Official Publication of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association

FOND D'OR - Nature Reserve & Historical Park

rumshopIt all started with the St. Lucia Tourist Board's hosting of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, and their decision to host a Jazz session in Dennery on the east coast - about 45 minutes drive from Castries. That is when I discovered the Fond D'Or Nature Reserve & Heritage Park.

So already I am worried, because I know that inevitably I must drive myself down there, and what if I miss the turn on the left. But bravely I go, and true to form, I make the turn too quickly. But luckily there are always helpful people along the route, so I do what I hate most of all to do. I roll down my windows, and ask the question no St. Lucian should ever have to ask. "Is this the way to Fond D'Or?" They break into wide grins and I realize they had heard the question many times before. "Just go back on the main road and drive straight down and turn left." So I feel better now, I am armed with information. But back out on the main road, the worry starts again. How far down the main road? And then I see the cars. And my pulse quickens. This must be it! Then the traffic officer hastens to direct me. "Oh miss" he says, "just turn around and park right here. You can't drive any further." So once again I do as I am told; I grab my worn Ralph Polo knap sack, and I am off to experience Fond D'Or. My one thought is, find the mountain that looks like the face of a man. He would be the "spirit" of Fond D'Or.

I was lucky. I had gotten there before the crowd. So my wayfaring ways got the better of me and I headed down hill, away from the central park area where the staged Jazz event would take place, and towards the sea, because I must find and document this man mountain story. Erie. Breath-taking. Calming. Still. Beckoning. That is how it was, with only trees and sky for company, I thought. Then the voice jumped out at me. "Have you seen the Boa-constrictor?" The what? The guide jumps out of the bushes, laughing at the stark fear on my face, and says gently, "oh, the Boa-constrictor lives here you know. Right in the rock face." So I lean to the rock face, and sure enough, the lazy snake is sound asleep, waiting I suppose to be awakened by the sweet sounds of Jazz… 

Which had a more enriching effect on me? The music? The thick mystery in the air at Fond D'Or? What ever it was, I was compelled to find out more about this place of beauty. But I have not yet seen the face of the man in the mountain. Perhaps the lighting was bad…

But if you travel for more than just sea and sand, and you want a feel for what makes us who we are as a people rich in culture and mores that speak of a belief in spirits and the unknown, perhaps you should give some serious thought to visiting Fond D'Or Park, perhaps during this year's St. Lucia Jazz Festival.

This Park has arisen out of efforts to preserve our pristine heritage, and to maximize the benefits to St. Lucia from eco and heritage tourism. Fond D'Or Nature Reserve & Historical Park is one such site that has emerged and is being managed and marketed as a Heritage Tourism Destination site.

The Fond D'Or Nature Reserve & Heritage Park is geographically positioned in the Mabouya Valley in the heart of the Dennery Basin and can be ideal for you if you are tired of the "run of the mill" vacation. On your drive from the airport in the south of the island, if your hotel is in the north of the island, be sure to ask your driver about the history of Fond D'Or. Then consider spending glorious days languishing in St. Lucia's natural habitats, and observing our eco systems and life forms, some of which, like the fer-de-lance, (snake) are indigenous to the area.

While the Park is idyllically located within the Mabouya Valley, the very name of the valley is steeped in history and mythology. "Without Beginning"; the snake; mischievous spirit … I was surprised to find that the word Mabouya is an ancient name derived from the native South American and Caribbean Peoples, with its origins deep in Amerindian mythology. And the Amerindians were among the first settlers to inhabit St. Lucia. Mabouya comes from the root words Ma Boyé, which mean "without beginning" and is closely associated with the snake. Our culture is rife with belief in good and bad spirits and so it was not unusual to learn that Mabouya was one of the mischievous spirits who brought misfortune to man, and so required a high level of reverence to remain constantly appeased. Today the word Mabouya has also come to represent the family of house lizards or geckos, which themselves have the uncanny reputation of being able to fly and stick to their prey. Many a child still believe this tale, and so the fear of the Mabouya has been handed down from generation to generation in more ways than one!

Of the many valleys that are present throughout this country, The Mabouya Valley is the largest one on the east coast, and was well known in the early days, as the centre for agriculture, sugar and rum. The mystery and secrecy of this area is linked with the vibrant slave trade at the time, as the labour to power these large estates was derived from slavery. The slaves themselves, dissatisfied with their living conditions, and anxious to find paths and routes to freedom, developed many secret trails and tracks within this valley, which would take them to what they considered "safe" areas. Some of these trails still exist today, and some say the hills themselves evoke a special aura and mystery, especially at dusk.

Undoubtedly, this site is rich in history, culture and mythology. Once you have checked into your hotel, and you are looking for a place to unwind, ask about the Fond D'Or Nature Reserve & Historical Park. Within the Park you will find historical sugar ruins and an Amerindian site, which are of anthropological, archaeological, and educational value. The area includes a mangrove and estuarine forest, as well as dry scrub woodland.

The Park has been upgraded to include a campsite, and presents a mix of activities for families as well as individuals. I am still hoping that on a good day, I might see the spirit of the Mabouya man, trapped in the mountain. There are those who believe that the spirit is real. And there are those who enjoy a belly full of laughter at the tale. But I can tell you for sure  - Fond D'Or Nature Reserve & Heritage Park is no myth!


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