Rain Forest Hike Info
Hiking, seemingly discouraged as a spontaneous activity, should be planned and organized days before.
Rain forest hiking has become very popular and that's both good and bad. The good part is it's now easier to find a guide.
The bad part: hiking has become very commercial-ized and tour operators often take groups of 20 or more, certainly not the quietest company for enjoying the serenity of the rain forest.
Castries tour operators include Sunlink (758/452-9678) and Jungle Tours (758/450-0434). Unless you have your own vehicle, you will probably be forced to join a tour group since there is no other economical way to reach the trailheads, most of them located far away from the local bus routes. Taxis fares are prohibitive.
Besides being commercialized, rain forest hiking is also highly structured. With the exception of the Enbas Saut trail near Soufriere, you're discouraged from simply showing up and taking a walk in the woods. Instead, you are supposed to call ahead to arrange for a guide as well as pay EC$25 (not US$25) for each trail you walk.
Of course, the rain forest does house many rare and exotic plants, animals and birds and strict control certainly helps ensure their well being. But vacationers who like to do things on the spur of the moment may find the system stifling.
Two different branches of government are in charge of St. Lucia 's hiking trails. The 19,000-acre St. Lucia Forest Reserve is maintained by the Forestry and Lands Department headquartered at Union in the northwest part of the island.
It controls access to the island's most popular hikes: the Union Nature Trail, the Des Cartiers rain forest trail, the Barre de L'Isle trail, Edmund Reserve and the Enbas Saut trail. To arrange a forestry guide, call (758) 468-5649/5645/5648 or email the St. Lucia Forestry and Lands Department.
The National Trust owns and administers Pigeon Island National Park and the Fregate Island and Maria Islands Nature Reserves. The National Trust has become increasingly active in arranging and organizing hikes for studying plants in different parts of the islands, including walks up Gros Piton.
The St. Lucia Naturalists' Society welcomes visitors to its monthly meetings at the Castries Public Library. Meetings are usually the first Wednesday of the month, starting at 6 p.m. It also conducts regular nature walks; check with the library for details.
In Soufriere, one of the most reliable and knowledgeable guides is Martial Simon, Bay Street, Soufriere, St. Lucia. Ask for him at Servil's Boutique or Anse Chastanet.
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