We were in Saint Lucia in January 2008: we wanted to go in the other side of the world to discover those mysterious places of which we had heard when we were children as hideouts for pirates, but also to visit one of the Caribbean islands less obvious. So the choice fell on the island of the Pitons, two lush volcanic cones UNESCO heritage, which is part of the West Indies also called Windward Islands and preserving an original natural environment almost intact, because the harshness of volcanic mountains have kept away intensive colonial crops. We wanted to explore the island, which is a concentrate of beautiful coral reefs, plantations of cocoa and bananas, but also most parks in which they live colorful tropical birds and grow orchids, a bit ‘at a time.
And we did it by sea on a catamaran, to admire Rodney Bay, with a marina for luxury yachts, and Marigot Bay, the cove of white sand made famous by the movie Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp. If you’re lucky like us you can see a wonderful show: the sighting of hundreds of dolphins, accompanying the catamaran in her lap, jump cleaving the waves. Aboard a car, however, we visited the interior of the island: in a single day you will pass through many different habitats, from the Amazon jungle to the Atlantic coast with beautiful beaches always windswept, to the resort overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
This ex British colony, for centuries fought over by France and England, despite the presence of large banana plantations can claim a piece of pristine rain forest that covers the slopes of its volcanic relief. And in the capital Castries, in the main square entitled to the Nobel Prize for Literature Derek Walcott, stands a giant specimen of Samanea samara which has more than 400 years. On the southern side of the island stand out instead the Pitons, twin peaks higher than 700 meters covered with native rainforest but also large mango trees, bread trees, Kapok and Calabash. And do not miss the spectacular view of the Pitons from the terrace of eco-luxury lodge Ladera, considered among the best hotels in the world: the view ranges from deep green forest to the iridescent shades of blue of the Caribbean Sea. To taste the recipes of traditional Creole cuisine such as conch, a local shellfish, the fried banana and fresh fish, you go to Hummingbird, a short walk from the beach crowded with colorful fishing boats and with a terrace overlooking the Pitons. Here, as anticipates the name, Hummingbird, it is easy, especially after the brief and intense tropical rains, you can see more than anyone, from the very rapid and fluorescent beating of wings, approaching the corolla of the flowers to drink the water collected from the petals.
The volcanic origin of the island back to appear in Soufriere, which owes its name to the sulfur mines in the crater of the near volcano. Just outside, do not miss the Sulphur Springs, the only crater reached by car, where a strong smell of sulfur fills the dense forest around, and the Diamond Botanical Gardens, the botanical garden donated by King Louis XIV to the Devaux family who still owns the ground. You can explore it in a couple of hours along paths limited by coconut palms, giant ferns, banana trees, mango trees and nutmeg, bougainvillea, Anthurium, hibiscus and frangipani. Continuing in the heart of the garden path is interrupted by a small lake in which plunges a scenic iridescent waterfall because of the mineral-rich waters that color the rock with infinite shades of green. Inevitably, after the humid heat accumulated during the walk in the gardens, the shower under the freezing waterfall! For an immersion in the colors of every shade of orchids of different shapes and sizes you must reach the botanical gardens of Mamiku Gardens, near the fishing village of Praslin: the air is intoxicating to smell the plants and in some parts of the garden emerge ruins a plantation of the eighteenth century. The gardens has also a vegetable garden with medicinal plants once used on the local voodoo rites. Reminiscences of African origins of the inhabitants of Saint Lucia are also found every Friday night in the village of Anse La Raye where the beautiful golden beach is held the Friday Fish, with barbecue fish and chicken, local beer, the Piton, and the music street band’s very similar to the Jamaican.
Two other trips not to be missed are that to the old British fort, hilltop Pigeon Point, where the view extends over the whole Rodney Bay. And that to the cocoa plantation and its museum Chocolat’s Rabot Estate, the ideal place to learn about the secrets of chocolate. But also to stop and have a snack with strictly local dishes such as the “one pot”, a native Amerindian, a stew very liquid vegetable and meat seasoned with many different spices and chilli and served with red beans and some kind of local potato dumplings.
What about to end? That tell backwards, looking back the images, this beautiful holiday in the hot sun of the Caribbean has made us a great desire to return there as soon as possible!