Building the New British Virgin Islands
By Alexander Britell
It’s been a “wild ride” for the British Virgin Islands in the last half decade, first with a storm and then a pandemic. But one company has been at the forefront of the British Overseas Territory’s reconstruction and renaissance — Mosaka Ventures Limited, a company that’s based in Tortola and has played a vital role in developing some the BVI’s hottest projects, from the new-look Long Bay Beach Resort to the reimagined Loose Mongoose.
To learn more, Caribbean Journal Invest caught up with Doug Riegels, owner of Mosaka Ventures, to talk about everything from the ultra-popular Loose Mongoose to what’s next for the company.
Can you talk about Mosaka Ventures? What do you do?
We are a specialty developer in the British Virgin Islands. Mosaka Ventures Limited, based on Tortola, specializes in a natural tropical style vibe utilizing both modern building techniques and that of the old school Indo-Caribbean cultures.
What are your main projects in the British Virgin Islands?
The company is geared towards handling both internal and external projects. Anegada Beach Club, Loose Mongoose, and Lobster Trap are our signature projects that fall under our own operations where we design, build, and operate. We have tackled a number of other projects that involved post hurricane remodels to total re-builds and those projects cover Long Bay, Buck Island, along with smaller more limited works on Necker and Moskito islands.
The Loose Mongoose is a rather unique beach bar. Can you talk about the process of building that and what makes it so special?
The Loose Mongoose, located at Trellis Bay, Beef Island, was a quaint local beach bar and snack shack hangout and had been around since the late 1960s. It was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and remained derelict until I purchased it in 2019.
The Loose Mongoose is in a strategically great location called Trellis Bay, next to the airport, and Trellis Bay is the gateway to the outer islands. The design of Loose Mongoose was always going to stay true to the style we developed for Anegada Beach Club, but the real fun and challenge was to take what structurally remained of the 1960’s Loose Mongoose and incorporate/mesh it into our current building style.
What ended up being created was a unique combination of our tropical open style designs all wrapped around the existing old concrete structure that shows a gentle blend from one to the other. The main restaurant was designed as an open floor plan based on our Central American palapa concept that was largely put together by incorporating a lot of salvaged materials from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and new woods brought in from our supplier in Nicaragua. We converted the existing structure into an air conditioned rustic rum bar with old wood floorings, historic photographs of the BVI throughout the years, and some of the finest rums brought in from throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
In order to bring greater traffic through Loose Mongoose, we built two large concrete docks to service not only our Anegada operations but to cycle guests through from the airport to the outer islands.
The Loose Mongoose also boasts a new coffee shop, the Mongoose Café, with exotic morning brews and fresh pastries served daily.
It was a fun project to build, and I believe we’ve created a unique bar and restaurant experience in the BVI that is not your typical Caribbean style brick and mortar structure.
You also transformed The Lobster Trap in Anegada. Can you talk about that project?
In 2021, we completed the renovation of our third restaurant called The Lobster Trap, a beachfront bar and restaurant on Anegada. The Lobster Trap has been grilling up local fresh lobsters for vacationing sailors and island adventurers for many years and was in desperate need of an upgrade. So, in 2021 I decided to upgrade and renovate, going all-in for the 2022 season despite the specter of Covid still hovering over us, and the newly created ambiance paid off well. Sitting on the opposite side of the island from the flagship of the company (Anegada Beach Club), The Lobster Trap is well positioned at Setting Point, where it’s privileged to serve the majority of seasonal sailors coming to Anegada for famous fresh reef lobsters.
You worked on the renovation at the Long Bay Beach Resort. How did that turn out?
Once the Loose Mongoose opened, its stylish Caribbean design and unique structures began generating interest with local developers. Due to a slow down in business, Mosaka Ventures took on some outside work renovating the Long By hotel, bar and restaurant on Tortola’s West End. It was another Irma-destroyed property, and the new ownership wanted to create something unique using Mosaka’s trademark style. The result is a completely updated look for the property — upscale, yet natural.
Your premier project is of course the celebrated Anegada Beach Club Resort. What’s new at ABC?
With the slow down that Covid brough to the BVI we took the opportunity to upgrade and re-new large portions of ABC. The beachfront palapas were all upgraded and rejuvenated, and we’ve upgraded large portions of the existing hotel. However, the goal was never to change ABC’s style and ambience, just tweak it, improve it, and upgrade where needed. What really makes ABC tick is the great staff. They are who ultimately make ABC the special place that it is!
What do you see as the biggest trends in Caribbean hospitality construction right now?
This is a tough question to answer because there are many philosophies about what works best in the Caribbean. Many developers feel concrete is the way to go due to hurricane damage and creating a more modern and refined look. Some go with more rustic styles that blend with nature but are subject to the major storm events. To me, a good developer understands the product while making it fit seamlessly into the environment that the proposed development is located in. But ultimately there are two trends – developers that are larger or cater to the big brands, build a template project that is boring and predictable. Then second trend leans more towards the niche developers like myself that attempt to find a balance between nature and business. The real charisma of Caribbean properties is very much still with the smaller developers that combine what has always worked, while mixing in what is new, structurally sound, and aesthetically palatable.
What do you look for in a project?
I like projects that have unique challenges that require creativity and adaptability. Whether that be topography, logistics, utilities, access, or whatever. It is all about building something that your guests will love and talk about for weeks after they’ve left. You know you have something truly good when you see return guests coming in year after year.
What are you working on next?
We have some projects on the “back burner” but will likely hold off until after the 22/23 season. We have largely refocused internally in order to get all our current hospitality operations back up to 100 percent after a wild couple years of Covid challenges – even then, the current geopolitical and economic climate gives smaller developers like me cause for pause until we can see the landscape more clearly .
What’s your outlook on tourism in the British Virgin Islands going forward?
As I am sure you are aware, the BVI has had a wild ride these last few years. Not only did Covid challenge the private sector, especially the hospitality sector, we have had a lot of political instability, along with the possibility of the UK suspending our constitution due to ‘inconsistencies’ with the last few elected Governments. All of that has made for a very tough few years, and likely for a few more yet to come, if you wrap up all that is happening at home with what is happening abroad in both the USA and Europe the picture is not pretty but opportunities are there to be had.
That aside, the 2022/23 season, as of now, seems to be pretty strong. It is early yet, and this question would be best revisited in March/April 2023.
What is certain is that the BVI has the most beautiful and tranquil destinations and sailing waters in the world, and regardless of the hardships for guests getting here the interest in doing so remains high. So, to answer your questions truthfully, I’d say that I am cautiously optimistic that this year will be good, but still a long way off from the highs that we experienced in the 2019/20 season.
For more, visit Mosaka Ventures.