From a bird watcher's point of view, St. Lucia is a relatively easy island to work being only 28 miles long & 14 miles wide. St. Lucia is also the most important birding destination of the Lesser Antilles as it holds either 5 or 6 single island endemics.
We say 5 or 6 endemic birds because depending to who you talk to, the list of endemic birds include: The St. Lucia Parrot, the St. Lucia Black Finch, the St. Lucia Pewee, the St. Lucia Oriole and the St. Lucia Warbler. The St. Lucian race of the House Wren is considered by some as an endemic species (although this is not as yet widely accepted). Another Lesser Antillean endemic bird in St. Lucia is the endangered White-Breasted Thrasher.
The island has also a species list of around 170 of which a significant number are North American migrants.
Located on the island’s north-east side, Grande Anse or Des Barras Beach, as it is also called after the nearby mountain community with the same name; is protected against development, and remains untouched and un-spoilt. The dramatic and rocky shoreline, dotted with clandestine coves, is the beautiful backdrop on this island nature reserve, where the real highlight is the wildlife that calls the area home. Making your way down the bumpy dirt track to get there is a bit of a drive, but you will immediately notice getting there is well worth the trouble.
The tour begins in early the evening camping out, laying in wait while surrounded by the calming sounds of the surf aglow in the starlight. Awaken to the arrival of endangered leather back turtles rising from the surf, on the remote sands of Grande Anse beach on the annual pilgrimage. It is an all night spectacle, to get first dibs on a front row seat to the ritual of these magnificent creatures, digging their nests to lay down precious cargo, before trudging back to the Atlantic. It is a great experience to enjoy nature even if the guests of honor do not show, area is rich in wildlife and is particularly important to migratory and endemic birds, endemic reptiles, an is an important habitat for the endangered iguana.
The leather back turtle is the largest reptile in the world, and most easily identified due to its size, and despite their vastness they are a critically endangered species, mainly due to: climate change, egg poaching, fishing by catch, coastal habitat loss, and from ingesting plastic.
The Tet Paul Nature Trail hike can take about 45 minutes to complete. The tour is guided by friendly and knowledgeable locals who can answer your questions and provide insights about the attractions you will see along the way.
The hike itself is of easy to moderate difficulty and is great for families and groups. There will be many stunning photo opportunities so don’t forget to bring along a camera!
There’s something for everyone on the Tet Paul hike! Culture, history, exotic horticulture and spectacular landscapes can all be found on this St. Lucia tour! Listed below are a few of the main attractions:
Amazing Scenery: The views from the Tet Paul Scenic Trail have been described as absolutely heavenly. From the majestic Pitons to the far away islands of Martinique and St. Vincent, you can see it all from points along the trail. The gorgeous southern side of St. Lucia including Jalousie Bay is easily visible along the way. You can even see Fond Gens Libre, Choiseul, Maria Island, and Vieux Fort while on the Tet Paul tour!
Exotic Horticulture: Among other native species, you can also find traditional medicinal plants and trees growing all along the trail while you hike. Also in residence are several species of exotic fruit tree including guava, avocado, and soursop trees. Kaye Kassav: Known in English as the Cassava House, this is where you can learn about the Amerindian art of Cassava production. You will even get the opportunity to try some hands on practice! Traditional House: The Traditional House along the Tet Paul Scenic Trail gives visitors the chance to learn how the ancestors of the residents lived. Local residents dedicated to preserving their heritage take visitors on a trip through time as they explain the cultural history of the people who first came to St Lucia.
Gros Piton Hike
Visiting St Lucia is certainly a must- do experience all its own, but what you do while you are there will make a big difference in how you remember the island.
The Pitons, St Lucia’s two volcanic mountains, are certainly some of the island’s best features, and a Gros Piton hike is an experience unlike any other.
Gros Piton stands a remarkable 2,619 feet above sea level, and coupled with Petit Piton, it is the hallmark of St Lucia’s western coast.
From the peak, you can see not only the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean, but a vast portion of the island itself. A Gros Piton hike tour is the only way to see the island from this vantage point, and the experience you will have standing at the top makes it absolutely worthwhile.
When you decide to climb Gros Piton, you will experience the literal definition of high adventure. While it is possible to climb both Gros Piton and Petit Piton, only the former is legally sanctioned by the government of St Lucia. Petit Piton is much steeper and more dangerous, while Gros Piton offers safe hiking and a much more astonishing view. The ascent can be a bit steep in some parts, but the hike is not too difficult for most travelers. The town of Fond Gens Libre is where you will find the interpretive center and where you will obtain a guide to help you make the trip.
Bringing along a guide during this hike is required, and you will find that the tour guides are locals who know the area very well and who can provide the ultimate tour experience. The hike itself can take between three to six hours in one direction, so starting in the cool morning hours is a must in order to ensure that you make it back to the bottom by nightfall.
It is also very important that you wear comfortable footwear that offers tread for stability as well as sunscreen to help protect your skin. A camera is also highly recommended, as the view from atop Gros Piton is something that very few locations in the world can even attempt to rival.
Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island National Landmark is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucias history. It is a clear image of the war for our beautiful nation. A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site. The picturesque, 44 acre island reserve, off the North West, was originally surrounded by water but was joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway in 1972. Recognizing the need to secure this site where the balance of late eighteenth century naval power was decided, the Government of Saint Lucia designated Pigeon Island as a National Park in 1979 and as a National Landmark in 1992. It is open to visitation 365 days a year. Pigeon Island National Landmark has a number of heritage attractions and amenities which include:
•Ruins of military buildings used during the battles between the French and the British for the island of Saint Lucia.
•An Interpretation Centre describing the rich history of the island.
•Two beautiful beaches.
•A restaurant featuring local cuisine.
•A pub and restaurant with a historical theme.
•A lookout point at the top of the Fort which gives a panoramic view of the Northwest coastline.
Pigeon Island was first occupied by the Amerindians, mainly Caribs. He had a wooden leg and was known to the French as Jambe de Bois. The French who owned the island in 1778 declared war on the British, who retaliated by attacking them in Saint Lucia and capturing the island. The British then built a Naval Base at Gros-Islet Bay, heavily fortifying Pigeon Island. From there they were able to monitor the French fleet in Martinique which resulted in the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. Pigeon Island was therefore a key factor in the Battles between the British and the French.
This spectacular site filled with a rich history is now the perfect spot for picnics, weddings or just a regular family day at the beach. The old fort over looking Gros Islet is now a very popular spot to hike and get great pictures of the beach, the neighboring village and the spectacular Caribbean Sea. Pigeon Island is one of the places that needs to be on the bucket list when visiting St.Lucia.
Rhythm of Rum Tour
In the Roseau valley in St Lucia, host to the agricultural community of Jacmel is St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies, producing world class rums and liqueurs in a process that has, like its environment, changed little in a hundred years. Here, guests to the historic, world class distillery can embark on a Rhythm of Rum tour that takes visitors on a journey that illuminates the connection between the production of rum and the historical and cultural heritage of the island.
The tour begins with a short video in the reconstructed ship’s hold and explains rum production, its connection to the island and the distillery’s family beginnings. Guests then proceed to the main distillery factory where it becomes clear that the making of rum has its own distinct rhythm and flavor. From the molasses vats holding the dark viscous and aromatic raw material to the open vats where final fermentation takes place, visitors are encouraged to engage all the senses to understand the unique phenomenon that is rum making.
Beautiful copper stills dominate the main floor where guests can observe the progressive distilling process with an opportunity to see and smell the spirit at its various stages. But perhaps most intriguing of this process is the casking of the spirit into oak barrels that began their lives in places far flung, in bourbon and port producing districts lending the aging rum both the color and character of their previous contents.
St Lucia rums and liqueurs very much accompany the celebration of spirit and passion that has so characterized the island’s history. The rhythm of rum tour concludes with a Carnival extravaganza. Colorful costumes and the melodic sounds of steel pan envelope visitors in the Carnival interpretation center.
The tour ends at a veritable rum buffet where visitors can sample the impressive range and find the rum or rums which best fit the individual palate. Whether it is a premium sipping rum, a crème liqueur or an invigorating spice rum, the Rhythm of Rum boutique stocks and sells your favorite St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies product.
Maria Islands Nature Reserve
The Maria Islands were declared a Nature Reserve in 1982 by the Government of Saint Lucia in recognition of their special function as a wildlife habitat and their unique flora and fauna. There are over eighty (80) plant species found on Maria Islands. The island is home to five endemic reptile species such as the world’s rarest snake – the Kouwés snake (Saint Lucia Racer), The Saint Lucia whiptail (Zandou), The Worm Snake (non poisonous), The Pygmy and Rock geckos as well as several species of cacti and undisturbed tropical plants on the vertical cliff.
The islands are set about one half mile from Pointe Sable on the South East coast of Saint Lucia. Maria Major is 10.1 hectares and its little sister Maria Minor is 1.6 hectares. The island is also a major nesting site for migratory birds which travel thousands of miles from the west coast of Africa to nest annually. It is usually closed for the nesting season which runs from May to August. This time frame is adjusted annually by the Saint Lucia Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture depending on the birds’ migratory patterns.
Visiting it is many tours in one! The knowledgeable guide escorts visitors to Maria Major by a local fishing boat, which pulls ashore on one of the most spectacular white sand beaches. The exciting walk showcases the unique and breathtaking views of the town of Vieux Fort the Pitons and the entire Pointe Sable area.
The waters around islands are surrounded by coral reefs, making them great for snorkeling.
Diamond Waterfall and Botanical Gardens
Soufriere Estate is one of the oldest and best-preserved estates on St. Lucia and was originally part of the 2000 acres of land granted to the Devaux family by King Louis XIV of France in 1713, in recognition of their service to ‘Crown and Country’.
In 1740 the three Devaux brothers came to St. Lucia to claim the land which at that time included the present site of Soufriere Town, as well as the Sulphur Springs.
This historical estate has been transformed from a working plantation that once produced limes, copra and cocoa, into one of the major heritage sites in the region, as well as a viable and spectacular tourist attraction that includes the Botanical Gardens, Waterfall, Mineral Baths, Nature Trail, Old Mill Restaurant and the historic Soufriere Estate House.
The Diamond Botanical Gardens sit in a natural gorge that begins at the world’s only drive through volcano and bubbling sulphur springs. The sulphur springs are weak spots in the crust of an enormous collapsed crater, the result of a volcanic upheaval that took place some 40,000 years ago.
Natural minerals found in the area include, Kaolinite and Quartz and smaller quantities of Gypsum, Alunite, Pyrite and Geotite.
Sulphur Springs Park
The Caribbean's only drive-in volcano
The well-known Sulphur Springs in Saint Lucia is the hottest and most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles. The park is approximately 45 hectares and is billed as the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano. A walk through the crater takes you past pools and hot springs bubbling and belching with sulphur-laden steam. Just outside the Springs, you can bathe in the warm sulphuric pools, reputed for its soothing effects. The Sulphur Springs forms part of the story of the creation of the entire Caribbean basin.
The main area of Sulphur Springs comprises numerous hot springs, bubbling mud pools and fumaroles (steam vents) in an area of strongly hydrothermally altered clay-rich rock approximately 200 m x 100 m in size. Many fumaroles have temperatures 100°C or hotter, and temperatures of up to 172°C have been recorded. Numerous studies have been carried out over the past 50 years to investigate the geothermal energy potential of Sulphur Springs, to date, however, no attempt at exploitation has been made.
Geothermal systems such as Sulphur Springs form when rainwater seeps into the ground where it is heated by hot rock. The hot water becomes buoyant, and rises back to the surface along cracks. In some places the water is heated so much that it rises as steam. The heat source for the Sulphur Springs geothermal system is probably the cooling magma body responsible for the young volcanism of the Soufrière Volcanic Centre.
Mamiku Gardens, Botanical Garden and Heritage Site
The Historical Gardens of Madame de Micoud (Mamiku), set in 12 acres of natural woodlands, offer a colorful variety of gardens, some on hilltops, some tucked away in the forest, including an orchid garden and medicinal herb garden. An abundance of birds, butterflies and Tropical Flowers continually surprise the visitor. A collection of artifacts from the plantation period can be viewed at the small interpretation center and refreshment bar. Once the scene of fierce battles like many other st lucia plantations, the gardens are now filled with tranquility and beauty