St Lucia's jagged peaks and Ayurvedic treats

Whether your taste is for adventure, luxury or a combination of the two, Saint Lucia is bursting with possibilities, says Tom Peck

"There are two types of snake down there," crackled the helicopter pilot's voice over the intercom as we flew high over the jagged jungle of Saint Lucia's mountainous interior. "The boa constrictor: he is big and lazy. The fer-de-lance: he is small and he moves very fast."

The boa constrictor set up home throughout the Caribbean long before its islands' tourist boards started seducing visitors of a similarly supine persuasion. Lying motionless in the sun for days on end, slowly digesting meals so large they require a flexible ligament jaw just to get them down, appeals not only to the heavy-bodied serpent.

But the nimble Saint Lucian fer-de-lance, meaning spearhead in French, is unique to these shores. And for the Caribbean traveller who can only stomach so much gentle repose, the little green pear drop of Saint Lucia, set in the electric blue of the Caribbean sea, is undoubtedly the place to go.

The helicopter was taking me from Hewanorra airport in the island's south-east corner to Cariblue Bay, a narrow beach 20 miles away at the north-west tip (though I would discover later that the views are far more spectacular from the winding mountain roads). Around its own private beach of imported white sand sits The BodyHoliday. There is nowhere like it.

This is an all-inclusive resort – though they prefer the term "prepaid" – and around the pool are the obligatory sun loungers complete with little red flags, to be pressed in the sand to indicate that refreshment is required. The resort's three restaurants, which range from a barbecue buffet to à la carte dining, also offer popular communal tables for single travellers who'd sooner eat in a group.

But neither of these advantages is the main attraction. Instead, people come here because there is a quite bewildering amount to do. Golf, scuba, fencing, archery, tennis, windsurfing, waterskiing, yoga, tai chi, spinning, pilates or Zumba on the beach as the sun drops into the sea like a fireball. It might – just – be feasible to do all these things in a single day here.

At the top of a set of steep steps with a stunning view over the bay is The BodyHoliday's main attraction, the thing that makes it marginally more popular with women than with men. The Wellness Centre's 44 spa treatment rooms are set around a little blue lap pool in a cool pink stone courtyard; an hour-long spa treatment is included for every day of your stay.

I was a spa virgin, a sceptic even, but the full body massages are supremely invigorating. Indeed, it is a far from uncommon occurrence, when guests inevitably gather at the clubhouse bar for sundowner cocktails, to overhear two gentlemen discussing in hushed but startled tones just how much they've enjoyed their Lucian Lime and Ginger Scrub or Ocean Wrap.

Lots of further treatments are available at extra cost; the Ayurvedic treatment centre is particularly popular. When I returned to lunch in an aromatherapy-oil-induced trance after a rather relaxing, hour-long, four-handed, synchronised Abhyanga massage, more than one person was keen to find out "either what you've just had done or what you've just smoked".

But, like no other island in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia rewards those who dare to step outside their resort. In the island's interior, dense rainforest covers a landscape uniquely mountainous for the region, with jagged peaks covered in bamboo, cedar, gommier and fern trees.

Not only do the mountains create activities for the adventurous traveller, but they limit how many resorts that can be built there compared with its flatter neighbours. It is largely Mother Nature's hand that has kept a brake on Saint Lucia's tourism industry, even now. It is only 18 years since Hurricane Debbie destroyed the banana crop, obliging the authorities to embrace tourism and develop the airport to allow direct flights from Europe and the US to land here.

The island's totem is the only Unesco world heritage site in the southern Caribbean, the majestic Pitons: Petit and Gros. (Their French names are among many reminders that the island changed hands 14 times between Britain and France after the French arrived in 1635.) Petit Piton and Gros Piton, in the island's south-west, shoot out of the sea like canine teeth almost half a mile into the sky. Oprah Winfrey once said the Pitons were "one of the top five places to see before you leave this great place called Earth".

As I struggled for two hours up the volcanic rock staircase of Gros Piton, the higher of the two but the easier climb, I did wonder whether the television presenter had ticked off the other four before trying it (she has, it transpired, only ever taken in the view from the sea). You have to leave very early in the morning, around 6.30am, or face the climb in the sweltering midday heat, but there's a breathtaking view over Petit Piton and back over the entire west coast of the island.

Back at sea level, at Anse des Pitons, a curving beach tucked between the two mountains, the view was no less extraordinary. The sea was the most intoxicating colour I have seen anywhere, and so clear and still that the reflections of the mountains seemed to shoot down into the ocean. Some natural wonders are so special that the locals name their beer after them. In Nepal they drink Everest; in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro. So sipping an ice-cold Piton here seemed utterly appropriate.

Several companies operate zip wires through the rainforest interior. I chose to go rappelling 120 feet from a decidedly rusty bridge down a deep ravine into the Dorée river. Only when I was harnessed up and ready to go did my guide explain that it is called The Devil's Bridge.

"The government don't have any record of who actually built it," he said. "No one knows how it got here. We think it must be the devil." The devil might need to be called back in – it is in dire need of repair – and as I clambered nervously over the wrong side of the bridge a 4x4 came round the corner and encountered my safety rope, completely blocking the road. It was 10 or 15 minutes before I was down and unharnessed. After a few more goes I was able to whizz down at some speed. The lengthy hike back, waist-deep through the river and up the steep, bamboo-covered bank, was just as exhilarating.

Some go to The BodyHoliday with specific targets, be they to lose weight, look younger or improve digestion or skin. The resort's specialists can produce bespoke training and nutrition schemes and act as mentors and personal trainers. During my stay the British decathlete Daley Thompson and the former Olympic pole-vaulter Kate Staples, better known as Zodiac from Gladiators, were running a gruelling boot camp daily at 7.30am.

"Give us your body for a week and we will give you back your mind," goes the promotional mantra. As I left for the airport, my body was mainly exhausted, and I realised I hadn't given myself even a moment's quiet reflection. Only when I was on the plane did I notice that I hadn't even read the first page of my holiday literature.

But there was no time for that either, nor for a second aerial glance at that hypnotic green, white and blue panorama. I was asleep before we left the Tarmac.

Travel essentials

Staying there

* The writer travelled as a guest of The BodyHoliday (0845 004 7553;, which offers all inclusive double rooms from £480 per night, including a wide of range activities but excluding flights.

Getting there

* British Airways (0844 493 0758;, flies from Gatwick. Alternatively Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; also flies from Gatwick.

More information

* Saint Lucia Tourist Board:

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits