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St. Lucia

St. Lucia Mud Bath is Good Clean Fun

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St. Lucia mud bath may not make you look any younger, but it is good clean fun. It also is a unique experience in the Caribbean.

Alhough I like a limited amount of strenuous activity, such as hiking a rain forest or snorkeling with tropical fish, it's much more satisfying to do activities unlike prior vacations.

It also is nice to create a memory linked to each island visited.

When were were researching excursions for the island of St. Lucia, there were the typical snorkeling, snailing, biking and hiking tours,.

But when we discovered the volcanic hot springs mud baths, my daughter and I felt this was something we would both enjoy, not to mention the therapeutic pampering for sunburned skin.

Unfortunately, the day of our excursions was an overcast sky with intervals of sometimes very heavy rains.

St. Lucia can be described as a very lush, mountainous island, almost junklelike in appearance, particularly as you leave the capital city of Castries, which is in the northern most area of the island.

The Challenge of Getting There

St. Lucia photo
Piton mountains, home of St. Lucia mud bath;
© St. Lucia Tourist Board
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ur group of about 20 were generally older teens to mid 40-somethings and very friendly, which came in quite handy for the two hour bus ride from our port in Castries to the volcanic and hot springs to the Piton mountains in Soufriere on the southern tip.

What made the bus ride appear longer was that it rained almost the entire time, and the roads were very narrow and winding.

Our tour guide was a woman in her mid 40s, very knowledgeable and genuinely quite passionate about her love of her island.

She did a remarkable job to focus on the many native vegetations and allowed several but brief stops for photo opportunities.

Traveling as we did from the northern most point of the island to the southern most area also enabled us to view several small towns, most of which were congested and poor.

The roads in the towns were also quite narrow, so maneuvering our tour bus through their streets was somewhat tense at times.

Overdue for an Eruption

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nce we reached our destination, we learned that this volcano was recognized as the only "drive-in volcano."

Although long dormant, he volcano had collapsed over 40,000 years ago, was now eight miles in diameter and was overdue for an eruption.

The most notable observation was through our noses -- the sulphuric smells were extremely pungent and overpowering.

Our group took a brief walk to the platform where we could view the active surface of the volcano, but instructed not to walk on it because the heat from the steam would cause extreme pain if not death. Locals had died here.

We probably were only at this point for about 20 minutes because the rains became heavier and side from standing on the overlook platform, there really wasn't much to see.

Just down the road was the real purpose of our adventure, the infamous hot springs and mud bath. As we departed the bus, our guide instructed us to be more cautious as the heavy rains had flooded the stream and the currents were more aggressive than usual.

One by one, we took off our outer clothing and shoes and with great care climbed into what appears to be a concrete pool, about 10 x 12 fee, where the stream poured in, then overflowed into another stream below the pool.

Laughing and Squealing

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s we stepped into the bath, we were laughing and squealing in anticipation. The water heated by the hot springs was incredibly warm and feel comforting from the cooler dampness in the air.

"These were the 'miracle muds' that the tour guide said would make us look 10 years younger."
Most of us were digging in the bottom of the bath where the mud had accumulated, forming a rich dark color and thick consistency.

These were the "miracle muds" that the tour guide said would make us look 10 years younger.

Everyone was rubbing the muds all over themselves while laughing in delight. We all laughed at how funny and uninhibited we were.

It seemed as if we weren't in the mud bath very long (about 30 minutes) before we were told it was time to start our long trip back to the ship.

Just Don't Wear White

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lowly we walked in a single file -- wet, dirty but relaxed -- we loaded our now younger looking selves back onto the bus.

One recommendation -- don't wear a white swimsuit unless you want it to be gray at the end.

Although somewhat pressed for time, in order to go back to the ship's 4:30 p.m. departure, our drive still made a couple of brief stops to point out the abundant banana fields and cocoa plantations.

We even stopped for a glass of their infamous rum punch and a grilled snack of chicken and fried bread which were available for a nominal price at a local roadside restaurant.

There was a lovely view of the Piton Mountains at the back of the building.

The return trip went a bit faster, possibly because there were fewer uphill climbs for the bus.

But I suspect the driver increased his speed to get us back to port at exactly 4:30, just as the ship's crew were raising the stair bridge.

Weather aside, it was an enjoyable afternoon. I'm not convinced we looked any younger after our drip in the mud bath.

But it was a great opportunity to do something that we couldn't do at home.

We also were able to capture an overview of a beautiful island that I would definitely consider revisiting someday.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Excursions   

December 15, 2008

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