By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | June 30, 2021 | Lifestyle Feature
Caerula Mar Club, a new luxury resort on South Andros in the Bahamas, is a secluded, friendly gem that feels like it’s been there forever.
Caerula Mar Club is situated on 10 acres alongside a pristine stretch of beach.
Barbara Moore moves like a kingbird among the mangroves. The grandmother, a native of the Bahamas, practically flies along the jutting limestone trail, which resembles Swiss cheese, as she shares stories during our two-hour guided trek deep into the brush on South Andros. She stops briefly to let me taste shrub leaves like wild cinnamon; she also plucks yellow sage (a local antidote to bug bites) and white sage (an elixir for colds), and leads me on an impromptu feast of sticky-sweet acacia seeds.
Evening falls on a patio graced by fire pits—the suites and the signature restaurant, Lusca, face the pool.
We see 3-foot termite mounds and poisonwood trees (“Don’t touch!” Moore cautions) on our way to an ancient stalagmite and dripstone cave alive with thousands of fruit bats. The crescendo is a 20-foot plunge into a blue hole, one of 175 interconnected underwater caves on this island—the most in the world—which were once probed by Jacques Cousteau. “I don’t know why people would want to live anywhere else,” Moore says as we swim in clear, brackish water under sapphire skies. She speaks the truth.
Decor for the resort’s private villas reflects a blend of island and midcentury modern elements.
While Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas, it’s sparsely populated (roughly 2,000 people) and remains virtually untouched, except for the intrepid who experience world-class scuba diving, fly-fishing for bonefish and exploring blue holes. That’s about to change.
Local guide Barbara Moore.
Caerula Mar Club recently opened as the first luxury property of its kind on the island, which is no small undertaking. The getaway is situated on 10 acres. Six private villas sit isolated among the palms, and 18 private suites each have their own stone patios facing the pool and empty beach. After extensive planning and selecting some of the finest materials on the planet—all documented on HGTV—the resort is ready for its close-up. Barefoot luxury is the mantra here.
The resort will arrange customized experiences for guests, including snorkeling.
Bryan and Sarah Baeumler, the home-renovation power couple of HGTV Canada (their show, Renovation Island, about their ownership of Caerula Mar Club airs on HGTV in the United States), had a vision for the property that melds luxury in a private setting with the opportunity to learn from locals about the island’s many gifts. The 750- to 800-square foot villas blend traditional and midcentury architecture with exceptional design elements handpicked by Sarah (think oversize modern art and sleek furnishings). Guests also will discover fine dining, an expansive pool and bespoke activities, including hiking to blue holes, scuba diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding and kayaking. Beachside yoga at sunrise? Check. The result is a resort that’s at once exclusive and eminently comfortable, with a staff, led by resort managers Ron and Margaret Gratzinger, who are gracious, service-oriented and eager to ensure every detail of a guest’s stay is memorable.
The private villas, which range from 750 square feet to 800 square feet, are exceptional choices for honeymoons or family getaways.
Executive chef Sebastian Perez builds on those memories with an impressive culinary program. Because the resort is so intimate, the chef quickly ascertains a guest’s dining preferences and matches it on the menu. Perez is a creative force, as witnessed by a menu that changes daily at Lusca, the property’s chic signature restaurant (the other two restaurants are Driffs, a cozy poolside retreat that serves everything from fish tacos to wood-fired pizzas, and Switcha, a cafe and smoothie bar).
While Sebastian Perez and his kitchen team cater menus to guests’ preferences, fresh and local catches are part of the daily menu.
The restaurant team—servicing a handsome room highlighted by beige leather banquettes; polished hurricane lamps; and a wall sculpture of a lusca, the mythological Caribbean creature—assemble eclectic and creative dishes. Standouts include roasted cauliflower soup, with toasted cashews, chili oil and manchego cheese; filet mignon and scallops, with white truffle mashed potatoes and summer vegetables in red wine reduction; and shrimp and prosciutto tortellini tossed in vodka sauce, with sauteed spinach, roasted peppers, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Desserts are no less impressive, especially the apple crisp (the dish’s in-house gelato is a revelation) and the rum cake.
A cocktail at Driffs, which features an extensive bar.
The day before my nature hike with Moore, I snorkel with the amiable Jen Swenson, a Saskatchewan native who has guided watery adventures everywhere from Honduras to Indonesia to Fiji. She and her husband, Davide Perestrelo, a scuba diving instructor and nature photographer, are on staff at Caerula Mar Club. The resort’s boat has ferried us to a spot roughly a half-mile from shore. We’re in shallow, cerulean water until we swim to the mouth of a blue hole. We float above the massive cavity in our wetsuits, and the water temperature cools. “Lots and lots of nutrient-rich water flowing up from the blue hole,” she tells me. “The fish love it.” And so they do; hundreds of reef dwellers (parrotfish, white grunt, lobster, trunkfish, sharpnose puffers and even a languid nurse shark) amble by, unconcerned, in flashes of color. It’s a surreal parade. I ask Swenson if she ever tires of this. She simply smiles, and says, “No. Never. And I do this every day. Just look around. It’s magic.” Villas from $1,145 per night, suites from $385 per night; charter flights from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, including aboard Cessna Grand Caravans with executive-style leather seats, Makers Air, makersair.com
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF CAERULA MAR CLUB, PHOTO BARBARA MOORE PORTRAIT BY MICHAEL MCCARTHY AND PHOTO SNORKELING PHOTO BY DAVIDE PERESTRELO