Pencil-in a spot of snorkelling: Peter Guttridge joined hassled high-fliers for a schedule of stress-relief and pampering on St Lucia

So far this week I have been pummelled, pounded, salted and loofahed, submerged in algae, coated in seaweed, rolled in polythene and wrapped in an electric blanket to marinate for 20 minutes. Twice now, a woman apparently trained in riot control has pinned me to the wall with a column of water from a high-pressure hose. Who said sybarites have it easy?

The Caribbean island of St Lucia is full of hotels that offer all-inclusive holidays with scuba diving, water skiing, snorkelling, tennis and golf. Le Sport goes one better. It provides all this plus a water treatment and fitness centre, the Oasis, on a hilltop above Cariblue Bay. Le Sport is not cheap: a 14-day stay arranged through Thomson costs about pounds 1,800 - worth it if you feel like blowing your savings on healthy self-indulgence. An unexpected legacy funded me and my partner.

The only real drawback is getting there. Although our flight time is supposed to be nine hours, we arrive in St Lucia some 15 hours after we left home. The resort is still 90 minutes away. That is 90 minutes in a cramped minibus along the island's potholed road - and the scenic potential of this tour is lost on us since it is already dark.

Also in our minibus are Charles and Robert, two young investment bankers. Charles is here to play tennis; Robert, on his third visit, has come for the treatments. They chat enthusiastically to Claire, a senior executive with a media company, here for a major de-stress.

Despite the fact that Le Sport claims to be the last word in stress management holidays, our arrival is hardly a soothing experience. We get there at nine in the evening - with our body clocks at 1am - and find no food left at the barbecue and the lift to our fourth-floor room not working (it rarely is). The next day can only be better.

In the morning we walk down to the beach through bougainvillaea, ylang ylang, gardenias and hibiscus. We see a humming-bird hovering on a blur of wings. Floating in the warm water, rain suddenly hisses down and, as abruptly, stops.

Other birds are very tame. They come on to the tables in the open-air restaurant. They come into your room and leave droppings on any clothes lying around. You can, if you are that sort of person, buy a carving of three birds in a birdbath made from a coconut. You can buy a hat made from plaited leaves which has a long feather with a bird fashioned out of the end. A depressing number of people do buy, but daytime sartorial elegance is not a priority here. People who attend the fitness classes wear what they feel comfortable in. But there are inevitably a number of fashion victims. Thankfully, though, there is no need to feel self-conscious if you are not in great or even good shape. Most people are not. In fact, the fitness classes attract only about 40 people each day - exercise is by no means compulsory.

Despite all the talk about stress management, there are only a couple of de-stress classes, and they involve little more than breathing exercises. I find our teacher is tolerant, if slightly unreliable. Indeed, her late arrival actually causes stress among some class members - although not as much as on the day when she does not arrive at all.

There are 100 steep steps up to the Oasis. On the first morning we count them. Once there a nurse checks us out and gives us a timetable of treatments and classes. For a couple of days it is just like being at work: you need a diary to schedule it all in, from foot massage to fencing.

In addition to three or four daily treatments, we eventually settle on two classes a day: a yoga or stretch class first thing and an exercise class before lunch, with an occasional half-hour in the gym or the pool. That leaves the afternoon free for snoozing, snorkelling (well worth it), waterskiing and sailing.

On the third morning we notice Claire and Charles strolling along the beach, with Robert hobbling forlornly on crutches some 20 yards behind. He went to a street party the night before in the local village and twisted his ankle slipping off a kerb stone. Charles has given up on the treatments or, rather, they have given up on him. Young women administer the massages and Charles, a good-looking but rather stiff type, has been unable to relax sufficiently to make them worthwhile. The last time, his body remained so rigid the masseuse walked out in despair.

If we can stay awake in the evenings, we make for the restaurant and piano bar and join the mix of people staying here: mainly Britons, Germans and Americans. There are many well-off people in their 50s, but the average age is late 30s. Women do not mind coming here by themselves because they feel they will not be hassled: in addition to Claire, we meet a film editor, a photographer, a television producer and a magazine editor, all enjoying being on their own. During our stay, a pride of loud-mouthed vets arrive from New York and take over the piano bar. Every night one of them plays the piano and sings, badly.

Entertainment in the beachside bar is even less upmarket. The worrying thing is that after a few days we do not notice. How else can I explain the humiliating fact that my partner and I win the twist competition? Or that two nights later we lead the conga through the restaurant? Solicitous friends lock us in our room on karaoke night.

Le Sport has romance if you want it. Indeed, one of the most popular activities seems to be getting married. Not, Las Vegas-style, to someone you have just met, but to someone you have brought with you - along with mum and dad and the in- laws. There are two weddings a day, small beer compared to Club St Lucia, round the headland, which handles more than 1,000 a year.

We watch Darrell and Hilary's wedding. They have flown in with about 12 family members. Fine for the wedding, but a little restricting for the honeymoon. The wedding is short on ceremony and long on photography. The finale is a walk into the sunset, hand in hand along the water's edge. Hilary looks radiant in a long silk frock. Darrell looks hot and uncomfortable in his suit - until the pair of them are drenched by an unexpected high wave.


Getting there: British Airways (0345 222111) has flights from Gatwick to St Lucia on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The lowest official fare is pounds 903, but Trailfinders (071-937 5400) has a fare of pounds 425 until 27 November.

Red tape: British citizens need only a passport for a stay of up to six months. Further information: St Lucia Tourist Board, 421a Finchley Road, London NW3 6HJ (071-431 3675).

(Photograph and map omitted)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
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

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

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

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering