Emerald Bay at Great Exuma Island
A hidden treasure in the Bahamas
Feb. 5, 2006 11:00 AM
Discerning travelers who are seeking the flavor of The Bahamas but prefer their conch salad served to them in a private cabana by a secluded beach untouched by the masses may want to consider the newly developed Emerald Bay at Great Exuma Island. A destination unknown to the mainstream vacationer, hidden in the Bahamas Family Islands amid tranquil cays and powder-white virgin beaches, Emerald Bay awaits to delight guests whether their quest is for relaxation or adventure. The 470-acre Emerald Bay property encompasses the five-star Four Seasons resort, the exclusive Grand Isle Villas residences, a Greg Norman–designed oceanfront golf course, the newly opened Marina at Emerald Bay, and solely for members – The Club at Emerald Bay.
The Four Seasons offers its guests a host of leisure and adventure options to fill a day. Guests can enjoy complimentary use of a variety of water-sports equipment, and even arrange to spend a day at one of the many nearby deserted beaches with a gourmet picnic lunch. Swimmers can opt for the ocean or the Resort’s two free-form, freshwater swimming pools. They can soak in outdoor whirlpools alongside landscaped pool decks, or relax in private cabanas. The Water Sports Activity Center offers expert instruction in snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. Great Exuma’s calm, turquoise waters are perfect for leisurely swimming or sailing. They also are renowned as some of the world’s best spots for bonefish, amberjack, barracuda, giant tuna, grouper, and other catches, and sportfishing excursions are easily arranged. For land lovers, the Resort’s six Har-Tru tennis courts are lit for night play.
At the Resort’s Spa and Fitness Centre, guests can put their stamina to the test by using the latest weight-training and cardiovascular equipment, or by participating in a high-energy fitness class. Expert, highly trained staff members are on hand to assist or develop personalized programs. Relaxing experiences are also to be had at the Spa, where guests are immersed in the serene beauty of the island while gaining a sense of personal harmony. Therapies using natural salts, indigenous herbs, flowers, and oils make for an authentic Bahamian experience. A variety of yoga and fitness classes and a secluded Spa Garden help to activate the body’s natural healing powers.
For the yachting, cruising, and sportfishing crowd, The Marina at Emerald Bay provides dockage for vessels up to 225’, allowing yacht and boat owners to enjoy the serenity of Great Exuma and the exclusivity of The Four Seasons Resort. Located on the northeast corner of Great Exuma Island, the marina is accessible via Exuma Sound, north of Emerald Bay at 23.38.118 North and 075.54.928 West. The Marina at Emerald Bay is a full-service, deepwater marina with point of entry for customs and immigration.
The first phase of The Marina is now open, receiving yachts in 47 slips ranging from 40’ to 175’. The temporary facilities include a Harbourmaster’s Office outfitted with an attentive staff, a crew lounge, and shuttle services to the Four Seasons Resort and Wahoo’s Waterfront Restaurant, serving traditional island cuisine prepared by Bahamian-trained Chef D’Shea Wilson. Phase two of The Marina Village, scheduled to open in 2007, will include the completion of the remaining 103 slips, a dry-stack storage facility, Private Yacht Clubhouse, Members Exclusive Beach Club, and Cabana Spa and Fitness Center with an infinity pool.
The Club at Emerald Bay Yacht & Social Memberships includes a five-star, full-service Private Yacht Club with available wet and dry slip memberships and members-only amenities that rival those offered by any exclusive club around the world. The Club’s membership program is created with the vision of establishing a very active yet elegant lifestyle with outstanding member privileges and club facilities. With Yacht & Social Memberships starting at $5,000 refundable deposit and monthly dues of $50 per month, members can soak up all the amenities. The Private Yacht Clubhouse will be the social center for member events, including lobster fests, yacht festivals, regattas, and special occasions. For a private escape, The Cabana Spa and Fitness Center will provide a tropical oasis to rejuvenate the soul. The Beach Club at Emerald Bay has something for everyone, whether it’s lounging in the sun or exploring the underwater splendor just off the shoreline. Membership in The Club at Emerald Bay will satisfy the most discerning traveler. While the facility is under construction, the Private Yacht & Social Club Memberships are currently available at an introductory rate. (See www.emeraldbayresort.com.)
The Greg Norman–designed 18-hole, par-72 Four Seasons Golf Club, Great Exuma at Emerald Bay, features six breathtaking oceanfront holes – with more ocean views than any comparable course in the U.S. The course plays to 7,001 yards from championship tees, but it is ideal for golfers of all levels. The greens are framed by the island’s native vegetation of sea grapes, silver buttonwood, and cabbage palms that leisurely sway in the prevailing southeastern trade winds. An environmentally friendly seashore paspalum grass with lush green canopy creates a surface that requires little fertilizer and uses filtered ocean water for irrigation. Golf pros, a pro shop, driving range, putting green, lessons, and clinics are available to club members, residents, and hotel guests.
Grand Isle Villas
At the highest peak of Emerald Bay – overlooking the greens, tees, and fairways of the Greg Norman golf course and the bay with its colorful Sunfish and Hobie cats – only a golf cart or dinghy ride away from the new marina and a brisk walk down a crescent-shaped beach from the Four Seasons lie the Grand Isle Villas. This $100 million chunk of seaside real estate with its villas available for sale or as hotel accommodations is drawing international attention and acclaim. Its success, even its existence, had an ironic genesis.
Jim Clabaugh and Pamela McCullough were like many of the yachties who discovered the Bahamas by sailboat. They watched the magic of the sunset and sipped sundowners on board their 41-foot Jeanneau. Each time they returned to their professional lives as developers along Florida’s southwest coast, they promised themselves that one day they would return and build something beautiful in the Bahamas. In the early 1990s, an engineer they knew invited them to see a job he was doing in the Exumas. McCullough and Clabaugh visited and were as soundly hooked as a Danforth in packed sand. The project stalled, but when it was relaunched, they were there with their new Bahamian company EGI Ltd., a major investor, ready to face the challenges of building on a Family Island and to such a standard that buyers, appreciative of the marriage of location and craftsmanship, would be willing to spend in the high six figures or more for a second home that could also be a revenue earner when they were not using it.
McCullough and Clabaugh had years of high-rise building experience (and several awards) behind them. Transferring what worked in Longboat Key and Sarasota, Florida to a remote island in the Bahamas was going to be tricky. Just getting materials to the site, then finding skilled craftsmen and artisans were challenges. They put out the word and hired the finest from around the Bahamian islands, bringing in and housing tile layers from one island, finish carpenters from another, air-conditioning and refrigeration specialists from still another. The result: attention to detail in construction throughout. Natural stone flooring, vaulted cypress ceilings, eight-foot sliding glass doors, marble baths, gourmet kitchens with granite counters, and Sub Zero and Dacor appliances. Everything – from the dishes in the cabinets to the duvets and 400-count linens on the beds, the plasma TVs to the high-speed Internet connection – is an understatement of comfort, taste, and style.
“You know,” says Clabaugh, “this is the toughest job we have ever done – and the best, the most satisfying. The workmanship really makes you proud.” More than 5,000 pieces of hand-worked tile form a backdrop mural at the outdoor restaurant and bar. In addition to the villas, design and construction of the Tahitian-style roof over the pavilion, the infinity pool and whirlpool, and the fitness center overlooking the water spell quality. In the less than two years’ time since Grand Isle Villas have been in existence, the prices of villas have increased dramatically.
The total build will be 75 villas that range from $750,000 for a one bedroom to $5.5 million for a penthouse. Two-bedroom units with over 2,000 square feet of interior space start at $1.2 million. All feature a reverse living pattern – living room, dining, and kitchen upstairs to take advantage of the views; bedrooms on the first floor.
Grand Isle Villas is being positioned as a condotel, the newest wave in resort-residential living. When owners are not present, they earn revenue by placing their villas in a rental pool managed by a separate hotel company. At Grand Isle, that includes full concierge service, from stocking shelves and freezer with food prior to arrival to serving a gourmet meal for guests and burgers for the children on the patio at the hours requested by the party each evening. Villas that easily sleep eight rent for up to $20,000 a week. (See www.grandislevillas.com.) They are almost always full. Smaller villas are available for considerably less.
Says McCullough: “Owners and guests tell us that it’s just like home, but better. You can golf during the day, sail, swim, be pampered at the spa, walk on the beach, have concierge service serve your chilled Crystal on the balcony overlooking the beach, pool, and Emerald Bay, and somehow that hole you didn’t par doesn’t matter as much anymore. You’ll do better tomorrow. It’s wonderful to know that you can have the best of both worlds, to be close to the marina and live in the lap of luxury on an island that’s still small enough not to need a traffic light, but sophisticated enough to offer this.”
— by Diane Phillips