An Active Caribbean Volcano in St Lucia

Sculpture by Choiseul artist Lawrence Deligny at the Port Cochere, l'Anse Chastanet, where the minibus leaves for Soufriere and  the Qualibou Drive-in Volcano tour.
Sculpture by Choiseul artist Lawrence Deligny at the Port Cochere, l'Anse Chastanet, where the minibus leaves for Soufriere and the Qualibou Drive-in Volcano tour. | Source

From l'Anse Chastanet Resort near Soufriere, Saint Lucia

The Lesser Antilles have a volcanic origin, formed along the edge of the Caribbean Plate in the subduction zone where the North American Plate slides under the Caribbean. The southeastern group of these islands, called the Windward Isles because the prevailing east to west trade winds brought ships to first landfall there after crossing the Atlantic, sparkle like green beads on turquoise sea, a string of lush tropical forests, warm bays, and miles of beaches to sail to, catch the sun, and sip cool drinks in the shade. Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, St Vincent, Grenadines, and Grenada are paradise destinations for vacation or honeymoon.

From the Porte Cochere of our resort at Anse Chastanet on Saint Lucia, we took a minibus to the Soufriere Volcanic Centre to explore the "drive-in volcano." We drove for about 45 minutes south and east of Soufriere, up into the high country that forms the lip of the caldera of Qualibou. Near Ladera Resort, we turned into the property, picked up our guide, and headed to the parking lot.

Lawrence Deligny's sculptures tell the story of Saint Lucian life--farming, fishing, family and faith.
Lawrence Deligny's sculptures tell the story of Saint Lucian life--farming, fishing, family and faith. | Source

Live Volcano of the Caribbean Plate

show route and directions
A markerQualibou Volcano, near Soufriere, Saint Lucia -
Qualibou, Jalousle, Saint Lucia
[get directions]

This live volcano last erupted in 1766, when steam, rock and ash exploded in a phreatic eruption. In 1990, 1999 and 2000, there were earthquakes

B markerAnse Chastanet Resort, Soufriere -
Anse Chastanet Beach, Saint Lucia
[get directions]

The Pitons near Soufriere, Saint Lucia

Gros Piton and Petit Piton are volcanic peaks that landmark the island.  Over the Choiseul Tuff behind them that forms part of the lip of the caldera is the crater of the still-active volcano.
Gros Piton and Petit Piton are volcanic peaks that landmark the island. Over the Choiseul Tuff behind them that forms part of the lip of the caldera is the crater of the still-active volcano. | Source
Caladiums with bright red and green leaves grow wild in the fertile soil of the tropical rain forest in the high country at the lip of the caldera.
Caladiums with bright red and green leaves grow wild in the fertile soil of the tropical rain forest in the high country at the lip of the caldera. | Source

Wild Caladium in the Tropical Rain Forest in the Volcanic Caldera

The high country was cooler than the beach we had left. We passed through lush green rain forests, colourful red and green-leaved caladium plants, and lacy bamboo groves until in the wide distance the caldera opened into a desolate landscape, treeless, brown, steaming in places like the destruction of a muddy battlefield. Along the higher slopes, Caribbean pines had been planted by the Ministry of Forests to stabilize the steep slopes of the caldera, and to repair damage after Hurricane Tomas in 2010.


Viewing platform in bamboo forest above the Soufriere volcano in Saint Lucia.
Viewing platform in bamboo forest above the Soufriere volcano in Saint Lucia. | Source
Approaching the volcano from the green lip of the caldera.
Approaching the volcano from the green lip of the caldera. | Source
The slopes of the active  Caribbean volcano near Soufriere are unstable, and suffered massive landslides during Hurricane Tomas in November, 2010.
The slopes of the active Caribbean volcano near Soufriere are unstable, and suffered massive landslides during Hurricane Tomas in November, 2010. | Source

Caribbean Pines in Saint Lucia

Not native to Saint Lucia, these Caribbean pines were planted to stabilize the slopes of the caldera.
Not native to Saint Lucia, these Caribbean pines were planted to stabilize the slopes of the caldera. | Source
Waterfalls and creeks run down the lip of the caldera to join the steam and heated subterranean water in the active volcano.  During a phreatic eruption, underground magma heats ground water until the pressure  blasts up steam, water, rock and ash.
Waterfalls and creeks run down the lip of the caldera to join the steam and heated subterranean water in the active volcano. During a phreatic eruption, underground magma heats ground water until the pressure blasts up steam, water, rock and ash. | Source
Boiling mud hole
Boiling mud hole | Source
Broken remains of an old hot springs bathing place from the pre-revolutionary French.
Broken remains of an old hot springs bathing place from the pre-revolutionary French. | Source

Geothermal Mud in Qualibou Volcano, Saint Lucia



From the first viewpoint, we could see steam rising from the mud baths in more than one place. The guide spoke of the danger of walking on the site, warning us to stay on the paths, for the crust over the volcanic mud is precarious, and the magma-heated water raises the temperature of the mud to boiling point, hot enough to cook a person alive if one falls in.

I shivered in the tropic afternoon. In the echoes of the wind I felt the man screaming, the one who fell in.





I took a few steps back, and clutched the rails. We walked past the rusty pipe that brought geothermal water to a bathing pool. No one was bathing in the pools today, but in the past the French aristocracy had, in one of the periods Saint Lucia was colonized by the French.


Tropical plants grow huge in the mineral-rich volcanic soil.
Tropical plants grow huge in the mineral-rich volcanic soil. | Source



We walked down steps into the caldera. Then we climbed. There was stench of sulfur in the air, like hard boiled eggs. A light rain fell, warm and pleasant. Huge green plants lined the edge of the caldera, in contrast to the bleak volcanic mud where demonic vents of steam rose from the blasted landscape.



Steam and sulfur-blasted earth in the Qualibou caldera of the active Caribbean volcano near Soufriere, Saint Lucia.
Steam and sulfur-blasted earth in the Qualibou caldera of the active Caribbean volcano near Soufriere, Saint Lucia. | Source
Fed by constant run-off during the rainy season, streams flow quickly near the drive-in volcano  at Soufriere, Saint Lucia.
Fed by constant run-off during the rainy season, streams flow quickly near the drive-in volcano at Soufriere, Saint Lucia. | Source
Mineral-rich waters rust the old pipes.
Mineral-rich waters rust the old pipes. | Source
Honeymooners love Saint Lucia because there is so much to do besides the beach, the bed and the bottle--scuba, sailing, biking, volcano, rainforest, and history.
Honeymooners love Saint Lucia because there is so much to do besides the beach, the bed and the bottle--scuba, sailing, biking, volcano, rainforest, and history. | Source

On the way back, we met a lone local vendor at the top of the stairs. I fell for his brilliant white smile, and stopped to listen to his story. His wrists were wrapped with strings of necklaces, wooden pine beads between glossy volcanic ones, with a tiny dolphin pendant. Today there were no tourists but us, in the summer low season, on a rainy day.

"This is what I do. There's been no tourists here today but you," he said, rubbing the gun-metal gray bead with dark slender fingers.

We bargained, and I paid him some Eastern Caribbean dollars for two strings of beads and his story. Are they really volcanic beads? Who knows.

The other tourists, honeyymooners in their twenties, laughed in a friendly way when I climbed back into the white van. "Volcanic beads made in China, perhaps," gibed Melanie. Her husband of two days, Jamie, laughed easily, his arm around her shoulders.


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We drove back over the lip of the caldera and made our way to the Diamond Botanical Gardens. Here were more hot springs, built in 1784 for the troops of King Louis XVI of France, so they could enjoy the therapeutic mineral waters heated by the Soufriere Volcano 2 miles upstream. Here we stayed long enough to change into bathing suits and lounge in the hot water, about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. I lay on my back and floated. Jamie and Melanie came up and joined me. We sat in the hot tub and enjoyed some quiet conversation, or lapsed into comfortable silence listening to the birds.

If you go, it's worth the trip.

Haliconia lobster claw.
Haliconia lobster claw. | Source
Wild ginger
Wild ginger | Source
Wheel bench
Wheel bench | Source
Root chair
Root chair | Source
Torch lily
Torch lily | Source

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Comments 10 comments

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Beautiful pictures! Your descriptions of hearing the scream of the man who fell into the boiling mud baths was sinister and frightening. Your photos of the torch lily are magnificent but even they don't really get it out of ones head. I'm not a lover of third world countries, no matter how 'beautiful' they are; there's something about their souls that truly bothers me.


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

You are so right--there is sinister darkness along with the magnificence. There is poverty, exploitation, the heritage of slavery, the precariousness of storms at sea in small boats, and hurricanes. Yet there is such beauty in the spirits of the people, and huge creativity as well.

Along with Thailand and other Caribbean islands, Saint Lucia is one of the places I love best.


mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 4 years ago

Beautiful! Such wonderful pics and story. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for beautiful.


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

Thank you, Mecheshier. Have a wonderful day!!


mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 4 years ago

You are welcome Janis. You have a great day as well.


chrissieklinger profile image

chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I went to Niagara Falls for my honeymoon, but this looks like a nice place for an anniversary:)


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

I hope you get to go and have some fun, Chrissie.


twinstimes2 profile image

twinstimes2 4 years ago from Ohio

Amazing pictures! I felt like I was there...well done! We went to New Zealand and Australia on our honeymoon. While in Rotarura, we saw their geysers, boiling mud pools, etc. So amazing and also reminds us to have the utmost respect for nature's energy! Up and interesting!


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Twinstimes2. I would love to get to Australia and New Zealand. Never been there.


Kalmiya profile image

Kalmiya 4 years ago from North America

I love that wooden bench! And thanks for the photos especially of the flowers which are so amazing in this area. What a gorgeous island.

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