THERE are many reasons why the west coast town of Soufriere has been dubbed “the Mecca of Saint Lucia’s tourism”. The town has a rich history that includes its own formation itself: the collapse of a huge crater that caused a land mass of six kilometres in diameter to drop resulting in a bowl-like feature of the landscape known as the Qualibou Caldera.
The home to many breathtaking views, wildlife and flora is also known for its two iconic Pitons that jut out from the sea and stand above the inhabitants fortunate to call Soufriere home. Then there’s the Brigand stronghold, Fond Gens Libre (“Valley of the Free People”) that virtually kisses the Pitons’ bases.
But there’s also a lush tropical rainforest not too far away from the Pitons, which are located in an area designated as a World Heritage Site in 2004 by UNESCO. The sheer beauty of the place leaves you breathless and the sights and sounds are akin to the kind of environment artists, musicians and writers would deem the perfect muses.
That place is Soufriere Estate.
In the early 18th century, King Louis XVI granted the mesmerizing parcel of land to three Devaux brothers. In 1745, the youngest brother, Henry, built the original home on the estate and the home went through some subsequent renovations to maintain its beauty. Sometime later, Andre du Boulay, who fortified the structure of the former plantation house, occupied the property.
Each year, thousands of tourists visit the exquisite rainforest that is still owned and run by the Devaux and Du Boulay families. In fact, Andre du Boulay’s daughter, Joan, has managed the estate since 1983, transforming what was once a very productive agricultural plot into an attractive and captivating tourism destination.
Soufriere Estate comprises the Botanical Gardens, Diamond Waterfalls, mineral baths, nature trail, sugar mill and the delightful Soufriere Estate Home. Beautifully-landscaped tropical plants and flowers, cool tropical breeze and probably the best singing birds on island dominate the nature trail that runs through the Botanical Gardens. Tour guides are available to make your trip through the lush sanctuary an easy one after you pay a small entrance fee.
Be prepared to be mesmerized, too, by the ever-flowing Diamond Waterfalls which flows into a nearby stream from which pungent fumes of sulphur that emanates from the nearby volcano. While you’re there, be sure to take a cool therapeutic dip in the three mineral baths commissioned by King Louis XVI in 1784.
Soufriere Estate also features the old sugar mill where the huge waterwheel still rotates except not for grinding sugarcane. There you’ll also find small copra ovens and timeless antiques that give glimpses into Saint Lucia’s Amerindian, British and French past.
At the estate house, you can sample on the warm and friendly hospitality that includes tasty Saint Lucian cuisine and a few birds whistling you sweet tunes at your table as you let your mind take you down Soufriere’s past.