Very recently I visited Ibiza during the fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic (September 2020). I was sailing with my husband and two friends who had never been. This would have been my fourth trip to the island. It was the time of the year that the island is normally in full flow and closing parties still a month away. What greeted us, was a very different scene.
Many people have a preconceived idea about Ibiza; that it is the island of hedonistic behaviours, raves, drug taking and dance parties.
In the last 20 years Ibiza has hosted some world famous clubs like Amnesia, Space and Pacha; clubs that are considered the crème de la crème in the professional dance club scene. There are also day clubs like Bora Bora situated in Playa den Bossa, directly beneath the flight path of planes landing at Ibiza Airport, providing daytime party goers a platform to welcome others to the island. DC10, close to the airport, has always had a reputation for the club that would most likely make you miss your flight home. The island has earned its reputation, this is true.
We arrived in Santa Eulalia marina after a long sail over from Mallorca. The price of a berth for the night, the welcome pack, free drinks at the local lounge bar for marina guests and the sheer number of restaurants and bars around the marina were a sign these guys meant business and were used to providing a professional service for significant numbers. But where were the people? The pandemic had certainly taken its toll. The marina was very quiet.
One of our friends had, to the surprise of her family, taken the trip across to France to help us pick up the boat and sail it over to the Balearic Islands. Her family couldn’t believe that she was taking this trip considering how many flights had been cancelled to and from Spain, and that France and Spain were on the watch list for the UK with regards to Covid. People are genuinely scared about the situation with tourism. The flights were running, so she came and we were delighted she did. We compared notes about the whole situation – UK vs the rest of Europe. I know I’ve said this before in a previous blog, but the situation is always different when you are on the ground and the mainstream media are feeding stories to the public that don’t necessarily fit with what’s actually happening. My friend was fine, had a fabulous time, returned to the UK and self-isolated for a couple of weeks as per the regulations currently in place in the UK. Did she feel at risk or in danger while away? The answer is no.
We had to drop our friend at the airport in Ibiza as her trip sadly came to an end due to work and family commitments but before we did, we hired a car and drove the island a bit. It was strange to see bill boards still advertising 2019’s hot DJ line ups and parties. The clubs of course, are now all closed compliments of Covid. It was an eery feeling to see the bill boards like this.
Life was continuing on though for the islanders but they were clearly winding down early for the season. The first time I ever went to Ibiza I thought the locals were incredibly tolerant of the party goers. But I fast realised that they actually rely on these people to come. In fact their livelihood depends on it. It pains me to think what they will do while tourism has been axed.
Still, Ibiza to me has always been a mix of wild times and jaw dropping beauty. The bays and coves you can visit by land and sea are within a short hop from each other and everywhere you turn you have an idyllic setting to view. Many of the beaches are for the most part, still natural with a bit of rock and rough edges. It really is a stunning island, and in my opinion even more so than Mallorca but we’ll come to that in another blog. Ibiza will always be the jewel of the Mediterranean because it has so much more to offer. My friends were pleasantly surprised because they had always had a preconceived idea of Ibiza, as did I all those years ago when I first visited. They too realised what this island has to offer outside the clubbing focus.
The old town in Evissa is worth a visit with its lovely little winding, white washed cobbled streets, set high up above the city with 360 degree views of the coast line right down to Formentera which is the paradise island to the South of Ibiza (we visited there before heading to the mainland).
We walked the streets and were beaconed into the tiniest bar in Ibiza (by an Italian DJ who was serving drinks during the day and desperately trying to remain in Ibiza to work on his music production in his spare time). The bar was situated right next to a Convent, where ironically, signs were up to warn people to ‘keep the noise down!’. So, we stopped and had a beer as you do and an obligatory picture with our new friend.
There is one thing for sure, the tourist numbers had thinned out and for obvious reasons. The young, Insta-boys and girls and the beautiful people were out and about on the beaches but their wings were clipped by the early closing times for the bars thanks to Covid. From a Spanish perspective, things are just getting going at midnight so a 1am finish is pretty early.
For local tourists and their families however, this is not a big deal and we did notice them taking full advantage of the island and the distinct lack of foreign tourists. Things were definitely very chilled. I couldn’t help but think that they were secretly chuckling to themselves that they had unfettered access to these gems, the Balearic Islands, and were loving it. I am sure the local businesses had other thoughts however and will be hoping for better times next year and for the tourists to return.
But all this aside, I do love my dance music I was pleased to say that at least the legendary Café Mambo in San Antonio was still open and welcoming people in for a sunset DJ set every night. Alas Radio 1’s big party never happened at Café Mambo this year but we felt privileged to be able to sit, have a drink and watch the sun set to some of the best tunes! Ibiza, you are still my favourite island in the world and I know you will recover and come back better than ever! Salud, and thanks for your hospitality!