‘MUD, mud, volcanic mud/nothing quite like it for boiling the blood’. Or, to more faithfully quote the Flanders and Swann Hippopotamus Song: ‘So follow me follow, down to the hollow / And there let me wallow in glorious mud’
And wallow we did. In pitch black oozing mud. It’s strange who you can bump into in volcanic Paradise on the Caribbean island of St Lucia: a rock singer, a chef, a doctor, an IT trouble-shooter.
And it might seem a bizarre choice to immerse ourselves in smelly sulphur waters heated to 38C by a volcano, vigorously exfoliate our bodies (missing the sunburnt bits) with powdered rock and slather ourselves from top to toe in pitch-black volcanic mud.
But it has all sorts of wonderful healing properties, and good for skin and bones, argue the locals who happily simmer in the murky baths, swearing by its curative powers to relieve everything from eczema to arthritis.
Timing my first visit to St Lucia to perfection I flew out with British Airways on my birthday, which meant an extra seven hours celebrating. A sharp-eyed receptionist at the Morgan Bay Beach Resort spotted the date on my passport and arranged a beachside dinner table at the Bambou restaurant, decorated with petals, a bottle of bubbly chilling in an ice bucket and waiters singing Happy Birthday while presenting a gooey cake.
Jet lag? What jet lag?
Morgan Bay is in the north of the island, a friendly all-inclusive family resort. Rodney Bay’s zinging nightlife is not far away and I caught the opening night of the annual Jazz Festival (www.stluciajazz.org) where Jamaican reggae rapper Busy Signal strutted his stuff to the delirium of female fans.
Must-dos if you can tear yourself away from the lounging beach culture: Visit historic Pigeon Island and the spectacular coastline. Take a trip to Lushan Country Life park (www.heritagetoursstlucia.org/tours) to learn about and explore the luxuriant flora of the island and to sample Georgina’s succulent fishcakes sizzling over red coals.
Morgan Bay has four tennis courts in 25 acres of gardens, cricket on the beach and enough free water sports to give you an appetite for European, Asian and Caribbean dishes in five restaurants.
Swimming in warm Caribbean waters or splashing in the hotel pools? Creole cuisine or French fare? Decisions, decisions.
I split my time between Morgan Bay and one of the island’s five star hotels, the Ladera, perched on a rainforest ridge 100ft above Jalousie Beach, guarded by the twin sentinels of the Piton peaks, where pampered guests enjoy their own personal plunge pools and views to die for.
I was that pampered guest, jaw dropping in wonder at a panorama afforded by the absence of a fourth wall to my suite, inhaling the scents of exotic flowers on warm breezes wafting the drapes of my four poster, idling on a swinging chair with toes splashing in the water of my very own secluded mini swimming pool.
Skinny-dipping and quest for an all-over tan can be undertaken in perfect privacy.
Fully clothed I could wander to the Dasheen restaurant to breakfast on tropical fruits and wickedly sweet pastries, explore Soufriere’s colourful farmers’ market and wander through Ladera’s lush gardens among humming birds.
Ladera’s team of chefs pride themselves on menus using ocean-fresh fish and just harvested fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices: mahi-mahi fish straight out of the ocean, plantain, cocoa, sweet potatoes, five sorts of apples, bananas so sweet because they are picked at just the right time.
And mangos. St Lucians are passionate about them, revering them in the same way we talk about scallops and truffles. They are so versatile you can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as starters, with fish.
The combination of spices makes St Lucian food special: cinnamon, vanilla, tamarind to tickle the palate. Then there are the rum-based cocktails.
Must-dos: Go on a leisurely walking trip to Tet climb the Stairway to Heaven for fabulous views of the Pitons and to meet Countryman, a Rastafarian farmer tending his banana crop. http://soufrierefoundation.org/tet-paul-nature-trail
Snorkelling at Jalousie Beach where I swam with angel, parrot and hammerhead fish while a scuba diver boasted of his close encounter with a four-foot turtle and conga eel.
Botanical Gardens that would make gardeners at Kew glass houses green with envy at a climate that needs no artificial heating to produce tropical trees and plants in lush abundance. http://soufrierefoundation.org/tet-paul-nature-trail
The Sulphur Springs (http://www.paradise-islands.org/st-lucia/sulphur-springs-volcano.htm), so you can brave the hot volcanic waters and empathise with a lobster. I sampled the mud bath in the company of a medic and her IT husband. Our verdict: the weirdest, most wonderful way to get our skin as soft as a baby’s.
For information on St Lucia visit: www.stlucia.org.
Morgan Bay Beach Resort is part of Elite Island Resorts group, visit www.eliteislandresorts.co.uk.
British Airways offer seven nights at the 4* Morgan Bay Beach Resort from £889, based on two people sharing and departing between October 2 and 23. Price includes return British Airways flights from Gatwick and all-inclusive accommodation. Book by July 10. For reservations visit www.ba.com/stlucia or call 0844 493 0758.
Price examples, for Ladera, St Lucia www.ladera.com based on holiday in July 2012. Accommodation without flights: 5 nights at Ladera in a Gros Piton room including 1 free night from £830 per person, inclusive breakfast and taxes. With flights: 5 nights including 1 free night from £1,490 per person, includes breakfast, economy fares from London Gatwick and taxes. Special deal from Couture Travel Company
Special deal at Ladera: travel in August, stay 7 nights for the price of 5, from £1,457 per person, inclusive of direct British Airways flights, accommodation, breakfast, taxes and gratuities. Ring 01753 684810
Return economy flights from Manchester via London from £720.
British Airways offer seven nights at the 4* Morgan Bay Beach Resort in St Lucia from £979, based on two people sharing and departing in between October 2 and 23. The price includes return British Airways flights from Manchester and all-inclusive accommodation. Book by July 10. For reservations visit www.ba.com/stlucia or call 0844 493 0758.
All direct flights from UK depart from London Gatwick, British Airways daily and three times a week with Virgin Atlantic www.virgin-atlantic.com.
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