St. Lucia travel information
- Submitted by: Ilana Stern
- Website: None Available
- Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005
Title: St. Lucia travel information (1993 January)
Author: Ilana Stern
Here's some files I mail to people who post asking about St. Lucia (in the Caribbean). This is mostly oriented toward scuba divers. Some of you may remember my request for information about various Caribbean islands a few months back. Well, I'm back from St. Lucia, and it was absolutely spectacular.
Obgeography: St. Lucia is in the eastern Caribbean, south of Martinique, north of St. Vincent, and west of Barbados. It is a small volcanic island, with mountainous rainforest in the interior, and volcanic peaks sloping to black sand beaches on the coast. The reefs are concentrated on the Caribbean side.
It is relatively expensive to get to St. Lucia. It is worth it. It is relatively expensive to stay at the Anse Chastenet. This may be worth it to some people; it's a small resort, very pretty, not very developed, quite secluded, spectacular views from the airy rooms (40 rooms in all), good food. It also has some of the best diving (and snorkeling) directly off the beach, and houses the main dive operation on the island (Scuba St. Lucia), and offers dive packages. We felt it would be an indulgently ideal honeymoon.
There are 9:00 and 2:00 boat dives, 11:00 and 2:30 beach dives, and occasionally a boat comes from the capital city of Castries at around 10:30, bringing divers, and Scuba St. Lucia puts on an extra 11:00 boat dive for them (and us). Everyone must do a check-out beach dive first -- but what a dive! The reefs start at about 10 feet; we went to about 50 feet, through a little tunnel, and eventually into a cave (the divemaster had a flashlight) that had an enclosed airspace out of the water. Pretty neat. You can dive with Scuba St. Lucia even if you do not stay at Anse Chastenet. There are guest houses in Soufriere (the nearest town, about 1.3 miles from the hotel), and certainly much cheaper hotels.
Most of the guests at Anse Chastenet are not divers (surprisingly). On most of the dives, there were four or six of us, plus a divemaster. We never saw another dive boat. What a wonderful feeling of solitude and discovery!
I got certified in January, in a quarry, so it was all I could do to keep from total-bugeyed-rapture-of-the-deep. Zillions of kinds of corals, orange barrel sponges and organ pipes, iridescent purple vase sponges, wavy tree-like corals, those pretty feathery worms that hide when you wave water over them; zillions of pretty reef fish (blue chromis, sergeant major, bluehead wrasse were the most common; also goatfish, parrotfish, various butterflyfish, a few angelfish), eels (moray and sharptail snake eels), lobsters (spiny, peppermint, slipper), squid, sea urchins, trumpetfish, scorpionfish, trunkfish (and other weirdly shaped fish). I was actually in the water with all these fish! Wow!
The topography of the dive sites near Anse Chastenet was pretty interesting, too; there was one dive to a group of underwater mountains (Pinnacles), one to a sort of underwater canyon system (Grand Caille), and of course the cave at the beach dive.
The experienced divers agreed that the reefs rank right up there with the best. There is very little reef damage DUE TO DIVERS. This is why I am, contrary to my normal reaction, sharing an unspoiled and unknown hideaway with the net: there is quite a bit of visible damage (in some places) DUE TO FISHING ACTIVITY. This is also why there are few large fish (we did see snapper, jack and mackerel, but not large schools).
The Anse Chastenet reef is a Marine Preserve, and theoretically protected. This does not stop the locals from net fishing right above the reef; although it is technically illegal, the Marine Police have told the hotel that the hotel must police their own beach. The manager of the hotel told me that hotel people have been threatened with knives when they tried to stop the fishermen.
A serious problem at the dive sites at the base of the Pitons is trap fishing. On one dive, we saw four large lobster traps which had been dropped from boats, and were lying on and smushing the coral and sponges. On the other dive sites in the area, we always saw at least one trap. These traps are about 6x4 feet big. We also saw a fish trap which had a large number of non-edible fish in it (and a very upset moray!). The locals tend to throw their trash in the water, further degrading the reef.
A lot of St. Lucians make their living as fishermen. (Fishing is not, however, the main industry of St. Lucia, not even close.) It would be nice if fishing could be regulated in such a way that the regulation does not endanger their livelihood, but that their fishing does not endanger the reef. The government is trying to encourage tourism. If enough divers come to St. Lucia, and voice their fears about damaging fishing practices, maybe some of the reef areas will become protected in fact, not just in name.
Hello folks, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I am sort of combining replies, here.
It rained a little every day, but not much except for one day. Rainy season is July-December. Hurricane season is late summer.
There are two kinds of rooms, those on the hill (where we stayed) and those on the beach. Neither have air conditioning, and in general the rooms are not plush but are large, airy, and non-hotel-like. In our room there was a large (king?) bed, a ledge above it with lamps, a desk and chair, a bamboo lounge chair, regular chair, ottoman, and glass-topped table, and a bureau. There were two chairs and a little table on the balcony. The wall had a nice batik on it, and there was a wicker-type rug/mat covering most of the tile floor. There was a ceiling fan, which in combination with a lot of open windows, kept us cool.
The beachside rooms have no view (at all -- they look at the tennis court) or balconies (I think), and there are two floors of rooms. They have refrigerators and instant-coffee makers and I guess are a little fancier. They are more expensive, anyway. You have to go up the steps to get to the dining room anyway.
We stayed in a hillside room, which shares only one wall with another room, although some of the hillside rooms were set up in clusters of 4 or so. Most of the hillside rooms have awesome views. We specifically requested a room with a good view!
Not much. One would not wear swim clothes to dinner, but shorts were ok, although most men wore long pants (no jackets). I wore dresses a lot, but I like to wear dresses. The service was pretty formal; except for the buffet nights, dinners consisted of appetizer, soup, entree and dessert.
What we did: we booked through Go Diving, 1-800-328-5285. They were very helpful and nice, and when our plane was delayed, causing us to arrive a day late, I phoned them from the airport and they called Anse Chastenet and made appropriate arrangements.
Our package was 7 nights, hillside room, 2 dives/day, breakfast & dinner, airport transfers (not trivial!), basket of fruit in the room, for $1199 per person (shoulder season rates). Summer rates (starting 4/15) are $1148. Winter rates were $1439/pp. (For Dive Package) Tell them you're honeymooners and you will get a bottle of (inexpensive) champagne!
Escape Package (also Go Diving) -- for nondivers, includes resort scuba course and complimentary tour of the Sulphur Springs: 7 nights for $973 summer, $1264 winter.
Rates without breakfast & dinner (I wouldn't recommend, unless you plan on spending lots of time way away from there): 7 nights escape pkg $575/$795 (hill room summer/winter), $690/900 (beach room), 7 nights dive pkg $745/995 or $850/$1100.
All these rates include ALL TIPS AND TAXES. They figure 10% tip and 8% tax. These are all double occupancy rates. Regular room rates for summer/winter are $70/$100 pp hill room and $85/$115 pp beach room. This does not include tips and taxes.
If you do not have a meal package, breakfast is (I think) $10-15 and dinner is $25. Lunches ran us around $6 each at Anse Chastenet (or other tourist places). Much less at local eateries, but we got a little ill after a $2 meal. Anse Chastenet food is good, not much choice in items though, bad for vegetarians.
Weights, belt, mask, fins, and snorkel are all free for use. Daily and weekly rates: BC $10/$130, reg $10/130, wetsuit $5/$65. We brought wetsuits, but some people dove without them and were happy. Single dives (extra, or if you don't want package) are $30, or 6/$150 with additional dives $25 each. You can rent a camera (with film) for $25/dive [eep!]
All these prices were in $US. At Anse Chastenet, prices are quoted in both $US and $EC (eastern caribbean). You don't actually pay for anything until you leave; you just sign for things, including prepaid things (not including prepaid diving, which you just sign for once at the beginning.) We changed a little money for eating in town. Other than that, our total bill for lunches and bar drinks came to $70 (for us together).
Things to do: diving:
The reef offshore is good for several dives (we did it twice during the days plus once for a night dive) and snorkeling. I don't think you'd want to do just beach diving, though. The boat rides are all very short (from 1 minute [no kidding!] to maybe 10 minutes), and it is very easy diving. The boats meet you for the drift dives, so you never have to swim. You always dive with a divemaster. The boats are all fairly small, and since there are few divers, it is not hectic. I would say that the diving is not varied enough to satisfy true "compressed air junkies" who want to dive 3x/day. You can request a deep dive.
As far as snorkeling goes, you can snorkel right off the beach, or go on one of the boats (I think they charge for the ride, though). It's great just snorkeling. You can also take a resort scuba course and do a supervised dive; it's included in some packages, and it's $75 if it's not included.
Things to do: not diving:
At Anse Chastenet: windsurf, "minisail" (little sunfish), tennis, swim (the cove is fairly calm), snorkel, suntan; contract with one of the boatmen who ply the beach to take you for a ride somewhere or nowhere; charter the Anse Chastenet yacht (costs extra) to go somewhere or nowhere.
Through the hotel (they will make the arrangements, but it costs extra (just sign for it)): tours to the volcano and the sulphur springs, rain forest hike (very very good, knowlegeable guide), sailing cruises, tours, fishing trips, hiking the Pitons, fly or sail to other islands, plantation tours, trips to Castries (the capital) etc.
On your own: you can hike to Soufriere in about 40 minutes (or take a cab or boat). There is a tourist bureau on the waterfront. It's not a big town, but there are a few things to see, and it's a major change of pace from the resort, anyway. I enjoyed hiking around (the road to Anse Chastenet is quite hilly, made a good hike) but it was a pain to have to refuse the 20 offers to get a cab from locals who wanted tips and kickbacks. You can rent a car (the hotel will arrange it) but be aware that the roads are twisty and poor, and it takes a while to get places! Also, they drive on the left.
I think I managed to answer everyone's questions... Have loads of fun, wherever you decide to go!