|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
February 16, 2019
February 16, 2019
Long before it graced the pages of Vogue magazine, Travel + Leisure and Town & Country, Kamalame Cay was little more than scrub grass and sand on a 96-acre sliver of land north of Andros.
It was during the early 1990s when Brian and Jennifer Hew, originally from Jamaica, first laid eyes on the tiny cay during one of their repeat visits to The Bahamas. Recognizing its potential to become a tropical island getaway, the Hews approached The Bahamas government with plans to build a hotel there and the land was sold to them in 1994.
Over the next two years, the Hews’ vision of their dream resort took shape. Jennifer designed the beach houses and Brian oversaw construction. Limestone and wood were imported for building, thousands of palm trees were introduced, and the cay was landscaped with colourful and fragrant native flowers including bougainvillaea, hibiscus and frangipani.
In 1996, the boutique resort on Kamalame Cay, named for the island’s red bark trees, finally opened with four cottages and a main house.
Fast forward 20 years, Kamalame Cay has grown with additional accommodations that can host up to 100 resort guests, as well as beachfront real estate for those seeking a more permanent respite in paradise.
Conde Nast has named Kamalame Cay as the Best Hotel in The Bahamas, Bermuda and Turks and Caicos Islands three times, the most recent being last year. Additionally, the resort was ranked number one out of 20 resorts in the Atlantic islands in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards Best in the World edition and has received numerous kudos in Forbes, Jet Setter, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
“The awards have certainly helped place the resort on the map, but it’s the developers’ and directors’ collective vision and their exemplary attention to detail that has elevated the experience,” says Vanessa Pritchard-Ansell of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, which deals with properties on the cay.
The Hew family is still at the heart of Kamalame’s continued success, having maintained its operations since opening two decades ago. Daughter Kimberley Hew oversees the reservations office while son David Hew and his husband, native New Zealander Michael King, who have called Kamalame Cay their permanent home since 2012, manage the resort’s day-to-day operations.
“Kamalame is still 100 per cent family owned and operated,” says King. “The family remains hands on across all areas of the cay and its development. Part of the success and allure of Kamalame Cay is that ‘family’ remains at the core of life here. For us, it’s all about the personal touch and providing a genuine sense of belonging.”
An extra special welcoming touch for guests are handwritten invitations to family lunches, dinners or celebrations, walking with family members on the beach or meeting the resident dogs, which King notes are so popular that they even have their own Instagram account.
Island chic retreat
Boasting a barefoot chic aesthetic, Kamalame Cay is described as the “antithesis of the corporate luxury hotel” where “bikinis and sarongs count as being dressed for dinner.” Its laid- back allure can account for the resort’s 65 per cent repeat guests with peak holiday periods booked more than two years in advance, says King.
Upon setting foot on the tiny cay, it’s easy to see why Kamalame consistently rakes in the awards and accolades. It explains why it has enchanted many on the A-list. Nicole Kidman, Emma Watson, Serena Williams, Mick Jagger, Javier Bardem and numerous other glitterati have vacationed here.
The list of luxury amenities is seemingly endless. Guests have their choice of individually designed West Indies cottages, bungalows and villas, each equipped with air conditioning, ceiling fans, books, games, robes, slippers, luxury toiletries, beach towels, beach bags and complimentary laundry service, to name a few.
Guests can stroll upon three miles of stunning, private beach, explore a beautiful flowering jungle, take a dip in the freshwater pool, work on their overhand serve at the tennis courts or take scuba lessons with the PADI-certified dive shop. A wide range of recreational toys are also available such as kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkelling gear and wetsuits, personal golf carts and Mongoose Fat Tire bicycles.
The Bahamas’ only overwater spa can also be found here, offering a wide range of massages, wraps, manicures, pedicures, scrubs and facials using the spa’s in-house Ecocert approved Naturopathica line, which is 100 per cent organic and sustainable.
A main Kamalame Cay highlight, however, is its exquisite seasonal dining, either indoors or on the verandah at the Asian/West Indian inspired Great House or at the Tiki Bar and Beach Club, set in a lush palm grove overlooking the white sand beach, or any picture-perfect spot on the island.
Daily menus feature locally sourced produce such as freshly picked tropical fruit and in-season fish and seafood–a nod to maintaining conservation of the nearby Andros Great Barrier Reef.
A Mennonite farm on Andros provides organic honey and greens; breads, pastries and other baked goods are all made on site; refreshing coconut water is tapped from the island’s palm trees; and spring water is collected from local wells and filtered by reverse osmosis.
Rounding out the menu is a vast selection of international fine wines and spirits, supplied via Nassau’s Young’s Fine Wine, and top grade game and fowl are imported.
While Kamalame’s guests can enjoy such delicious cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner during their stay, a unique dining experience–the Kamalame Cay Luncheon–has become the hottest ‘save the date’ event on the social calendar among jetsetters and local foodies.
Pritchard-Ansell explains the luncheon as “a multi-course, wine-paired dining and dancing extravaganza” that takes over the resort for an entire Saturday every month from October to May.
“What started out four years ago as a marketing strategy to draw the day- crowd to Kamalame Cay has grown into one of the most sought-after dining experiences in The Bahamas,” she says. “Reservations for the event have become so hard to come by that seats sell out months in advance.”
Kamalame Cay isn’t only enticing guests to enjoy all the resort has to offer, it is also quickly attracting investors keen on making it a permanent getaway.
According to Pritchard-Ansell, Kamalame Cay has 100 homesite lots spread across the island. Currently, real estate development has reached phase four, which offers 16 vacant lots ranging from the low $600,000s to $3.1 million and four villas ranging from mid-$1 million to mid-$2 million.
Since August 2017, real estate has seen an uptick in activity with $8 million in sales, or four houses and five lots. Of those, says Pritchard- Ansell, “three were offers at full asking price” with the majority of sales being cash transactions.
An example of villas available on Kamalame Cay is a 1,400 sq ft beachfront villa Dorado which features vaulted ceilings, French doors, hardwood floors and “a well-curated mix of modern and beach-infused decor,” says Pritchard-Ansell. The stilted home also features two ensuite bedrooms leading out onto a private balcony overlooking 100 ft of beachfront with 20 ft of green space on either side of the property.
Most of the buyers snapping up property are American second and third homeowners in search of “hassle-free ownership,” explains Pritchard-Ansell, adding that “ease of access” to Nassau (20 miles) and a one hour flight from Miami-Dade or Broward counties and 1.5 hours from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport are particularly attractive to buyers.
Comparably affordable pricing to properties available on other Bahamian islands is also a strong selling feature.
“When comparing pricing to mature markets such as Baker’s Bay in the Abacos or Harbour Island in Eleuthera, or comparative beach properties located within a short distance to high-density luxury resort towns, Kamalame continues to be relatively affordable,” says Pritchard-Ansell.
Vacant beachfront properties featured in phase four average $5,849 per linear foot compared to starting prices of $22,000 per linear foot on Harbour Island.
Access to Kamalame Cay’s resort amenities has also proven to be a high selling point, too.
“Beyond the fact that all properties are situated on beach frontage, access to the resort’s concierge service is one of the main attractions for our clients,” says Pritchard-Ansell. “There’s no pesky chores or grocery shopping to take care of. Prior to their arrival, whether by private ferry, boat, helicopter or sea plane, villa owners are provided a full provisioning list so that when they step foot on the cay, their refrigerator is full, cupboards stocked and the house is opened to the cross-breeze sweeping off the ocean and opposing bay.
“Given that a buyer can purchase beachfront property that is tied to a luxury resort community at this price point, it is quite unique in the luxury real estate market and indicates the timing is right for investing in this budding market.”
Plans are already underway to expand Kamalame Cay, says King. “The next few years will see the acceleration of the cay’s master development plan with significant investments being made,” he says. “This will result in the expansion of the current Great House and Tiki Bar and Beach Club, the addition of the new clubhouse which will include a gym, library, lobster shack and beach bar, coffee and ice cream shop, new boutique, two restaurants, swimming pool, outdoor theatre and tennis courts.”
There will also be an additional 30 bungalows and cottages added to the hotel portfolio, construction of a non-denominational chapel, expansion of the marina and marina village and development of 14 private villas ranging from two to six bedrooms.
Although development plans signal a great change for Kamalame Cay, its theme of family and community togetherness will remain the same.
For instance, private weddings and events held on Kamalame Cay often go beyond the resort’s capacity of 100 guests, leading to bookings on Andros’s room inventory and hundreds of thousands of dollars injected into the local economy.
Also, following 2016’s devastating hurricane, Kamalame Cay headed a community driven initiative called Kamalame Cares in partnership with the local Rotary Clubs, Tropic Ocean Airways and numerous vendors to supply emergency drinking water, food, generators, medical supplies and sanitation to those most affected by the storm.
“It’s all the little things that add up to make a big difference to the guests’ or residents’ experience on the cay; the things that often get lost in a large corporate structure,” says King. “It simply can’t be done without a genuine and personal commitment to creating a magical experience–it’s a life well lived and well loved.”