A Five-Room Hotel overlooking Marigot Bay – St. Lucia
Tour #2 – The West Coast Tour
Leaving Marigot Bay, the road runs down into the Roseau banana fields then climbs into lush hills as it continues South.
The picturesque villages of Anse La Raye and Canaries lie along the route, each nestled in its own cove at the foot of steep hills.
The road then twists and climbs through the fringes of rainforest, the western edge of a huge forest reserve and home of the St. Lucia parrot.
Leaving the forest, the road descends into Soufrière filled with natural and historic sights.
The Town of Soufrière nestles in a valley beneath Petit Piton. It was a thriving port in the 18th century and is one of the oldest settlements on St. Lucia. There are many petroglyphs to be found in the area which was first inhabited by the Amerindians.
Soufrière was the first town to be established in St. Lucia and has remained an important farming center ever since. It was badly hit by a hurricane in 1780 that devastated most of the town and many of the nearby sugar and coffee plantations.
It then became embroiled in the French Revolution of 1789. The town was renamed La Convention by the Revolutionary Council in Paris and a guillotine was erected in the town square.
Soufrière is also renowned as the home of Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tasher de la Pagerie – better know as Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon. She spent much of her childhood at her father’s estate, Malmaison, on the outskirts of the town.
Today, Soufrière is engagingly out of step with modern times. Local fishermen continue to put out to sea from this sleepy port, casting their crudely made nets from the same kind-of dugout canoes that their ancestors used generations ago.
The main square is French colonial to a fault, with a quaint little church dominating the plaza and facing the Caribbean .
The city is shabby in a charming way, but the approach into town from the sea could well be one of the great moments of sailing. Soufrière actually sits in what was once a volcanic crater.
Just south of the city, the twin peaks of the Pitons dominate the horizon, dwarfing everything around them. Gros Piton rises to 2,619 feet, while Petit Piton looms 2,460 above sea level.
The Botanical Garden and the Diamond Fall
The Sulphur Springs from which the town of Soufrière got its name are a weak spot in the crust of an enormous collapsed crater, the result of a volcanic upheaval of gigantic proportions that took place some 40,000 years ago.
Similar hot springs feed the mineral baths on the Diamond Estate, built originally in 1784 for the troops of Louis XVI of France, so they could benefit from the therapeutic waters.
The Baron of Micoud, Governor of St. Lucia at that time, sent samples of the hot spring water back to France to be analyzed by the “Medecin du Roy”. They were found to contain the same healing powers as Aix-les-Bains in France and Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany.
The King was sufficiently impressed to allocate the necessary funds to construct a building with a dozen large stone baths fed by a catchment that stills operates today.
For about eight years they were put to good use, but then, during the French Revolution and the Brigand War (revolte des esclaves), the bath house, like so many buildings at that time, was totally destroyed.
The baths gradually became overgrown and hidden by the bushes, until Andre Du Boulay, the owner of Soufrière Estate and Diamond decided in 1930 to excavate and repair two baths for his own use. Much later the outside pools were built and made available to the public for a small fee.
The Estate grounds leading to the baths and waterfall were already well established in citrus and cocoa.
The area became further transformed in 1983 after the death of Mr. Du Boulay, when his daughter Joan Du Boulay-Devaux took on the management of Soufrière Estate and Diamond baths.
The grounds were landscaped, and this naturally beautiful gorge was developed as an historical garden. Flowering shrubs and bushes of every type and colour were planted around and beneath the existing trees.
Hibiscus, Ixora, Heliconias, Anthurium, Frangipani, Orchid, Allamanda and the magnificent Balisier with their exotic blossoms and equally exotic names now brighten the gardens. Vanilla, a member of the Orchid family, climbs up the trunk of the cocoa trees (a natural host) only bearing its valuable aromatic pods if each flower is carefully pollinated by hand.
Behind the baths a path leads to the beautiful Diamond waterfall whose water creates brilliant colours on the rock face by the minerals it contains.
The Sulphur Springs (Volcano)
After your visit to the Botanical Garden and the Diamond Fall, a short drive will bring you to the Sulphur Springs, a wonder of natural geology and the “world’s only drive-in volcano”.
As you enter the area, one of the first things you notice is the acrid sulphur fumes. Whilst this somewhat unpleasant to the senses, sulphur is exceptionally beneficial to one’s health and has long been recognized as being helpful in the treatment of sinusitis, arthritis and skin problems.
Visitors used to be allowed to walk among the steaming, boiling pools. However, after an accident involving one of the guides, viewing stations have since been installed. The knowledgeable guides escort visitors along the walkway to the various look-outs and explain the geological history of the area and how the landscape was created.
The Sulphur Springs are made of 24 bubbling cauldrons where a portion of the volcanic rim collapsed and opened fissures in the crust. The water in the craters, blackened by the iron sulphate still maintains a temperature of 171° Centigrade or 340° Fahrenheit.
More technically, the area is classified as a caldera, or rather a portion of the volcanic rim that has collapsed in on itself, opening fissures in the crust. This allows for the constant escape of steam through the bubbling cauldrons, preventing the build up of pressure which would cause an eruption.
Due to this remarkable natural pressure valve, the “Qualibu Caldera” is classified as dormant.
Morne Coubaril Estate
Nestled between the legendary Petit Piton, the Sulphur Springs and the Diamond Fall, Morne Coubaril Estate recalls the 1600’s and the plantocracy era in St. Lucia.
Originally part of a 2,000-acre estate commissioned by King Louis XVI of France, it was cultivated successfully in the 1700’s, 1800’s and early 1900’s, but the property remained unattended and relatively overgrown in recent times.
Since 1994, when the plantation was developed into its present form, this 250-acre estate has become one of St. Lucia’s fastest growing heritage attractions and it is a “must-see” for those interested in the cultural heritage of the region.
Morne Coubaril Estate gives visitors the opportunity to see at first hand some of the island’s traditional agricultural activities.
The authentically restored plantation village adds another time and dimension to the atmosphere and visitors are invited to participate in a number of activities which date back a century or more.
The visit includes a demonstration of cocoa, copra, and manioc processing, a walk on an original street formerly used by mule carriages, and a visit to a workers’ village.
Lunch at Dasheen Restaurant
For lunch, Dasheen Restaurant, nestled 1,100 feet up on a sloping hillside overlooking St. Lucia’s Piton mountains and the cobalt vastness of the Caribbean sea, is truly one of the most intimate and romantic escapes anyone could ever wish for, or even imagine.
Feast your eyes on the glorious view over the Pitons, and your taste-buds on delectable Creole and international cuisines, plus fine wines from around the world.
Sightseeing and Shopping in St. Lucia
St. Lucia demands to be explored. There’s basically one main road that circles the entire island, so chances of losing your way are slim indeed. Be prepared for narrow roads, dogleg curves, hairpin turns and more potholes than you will care for; but be assured the trip is worth every twist and gasp.
If you’re venturing out on your own, it’s a good idea to bring along your bathing suit, a towel and something to drink. Most of the tour can be done in a full day, but to really enjoy it, you should split it up over a couple of days or more. Get an early start and avoid the afternoon heat.
If you plan to buy duty free items at duty free shopping malls such as La Place Carenage, Pointe Seraphine or J. Q. Mall in Rodney Bay, you need to bring you airline ticket and identification. You will be required to show both when making your purchases.