Snorkeling in Saint Lucia
When it comes to Caribbean snorkeling, St. Lucia is one of the region’s often overlooked gems. While the island doesn’t enjoy the reputation of Grand Cayman, it does have almost pristine coral reefs teeming with sea life, and many of these are right off the coastline. St. Lucia offers its visitors plenty of underwater adventure, and you don’t need to be a trained scuba diver to find it.
Some of the best snorkeling on St. Lucia lies just off the Anse Chastenet Beach in the marine reserve of the same name. The coral reef there also is a popular shore diving site for scuba divers, but much of the top of the reef is in 25 feet of water and shallow enough for snorkeling and skin diving. Another beach snorkeling site is Anse la Raye Reef, also off the beach of the same name. All a snorkeler needs to explore these reefs is a mask, fins and snorkel, and sets of snorkeling equipment are widely available for rent at beach kiosks, dive shops or area hotels.
Snorkel Boat Tours
Some of St. Lucia’s snorkeling sites are not as easy to reach from shore or simply are beyond the reach of swimmers, such as the Rosemond Trench and the Coral Gardens, so exploring these areas requires booking a spot on a snorkel tour. Most of these tours are essentially water taxis, such as the tour offered by the Oasis Marigot Hotel (oasismarigot.com), since they include only transportation and a snorkel kit. Another place to look for snorkel tours are at St. Lucia’s dive centers. Many, like Dive Fair Helen (divefairhelen.com), offer dedicated snorkel boat tours.
Surface water temperatures around St. Lucia are in the upper 70s Fahrenheit during the winter, and in the lower 80s in the summer. A snorkeler might need a wetsuit for protection from jellyfish, but usually not for warmth. Visibility ranges from 25 feet to as high as 150 feet, depending on the weather and the snorkeling area. As a rule, snorkelers should expect murkier water at inshore sites, such as those by the beach.
The coral reefs off St. Lucia are thickly encrusted with sea fans, finger corals, barrel sponges and lace orals, creating a vividly colorful seascape. The reefs serve as the center of an ecosystem that supports such creatures as seahorses, spotted eels and vibrant schools of tropical fish. Snorkelers also might encounter sea turtles or spot a stingray gliding along a sandy bottom, while those who dive down to the bottom to look under overhangs might find docile nurse sharks.