‘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 – the doctor, the IT specialist, the celebrity chef and me. It’s strange who you bump into in Paradise, or a little part of it on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. 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 slathering ourselves from top to toe in pitch-black volcanic mud. But it has all sorts of wonderful healing properties, and is 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, in the north of the island, is a friendly all-inclusive family resort. It 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.
Must dos if you can tear yourself away from the lounging beach culture include a visit to the historic Pigeon Island and the spectacular coastline. Take a trip to Lushan Country Life park to learn about and explore the luxuriant flora of the island, to sample Georgina’s succulent fishcakes sizzling over red coals, and to meet a Rastafarian farmer tending his banana crop.
Rodney Bay’s zinging nightlife is not far away and I caught the opening night of the annual Jazz Festival where Jamaican reggae rapper Busy Signal strutted his stuff to the delirium of female fans.
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, pampered guests enjoy their own personal plunge pools and views to die for. I was that pampered guest, jaw dropping in wonder at the panorma 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, I idled on a swinging chair with toes splashing in the water of my very own secluded mini swimming pool. Skinny-dipping and quest for all-over tan can both 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.
At the Dasheen I encountered celebrity chef Bryn Williams, on a working trip from his London eaterie Odette’s to train up a team of chefs, devise taster menus using ocean-fresh fish and just harvested fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. ‘It’s a beautiful setting, the closest you can find to picture postcard paradise with a restaurant on the side,’ he tells me. ‘If you can capture the flavour as well as the scenery you are on to a good thing. It’s the joy of going somewhere new to excite the palate. I’d recommend Ladera to anyone – fantastic lushness and green, self-sustained, a nice chilled-out place,’ he says. ‘Here the water is so pure, with natural spring waters.’
Having braved the hot volcanic waters he now knows what a lobster must feel like. I sampled the mud bath in the company of a medic and her IT husband and we voted it the weirdest, most wonderful way to get our skin as soft as a baby’s.
ST LUCIA FACT FILE:
Morgan Bay Beach Resort is part of Elite Island Resorts group. 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 ba.com/stlucia or call 0844 493 0758.
Special deal for Ladera, St Lucia; travel in August and stay 7 nights for the price of 5, from £1,457.00 per person, inclusive of direct British Airways flights, accommodation, breakfast, taxes & gratuities. Ladera Resort, St. Lucia, Sales & Marketing Office UK/Europe; tel: 01753 684810. Further special deals from Couture Travel Company
All direct flights from UK depart from London Gatwick, daily with British Airways and three times a week with Virgin Atlantic. Return economy flights from Manchester via London from £720.