On the plus side, that means we have the colourful reefs to ourselves.As the sun’s rays crackle on the surface, we swim towards a reef with a rainbow of fish hovering around us.The only difference is that there are fewer tourists to share it with.Sunloungers lie empty on the beach, and at Devil’s Bridge, a famous cliff where the Atlantic has carved out a vertiginous bridge in the rock, there are four souvenir stalls – and the same number of tourists.The same is true of one of the island’s most popular snorkelling spots near English Harbour.When we moor at the Pillars of Hercules, where fierce winds have sculpted impressive rock formations in the sandy cliffs, we’re the only boat in the area.Without the package, Virgin Atlantic flies from Gatwick to Antigua from £557 return.
They have hurricanes every four years, more or less, here – and they bounce back, and they’re always open for business.As a relative newcomer to the island, hurricanes aren’t something he’s used to (he drank his best bottle of wine while sheltering from Irma, he says, just in case he didn’t make it out alive), but for Antiguans, it’s different.“It’s not uncommon for hurricanes to be this bad, and if they haven’t seen it in their lifetime, it’s told through parents or grandparents,” he explains.Instead, they’re prepping to record a special video for their 1998 song Come Back Darling.(The video can be seen here.) While the words of the song were originally written to represent lost love, this new incarnation is aimed at tourists who – since September’s three hurricanes, including the devastating Irma, ripped through the region – have largely believed the Caribbean islands to be off-limits.
It’s a scorching hot day in December, and Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue from UB40 are at Mary’s Shack – a ramshackle hut that looks out over a sweeping white beach and turquoise sea, and one of Antigua’s most famous drinking spots.