Dive into St Lucia’s most beguiling bay
Published by The Daily Mail (15th October, 2016)
One of the few advantages of jet lag is waking early to enjoy the rising sun. So I am sipping coffee, watching hummingbirds dip into the bushes and admiring the view over St Lucia’s Marigot Bay from my balcony.
Not just the bay – although it is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful, with that mix of lush green hills falling into an enticing blue sea – but also the boats bobbing away on the water.
This is as close as I will ever get to super-yacht status. Some of these extraordinary crafts cost more to hire for a holiday than most people’s annual mortgages.
I am not alone in enjoying the show. As soon as a new boat slides into the moorings beside my hotel, the Capella, my fellow guests start tapping away on their tablets to discover the latest rental charges.
‘My wife has been checking them out online,’ confesses one American broker later at a rum-tasting session, where we down six different Caribbean varieties and pretend to be connoisseurs.
Such is the pace of life in the ‘hurricane hole’ of Marigot Bay, located on the western coast of verdant St Lucia. Rex Harrison once cavorted here with a giant pink snail during the making of the original Doctor Dolittle film.
At the luxurious Capella hotel, we are doing nothing so strenuous. As Sebastian, the yoga teacher, tells my wife: ‘I wish I could get excited by the idea of holidays, but it is so relaxing to live here, it is hard to see the point of them.’
The hotel staff are exceptionally friendly. They offer fruit and refreshments to those splayed out in the sun beside the pool, while beer and soft drinks are delivered daily to our rooms.
Discovering my wife has a cold, they make pots of ginger tea and insists she leaves breakfast each day with a fresh thermos.
We do try to push ourselves into some activities beyond eating, drinking and reading in the sun. I attempt Pilates, then brave 90 minutes of pounding and pummelling with bamboo sticks from a masseur named Gifta.
One morning, we climb to the ridge across the bay with a guide, Junior, who chats about his brother in the British Army and his grandmother’s folk remedies made from plants we pass en route.
The ascent is tough going at times, with ropes to assist and an unseasonal burst of rain as we reach the top. But the squall soon passes and we can see dreadlocked vendors far below trying to flog bananas and coconuts from overloaded paddleboards to the big boats.
A smaller craft chugs back and forth over to a beach opposite the hotel. But when the sun comes out, that spit of sand becomes cramped.
Better to take a water taxi to nearby beaches – although one remote idyll is interrupted suddenly by two loud party boats disgorging hordes of snorkelers in life jackets beside us.
Best of all is slipping below the surface of that luscious Caribbean sea. St Lucia does not have the best diving in the region but it is reliable, well-run and – to my delight – offers fine home-cooked jerk chicken and rice on the boats between dives.
Few things can beat the pleasure of stepping off the stern beside the famous pair of Piton peaks, then sinking slowly down to the bottom of the sea.
Levelling off about 60ft down, I drift for an hour through an enchanting coral wonderland. The current sweeps me through clouds of fish, passing slack-jawed eels and serene turtles as I marvel at the hallucinogenic colours of these constantly changing underwater gardens.
At one point I find a crab hiding under a rock with pincers bigger than my arms; he glares back when I stop to stare at him. More friendly is the lugubrious grouper who follows me for a while, sneaking up as I watch a flounder flit along the sand.
These are far greater riches than even those super-yachts can offer.