Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Place In The Sun

A friend of ours owns a private island.

He's an interesting guy. He grew up on a dairy farm outside of Pearland TX. He worked his butt off to get through college, then headed off to Hawaii and became a hotel general manager. Met a wonderful gal there (much too good for him), and eventually returned to the mainland and went to grad school at UT (that's the University of Texas, for you foreigners out there)..

Graduated with his MBA and went to work for a large international consulting firm. If you know anything about consulting firms, you know that, like large law firms, they chew up and spit out junior level employees. Long hours, lots of travel, lousy assignments and working conditions, the whole nine yards. But after three or four years those who survive and prosper can achieve great things. My friend was fast-tracked to a partnership. What the consulting firm didn't realize was that as they were using and abusing him, he was soaking up what made them successful like a sponge. After a decade or so he left them and started his own consulting firm, specializing in the nexus of technology, business processes, and innovation. However, his dream has always been to find Margaritaville.

He first became aware of the island while evaluating Caribbean real estate for an investor group. It had been neglected by the owner, damaged by storms, and generally was run down and ill kept. It needed a lot of work to become habitable again. The investors were looking for something that was ready for immediate use, so they passed on it. But my buddy saw a lot of potential there.

The price was right - that is to say, dirt cheap. He was able to raise some capital to buy the land. The rest was sweat equity: put together a local team (qualified people who would do the work in exchange for a promise of a share of the profits, assuming there were any); renovate the buildings; repair and upgrade the infrastructure; obtain furniture, linens, kitchen equipment, and other necessary items; acquire the recreation equipment (jetskis, kayaks, boats, etc.); build a management and marketing team; and all the other activities associated with starting up a small resort.

He has succeeded magnificently.

The finished product is a small luxury resort on a private island a short distance off the coast of Belize. Belize is an interesting place. Like the U.S., it's a melting pot of several cultures and languages. It's official language is English (a residue of its history as a British colony), which is almost universally spoken to one degree or another. Other commonly spoken languages include a local form of Creole, Spanish, and Mayan. The people we met were likewise diverse, descended from indigenous Mayans, transplanted slaves, German Mennonites, Spaniards, and a sprinkling of others. Regardless of their ethnic background, everyone we met was universally warm, friendly, and welcoming.

Belize is also a well-known tourist destination, which brings us back to the island. Under its new name - Royal Belize - it is marketed as an all-inclusive private luxury getaway.
The very essence of privacy and luxury. An entire 7.5 acre Caribbean island for your exclusive use. A completely personalized experience.
Complete with a full staff including a manager, concierge and cook, you will enjoy paradise with your closest friends and family, or just you and someone very special. Spend your days relaxing or stay busy with beach games, jet skis, sea kayaks, snorkeling, scuba, sailing and fishing. If you care to venture off of the island, your concierge can arrange a variety of activities including zip lining, waterfall hiking, helicopter tours, cave tubing and excursions to the Mayan ruins.
Because it is so small - there are only five bedrooms, located in three different villas - it is managed as an exclusive resort. That is, only one party is booked at a time, so you will know everyone there. The price seems high at first glance, but it includes everything - and I mean everything. There were no add-on fees, extra charges, additional taxes, or other surprises. We didn't pay a penny more than the agreed upon rate. And since we are friends of the owner, we got a generous friends-and-family discount.

Getting there was a piece of cake. One hour flight from San Antonio to Houston. Two hour flight to Belize City. Fifteen minute flight (in a 14-seat Cessna) to Dangriga. Twenty-five minute boat ride to the island. We were met at the dock by the island staff holding tall glasses of rum punch. Great way to start a vacation.

Once we were there, it was literally a tropical paradise. Meals that were the equivalent of five-star restaurants. An incredibly attentive and accommodating staff. Top-notch facilities. Many activities to choose from - too many to experience them all in a four day trip. If you're into scuba or snorkeling, it can't be beat. We also managed to squeeze in some down time - lounging around, working on our tans and catching up on our reading.

Don't get the wrong idea. We're not jet-setters. In fact, one of the reasons we were so impressed by the resort is because it's the type of place that we typically can't afford to visit. It was great to see how the other half lives.

So if you win the lottery - or even if you don't, but you have a hankering for a once in a lifetime trip - check out Royal Belize. The price may sound a little steep at first, but divide it by ten people (or whatever the size of your party is), and keep in mind that you won't have to pay another penny for anything else once you get there.

In my honest opinion it is one of the best experiences you'll ever enjoy. (And I didn't get paid to promote the place.)


Bag Blog said...

Sounds heavenly!

CenTexTim said...

Heavenly is a good word for it. It was one of the best trips I've ever gone on.

Old NFO said...

Nice, but well out of my price range... sigh

Old NFO said...

Nice, but well out of my price range... sigh