No private beaches in SVG
Our Readers' Opinions
May 24, 2024

No private beaches in SVG

Editor: On Wednesday 1 May 2024, a few of my friends and I decided to spend the public holiday at one of our favourite beaches in the country – Buccament Bay. For years, my friends and I have passed hours laughing and catching up while floating on the pristine waters or lying on the soft sand at Buccament.

For approximately seven months (August 2023- March 2024), we were understandably deprived access to the beach due to the construction of the new Sandals Resort at Buccament Bay. We were elated to return to the beach after access was once again permitted, and did so on March 28 and April 1 of this year.

[On May 1] as we always have, we entered Buccament from the side of the village, parked our vehicle and headed towards the footbridge over the Buccament river. As we approached the newly refurbished footbridge, my friends and I observed a number of locals congregating near, and on the rocks that form the river defence for the resort. We joked that the rocks must be the only part of the beach where locals are allowed. It was then that I relayed to them a friend’s recent experience.

On 7 April, 2024, she entered Buccament Bay and was told by a security guard that locals are only allowed to access a small section of the beach by walking along the rocks. Upon hearing that, she left the beach and returned home. Convinced that my friend had interacted with a misinformed security guard, we proceeded across the bridge and to the beach in front of the resort. When we got to the beach, the segregation was glaring. At the northern tip of the beach (closest to the river), a score of locals were idling in a diminutive section of the beach. Beyond that area, the large remaining expanse of beach was scantly littered with resort guests; there were a few couples lounging on beach chairs and even fewer in the water. It was immediately apparent what was happening. Nevertheless, I reminded my friends that all beaches in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are public, and that we have as much right to the entire beach as the resort’s guests.

We continued along and settled at our usual spot around the mid point of the beach and set down our belongings a few feet behind the shoreline.

As we were laying out our mat, we were approached by a Sandals security guard who told us that we were not allowed to be where we were. While gesturing to the blue post of a volleyball net at the north section of the beach, he asserted that all of the beach between the river and the net was for public use, and that all of the beach beyond the net was – as he put it – “Sandals’ property”. In response, I told him that the entire beach is public property, that it is not owned by Sandals and that we were not moving from where we had settled. I advised him that if that was an issue, he could ask his supervisor to come and speak to me. He retreated and we were not bothered for the remainder of the day.

It is difficult for me to express how enraged my friends and I were to see locals relegated to a minute section of the beach as though they were second class citizens in their own country.

Meanwhile, the remainder of their beach was reserved for a handful of foreign tourists. To our great delight, after about thirty minutes, the other locals – seeing that we were able to use the rest of the beach without issue – began drifting towards the rest of the beach and enjoying themselves.

Since the incident, I have spoken to several individuals who shared similar experiences of being told by members of Sandals’ staff that the whole beach, or a large part thereof, was for Sandals’ guests only. Most of them were unaware of the law and either complied with the instructions or left the beach. Per the Town and Country Planning (Zoned Area Declaration) (Beaches) Order,1994, all beaches in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are declared zoned areas as OPEN SPACE for public recreational use. According to the order, a beach is defined as, “that portion of the foreshore which consists of unconsolidated material, typically sand and gravel publicly owned and lying between the low mark of the sea and extending landward to the vegetation line found thereon or in the absence of vegetation, the high water mark.”

In my years swimming at the beach at Buccament Bay, I met and interacted with Buccament villagers who had been going to swim at that beach every week of their entire lives. Many of them had been coming to the beach for more years than I have been alive. Some of them came to get away from difficult environments at home, some came for exercise that was easy on their arthritic joints, while others simply came to relax and unwind. I am incensed at their loss. I am confident that the majority of Vincentians will be similarly enraged to learn that Vincentians’ rightful access to this idyllic piece of our island paradise is being restricted.

Every time we sing our national anthem, we pledge to our country, with joyful hearts, our loyalty and love, and we vow to keep her ever free. I implore the Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Minister of Tourism to ensure that the owners, management and staff of Sandals Saint Vincent are fully aware of the rights of Vincentians to use OUR beach. I invite every Vincentian to take an afternoon, or a day, to visit Buccament Bay. It is beautiful, and it is ours. Free up we beach.

Sujith Weerasena-Nedd