Shona Parker, MotMot Travel
I’ve been lucky to spend more time in Saint Lucia than the usual holidaymaker, having worked and lived there 14 years ago in the tourism industry. Having not stepped foot on the island in that 14 year period, (a touchdown at Hewanorra for an hour on the way to Grenada doesn’t count) I was somewhat excited and a little apprehensive to return to this ‘Simply Beautiful’ island situated in the East Caribbean and part of the Windward Islands.
However this time I was looking at the island with a new viewpoint – as a destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts, culture seekers and for those who want to travel independently and experience a unique trip away from the crowds but with first-class support and services. A wide choice of hotels are now available on the island, from five star futuristic looking luxury hotels, to the simple yet perfectly located hotel that understands your needs in wanting to depart at 04.00 in the morning with a packed breakfast to keep you going whilst looking for the species you haven’t managed to see – yet! Alternatively, opt for a boutique hotel with the fourth wall missing and your own private plunge pool.
Here are the highlights of my fantastic trip:
Bouton/Da Botte, situated above the southern town of Soufriere; this area is a gentle introduction to Saint Lucian birding with the thrill of hearing and hopefully seeing the Saint Lucia Parrot, as well as the Purple Throated Carib, the Antillean Crested Hummingbird and the Green Throated Carib darting between the trees. Whilst on a minor road this is an easy walk and gives great views of the Pitons whilst catching sight of butterflies as well as a good selection of birds.
Dolphin and Whale Watching – There were a mix of dolphin species, the large Fraser’s Dolphins with pink bellies, and the smaller, sleeker Pantropical Spotted Dolphins were present in smaller numbers. The school were feeding and were less interested in our boat, but we followed them for some time and before we left them one or two dolphins began showing off and jumping clear of the water before landing with a big splash. A truly amazing sight that will stay with me for a long time.
Canaries Waterfalls located in the Grand Bois Reserve, which is about three miles east of Canaries. There are plenty of farms nearby growing fruits such as grapefruits and mangos. The Canaries Waterfalls can be accessed by walking on the road which then runs into a track. There is ample shade provided by the lush trees surrounding the path and it is very pleasant walking along seeing the Saint Lucian flowers and fauna, the crab claws, the pink and red gingers, birds of paradise and wax roses as well as spotting the Pewee and Gray Kingbirds. The refreshing cool pool was a welcome relief for filling up water bottles.
Rainforest Adventure – the Ariel Tram took us through the Rainforest so we could admire the views towards the north of the island, Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Once at the top we took the trail through the thicket of the Rainforest, stopping to view the birds as well as the flowers and trees. Feeling adventurous, we chose to glide along the ten Zip Cables flying through the Rainforest. After the fourth Zip Line I dared to let go with my hands for a nano second. We were well taken care of by the instructors who also pointed out the different birds and trees, as well as explaining what makes a Rainforest. Then there was a short hike uphill, before relaxing in our gondola, viewing the nature around us as we descended.
Rainforest Ariel Tram, Zip Lines
Des Cartiers, a trail within the Quilesse Forest Reserve and considered to be the best rainforest trail on the island. It is home to tree ferns, bromeliads and many orchids. Like all forests, it is not always easy to uncover all the secrets in one visit, but with luck we found a great selection of Saint Lucian birds including the raucous Saint Lucia Parrot, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Antillean Euphonia and Rufous-throated Solitaire. This can also be incorporated with a stop at Vieux Fort wetlands, the largest lake on the island and home to a variety of water birds including Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Osprey, Caribbean Coot, Common Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal and Belted Kingfisher. We continued on to the southern tip of Saint Lucia and the sea cliffs at Cape Moule à Chique to look for Red-billed Tropicbirds flying over the seas below, as well as spectacular views over the island and the Maria Islands.
Grand Anse, on the north east coast and well known for the leather backed turtles nesting from March to August. However we weren’t on turtle watch this trip, but were again looking for the endemics found in the large area of tropical dry forest of Saint Lucia. Here it is largely covered by scrub forest, characterized by short canopy trees and a large number of small-diameter trees. We were searching for the Ruddy Quail, which were proving to be a little elusive during our visit, a couple of the group managed to catch a glimpse of one but the rest of us blinked and missed it! As we were making our way through a shaded area, one of the girls let out a yelp as she narrowly missed stepping on a small boa constrictor. Whilst we gathered around, it proceeded to slither up a tree and bask in the adoration it was receiving. So that added a bit of excitement to the morning.
With average temperatures of around 30°, blue skies, friendly faces, (and only an eight hour flight from London), and delicious local fresh food, Saint Lucia is a great choice for a nature holiday with an excellent chance to spot all of the endemic birds plus a whole lot of others.
To book your Saint Lucia birdwatching/nature holiday, visit MotMot Travel