Saint Lucia is not a big island – just 27 miles from head to toe to be precise – but with only 2 weeks to enjoy everything it had to offer, it felt plenty big enough to provide all the adventure we could wish for. We set our sights on St Lucia as the perfect holiday destination – sand, sea and adventure and relaxation in equal measures. The lush green landscape is a playground for trekkers and sightseers alike, and the clear warm waters are a diver’s delight.
Diving in St Lucia
When it comes to sub-aqua sightseeing, St Lucia seems to have been getting a lot of attention recently, with big names like PADI and Lonely Planet picking it out as a hotspot for diving and snorkelling. This holiday was planned with diving at the heart of it, so we arrived with high expectations. Fortunately, we weren’t disappointed. Our Advanced Open Water course was made up of a medley of diverse, exhilarating dives, and we spotted a sample of some of the finest marine life St Lucia has to offer – seahorses (and, of course, trunkfish) included. The coral was phenomenal and it was a gratifying to see such large, vibrant reefs in tact. Although there are a number of dive companies on the island, the sites were never overcrowded – in fact, on 6 out of our 7 dives, we were the only group present. I’m sure it is in part thanks to this that the coral remains so abundant. The wall at the base of the pitons which formed the backdrop to our drift dive was particularly impressive, with huge corals and sponges in vivid yellows, reds and purples.
It was unfortunate not to spot some more of the ‘big names’ which St Lucia’s diving scene is known for – turtles, eagle rays and stingrays, to name a few – but the more dives I get in my log book, the more I appreciate that a ‘good dive’ comes not from what you see, but the experience as a whole. In this respect, diving in St Lucia has taught me new skills, such as deep diving and underwater navigation, as well as opening my eyes to heady new experiences like drift and night diving.
Exploring St Lucia above sea level
As for topside activities, St Lucia didn’t fail to keep us entertained. The iconic pitons provide far more than just a picturesque backdrop; climbing the pitons is an amazing experience in its own right, but not one to be underestimated. At 786 metres tall, reaching the top is not for the faint-hearted. I consider myself to be fairly fit and active. I’ve climbed mountains before and always, always take the stairs, so hard could this be?
The answer? Really frigging hard. It takes about 2-3 hours to climb to the top of the taller of the two peaks, with ‘climb’ being the operative word here. Although there is a path, at stages it’s becomes more of an army-style obstacle course, with imposing boulders, loose ground, rogue roots and particularly aggressive creepers to contend with. It’s far from an easy stroll and when you add the steep ascent and humid weather into the mix, it makes for a strenuous hike. Comfortable shoes and water are a must.
The climb itself is split into 4 stages, each of which provided a breathtaking viewpoint over the island. From the sapphire waters of the ocean below to the striking vista of the Petit Piton (the Gros Piton’s sister peak) cutting into the verdant skyline, the climb allowed us to see snapshots of the island we would never have been able to appreciate at ground level.
Reaching the top itself, I felt a wave of achievement mingled with relief wash over me (or maybe that was just the copious amounts of sweat) as I stood at what felt like the top of the world, marvelling at the miles and miles of phenomenal beauty sprawling out towards the horizon. And then, just as quickly as I’d processed the scale and awe of what lay beneath me, the clouds descended and obscured the view. To this day, I’m grateful for that brief moment of bright, sunlit clarity. The climb is a long and arduous one but for those lucky enough to enjoy the view from the top, it is well worth it.
Unfortunately, we all know that what goes up must come down. Tired and aching though we were we began the
walk scramble to the bottom. And speaking of bottoms, the majority of this descent was spent on my arse. Not my most graceful moment. But inelegant though we may have been, I’m proud to say that we completed the entire trek in under 4 hours. Just look at the triumph:
It’s fair to say that our other topside pursuits were a lot less arduous. Most involved enjoying getting better acquainted with the bottom of a bottle while the sun went down, never failing to impress with its lurid splashes of technicolour.
Our time out of the water afforded me a snapshot into island life – a hive of colour and activity. The giddy heights of the pitons paired with the literal lows of the underwater world allowed me to enjoy the full spectrum that this Caribbean gem has to offer. Whether it’s the image of the island sprawling beneath me as I stood at the top of the Gros Piton, or the sunlight splintering through the distant ceiling of water stretching above me from 40 metres deep, I will always remember St Lucia for its space, freedom and natural beauty.
Oh, and one last thing…
Oh yeah. There’s just one small thing I forgot to mention about this holiday that will secure St Lucia a precious, special space in my heart forever – it’s the place where James chose to propose to me. After 7 years together, during which time we’ve travelled 11 countries and seen each other at our very best and our very worst, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. With the afternoon sun sinking slowly behind an explosion of clouds and the cicadas singing softly in the background, I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place.
Thank you St Lucia, you’ll always be special to us.