Enjoy volcanoes, dolphins, reggae and rum in breathtaking St Lucia

All want to see a treasured “green flash” as the sun falls into the ­Caribbean at a blistering pace.

“Blink and you’ll miss it,” the yacht’s crew warn. “But don’t worry, if you do — it gives you an excuse to come back.”

As tempting as it is to blink and return the following day, everybody holds a trance-like stare to the port side, as the boat glides up the west coast of St Lucia.

After the breakneck-speed sunset, some claim to have seen the flash — an optical illusion that only occurs if the conditions are exactly right.

Those who did not — and who doubt it happened at all — are content with the vivid oranges and reds that are ­impossible to miss.

Many couples here are honeymooners or marking an anniversary, and there’s a definite sense of romance in the air.

But the DJ and host give us all reason to celebrate by pumping out reggae and keeping the rum punch and pizza flowing. These final moments signal the end of a thrilling 12-hour day trip, with ­snorkeling, mud baths, and a shower under a waterfall.

The Wet & Wild excursion starts at 8am, when a minibus ferries you 20 ­minutes from the hotel to a marina, just north of the capital, Castries.

There you board a catamaran, with a handful of crew, and travel under sail down to the island’s original capital, ­Soufriere.

Along the way, you pass the Pitons — two volcanic peaks that feature on the country’s flag — and may see some ­dolphins, if you’re lucky. Tour guide “Snoop” — so-called because his braided locks and shades make him look like ­rapper Snoop Dogg — works his way around the boat introducing himself.

In Soufriere, “D-O-Double G” leads the pack to Island Buggies’ lock-up, where a dozen green carts are lined up.

He asks each couple to nominate a driver — all happen to be the men — and runs them through the controls.

“To take first gear, push the gearstick all the way to the left, so you’re touching your girl’s leg.

“If you’re not touching, you’ll go into third, and stall on the hills.”

The machines, like high-powered ride-on lawn mowers with roll cages, roar furiously as they power up and down mountain roads over the next few hours.

They are a joy to drive, as air rushes through the open cabin and the leaves of banana trees at the roadside open up to reveal the valleys below.

Lunch is at a mountaintop restaurant, painted in bold Caribbean colours — ­Barbie pink, canary yellow and lime.

A delicious green banana and garlic curry with rice and beans, followed by chocolate ice cream, lines the stomach for the afternoon ahead.

Activities include a swim at the secluded Choiseul beach and an ice-cold shower under the 49ft-high Toraille waterfall, nestled among lush vegetation.

There’s also time for a dip in the ­sulphur springs next to the world’s only drive-in volcano.

Holidaymakers plunge into a pool of super-hot water, which stinks like rotten eggs but is said to have healing properties.

Couples take it in turns to smother each other with the mineral-rich “mud” that tightens like a face-pack.

But beware — white swimwear and nails turn orange in the murky sludge, and wedding rings and other jewellery tarnish if you fail to take them off.

Many tearful new brides have ­apparently learned this the hard way.

With all of the buggy activities out of the way, the convoy returns to the lock-up and back to the catamaran for the return journey and sunset.

The sail remains down this time, and the yacht powers north up the coast under motor.

It stops for an hour along the way, to give people a chance to snorkel near a reef teeming with brightly coloured fish.

All equipment is provided and ­swimmers are warned against touching spiky sea urchins “if you want to return to your hotel alive this evening”.

Nobody dies, meaning they are all able to raise a glass of punch when the sun finally goes down.

The tour is action-packed and exhilarating but not too rushed, with enough time to relax and enjoy it all.

My hotel for the week is one of TUI’s handpicked all-inclusives, the 5H Hideaway at Royalton St Lucia, in Gros Islet, to the north-west of the island.


GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all inclusive at the 5H Hideaway at Royalton St Lucia is from £1,685pp based on two adults sharing, including flights departing Gatwick on July 10, 2018, and transfers. See tui.co.uk.

OUT & ABOUT: The Wet & Wild full day excursion costs from £173pp and can be booked in resort or at islandroutes.com.

It’s a 90-minute drive from Hewanorra International Airport or, if you’re feeling flush, a 15-minute helicopter ride at £147 per person, taking in some of the sights along the way.

Thankfully the hotel — which is little more than a year old and in pristine condition — is worth the journey.

The Hideaway is the adults-only ­section of the Royalton St Lucia Resort and Spa.

Grown-ups also have their own section on the private beach, if they want to relax a little distance away from the kids. There is also a spa with treatments including a snooze-inducing full body Swedish massage from £67.

The hotel also has table tennis, single and double sea kayaks, pedalos, a small sailing boat, and paddle boards — all free to hire.

Food choices are equally varied, with sushi, fish, steak, Caribbean, Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants serving up fresh dishes à la carte and guests have a choice of local booze or premium brands.

The clean, comfortable and spacious rooms have a balcony overlooking the beach and pool, firm king-size bed, a Jacuzzi-style bath and rain shower.

Ground floor rooms have a terrace and their own swim-up pools.

One highlight is the evening beach party, held weekly, at which tables are placed on the sand and food brought down from the restaurants.

And there is a full programme of ­leisure activities, such as outdoor yoga and pilates, aqua aerobics and quizzes.

When the yoga teacher tells you: “Forget all your worries and be at peace with the world around you,” it is ­certainly no challenge.

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