Soufriere, St. Lucia

Feb 18, 2019 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose at 6:32 a.m. over the majestic Pitons. Both mountains (Gros at 2,600 feet; Petit, 2,500) have been designated world heritage sites and are dramatic sentinels guarding the entrance to Soufriere Bay. The climb to the top is difficult and can take some hours.

We dropped anchor at 7 a.m. We landed at the quayside and began our excursion with a short ride to the interior of the caldera where hot gases and molten waters and rock are still quite active. For the very first time we were able to see and smell—sulfuric gases leave a pungent smell in the air—the seismic activity of this island. With the exceptions of Barbados and Carriacou, the islands we’ll visit are the product of volcanic activity, as they sit atop the Atlantic and Caribbean plates. Our guides on St. Lucia were extremely knowledgeable, particularly about plants and cultural matters. We learned about local geology and went to an overlook where we could see into the bubbling mud as it hissed and exploded.  This island paradise is approximately 200 square miles and has a small population of about 180,000. It’s the birthplace of two Nobel Laureates, one in economics and one in literature—a testimony to the educational system and St. Lucian’s care for their children.

Our next stop was the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, one of the unsung gems of the Caribbean. Plants of every sort abound. I love the bamboo, the national plant of St. Lucia, that can grow eight inches per day and reach 30 feet tall and eight inches in diameter. As we left, we walked through the formal gardens and saw the exquisitely beautiful jade plant. Its color is magical and while I cannot precisely describe it, it’s a mix of ice blue, subtle greens, and crystal. It takes one’s breath away. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, is said to have come from a wealthy planter family on St. Lucia. Our next stop: Hummingbird Beach. The snorkeling was fabulous against the sheer rock cliffs.

Lunch today was one of my favorites and is quite unique: The chef takes parboiled pasta and swirls it around inside what must be a 100-kilo wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I saw many go back for seconds. After our special “tea” (iced coffee and ice cream), the wonderful film Around Cape Horn was shown on the Lido Deck.

We took up the anchor at 1:20 p.m. and sailed out of Soufriere Bay with the pitons on our port side. Our captain gave a wonderful toast at the cocktail party to send us off safely to our respective destinations. All good things must come to an end but I do wish they wouldn’t come quite so fast.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Robin Moore

National Geographic Photographer

Robin Moore is a photographer and naturalist with awards from Nature's Best, American Photo, National Geographic Traveler, and Wildlife Photographer of the Year. His images are displayed in the National Geographic Fine Art Galleries and have appeared in the pages of publications that include National Geographic magazine, National Geographic books, the New York Times, Newsweek, and TIME. His images are represented by National Geographic Creative.

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