By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | June 22, 2022 | Lifestyle
Atlantis Paradise Island debuts its Sapphire Services program, immersing guests in customized Bahamian experiences—including reserving a seaplane for an unmatched trip to Kamalame Cay.
Communal dining at Kamalame Cay
Henry James once said that the words “summer afternoon” were his favorites in the English language. Perhaps a slight, six-word amendment is needed. Something like, summer afternoon private beach dining at Kamalame Cay.
Yes, it’s a thing, and it’s not to be missed. It’s part of the new Sapphire Services program at Atlantis Paradise Island, where guests have the opportunity to experience everything from ecotourism adventures to Bahamian cultural immersion. The latest jewel for travelers and guests at the resort is a journey—via seaplane with Atlantis’ partner Coco Bahama Air—to the private, 96-acre Kamalame Cay. Customized itineraries include sea-to-table dining, snorkeling and overwater spa treatments.
Once landing on the glassy water, the pilots from Coco maneuver the seaplane close to the beach. Guests disembark into the calm surf roughly 2 feet deep. They’re quickly transported on golf carts to bungalows nestled in dunes populated with palms, black mangrove, wild orchids and squat pines lunging toward the sea.
A Coco seaplane delivers guests to Kamalame Cay as part of the new Sapphire Services at Atlantis Paradise Island.
The owners of Kamalame Cay have a phrase for a visit to their retreat: barefoot luxury. “Our guests are used to having life’s luxuries. Everything is still upscale here, including the food, wine and impeccable services, but the vibe is much more relaxed,” says David Hew, who, along with his partner, Michael King, own and operate the resort.
“Everyone who comes here has made a conscious effort to be in this special place. Automatically, we’re all together and equal, and you never know who you’re going to sit next to,” whether it’s an investment banker, hip-hop star, Hollywood icon or tech mogul. “The island is the great leveler.”
A palapa at Kamalame Cay is perfect for sipping cocktails and dining on the beach.
It’s also a place to experience beach dining like few other spots on the planet. Held at a grand communal teak table shaded by woven palm fronds, the lunch setting feels like Swiss Family Robinson meets Top Chef. “It’s a shared experience of getting back to the intimacy of exploring exceptional food and wine,” says Hew. “It’s also about having a shared conversation.” And what a culinary conversation this is, with dishes like conch ceviche, grilled avocado and locally caught grouper, shrimp, crab and lobster. For the kicker, guests are invited to sprinkle salt on delicate and flaky cronuts, complemented by avocado ice cream; the confection is chased with rum, served neat.
“Our kitchen team prepares everything so simply, and yet the results are riveting,” says Hew, whose parents bought the island 30 years ago and initially created an outpost for anglers who traveled worldwide to experience the island’s renowned bone-fishing habitat.
Snorkeling is one of the many activities on the island, which is surrounded by the world’s third-largest barrier reef.
That habitat, the third-largest barrier reef in the world, is prime for exploration. Joe Plant, an amiable Brit with a penchant for storytelling, is Kamalame Cay’s resident snorkeling and free-diving pro. He ferries guests by boat to prime spots for witnessing aquatic life and chats about the marine-protected areas they’re about to explore. “You’ll see a menagerie of creatures, large and small,” he says, before listing the wildlife parade: angelfish, parrotfish, puddingwife, Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks (which have no teeth and feast on bottom feeders), coral shrimp and stingrays, among many others shimmering amid the coral.
Alternately floating, talking and pointing out the creatures in the world just below the surface, Plant sums up the journey, as well as life at Kamalame Cay: “It’s a daily wonder. You never know what you’ll discover.”
The Cove at Atlantis Paradise Island includes an expansive adult pool and private cabanas.
Which is the mindset on the return trip to home base at Atlantis Paradise Island. The resort, where Prince William and Kate Middleton recently stayed when touring the Caribbean, has emerged from the pandemic with even more options for guests, including its always buzzy casino. Renovations of all guest rooms and suites in the Royal East Tower will begin this summer, and The Cove, the resort’s luxury all-suite property and home to a glam pool and beachside private cabanas, recently debuted the Lapis Club Lounge. The elegant 22nd-floor lair offers exceptional views of Paradise Island, breakfast, hors d’oeuvres and a full-service bar.
The open kitchen at Fish by José Andrés.
Gourmands also have reason to rejoice with news that Michael White, a Michelin-starred chef and four-time James Beard Award nominee, will debut Paranza at The Cove later this year. White joins legendary chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and José Andrés—both of whom have restaurants at Atlantis—making the resort the only one in the region boasting three Michelin-starred toques.
Crispy rice with spicy tuna at Nobu
While it might be challenging to snag a table at Nobu, the effort pays off; it’s one of the most impressive dining experiences in the Caribbean. The kitchen benefits from fresh local catches for Bahamas omakase, oyster shooters, conch and Bahamian lobster ceviche. Nobu classics also impress, including black cod, its miso marinade adding sweetness to the silky and buttery dish.
Fish by José Andrés is a showplace for the renowned chef and humanitarian. From its dazzling bar to a mammoth fish sculpture lording above the dining room, the resto is a celebration of the sea and the Spanish chef’s penchant for surprise. Menu standouts include the mini lobster rolls, mahi-mahi and a Bahamian whole-fried daily catch dressed in calypso sauce.
Scallops at Cafe Martinique
For French fare, Cafe Martinique, located in Marina Village and overlooking a harbor teeming with yachts, feels like a throwback to classic Paris. Dishes to adore include the bouillabaisse (local fish, naturally), whole Dover sole meunière, moulard duck breast and, for dessert, a Grand Marnier souffle. Make a point to chat with the restaurant’s Parisian general manager, Jennifer Roos. Ebullient and attentive, Roos is a symbol of a new energy at Atlantis, a combination of hospitality pride and island genius. “This place is beyond special,” she says of the Bahamas and its people. “It’s why I recently got married here. On the beach, of course.”
Vegetable tangine at Cafe Martinique
Without much prompting, Roos shares wedding photos that reside on her iPhone. She’s beaming. “Just look at the color of the water and the sand,” she says, sighing at the matrimonial moment. “Everything here—it’s all magic.”
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF ATLANTIS PARADISE ISLAND