Pelican Villa - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2007
We try to provide reviews of the widest range of Tobago holiday accommodation possible. It is unusual for us to recommend two almost-identical properties on the same development. However, when a specific location or development proves particularly popular and demand exceeds supply, we clearly like to offer alternatives.
The Sanctuary Villa Resort is one of Tobago’s largest and grandest development projects. It is located in a 21-acre valley in the hills of the Grafton Estate on the Caribbean coast. The developer’s original concept was a 56-bedroom hotel, 40+ one-to-three bedroom villas and more than a dozen hillside condominiums.
Only 9 semi-detached houses and 7 larger detached villas were completed. These are now in private ownership. The hotel is 70% complete, but work ceased in 2003 when funding ran out. The development company finally slipped into liquidation in 2006. While the receiver seeks a new owner to complete the hotel, a management company survives, providing property maintenance, gardening, housekeeping and security to the private villas.
The management company continues to keep the estate neat and tidy. It would be unfair to describe it as a building site – in fact it is the very lack of building materials, equipment and men at work that is the saddest part. However, one cannot deny that the view of virtually all the properties on the development is dominated, in varying degrees, by the empty shells of the unfinished hillside condominiums and the Great Plantation House Hotel.
Despite this, Pelican Villa turned out to be an ideal choice of holiday accommodation…
The Sanctuary Villa Resort is located on the Grafton Estate, near Stonehaven Bay on Tobago’s Caribbean coast. The development is just a short 15-20 minute drive from the airport.
The Crown Point beaches of Store Bay and Pigeon Point are attractive and popular, but have become over-commercialised and can be crowded – excessively so if a cruise ship has docked in Scarborough. The beaches along the Caribbean coast are much quieter and more natural. Other than a few beach traders, these beaches are largely free from any sort of commercialisation (by general standards).
The Shirvan Road, which runs along the lower part of the Caribbean north coast road from its intersection with the Crown Point-Scarborough highway, has become Tobago’s dominant restaurant strip. More than half dozen of the island’s most popular restaurants are housed along, or adjacent to, this mile-or-so of coast road – all within a 5-10 minute drive of the Sanctuary Villa Resort and the many hotels, guesthouses, self-catering apartments and holiday rental property located along this coast.
When one combines these factors, Sanctuary has a great location. It is within 15-20 minutes drive of every notable business or feature in the main Crown Point-Plymouth-Scarborough triangle and ideally located for visits to Tobago’s beautiful northern coastline and rainforest.
The Sanctuary development is located in a quiet valley well away from the main road. Although it is only a 10-minute walk down to the nearest restaurant, take-away, mini-mart and a shade longer to the nearest beach, the uphill return is much longer and walking in the heat of Tobago will only appeal to the very most athletic of visitors.
To get the best from any holiday on Tobago it is essential to have your own transport. The island is small, but few properties are within walking distance of more than one or two shops, restaurants, beaches or other facilities.
Now-redundant architectural drawings of the completed Sanctuary Villa Resort development are attractive and show the proposed hotel dominating the high ground at the head of the valley and a beautiful water feature cascading through the central valley. Running down the high ground on either side of the valley are nine near-identical Heaven Villas, each villa comprising two semi-detached 3-bedroom houses.
The resort’s marketing literature describes the architectural style of these two-storey houses as "Island Vernacular". I think this is as meaningless as my first shot at a description – "Caribbean Pastiche". So, judge the architectural style of Pelican Villa and the other Heaven Villas from the photographs on this page. They are certainly very distinctive with their tall light-blue roofs, pale yellow brickwork and green and yellow balustrades and most people find them very attractive.
Pelican Villa is located towards the bottom of the western leg of these Heaven Villas, almost facing the cave-like unfinished condominiums set into the hillside opposite. The villas at the top of the hill are undoubtedly blighted by the view, but Pelican is fortunately nearer the bottom. If one casts perpendicular lines along the boundaries of Pelican one can truthfully say that the villa does not directly face the unfinished shells. The bottom line is that views of the shells cannot be avoided from any of the properties on the development – it is only the degree that differs.
Does this matter? Well, readers must study the photos in the review and decide for themselves. The best guidance I can offer is to say that during daylight hours most visitors, wherever they stay, spend the vast majority of their time at the beaches or touring the island. The best time for dining or ‘chilling’ on the balcony – where the shells are most noticeable – is during the evening hours, when darkness hides the view anyway. My personal view is that it would be a shame to miss out on such excellent, affordable accommodation because of one negative – particularly when there are so many positives. If we did not sincerely believe this, we would never have undertaken this review.
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