Luxury Travel Advisor sat down with David and Michael King-Hew, owners of Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas, to talk about the latest and greatest at the property, in the Bahamas and more. Here’s what they had to say.
1. To start, what are the latest goings-on at the property?
Michael: Well, it's really the redevelopment of the spa. We're redoing all the menus, and it's going under a full renovation. All the products are sea-based, so it's seaweed and sea salt scrubs and wraps. The menu is really about celebrating the environment that we're in, which obviously is the sea.
The spa allows you to look at the water and watch what's going on. That whole experience is about connecting to the environment. It reopens end of May, beginning of June.
We also have a dinner series that’s really fun, where different villas participate. You can only attend the dinner if you're resident, or you're on the cay as a guest. You don't really know where you're going—the first thing might be a cocktail party hosted by one house, so your invitation gets you there. They have a cocktail party, then you jump in the golf cart, you go to the next house, where there's a first course set up on the terrace. Then you leave and you're told to walk on the beach and follow the tiki torches. You end up at another place, where the dinner is and then there may be bonfires at that spot.
The whole idea is to celebrate the local cuisine, but then, to connect people with some of these villas. It's just a fun way to bring people together
David: Additionally, we've just introduced another three-bedroom villa, Hummingbird, to the collection. We are about to break ground on one more villa, and we're finalizing designs for two other villas, which we'll break ground on this year. Those will be online for season next year, so November of next year. And then the seaplane service...
Michael: We're launching a seaplane service, which will launch the first of June. It allows our guests to transfer between Nassau and Kamalame and all the other out islands.
The sexy thing of travel, now, is beach-to-beach or sea-to-sea. You don't even go through an airport. We've got guests that will fly from us to another resort, or fly from us to their own residence or fly from us to a boat. That's the ultimate experience, where you don't even go through an airport.
When you pull up on the beach, the seaplane will know which house you're in. So, it pulls up, the staff will greet you with a Samson Special (a strong rum cocktail, we’re told). Our maître d' makes these. We have a competition: If you can have more than the record, we give you the recipe, but we give you the recipe verbally, at the time that you win.
2. Could you tell me more about Silver Linings? Has the resort always had a wellness focus?
Michael: It's a partnership with a company out of London, founded by a woman named Christina Sundt. She comes up with the Royal Ballet, and it's a combination of yoga, Pilates, hardcore nutrition, Radiance juices.
David: It’s different from your Canyon Ranch or The Ranch Malibu—we allow you to have a glass of wine in the evening if you want. It's not encouraged; it's more sustainable when you can take away from the experience. But it's great. It has rolling enrollment for up to 14 days. The minimum we recommend is five days.
The Silver Linings Retreat is in June, and then again—hopefully—in February. We'll be working with Stewart Gilchrist, who's a big yogi from the UK. He has a massive following.
The format of the retreat is such that you finish all of your classes before lunch, and then you have the afternoon to either have your physical therapies or your massages—or to do nothing. It's not as militant as they can be, but I do it twice a year for the whole time, and it's fantastic. It's really great.
Michael: It truly is really just about experiences. A glass of champagne in a fancy restaurant is delicious; a glass of champagne on the beach at sunset is the glass of champagne, but it takes on a magical property, and that's what we're trying to do. So even if you're doing yoga, you're doing it as the sun rises or as the sun sets. If you're going to sit and have lunch, you're doing it with sand underfoot and thatched palms sitting above you.
It's about finding ways to have people reconnect with the environment, but also to go away and say, "That was an amazing day."
It's always more than the sum of the parts. The food was good, the company was great and the music was fun, but if you actually put all that together, you go, "That was a really great day."
David: As for wellness, it’s an increased initiative. When we first opened (in 1996 by David’s parents Brian and Jennifer Hew), it was heavy on fly fishing—bonefishing, in particular.
Then, when Michael and I took over the property about nine years ago, we shifted it from being this upscale bonefishing lodge on a private island, to a private island with a great fishing program—and then a lot more leisure travelers come through, and more families and couples came, instead of anglers.
Michael: I think there's an evolution for the luxury traveler, who's just wanting to live their life well when they travel, without compromise. You shouldn't have to go somewhere and not have food that you really can enjoy. You shouldn't have to feel that everything's so programmed that you can't relax and enjoy yourself.
3. What is the best thing to do in the destination, off-property?
David: We have the third-longest barrier reef just a mile off shore and it runs parallel to Andros (the island the resort is on), so we have our own in-house dive center. It can do everything from general diving to certification and different qualifications. The coral comes out of the water at low tide, and it goes all the way down to 100 feet before you get to the wall, so there's just loads of diving to be done.
That and the fishing, which is world-class in terms of its type of fish and the size of fish that you can get.
Michael: There's unusual physical phenomena in the Bahamas, which are these blue holes. They go hundreds and hundreds of feet down, and many of them, often, are connected to the mainland.
You've got a blue water hole on Andros. It's 20 miles inland, and it's connected to the blue hole that's five miles offshore, underwater. As the tide goes in and out, the saltwater gets sucked into the hole in the mainland and vice-versa, so all the nutrients go back and forth between these two ecosystems.
You'll see schools of every type of fish. You'll see sharks. It's a wonder of the world, and yet it's a 15-minute boat ride from the cay, so to be able to take an new snorkeler and say, "Look, you swim over. It's only this deep from the boat, over this hole. You don't have to be able to dive. All you have to do is put on a goggle and breathe through a snorkel, and you’re given this opportunity to see this wonderland that's right at the doorstep."
4. Outside of the Bahamas, where are each of your favorite places to travel to?
David: Southeast Asia. Both of us, pretty much.
Michael: Yeah. We love southeast Asia.
David: We're going back again this year, for five, six weeks. We’re spending a lot of time in Thailand, and this time we're going and add on Bali, Laos and southern China.
Bangkok's pretty far up there [as far as our favorite cities]. It's a staple when we go away for a long time. I think we could spend two weeks in Bangkok and not get bored. I mean, it's just a great mixture, between the food, the culture, the people, the nightlife, the shopping. It's a fantastic blend.
5. When you guys are traveling, what's something that you always take with you?
Michael: A camera, which is just my phone—an iPhone. Nothing in particular. We've got to the point where we'll just buy extra luggage if we need it.
David: We traveled once with close to 200 kilos worth of luggage, and that was after our wedding. It was five or six weeks—it was just like, "Never again." We’re downsizing.
Michael: You end up with a travel uniform, where it goes into the dry cleaners or the laundry, and it comes back out, you put it on the next day. You end up wearing basically the same stuff all the time.
But I think the biggest travel component for us is, now we connect with friends in different cities, so there's very few cities that are best left to the tourists. Nearly every city that has any real attraction is an insider city. Bangkok, on the surface, is noisy and loud and polluted and not easy to understand. Once you get underneath the surface, it's just an amazing city.
We take relationships with us. Every time we go to a city where we know good people, you're not begging to try and understand what's going on. You're going straight to the restaurant that just opened three days ago, that's already the number-one restaurant. It's those relationships that give you the insight into a city. That's probably the thing we take with us every time.