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St Lucia’s many adventure activities attract active tourists to this Caribbean destination

Soft adventure activities include hiking, diving and snorkelling, jungle biking, horseback riding, watersports and more

St Lucia Tourist Board June 2006 press release

Called the Emerald Isle for its majestic mountains, lush rainforest and secluded waterfalls, St Lucia is quickly becoming one of the leading soft adventure destinations in the Caribbean. From energetic travellers who can’t sit still on the beach to adventurers aspiring to climb the Caribbean’s highest peaks, active visitors are drawn to St Lucia’s rugged terrain, protected dive sites and scenic trails.

Exploring the island of St Lucia on foot is a healthy way to relax and appreciate the island in all its natural wonder. A variety of trails lead hikers through the rainforest, to the peaks of St Lucia’s mountains, through old plantation grounds, along beaches, to Cactus Valley, around Pigeon Island and more. Hikers will see spectacular waterfalls, indigenous flora and fauna and local birds such as the Amazona Versicolor, also known as jacquot or the St Lucian parrot.

Guided hikes can be arranged through hotels or the Forest and Lands Department by calling (758) 450-2078. Please note: it is an offence under the Forest Soil and Water Conservation Ordinance Act to attempt to access trails without permission from the Forest and Lands Department.

Hiking the Pitons (strenuous) – Petit Piton and Gros Piton, two volcanic cones rising 2,460 feet and 2,619 feet respectively from the ocean, have become the symbols of St Lucia and were recently acknowledged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. These majestic mountains were formed from lava and rock and are now covered in green vegetation. Hiking is only recommended on Gros Piton, which offers a steep, but safe trail to the top. Tourists are permitted to hike Petit Piton but should be aware that the second half of the hike requires rock climbing, and safety equipment is not provided. Hiking either Piton requires the permission of the Forest and Lands Department and the company of a knowledgeable guide. Early morning tours can be arranged with your hotel concierge or by calling the Piton’s Tour Guide Association at (758) 459-9748. (Maximum three people per guide.)

Deep in St Lucia’s mountainous interior, almost 1,800 feet above sea level, lies 19,000 acres of rainforest and 29 miles of trails appealing to all levels of hikers. The rainforest is located in the centre of the island and can be entered through various points on the east and west side of the island.

Barre De L’isle Trail (non-strenuous) – The Barre de L’isle Forest Reserve divides the eastern and western halves of St Lucia. It takes approximately one hour to walk this one-mile trail and another hour to climb Mr La Combe ridge. The Barre de L’isle Trail provides panoramic views from four lookout points along the trail.

Forestiere Tropical Forest Trail (non-strenuous) – This tour takes hikers into the heart of the St Lucian countryside to the rural community of Forestiere and through the dense forest adjacent to the town.

Enbas Saut Falls (moderate to strenuous) – This diverse 2.5-mile trail is a combination of rainforest, cloud forest and elfin woodlands. Enbas Saut means “below the falls,” and hikers can cool off under two cascading waterfalls and pools along the trail.

Des Cartiers Rainforest (strenuous) – Trek through the rainforest, view the verdant trees and discover some of St Lucia’s indigenous wildlife, including the rare St Lucian Parrot (jacquot).

Edmund Forest Reserve (strenuous) – This lengthy trail takes hikers through the heart of the island into Edmund Forest Reserve on the western end of the island. The hike is filled with rare flora and fauna, including bromeliads, orchids, mushrooms, lianas and others. The western part of the trail offers magnificent views of Mount Gimie, St Lucia’s tallest peak.

Eastern Nature Trail – This invigorating exploration along St Lucia’s Atlantic coastline starts with a leisurely 3.5-mile trek along the island’s rugged east coast. Along the trail hikers will see several species of birds, three of which are endemic to St Lucia, as well as migratory birds, including the magnificent frigate bird and the red-billed tropicbirds. After the hike, drive to Latille and indulge in a 20-foot waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation with additional pools downstream.

St Lucia offers excellent diving and snorkelling adventures. Located at the tip of an underwater volcano, the island provides both beginner and experienced divers the opportunity to enjoy the stunning variety of coral, sponge and marine life. Spectacular reefs have developed around a number of sunken ships, which are home to large gorgonians, black coral trees, gigantic barrel sponges, purple vase sponges and black lace corals. Divers will be rewarded with a dazzling cross section of Caribbean marine life such as turtles, nurse sharks, seahorses, angelfish, golden spotted eels and “The Thing.” According to those who have seen it, “The Thing” is said to be St Lucia’s own Loch Ness monster on vacation. It is seen regularly (but only at night) during dives at Anse Chastanet reef.

Some of St Lucia’s best dive sites include the following:

Anse Chastanet – One of the most dramatic spots for diversity is the stunning Anse Chastanet reef in the southwest of the island, just north of Soufriere. The shallows, with depths to 25 feet, can be entered directly from the beach. The reefs fall away from 20-140 feet in a unique coral wall that continues from Anse Chastanet Bay around the headland of Grand Caille and toward the harbour of Soufrière, providing some of the best diving in St Lucia.

Anse La Raye – Known as one of the finest wall and drift dives in St Lucia, Anse La Raye can be found below a shallow wall and features impressive formations, including huge boulders.

Coral Gardens – Located at the base of the Gros Piton, the Coral Gardens offer breathtaking scenery above and below the water, where five-finger coral runs from a depth of 15-50 feet.

Fairy Land – At the point of Anse Chastanet, a plateau named Fairy Land slopes gently from 40-60 feet. Strong currents keep the corals and sponges clean, perfect for optimal viewing and underwater photography.

The Key Hole Pinnacles – Voted one of the Ten Best Dive Sites by Caribbean Travel & Life magazine, The Pinnacles are four coral- and gorgonian-encrusted seamounts that rise up from the ocean depths providing a pristine marine habitat.

Lesleen M Shipwreck – The Lesleen M, a 165-foot freighter, was sunk in 1986 by the Department of Fisheries to provide an artificial reef. It lies upright in 60 feet of water near Anse Cochon on the west coast, just south of Marigot Bay. Divers can tour the ship in its entirety.

Superman’s Flight – Named in honour of the movie Superman II, which featured St Lucia in a number of scenes, this drift dive gently slopes to 1,600 feet. Good visibility created by strong currents permits crystal-clear viewing for underwater exploration. Divers can enter the water at the base of the Petit Piton.

Dive operators:
Scuba St Lucia, located at the Anse Chastanet Resort, offers one of the world’s top dive locations with a five-star PADI dive centre on site. Photographic equipment is available for rent (film can be processed on the premises), and instruction is offered in picture taking. PADI certification courses, introductory lessons and half- or full-day scuba dives are available. Hours are 8am-5:45pm daily. For more information call (758) 459-7755 or e-mail scuba@candw.lc.

Jalousie Hilton’s PADI centre offers dives to various sites and certification to hotel guests and visitors aged 12 and older. The centre offers single dives, certification courses and introductory lessons. Open Monday through Saturday. For more information call (758) 459-7666.

Frogs Diving offers courses for beginners, as well as open-water certification for more experienced divers. Two-tank and night dives can be arranged. For more information call (758) 452-0913 ext 581 or e-mail tee-j@candw.lc.

Buddies offers PADI certification courses as well as daily dive trips to Anse Chastanet and Anse Cochon. For more information call (758) 452-5288 or e-mail simon@funky.co.uk.

Dive Fair Helen is owned and operated by a St Lucian environmentalist with more than 10 years experience in marine research. The company is sanctioned by the PADI system and offers a comprehensive range of PADI courses with an emphasis on marine preservation. Discounts are available from some hotels. For more information call (758) 450-1640 or e-mail divefairhelen@candw.lc.

The Caribbean’s only jungle biking facility is located adjacent to the Anse Chastanet Resort on Anse Mamin, one of St Lucia’s oldest plantations. The manicured trails of Bike St Lucia’s Jungle Biking™ Adventure weave through the plantation grounds, deep into the tropical jungle. Custom trails were designed to accommodate both first-time and experienced riders on Cannondale suspension bikes. Bike St Lucia also has a skills training area and a number of instructors who provide an introductory class or refresher course.

More than just an outlet for exercise, the trails offer a window into history. Guests pedal by 18th century French-colonial ruins of a sugar mill, an old church, a three-million-gallon freshwater reservoir and more. There are thousands of fruit trees, including mango, coconut, banana, guava, cocoa and citrus, as well as wild orchids, birds and an old fashioned river swimming hole.

A half day of biking is $49 per person and includes all rentals, introductory lesson and a water bottle. Visitors staying in the north can purchase a day of biking, including round-trip transfers by water taxi, buffet lunch at Anse Chastanet’s Trou au Diable Restaurant, water bottle, equipment rentals and introductory lesson for $75 per person. Those training for the X Games can purchase a three-day Jungle Biking package for $159 for full-day passes and $119 for half-day passes. For reservations call (758) 451-2453.

The St Lucia Mountain Bike Tour starts at the Morne Fortune Monument and winds its way to Babonneau, a community on the east coast, with stops at Caribelle Batik, frequent watering stations and spectacular views of the La Sorciere Mountain. The road passes through banana plantations, and in Babonneau bikers stop at Mrs Joseph’s house for fruit and coconut water refreshments. The four-hour tour ends at the Wharf on Choc Beach. For more information call (758) 452-4049. (Maximum 20 people.)

Barefoot Holidays operates a bike-and-hike tour suitable for all fitness levels. The tour includes a ride through banana plantations and small farms, a short hike to experience one of St Lucia’s finest waterfalls, and a picnic lunch. For more information call (758) 450-0507 or e-mail barefoot@candw.lc.

The soft adventure program at Anse Chastanet recently added coastal kayaking to the resort’s varied menu of activities. They utilize top-of-the-line Prijon HTP kayaks, which are extremely rigid, providing superior handling and easy maneuverability. Classes by trained staff are available from novice to expert, and teach skills required for coastal kayaking, including open-water entry/egress, sweeps, braces and an overview of basic kayak controls. Kayak St Lucia is an international member of the American Canoe Association, which certifies instructors and guides. For additional information, contact Anse Chastanet at (758) 459-7000 or e-mail ansechastanet@candw.lc.

The waves at Cas en Bas and Vieux Fort will challenge advanced and intermediate windsurfers, while beginners will find the calmer waters of the west coast perfect for developing their skills. Top-of-the-line equipment and instruction is available at most hotels and several windsurfing centres around the island. Arrangements can be made through all hotels.

Available at most hotels, water-skiing in St Lucia can be enjoyed by beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. For an aerial thrill, visitors are encouraged to try parasailing, which provides riders with spectacular views as they soar above Rodney Bay.

Described as an angler’s dream come true, the waters around St Lucia are home to several species of big game fish. The legendary white marlin dwells off the coast of the island, where deep-sea fishing is a popular recreational activity. Numerous charter operations offer whole- and half-day fishing excursions on 30-foot boats with modern fishing equipment. Depending on the time of year, anglers will land a variety of fish, including mackerel, king mackerel, white marlin, barracuda, kingfish and sailfish.

Deep-sea fishing operators include Hackshaws Boat Charter & Sport Fishing (tel 758-453-0553, e-mail hackshawc@candw.lc) and Captain Mike’s Sport Fishing & Pleasure Cruises (tel 758-452-7044) both in Castries, as well as Mako Watersports (tel 758-452-0412, e-mail makowatersports@hotmail.com) in Rodney Bay.

Trotting through the island’s lush trails or cantering along secluded beaches, seeing St Lucia on horseback captures the romance of the island. International Riding Stables (tel 758-452-8139 or 484-9995) combine swimming and a beach picnic during a full-day excursion. Trims National Riding (tel 758-450-8273) offers one- or two-hour riding sessions four times a day.

See the wild side of St Lucia in an all-terrain vehicle with ATV Adventures in Castries. Experience the thrill of riding an ATV through St Lucia’s lush countryside, over mountains, through banana plantations and lots more. For more information call (758) 452-6441 or e-mail mctours@candw.lc.

Opened in October 2001, the Anse La Liberte campsite consists of 133 acres of land marked by sloping terrain. Nestled in a quiet bay just south of the fishing village of Canaries, the campsite boasts trails and its own secluded stretch of beach. The campsite is equipped with tents and cooking, bathing and washing facilities. Activities offered at Anse La Liberte include hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and diving. Trips to the heritage sites of Soufrière and Canaries, environmental education adventures and nature trails can also be arranged. For more information call (758) 459-4540 or 453-7656, or e-mail natrust@candw.lc.

One of the Windward Islands of the West Indies’ Lesser Antilles, St Lucia (pronounced Saint LOO-sha) is halfway down the eastern Caribbean archipelago. The “Helen of the West Indies,” St Lucia is known for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains – recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – a tropical rainforest and one of the world’s few drive-in volcanoes. Culturally rich offerings include the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries, a variety of heritage tourism sites, quaint fishing villages along the coastline, and the annual St Lucia Jazz Festival in May. St Lucia’s wide range of accommodations includes world-class five-star resorts, all-inclusive resorts, intimate inns and value-oriented properties.

Disclaimer: The information in this article/release was accurate at press time; however, we suggest you confirm all details and prices directly with vendors.
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