I have never visited St Lucia despite spending the majority of my life in KwaZulu-Natal’s rolling green hills. Which is quite something considering most of my family and friends have (how did I miss all those trips?). I have meandered further north and south, but just not St Lucia.
I have however heard tales of hippo walking the streets and the need to be wary at night after you have visited an eatery or the like. Being eaten by a hippo is hardly a great way to spend your holiday, so it is important to take into consideration that they run really fast. Deceptive creatures that way (no I did not say anything about the size to speed ratio). For a small town with one major street it manages to have a variety of shops ranging from fishing, tour guides, supermarkets, a few coffee shops, clothing shops and restaurants. St Lucia sure has a variety of people that move through the area as well. How likely is it to run into a friend you haven’t seen for more than 5 years from another province? In St Lucia – Very likely apparently. I managed to do this twice in a week long stay. Tourists also flock through St Lucia to visit the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first Heritage site; (the word means awe and wonder – quite apt) including the six nature conservation areas in it. This includes eight interlocking eco systems and ten destinations according to www.nature-reserve.co.za including Maphelane, Lake St. Lucia/St. Lucia Estuary, Cape Vidal and the Eastern Shores, Charters Creek and the Western Shores, False Bay, Sodwana Bay, uMkhuze, Lake Sibaya, Coastal Forest and Kosi Bay.
Cape Vidal was a windy and worthwhile trip just to see the dense KZN coastal foliage growing wild and free with the potential of wildlife around every corner and over ever rise. Standing at the top of a dune looking at endless beaches and ocean is a release for the soul like a chord being strummed on a guitar. To top it off, being on a beach at sunset between the ocean crashing onto the shore and the estuary pushing thin films of water across the beach towards you is like standing on a magical island. Having the orange and red hues reflected in the water mixed with the end of day shadows makes you feel like one of the butterflies let loose flying on the wind (of which there was plenty at the time). The Boardwalk down to the beach is wonderful at dusk as the moon rises full and paints everything in its pale blue light. Be aware though that this is not for the fainthearted because the walk back (which is not lit) may bring you to encounter either crocodiles or hippo at any point but especially in the evening as they come in to rest or feed on grass.
If you are in a walking mood, you can take a 40 minute cruise down the beach from St Lucia to Maphelane Nature Reserve and even beyond if you wish. I have often dreamed of unspoiled beaches with no other footprints but mine with crabs and birds going on as if I wasn’t there. This is what you get on this walk. It is truly beautiful and somehow just allows your brain to relax, even if you are a girl (I am going to take flak for this comment, I just know it). We spent the day at Maphelane spearfishing, fly fishing and fishing, as well as just appreciating floating around in a cove in the bay. #Bliss. #Just saying. But be warned, you don’t want to take the walk back when the tide is high or you will be walking on soft sand for 40 minutes and this will cause a certain state of tiredness. But hey, it’s your holiday. Use it, don’t use it.
Thyme Square Café was a very different experience. Delightfully different. Not only are their prices reasonable (especially by St Lucia standards) but they have a really quirky relaxed atmosphere. Quirky? Yes. Well, what else would you call chandeliers along with whitewashed deck chairs and palm trees, while the waitresses don cat ear alice bands? Once again, I have to draw a parallel to Alice in Wonderland. I really did feel like I had slipped into another dimension. But the coffee was good and the food tasty, so I guess that would make me the Cheshire Cat.
The Butterfly House was an interesting experience. Owned and operated by local residents, the young man guiding us was very clear that he was not a tour guide, but an interpretive guide. He interprets butterflies. I thought this amusing but realised that he indeed does seem to know much about butterflies, which is communicated thoroughly (or is that interpreted). I must admit though, once I had walked into the dome that is home to these gentle, beautiful creatures, I was thoroughly transported into a fantasy world and pretty much had my camera glued to my head to try and capture it.
If you are in St Lucia for any space of time you are bound to be struck by hippo fever. The incredible urge to locate and watch these large creatures without getting too close (I repeat, they are deceptively fast). They do very much seem like gentle giants (just don’t go near the babies or get in the way of food) and tend to cause traffic jams at will, usually turning the average person into paparazzi in a flash (excuse the pun). We did however decide to take one of the Hippo and Croc cruises up the estuary to go spot hippos in their native environment. The guide was amusing and full of fun facts. We got up close to a number of pods without disturbing them too much. We were fortunate enough to see a few little fella’s bobbing around (the young ones don’t have enough weight to keep them under for long). We also experienced some stunning bird sightings including Fish Eagles, Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher and a rarely seen Estuary Kingfisher. Where the mangroves turned to forests we spotted Kudu and Waterbuck as well as some lazy crocodiles on a spit of land. All in all it was a satisfying tour with a cup of coffee in hand (yes, there are other refreshments – it is just my refreshment of choice).
St Lucia has a somewhat Bohemian atmosphere and it is difficult not to succumb to its wiles of relaxation. I for one had a week that combined a number of activities and still managed to appreciate some a rather sincere attempt at chilling out.
Why don’t you give it a try? Take a walk on the wild side and check out my photo’s on the St Lucia Portfolio…