We sat down with Bryan Monkhouse of Blue Water Safaris – one of our top suppliers in the Caribbean – to get to know him, his team, and their passion for providing great experiences.
Q: Where are you based?
A: I am based in Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis. I am originally from Canada and worked in Canada and New England until moving to St Kitts in 1997. I had first visited in 1986 and just found that I couldn’t stay away. I founded Blue Water Safaris with three friends the next year and it has been a passion to show visitors something about our great two-island nation ever since.
Q: What do you love about giving people these experiences?
A: I think our whole team gets a buzz out of the great smiles wen seen the faces of guests. After all, how many people can say “my job is to make sure a bunch of folks have a great time today”?
Q: How was starting this business on the island?
A: We struggled to make ends meet for many years, suffering setbacks from hurricanes and such, but we have gradually grown our business to the point where we offer about different tours and activities to locals and visitors. We start our meetings by reminding ourselves of our purpose “to provide innovative and attractive activities to visitors to and residents of St Kitts-Nevis in a way that consistently delights our guests.” I think our emphasis on innovation is what sets us apart from other tour operators. We have been operating this catamaran tour for maybe eight years, but last year we decided to switch the lunch to a more authentic “Caribbean “ cuisine with a curried chicken and chickpea salad as the feature dish. We got some pushback from some guests who came for the warm weather, not to go to some foreign country, but we’ve got some great reviews specially mentioning the food as well.
Q: How has it been working with Viator?
A: We’ve been with Viator for 6 years now and I wish we had started earlier. We’ve been able to grow bookings with you every year, and you are very receptive to new products. Sometimes our ideas don’t work out. We have a fleet of sail catamarans with a stable suite of products, and we have added Watersports and some “combo” tours – these either take off or bomb – there seems to be no middle ground. We say, hamburgers sell well, and ice cream sells well, but hamburger flavored ice cream is a flop. The best part of working with Viator is our account manager. Anything that comes up she jumps on it and helps to keep our inventory fresh and fully available.
Q: What’s your favorite tour in St Kitts?
A: My favorite tour is naturally one of our own, but one we only offer as an official cruise tour or for groups of 10 or more, because so much of the fun is being surrounded by folks you know – it is our nature kayaking tour. Ocean kayaking is fun, and you feel much closer to the water (you are). And there is a great peace — we snorkel in a place where sea turtles are often sighted. I always feel exhilarated after the paddle.
Q: What’s your favorite attraction in St Kitts?
A: My neighbor Maurice Widdowson has been spending over a decade restoring Wingfield Plantation, slowing uncovering the 18th century, and then the 17th-century rum distillery. It was the first English land grant in the Caribbean, 1000 acres granted to Sam Jefferson, an ancestor of the third president, in 1625. He (Maurice, not Sam) is making a visitor center, and I’m sure he will soon have an entrance fee – right now there is none, and even if it is a few dollars in a year or two – pay it. There isn’t a better view anywhere into the twin forces of rum and slavery that shaped the Caribbean. Any visitor can get a taxi to Maurices main attraction, Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor just up the hill. Just ask the driver to stop at Winfield for an often overlooked gem.
Q: What are your recommended “must-dos” when someone is visiting St Kitts for the first time?
A: Dining with a view! Book a table at Carambola, Spice Mill or Marshalls (ask for a window table here) and take an early seating. The view of the sea as the sun sets with a glass of Cabernet in your hand never gets old. And don’t forget “the strip” – a row of about 10 beach bars on Frigate Bay beach where visitors, locals, and students from the vet and medical schools we have on the island all mingle and create an island vibe unique to St Kitts.
Q: What do you want travel agents to know about your company and your products?
A: Travel Agents should know that we stand behind our products 100 %. Sometimes things can arise that make a guest experience less than ideal. For example, after the hurricanes last year, we worked hard to restore our beaches – we got no advance warning, but crews with backhoes showed up to cart away debris while our guests were on beach chairs 100 feet away. Our guests technically got the tour they paid for, but not the experience they were expecting. We offered rebates most people accepted. We get that our guests are on vacation, they want a great experience, and not only our reputation, but that of our partners like Viator, and the agents who recommend us and book their guests with us is on the line. Entrust your guests to us ,and we will give them a great experience. The real stars of our show are our two General Managers, Shauna Lynch, and Jonathan Winterburn. Between them, they deliver over 50,000 great experiences every year.
This trip has it all beginning with an exhilarating speedboat trip to Nevis with Sean Tuna and The Captain. Douglas met us on land and provided a very comprehensive tour of Nevis from the oldest Anglican Church to Nisbet Plantation. He dropped us off at Pinney’s Beach where we were offered a delicious fish or chicken dish. Then we relaxed on two lounge chairs with a shared umbrella and swam in the picture perfect water. Finally, our speedboat returned and we were in for another exciting ride back to St. Kitts with a variety of drinks available to us. Truly a lovely trip and day.
The best way to spend a day!!! Perfect for adults and kids!
Cannot say enough wonderful things about the Full Day Sail trip! I have taken it as just a couple and now for a second time as a family of 4 and both times have been amazing! The captain and crew are fantastic and manage every single thing perfectly, and are truly entertaining! We even got our 5 and 6 year old boys to snorkel for the first time. It is truly the full package- breathtaking sailing, snorkeling, lunch, and beach time!