In the moonlight the sand on this Anguilla beach is just as bright as it is in the noonday sun. But tonight the beach isn’t the first thing to catch my attention.
First thing’s the full moon high in the sky, a giant spotlight that sends the normally dominant stars scurrying behind white cotton ball patches of cumulous cloud. Moonbeams bathe the Caribbean Sea (calm tonight), drawing a translucent silvery quilt over the surface. It is a view both unnerving and strangely soothing.
Second thing’s the lights of St. Martin across Anguilla Passage, climbing hills, ringing the harbor of Marigot. They twinkle and glitter like the decorations on a Christmas tree.
My wife and I stroll hand-in-hand for a few moments along the sand of this beach — Rendezvous Bay. I find myself humming a little ditty from a long-distant past. “In the light, in the light, in the light,” I hum to myself, “of the silvery moon.”
But then I am distracted, my own song overpowered by the sounds of a bass guitar, so powerful that even out here I can feel the pulse in the bottom of my stomach.
I make my way toward that evening song, climbing with my wife a rickety set of stairs leading from the beach to a very special spot, a famous (and sometimes infamous) Anguilla landmark.
And now I add one character to my Caribbean chronicle.
For this is a story of sand, sea, and song.
For none of these three is ordinary. For the greatest of them may be song.
We’ve made landfall at a beach bar with a reputation, owned by a guy with an even bigger reputation — a man called Bankie Banx. And we’re part of one of the biggest parties on the Anguilla calendar, though this particular bar, Dune Preserve, is always popular, full moon or otherwise, day or night.
I was on the ferry to Anguilla from St. Martin the first time I saw Bankie Banx. No ordinary guy: dreadlocks, salt-and-pepper beard, worn leather hat, lots of bling.
En route, as waves buffeted the boat, people constantly came over to greet him. Sometimes a high-five, sometimes a hug. When we landed at Blowing Point a little crowd was waiting, chanting: “Bankie, Bankie.”
Fast forward: my wife and l make our way toward the song.
We negotiate the grounds between the shore and the main stage where Banx is blowing through a harmonica backed by a band of all-star musicians. Dune Preserve is a designer’s nightmare. Think haphazard tree house, a post-apocalyptic Caribbean resort. Think weathered planks for floors, a bar built from a wooden boat, driftwood placed like art masterpieces, bare rafters sheltering warped plywood tables on decks cantilevered over the sand.
But I make a mistake by underestimating the place.
First, there’s method to the madness: “I am a beachcomber,” says Banx. “It all usually finds its way into the bar.” Think a recycling project ahead of its time. Think bottom line when it comes to accessorizing.
And, truth be known, something’s working.
Whether it’s the weekly slate of live entertainment or some of the offerings behind the bar, this is a place with a reputation.
Buy yourself a Duneshine, a ginger-infused drink discovered quite by accident. Look around — you might be hanging out down the bar from a celebrity.
For here’s an unmistakable reality: Men’s Journal considers Dune Preserve one of North America’s Top 25 Beach Bars while CNN rated it “Best Beach Bar in the World.”
Music’s not bad either.
Tonight’s no ordinary full moon — it’s the occasion for Moonsplash (whose 2019 celebration is March 21-24), the longest running independent music festival in the Caribbean. Past performers have included Rita Marley and Jimmy Buffet.
And Banx himself is no slouch. He recorded his first hit in 1977 and is said to have pioneered reggae in the Eastern Caribbean.
But I digress.
Tonight I dance. Tonight, I consider Bankie Banx and the Dune Preserve and Moonsplash.
You can get sand and sea right across the Lesser Antilles but if you want sand, sea, and song, you might just have to book a trip to Anguilla.
MORE ABOUT VISITING ANGUILLA
- Moonsplash 2019: The annual music festival takes place from March 21-24. Check out the “Bankie Banx Moonsplash – Anguilla” page on Facebook.
- To help you discover all of Anguilla’s allures visit www.ivisitanguilla.com.