Location: Soufriere, St. Lucia
Waking up at the base of Petit Piton is quite an amazing site. Just seeing the sun rise slowly over the towering mountain with all the lush foliage and extreme sheer drops is an image I don’t think I will ever forget. The crew started off the day right, getting their first sailing midterms back and then having an introduction to charting and navigation by the Captain, himself. Once all the charts and plotters were eventually put away the crew jumped into the dinghies and headed a shore. Soufriere is a quaint little town nestled right on the water and at the center of the towering mountains of magma. We found ourselves at the headquarters of the Soufriere Marine Management Association. There we listened to one of the representatives, Sonya, give a talk about the history of the coastline and how the local hotel managers, yachtsman, fisherman, conservationists and other members in the community have all come together to preserve the coastline by creating different zones throughout this Marine Protected Coastline. There are zones set just for fishing priority or for multipurpose use (such as diving and swimming). There are also zones that are marine reserves where they aim for reef rehabilitation and the re-growth of fish populations and other reef creatures. The crew asked many great questions about the research done and the success that SMMA has had with such a community led measure to protect there beautiful coastline. Once we finished up in town we headed back to Ocean Star, got the dive gear ready and waited to meet one of the rangers that would then take us for a drift dive through the Multipurpose zone so we could see first hand, the effects that SMMA has had on the reef. We jumped in our dinghies and the ranger led us around the corner to the dive site called “Superman’s Flight”, named for the cameo appearance of both the Pitons in the first Superman movie (where Superman flies over to paradise to get a flower for Lois Lane).
Now personally, out of all the diving I have ever done, I have never seen a more healthy and vibrant reef. There were barrel sponges the size of our dinghies! Giant Basket Stars sprawling over gigantic Tube Sponges! Masses of Black Gorgonia and countless Sea fans elegantly swaying with the current and not to mention all the different species of beautifully colored fish! Then to surface after 45 minutes of such diversity to find yourself looking straight up at Petit Piton?! Lets just say it was quite a memorable experience. I don’t think any one on board will ever forget the dive here on St. Lucia. We all are feeling pretty lucky right about now.