St Lucia has long established itself as a resort destination. Brochures beckon with idyllic scenes of waterfront properties with pristine grounds and couples frolicking in cool Caribbean waters. This image of the island as an ocean playground only tells half the story however, because rising from the scalloped shores into verdant heights is a rain-forested interior that is cool and tranquil and provides the visitor with the opportunity to engage directly with its serene landscape.
While a day trip to the interior, or a hike through the island’s many maintained trails, might communicate some of the beauty, there is no better way to enjoy the benefits of St Lucia’s ecological appeal than to stay in Soufriere at one of the many eco-lodges that are making a name for themselves.
The town of Soufriere, in the island’s south has developed a niche as a destination for the more ecologically conscious visitor. Its location lends itself to activities typically associated with the environmentally aware tourist, from hiking, bird watching, mountain climbing, snorkelling, diving and whale and dolphin watching. The district of Soufriere boasts some of the island’s most beautiful bays and water access by boat is convenient; the town is serviced by a harbour and several calm water moorings along the coast.
Soufriere, most famously, is host to the Piton peaks, two volcanic plugs which rise spectacularly from the sea and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The peaks offer mountain climbing challenges from moderate to difficult. For the less adventurous they still inspire, whether from the veranda or beachside. The area is also home to the fascinating geological phenomenon, the occurrence of a network of sulphur springs that bubble up in a caldera in the mountains. The run off from the springs collects in several areas and the waters are sought by many for their purported healing properties, in particular skin and respiratory ailments.
Certainly there is no lack of diverse attractions for the visitor, but Soufriere’s selling point continues to be its forested tranquillity. The lush, green environs invite relaxation and an animated natural life. Bird watching is a particularly good in the area as some of St Lucia’s endemic bird species, like the celebrated Amazona Versicolor, a multi-coloured plumed parrot which has become a de facto national symbol, makes the surrounding forest its home.
Soufriere combines an interesting blend of tourism driven industry with thriving agricultural activity, so much so in fact that it is often referred to as the bread basket of the island. The eco-lodges of the area are well-poised to take advantage of this distinguishing factor and most of the produce enjoyed in the restaurants is purchased directly from the farmer, seasonal and fresh.
The eco-lodges of Soufriere also have a committed imperative to be a sustainable enterprise in the community, drawing on local staffing and expertise, sponsoring projects in the community, and monitoring their impact on the environment which sets them apart. The joy of staying at an eco-lodge in Soufriere goes beyond the sensory experience; it carries the satisfaction of participating in responsible tourism.