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by Bill Harrigan
Anse Chastanet is a place for lovers, where gentle waves whisper sweet nothings along the beach, inspiring tender kisses under a billion brilliant stars. It is the St. Lucia solution to stress, providing the kind of restful solitude that encourages two people to celebrate or rediscover the dreams they share. But, it is also a place with world-class diving off the back porch. Couples hold hands here as they wade into the crystal water wearing scuba gear. Romance and Boyle’s Law have never been more compatible.
Designed to harmonize with nature rather than overcome it, the buildings of Anse Chastanet blend with the contours and foliage of its 500 seaside acres, providing stunning views and absolute privacy. From your terrace of natural woods and tile you see the bold outline of the volcanic Pitons against the sky, the calm blue of the Caribbean or the vivid colors of tropical gardens. You hear the songs of the birds, the murmur of waves and the rustle of palms. There are no distractions of television or radio. No mass produced motel art adorns the walls, which are decorated instead by original creations of local and international artists. The steady trade winds, laden with the natural fragrance of the tropics, cool the rooms, not air-conditioners with their incessant racket. Worldwide phone service is provided but the telephones are limited to the reception area to prevent unwanted intrusions.
An award winning French chef oversees the two Anse Chastanet restaurants, one with a spectacular view of the reefs and the Pitons, the other right on the beach. Breakfast and dinner are served in the Piton Restaurant, while lunch and select dinners are served in the Trou Au Diable Beach Restaurant. The food is excellent and there are more choices than you could possibly sample in a week.
If you like your vacation on the active side, there is plenty to do at Anse Chastanet. The complimentary watersports include windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and snorkeling. Tennis and guided hikes are also provided and there is live entertainment six nights a week. A second beach is accessible by free water taxi. Other excursions, from sailing yachts to helicopter tours, can also be arranged.
Scuba St. Lucia
Managers Michael and Karyn Allard head a staff of 20 friendly and well-qualified people at Scuba St. Lucia capable of providing SSI, PADI and NAUI instruction and certification. This is a great location for an introduction to diving or for getting an open water certification. The combination of quality service, convenient layout and excellent diving is hard to match. A full line of rental equipment, including Sea Quest BCs and Sherwood regulators, is available. A handy locker room lets you store your gear at the shop instead of lugging it back to your room. Three custom designed dive boats with wide aisles, sun protection, comfortable seating and easy entries/exits, zip you to most of the dive sites in less than 15 minutes. Scuba St. Lucia can help you take advantage of the superb photo opportunities at Anse Chastanet with Nikono’s rentals, instruction or personal videos of your dive. Two boat dives and two shore dives are scheduled each day, along with two night dives each week.
Diving St. Lucia
Most of the Anse Chastanet dive sites are within the Soufriere Marine Management Area, which is attempting to reconcile the different concerns of divers and fishermen while providing basic environmental management. The water is normally in the 80 to 84F range, making a 3mm shorty or a 3/2mm wetsuit comfortable for most divers. Visibility is usually 60 to 120 feet, depending on the site and conditions. Most of the diving is between 10 and 70 feet and there are some excellent snorkeling areas. The Anse Chastanet Reef, which is in front of the Scuba St. Lucia shop, is the heart of the reef system. The incredible diversity of this popular reef is amazing. No matter how many dives you have logged, you are bound to see something new here. On this trip, for instance, my first sightings included a Spotted Snake Eel, a marble-sized Smooth Trunkfish juvenile and rare albino Orange Ball Corallimorph. As divers came out of the water I often saw them head right for Paul Humann’s marine identification books, asking each other such questions as, Did you see that fish with long wings? or What was that snake thing with the yellow spots?
Anse Chastanet Reef is the only place where The Thing has been sighted. This as yet unidentified creature is a nocturnal segmented animal several inches in diameter and up to a dozen feet long. Extremely sensitive to light, The Thing retreats with the speed of a Slinky stretched across a smooth vinyl floor when a dive light is shined on it.
Four slender seamounts rise straight from the bottom at Pinnacles, covered with Deep Water Seafans, Barrel Sponges and Brain Corals. Schools of Silver Chromis and Creole Wrasse surround the pinnacles, along with many other species of fish. Superman’s Flight may take its name from the scene in Superman II that was filmed here, where the side of the Petit Piton plunges into the sea, but the drift dive along the submerged cliff face will make you feel like Superman, too. The reef is a beautiful combination of coral and sponges.
The Lesleen M is a 165 foot freighter that was sunk in 1986, settling upright in only 65 feet of water. During the last ten years, the wreck has become home to an impressive combination of fish and coral. The wreck of the 245 foot long dredger Daini-Koyomaru was recently sunk nearby, with a superstructure of davits and winches that will attract even more sea life. Fairyland is so packed with life you don’t have to go very far;just wait and it will come to you. Big mounds of Star and Brain Corals are stacked close enough to create interesting valleys that act as roadways for the fish.
American Airlines provides daily nonstop service from San Juan, with convenient nonstop connections from many U.S. and Canadian cities. U.S. citizens have the option of traveling with a passport or certified birth certificate, along with a photo ID. Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars are the official currency but U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere and a stack of one dollar bills comes in handy for tips.
The electricity is 220 volts/50 cycles but 110 volt battery charging can be arranged at the dive shop and hair dryers are provided in each room. Dress is casual, so shorts and T-shirts should be the core of your island wardrobe. Dressing up a bit is encouraged for dinner, though. Long pants and a collared shirt is the standard for men, while women wear a wide range of casually elegant outfits.
If you suspect that the notion of a romantic dive vacation is a ruse perpetrated by your mate to coax you into yet another dive-eat-sleep trip, take heart because you can have your romance and diving, too, at Anse Chastanet. For more information, call (800) 223-1108 in the U.S. or (758) 459-7000 from other locations. The Anse Chastanet mailing address is P.O. Box 7000, Soufriere, St. Lucia, West Indies, and the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.