Saintly Caribbean hideaway offers fun for all the family, says JEFF BRAZIER
EVEN in the dark it looked like paradise, with the moonlight glistening on the inky Caribbean Sea.
With two bonfires marking each end of the beach, there was just enough light to reveal we had arrived in a tropical wonderland.
After an eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Gatwick to Barbados, followed by a 45-minute trip on a sixseater plane, we had landed on the island of St Vincent.
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Standing on that silky, cream sand, cocktail in hand, and breathing in the sweet pineapple scent, the schlep had certainly been worth it.
After a busy year presenting Channel 5's OK!TV and doing stints on This Morning it was time for a welldeserved family holiday.
For me, since Shipwrecked in 2001, being cast away on an island in the middle of the ocean comes naturally.
But a decade older, and with my two beautiful boys Bobby and Freddy in tow, holidays are a heck of a lot different now. Like me, the pair of them love an adventure, so going that extra bit farther, to a lesser-known island was all part of the fun.
St Vincent is about 90 miles west of Barbados and is one of an archipelago of 32 islands and cays, affectionately known as "the jewels of the Caribbean".
You've probably seen it but not realised as Wallilabou Bay on the west coast became Port Royal in The Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
Unspoilt and unique, it has secluded coves, mountains and valleys covered in tropical rain forest and cascading waterfalls.
It wasn't just the three of us on this trip though. My mum always helps out with the kids and she deserved a treat too. My main aim was to have her sitting on her bum doing as little as possible.
Luxury My 25-year-old brother Spencer also accompanied us for his first holiday beyond a trip to Spain a few years back.
Spencer has cerebral palsy, which manifests in his lack of speech and movement in his arms, leaving him unable to communicate but for a few basic signals and a lot of charades.
As a family we have all come a long way since our BBC3 documentary, My Brother And Me, which was filmed over a year ago. This holiday was a chance for Spencer and I to renew our bond.
We were staying at Buccament Bay, an exclusive five-star resort, one of eight in the Harlequin group across the Caribbean. These resorts are big on luxury and have huge celebrity status.
For example, the boys and I enjoyed tearing around at the Liverpool Football Soccer Club, on its brand new astro turf. Ex-pro Tony Cascarino was a regular at the coaching sessions when we were there and Bobby played almost every day.
I got stuck in on a few Staff v Guests games.
There's little seasonal variation in temperature in St Vincent, with eight or nine hours of sunshine per day, and running around in the heat was exhausting - it didn't stop me banging a few in, though.
The resort also boasts the Pat Cash Tennis Academy and we all joined in, with my backhand being mightily improved. England cricket legends Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard will also be coaching children at the resort's Cricket Academy from February 12-17.
Club 61 was a large villa kitted out with a pool table, DVD players, football table, board games, books, everything to keep the kids amused on the rare occasions they weren't splashing around in the fantastic pool.
I seem to recall the lads, Freddy especially, also spending a lot of time in the ice-cream and crepe parlour, HQ. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to consuming three scoops of coconut ice-cream laced with Dime bar pieces every day myself.
A parent abroad can only relax when their kids are occupied, so, thank goodness, they had loads to do and made friends easily. It would get to the point where I would have to go looking for them because I wanted to join in the fun.
Freddy managed to find himself a girlfriend, which seems to be standard wherever we go now!
One of my best memories from St Vincent was Bobby learning how to snorkel. With its warm, clear waters, pristine coral reefs and colourful marine life, St Vincent is considered to be one of the best places in the world for diving and snorkelling.
We swam around every day looking for fish and coral, having real father and son adventures. We always took back some treasure for Fred, but one day we didn't find anything so I gave him a door hinge, which satisfed the pirate in him.
I also began a PADI diving course. My only regret was not doing it earlier in the holiday because there is so much to see in St Vincent such as octopus, scorpion fish, spotted moray and queen angel fish. Plus there's a great excursion to the turquoise waters of Tobago Cays, where you can float among hawksbill turtles.
Buffet Some of the lads I met invited me to play golf on the neighbouring island of Cacouan at The Grenadines Estate Golf Club.
It was a boys' day out with beer in the golf buggy and my highlight was birdying one hole. Our accommodation was very luxurious.
We shared one of the resort villas, with Mum and Spencer in one room and me and the boys in three single beds, with a big flatscreen TV in front of us.
With vaulted ceilings and wooden shutters opening up on to a deck, it was light and airy.
The d©cor was sophisticated in black and white, and there were many lovely personal touches, like gorgeous toiletries, an iPod docking station and espresso machine.
The food was magnificent in all of the restaurants on site. There's Safran, serving modern Indian food, but the barefoot buffet Bamboo always suited us because it offered authentic Caribbean food, as well as Italian stone-baked pizzas.
By the time the kids had got out of the pool at sunset they were exhausted and ready for bed. Quick, tasty and easy was what we needed.
There was also a barbecue lunch at The Bay Beach Club. And this year the resort is opening an array of restaurants including Arlecchino, an Italian, Jack's steak and seafood grill and Trader Vic's, which serves Pacific, Oriental and American cuisine.
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The stunning sunshine island of St Vincent proved to be the tonic we all needed to re-charge our batteries and it gave us the chance of some quality time together.
PRICES start from £1,619 per person and include flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic in Economy Class staying for seven nights in a one-bedroom garden view villa, all-inclusive.
See buccamentbay.com. To book call Unwind Worldwide on 0844 875 4010 or visit unwindworldwide.com/buccamentbay.