Downey Duck

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St Lucia

Anse Chastanet, July 2004

Thirty-four travelers, our largest group ever, made the trek to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Most of us started in Pittsburgh, with an easy connection in Philadelphia, arriving in St. Lucia by 2:30 P.M. After a 1½-hour ride from the airport we arrived at Anse Chastanet, nestled on a lush jungle hillside with views of the Caribbean Sea and the Piton mountains.

The rooms at Anse Chastanet are individually unique, ranging from standard, beachside deluxe, and hillside deluxe, to two bedroom, two bath cottages. Most have wonderful views of the Pitons and/or the ocean. The higher up the hillside, the more steps, but even the beachside rooms have 100+ steps up to the main dining area. Each room has a porch of varying size and the sleeping areas may or may not be screened; netting is over each bed, although we did not use ours. Ceiling fans were in lieu of air conditioning and extra floor fans are available if necessary. Tree frogs and lizards were common visitors and moderate amounts of bug spray kept the mosquitoes at bay.

Food was good to excellent and there was plenty of it! Our package included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch were buffet or ordered off the menu, afternoon tea included desserts and sandwiches, and dinners were served seated, except for the last night, which was also buffet. Dinners included appetizer, salad or soup, entrée, and dessert; the menu was totally different every night and included vegetarian choices. Those steps were the only things that saved us from instant obesity! There was also nightly entertainment, ranging from the one-man band to the excellent steel drums.

Down on the beach is Dive St. Lucia, a large, efficiently run facility. The large staff was pleasant and helpful. There is a large room for hanging gear, and small individual lockers. The first dive was a shore dive; after we proved we knew how to clear a mask and regulator, groups of eight were led by a dive guide on a 30-minute tour. The rest of our day dives were from large boats; we had about 16 dives on each, so there was plenty of space. The diving was typical pleasant Caribbean diving—mostly small to medium-sized fish, some turtles, lots of invertebrates, and a seahorse and frogfish thrown in the mix. One diver saw a dolphin in the distance. Boat rides ranched from 30 seconds to 15 minutes. The usual routine was to don wetsuits on land, board the boat from the beach via the lowered bow ramp, then set up gear on the boat. Normal dives are about 50 minutes; we asked for, and received, 60-70 minute dives on our boat. Errol, our group’s guide, was the first dive guide ever who actually went slow enough for us photographers to keep up with, even after constant stopping for photo opportunities! Water temperature was about 82 degrees. We handled our own gear breakdown, including rinsing, although help was always available if requested. There were four large cement rinse tanks plus a camera rinse tank, and a small camera tank on board the boats. Surface intervals between the two morning boat dives were spent on various beaches, touring Soufriere, or looking for dolphins. The last day we dove a sunken freighter, small enough to see the whole thing, easy penetration, with fish life.

We were offered two night dives as part of our package. Both were shore dives, led by our normal guides. They turned out to be very good, with lots of big crabs, various types of lobsters, lots of sleeping fish, and plenty of small invertebrates, including decorator and sponge crabs, and the “thing”. One staff member sat in a small skiff on the surface, in case anyone needed to be picked up for some reason; it turned out a couple people had trouble swimming against the current, so the extra safety precaution was appreciated.

Guided afternoon shore dives were also available, but we chose to experience other activities, like serious vegging on the beach, complimentary sailing and kayaking, snorkeling, and shopping in nearby Soufriere. One afternoon we went to the volcano, waterfalls, botanical gardens, and the mineral baths, where we soaked away the years. Jungle biking, hiking on the grounds and many other activities are also available.

Overall impression? Easy, better-than-average Caribbean diving in a lush tropical area, with up-scale accommodations and food, and plenty of activities for everyone.