliss of authenticity,
– he said.
Discover the many faces of Island Outpost.
Bartender Desmond Young always smiled and celebrated, even when life took hard twists. His schooling was sporadic in Jamaica’s hilltop village of Irishtown. Residents would trek six miles along a dirt path just to collect the mail, delivered by horse and buggy.
After stints as a mechanic, tailor and caretaker, Young migrated to the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1967. There he learned to bartend, wait tables — and most importantly — to entertain. After 19 years, he brought his skills back home.
Young farmed, until Strawberry Hill lured him away to bartend in 1994, when the resort opened. He supplied fresh eggs to the kitchen and island lore to enthralled visitors. This memorable host partied with the guests for 11 years. Young retired in May 2005, but still visits in the evening to do what he does best – spin yarns and share Jamaican charm.
This gracious retreat nestles high in Blue Mountains, a location that “beggars description,” according to “Conde Nast Traveler”. Twelve wood-shingled cottages reflect its plantation history with gables, cooling louvers, ceiling fans and rockers on the verandahs. Hardwood floors and mahogany furniture — handcrafted on the premises – complete the genteel ambiance. Strawberry Hill offers sweeping views of the peaks and sea, all bathed in the lush mountain mists.
Ramsey Dacosta knew this land as a horse and donkey track, back when Oracabessa was Jamaica’s biggest banana port. Age 17, he climbed coconut trees for Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, who bought GoldenEye in 1946.
After breakfast he would take his pad and cigarettes and go to the gazebo to work,
– he recalled.
But we never knew what he was writing. We had never even seen a movie at that time.
He learned about the silver screen in the United States, where he picked sugar cane, strawberries, citrus and apples in his 20s. He returned home to find the banana industry defunct. Dacosta, ever resourceful, fished and worked as a lifeguard from a little rowboat. “One day I pulled up on the GoldenEye Beach and I see Mrs. Blackwell, Mr. Chris’s mother,” he said. Before she even finished her swim, she hired Ramsey Dacosta.
I am at GoldenEye from then, 27 years ago!
Today Dacosta is a GoldenEye institution: the property’s resident historian, storyteller and forester, who oversaw the planting of almost every tree on the property. The first was a thank-you present from England’s Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who unwound there after the 1956 Suez crisis.
Every morning Ramsey Dacosta still cleans the GoldenEye beach. He holds court, often sporting a mischievous grin. “I like talking with the guests and working at the same time,” he said. Dacosta carves them coconut monkeys and explains the trees, fruits and birds. A lucky handful joins him on night-fishing excursions: “We light a lamp at sea. The light attracts the little fish and the little fish attract the bigger fish.”
Dacosta, fit and lanky at 67, credits his vigor to rum, exercise and GoldenEye:
if I was not working, I wouldn’t be living.
Be shaken — not stirred — by the splendor of James Bond’s birthplace. Dashing 007 originated at this 15-acre seaside hideaway, which blossomed around the home of Ian Fleming, who wrote 13 spy novels here. Today, his retreat is a boutique resort laced with beaches, tropical forest, caves and secluded nooks. Intimate and informal, this idyll — four villas on a sea bluff, one overlooking a cove — attracts celebrities and other lovers of luxury.
Douglas Turner grew alongside the Henzell family. He groomed horses, gardened and worked in the house as a youngster. So when Sally Henzell asked him to help launch Jake’s in 1993, her old friend didn’t hesitate. Turner quit his shop job and signed onto the budding resort, then equipped with just
four solar-powered lights, a flirtatious cook and electricity from an extension cord next door.
Now 60, Turner is the premier bartender at the funky 29-room resort. Sally laughed, recalling how far service has soared since the
bar was a just a cupboard on the back verandah … A waiter once served a French lady one shot of wine in the bottom of her glass!
Returnees beeline for the bar for gossip and a cold Red Stripe, she reported.
So that’s Dougie for you. My mainstay. Our mainstay now. The most popular member of our popular staff. A star!
Guests, locals and staff mingle cheerfully at Jake’s, where shells, beads and colored glass glitter from the walls. Dramatic cottages commune with the garden, sea and sky, near a secluded fishing village. The bohemian atmosphere comes as no surprise: Jake’s is run by the Henzells, also responsible for Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come”, the hippest Caribbean film of all time.
Elvis Brown greets all guests with a perfectly white, supremely wide smile. The security guard is a good judge of character: after all, he wed as a love-struck teenager and is still happily married 19 years later. His persistence also led to his “dream job” at the Caves. Brown rode his bicycle 25 miles a day – through scorching sun and seething rain – to deliver newspapers. En route, he struck up a friendship with Bertram and Greer-Ann Saulter, co-founders of the resort. They convinced him to become the Caves’ gatekeeper six years ago. Now his steady presence, keen eye and – above all – charm are shared only with his wife and three children.
The resort perches on a volcanic cliff, honeycombed with grottoes splashed by the turquoise sea. Hammocks, sun decks and al fresco showers are scattered throughout these nooks. Ten handcrafted cottages harmoniously blend local wood, stone and thatch. High ceilings soar above custom-made
wood and bamboo, brightened by bold island colors. These “colorful wooden cottages could have been designed by Matisse,” praised the “New York Times.”
Beach Attendant Bolo knows the resort. He knows it deep in his hands, hands that reconstructed the Pink Sands after Hurricane Andrew, hands that still weave thatch roofs to shade and shelter guests.
Although his construction days are over, Bolo can still trace all the underground pipes and wires, when a maintenance problem arises. The hands don’t forget — and neither does he.
He recalls every visitor, past or present, as well as their special requests, like Robert De Niro’s favorite rum concoction. He arrives with a smile and departs with an even bigger one, no matter how hard the day. Perhaps the mellow Harbor Island vibe helps: Bolo lives locally with his wife and four children.
This beachfront estate stands beside its namesake, the glamorous and legendary three-mile strip of pink sands. Twenty-five pastel cottages create a haven of understated chic. Biba founder – and 60s style maven – Barbara Hulanicki mixed Indian, Moroccan and Balinese elements into a giddy new cocktail. Pink Sands isn’t the place to stargaze. Rather it’s a chance to enter the constellation and shine.
Island Outpost is a collection of five, distinct small properties, located in Jamaica and The Bahamas. Created by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and Palm Pictures, Island Outpost creates environments reminiscent of staying at a good friend’s home. The company is home to the Second Annual GoldenEye Film Festival December 7-12, 2005 and the Flashpoint Music & Film Festival at The Caves in Negril, July 30-31, 2005.
“Conde Nast Traveler” praised Island Outpost as “like a close-knit family of wildly attractive, intelligent and anarchic kids, they are utterly independent and quite impossible to separate from one another. But something they have all inherited is Blackwell’s easy charm, his amused and iconoclastic view of the world, his sense of fun and style, his instinct for beauty.”
Learn more about Strawberry Hill, the Caves and other Island Outpost resorts at islandoutpost.com. Or call 1.800.OUTPOST (United States and Canada), 0800.OUTPOST1 (UK) and 1.876.960.8134 in all other countries.
Public Relations US
Andria Mistakos PR
Public Relations UK
Louise Swanne – Riva PR
+44 (0)208 704 4500
Public Relations – Germany, Austria, Switzerland
+ (49) 211-405 6 504