Escape To Saline Reef In St Lucia – A Villa With Wow! By Emma Oxley

Because my husband insisted on navigating with his smartphone, we ricocheted around St Lucia’s high class Cap Estate, rolling into villas that looked less than the luxury we anticipated, until he eventually referred to the easy to follow instructions provided, and we found Saline Reef. Walking through the door all irritation evaporated in a puff of wow! This villa is knockout. Double height white walls open onto vast views of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, at the northern most tip of St Lucia.

All is surrounded by a gorgeously designed garden, brimming with bougainvillea, mimosa and bird of paradise flowers. Tall palms rocket into the sky; ferns and foliage make a lush fringe. A two-tiered pool shimmers in the brilliant sunlight and hummingbirds dance freely.

Two spacious, airy bedrooms have terraces hanging over the cliff top, with one more nicely designed double room. The terraces were my favourite spot – you can lie on deeply cushioned rattan and listen to the waves rush up the rocks 20 metres below, gently fanned by palm fronds around the balustrades. In the morning, sun sploshes on your feet; in the afternoon, it tans your shoulders. In the evening, it makes a spectacular show on the horizon.

The villa is fully staffed; Oliver is the gardener, Alfie the ebullient handyman with a smile as bright as the sun, and Angel is keeper of the house. Luxury accessories include pristine white waffle dressing gowns, guest slippers, rich body lotions, fresh flowers in the bedrooms, plush bathroom towels, pool towels and beach towels. All is deeply, deeply comfortable, like a first class hotel, beds stretched and crisply cornered at some discreet moment, the house immaculate. James Bond posters line the corridors. It really has claim to that style, but with no excessive flash.

Hard decisions were made every day. Where to have sundowners? Maybe in the gardens on the loungers, seated on soft manicured grass. On the verandah in a cushty rocking chair. On a recliner by the stylishly lit pools. Unless you turned your head to a wall, everywhere in the villa had magnificent tropical sea views. Drinks were usually a delicious punch, with Caribbean rum, mixed with a little more fruit juice than rum, a dash of angostura bitters, splash of grenadine, slice of citrus, lashings of crushed ice dispensed from the fridge and stirred.

Most mornings, we made small safaris to nearby beaches along the north west tip. A ten minute walk beneath Saline Reef is the BodyHoliday’s beach; it is a public beach, though prinked and perfected for the upmarket clientele. There is excellent waterskiing and good snorkelling on shallow reefs with plenty of fish to follow. A ten minute drive away is Pigeon Island, where you can pay to go into this park to hear about St Lucia’s history, but we were here for the Vitamin D and sea, so we flaked out on the adjacent stretch of soft white sand.

Our favourite beach was Smugglers Cove, a five minute drive from Saline Reef and 92 steps down to the sand. There was good snorkelling on both sides of this intimate bay, not colourful coral, but plenty of interesting fish. We whizzed down for a morning refresher, then back up for breakfast of fresh fruit, and Lavazza that we’d brought from London. Hummingbirds, Antillean Bullfinch and singing Carib Grackles flitted about, picking up crumbs from the table, or the more bold from our hands.

Angel will shop for you and prepare lunch, laying out salads, hams and cheese. Her rum punches are often noted in the guest book – after one, we had a lie down and all of us lost two hours of our day. Angel will also prepare dinner, leaving it for you to warm up later, perhaps a curry, or she will marinate some fish for the Werber barbecue, caught fresh and delivered by Captain Duke.

The BBQ terrace lit by storm lanterns is deliciously escapist, the vast seas are silvery in the moonlight, and the sound of crashing waves adds vitality. After dinner, sit back for some star gazing.

There are a variety of spots nearby to dine out. The Naked Fisherman on Smugglers Cove is fabulously placed, and we had a sea food dinner with the sand beneath our toes, listening to chilled Caribbean tunes. Above is the more sophisticated restaurant at Cap Maison; take a seat on the terrace and you can see your glamorous home at Saline Reef. Rodney Bay is lively, with streets of eateries. On Friday night, we went to the Gros Islet ‘‘Jump Up,’’ when the streets come alive with pop-up bars, music and barbecues. Their most famous place to eat is at Duke’s by the sea shore – queue up for a box of delicious grilled fish, rice and tossed salad. Or pick up a dish just as good in the next street from somewhere a little less well-known.

Afternoons were spent on one or other of the beaches, or playing backgammon by the pool, legs swishing through the water. My husband raved about the golf lesson at the St Lucia Golf Club next door. We nearly ordered in the villa’s beautician for a pedicure and massage, but really it seemed a shame to squander any spare time sunning and swimming.

Our experience at Saline Reef was all blue sea, sandy beaches, and indolent afternoons but on the trip to and from the airport, we took time to explore St Lucia’s lush green rain forest areas. Driving to Soufriere, we admired the magnificent beauty of the Pitons. These two defunct volcanoes stand in proud outline above the west coast, now a UNESCO site. You can climb Piton Gros, which takes about two hours up and an hour down, while Piton Petit is a much more challenging hike. The road snakes through the rain forest, fringed by impressively large palm fronds. We stopped off at the Fond Doux Estate for a guided walk through the plantation and gardens. The guide showed us their cocoa beans drying on vast tray drawers, cinnamon trees, glorious colourful crab claw plants, nutmeg with red mace laced around the nut and the Sour Sop tree, the leaves of which make tea that apparently sends you off to sleep instantly.

There are bungalows in the gardens and swimming pools, and it looked like a delightful place to stay if you want to immerse yourself in St Lucia’s tropical greenery. On the east coast, we visited the Tree Tops adventure park, where they were charging 85 USD for a zip wire, but a walk through the rain forest bursting with tropical growth was fascinating and free. The renowned Latille Waterfall was a little short of excitement, perhaps just 10 metres high, with a murky pool you’re invited to dip in. We did so briefly, but imagined boa constrictors lurking below! There is also a pool to drop your feet in for a ‘‘piranha pedicure.’’

Time came too soon for our final evening cocktails at Saline Reef. We chose to sit on our turret terrace. I loved this rare situation; it felt like the foredeck of a yacht, sailing off-shore in the wide ocean, the sea so large, the waves hushing below. The horizon seemed to fall away ten miles distant – without knowing better, you could imagine it being the end of the world. The breadth of our view, where the Caribbean merged with the Atlantic Ocean, must have been 30 miles. Fregate birds glided above, white tufts shifted on the inky sea surface. I searched for the flip of a whale’s tail, which have been spotted, and watched yachts race home on a broad reach. As the sun balled up red, it dripped out of the clouds like a pear drop, swelling slightly on the sea and slipped behind the horizon. The sky turned all sorts of colours, and we toasted it with rum cocktails.

My lasting memories are of blue seas, white surf on the rocks below, starry skies, tropical flowers, exquisite hummingbirds, rhythmic songs of crickets and cicadas, fragrant jasmine and a breeze in the palms. Staying at Saline Reef, you feel touched by every element. It is a first class view of St Lucia’s natural beauty in a first class villa.

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