Newlyweds revitalising Leamington Caves property
After 27 years as a residential property, Leamington Caves in Hamilton Parish, is now under commercial redevelopment.
Mo Hamza and wife Clare Dominguez, of Ethos Bermuda, hope to have the place operating as a boutique hotel by next June. The Leamington will act as an event venue offering cave tours, food, yoga, and massage.
While Ethos Bermuda seeks capital for the project, they are holding various events on the grounds to reintroduce Leamington Caves to the public.
“Just before this latest lockdown we held a tour of the property, and let people swim in the caves,” Mr Hamza said. “Ninety-four people came.”
Many of the visitors felt nostalgic, seeing the caves again after more than two decades.
“That was the first time in a generation that the caves had been opened,” Mr Hamza said. “A lot of people were down there when they were six and seven years of age. There was a moment when you could see some of them regress slightly to their childhood. For them to bring their children and say oh my God, I remember this, and have their kids experience it alongside them, was pretty unique.”
Ethos Bermuda had to postpone their next event, The Bombay Bicycle Club, when Bermuda went into lockdown on April 6.
“It is postponed, but not cancelled,” Mr Hamza said.
During the event, participants will take a leisurely electric cycle ride around Harrington Sound, ending back at Leamington Caves.
There, they will eat an Indian meal, evoking the days of the old Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant in Bermuda.
“It closed 20 years ago,” Mr Hamza said. “It was the most popular Indian restaurant in Bermuda, at one time.”
The day will end with a swim in the caves.
Ms Dominguez, an Ashtanga yoga instructor, is leading the wellness aspect of the business.
“We are really lucky to have several different spaces for yoga, meditation, and breath work activities,” Ms Dominguez said. “There is a room with a pyramid shaped roof on the property. We call that the Pyramid Room. That is smaller, but we can open the doors to have air moving around. That is a beautiful indoor space.”
They also have two large flat spaces on the property, and a double platform in the cave to serve as outdoor activity areas.
“We are very fortunate to have different options for indoor or outdoor space around yoga, depending on what the Covid-19 regulations are at that time,” she said.
Ethos Bermuda will offer live music to guests.
“We had Robert Symons playing here while we gave the tour the other day,” Mr Hamza said. “He played his steel pans in the driveway and also played inside of the cave during the tour. That was one way of incorporating a local artist. We know this is a tough time for them.”
High-end guests will be offered their own steel pan player during dinner service or their own private reggae band for whatever event they are doing.
The couple is working to rezone the property from residential back to commercial. If that comes through they will apply for a restaurant and liquor licence.
In the meantime, Mr Hamza and his wife are restoring the property.
“When we first went into the caves there was a brand new decking at the bottom, and viewing platform, but a lot of the old railings had been rusted out and were damaged,” Mr Hamza said. “We had to cut and replace them and fix them up.”
They are enjoying swimming in the caves.
“It is a spiritual experience,” Mr Hamza said. “It is so completely alien and strange. The water is so crystalline and deep.”
Mr Hamza and Ms Dominguez, were married on April 10 in Bermuda, after meeting a year ago in Guatemala.
He was there visiting a friend, and Ms Dominguez was leading tours of the Guatemalan jungle.
When the Covid-19 pandemic erupted they found themselves unable to leave the country for several months. But the no travel ban within Guatemala meant they could not see one another. Instead, they got to know each other through Whatsapp.
Finally on his way back to Bermuda last summer, Mr Hamza stopped off in Pennsylvania. The owner of the Leamington Caves property, Andrew Outerbridge, lives in the state. Mr Hamza contacted him, and received permission to develop the property.
“I had been thinking about developing the property since 2019,” Mr Hamza said.
When he took on the project, he was not nervous about the impact of Covid-19.
“Last summer, Bermuda was saying we were open for business,” he said. “We were saying we were low Covid risk. I realised that in spite of what we might be facing I would seize this opportunity and develop it. I am grateful we made that choice.”
Mr Hamza said the Leamington Caves were discovered in 1909 by Carl and Harold Gibbon and were one of Bermuda’s early tourist attractions.
Ethos Bermuda hopes to hold a series of events this summer, starting with a Bermuda fish chowder competition on May 24.
“We have been developing the property, taking care of maintenance costs on behalf of the owner and then capitalising on that,” Mr Hamza said. “We have built our brand strong enough. Now we need to get the capital to take it to the next step.”
For more information see them on Facebook under @EthosBermuda, call 532-4872 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.