In need of peace and tranquillity? Ben Mitchell finds it in bucketloads on a Caribbean island
A hummingbird buzzes past me as I relax in my private pool, mulling over whether I should spend the rest of the day here or at the beach.
I watch intently as the small bird pauses to hover above a pink hibiscus flower, but before I even have time to pick up my camera, it darts off at an impossible speed.
It’s no coincidence that these tireless birds are a common sight around the gardens of Paradise Beach on the West Indies island of Nevis, as the gardeners have specifically selected oleander, firecracker and hibiscus plants to attract them to the grounds stretching down to the peaceful beach.
Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago and neighbouring St Kitts, picturesque Nevis was originally named Oualie (land of the beautiful waters) by early Caribs.
Much quieter than other Caribbean islands, it’s an unspoilt idyll overflowing with flora and fauna. Last year saw the opening of the luxurious seven-villa Paradise Beach resort, which offers the only beachfront villas on the island - with concierge and butler service - and meticulous care has been taken in the design of the villas to ensure the resort lives up to its name.
Each bungalow has its own pool with cabana for eating al fresco, as well as loungers where you can lie back and enjoy your own corner of paradise.
The indulgence continues inside with a giant four-poster bed dominating the master bedrooms, along with a powerful outdoor rain shower in the en suite, which is so welcoming and decadent, I find any excuse to have yet another shower.
The air-conditioned villas, with Balinese glass walls and sliding doors overlooking the gardens and ocean, are decorated with tastefully chosen artefacts from around the world, and are fitted with bespoke furniture complete with sofas and cushioned daybeds.
The resort can provide a chef to prepare meals for you, or those keen to show off their culinary skills can conjure up dishes at their own convenience. A butler will happily stock the fridge with all the locally-sourced ingredients you could wish for.
One evening our cook, Paulette, prepares a traditional meal of mahi-mahi fish and fried plantains, and each morning she awakes our senses with a range of zesty juices.
Another highlight of the resort is its tranquil beach, which has its own bar and loungers. There’s a wonderful view across to the neighbouring island of St Kitts and guests can rent kayaks and paddle-boards for an afternoon of soft adventure on the calm sea.
Nevis, which has a population of just 12,000, was the hideaway of choice for Princess Diana and also delighted Horatio Nelson, who was stationed here and ended up marrying Fanny Nisbet, the daughter of a plantation owner.
At only six miles across, the island, serviced by a small airport, is easily accessible by bicycle or car and only a short ride from the resort is the capital Charlestown.
At the centre of the green island is the “potentially active” volcano Nevis Peak. One morning, we set off to explore its densely forested slopes with the help of our local guide, Baba, who leads us on a trek to some spectacular waterfalls.
But whether hiking the forests, taking catamaran trips to snorkel with luminescent fish or enjoying sunset horseback rides, my lasting memory of Nevis is of a blissful retreat from the stresses of everyday life.