Finding Solitude on Sandy Island
“It’s like having your own island,” I think, as I make my way along the sweep of bush-backed sand, its white grains glistening at the water’s edge like tiny gems left carelessly. For as far as I can see, right to where the island finally ends and the water begins, there’s nothing but nature: a stripe of shoulder-high coconut palms and leafy sea grape bushes that gives away to sand streaked with pink grains and water as clear and impossibly blue as Windex. Walking in this direction it feels as if I have this beachy kingdom, Sandy Island, all to myself.
But I don’t.
About a quarter-mile behind me is my crew of travelers, a dozen of us who’ve descended upon Carriacou, one of Grenada’s two sister islands, from the mainland. Our two-hour ferry ride from St. George’s – complete with sudden rainstorms and rough seas – ended in the main town of Hillsborough and a tour of the island (pop; 8,000), which, at 13 square-miles, is the largest of the Grenadines and boasts, we’re told, “one gas station, 100 rum shops and not a single traffic light.”
Carriacou is enchanting, yes. But after driving around for 90 minutes, crammed into in an insufficiently air-conditioned minivan, I can’t wait for what I’m sure will be the day’s highlight: some beach time on Sandy Island. Less than a five-minute boat ride from Paradise Beach on Carriacou’s southwest coast, the spit is part of a protected marine park and a Hawksbill turtle nesting site. It’s also a popular spot for snorkelers, who can expect to see live coral and reef fish such as parrot, grunt and, if you’re lucky, lobster and octopus in the shallows.
But today I’m all 'bout the beach, and as we zip across the waves in Isles of Reef Tour’s painted skiff, Ms Allison, and a spray of sea salt quickly coats my bare skin, my anticipation builds. I hop out of the boat and into the warm, knee-deep water and have to hold back a squeal of delight. Because This. Is. Paradise.
Sandy Island is like a Caribbean castaway fantasy realized, calling to mind every cliché you’ve ever read about uninhabited islands: dusted with “soft sand,” embellished with “lush greenery,” and “afloat in water bathtub warm water.” There’s no infrastructure here (save a weather-worn trap suspended over a picnic table and bench); no music playing; no one hawking trinkets or offering to braid my hair. The long, narrow island is the perfect slice of Paradise, offering day-trippers a taste of tranquility and overnighters (camping is allowed) the sort of off-the-beaten-path experience that’s fast becoming uncommon in the Caribbean.
And for me, separated from my group by a quarter-mile of coast that somehow feels a world away, Sandy delivers exactly I need at this moment: sand, sea and sweet, sweet solitude.
Seduced by Sandy Island? Isle of Reefs Tours offers day trips from Carriacou to Sandy Island for US$75, including lunch, drinks and snorkeling gear.