Des Cartiers Rainforest

Time: 1-2 hours. Length: 4-km loop trail. Difficulty: 1-2.

Trailhead: Located in the southeastern interior, about 1.5 hours from Castries. The main road to the reserve is just north of the east coast village of Micoud. The turnoff into the interior is signposted and passes through the village of Anbre. It’s 6 miles and a 30-45 minute drive to the trailhead from the main east coast road. At the first Y in the road, bear left. At the second Y, go left and follow the river. You’ll cross a bridge, the road will climb and you will encounter another Y; go left again. As you go uphill, there should be a sign to the trailhead indicating a right turn. Take another right at the next turn and the road takes you to the trailhead.

Located about 1,800-feet above sea level, this hike goes through moist tropical and montane forest. The area receives as much as 150-200 inches of rain annually. Come prepared.

This easy loop trail is one favored by commercial tour operators. Pay your EC$25 at the interpretive center near the trailhead. Note the number of red anthuriums growing along the path as you head into the high canopied forest.

The trail follows roads carved out by the French in World War II. Several observation points deviate from the main trail. These are supposed to be good places for sighting the St. Lucian parrot but the ones I spotted were on the main trail, not at the turnoffs.

At a northern part of the loop is a trail that links up with the Edmund Forest Reserve, a 4-hour hike requiring a guide.

The trees bordering the Des Cartiers Trail path are tall and mature and some have Tarzan-sized vines hanging from their high branches. The gommier trees are big enough to fashion two or three canoes from them.

The chataigner is the emergent tree above the forest canopy, which soars to 120 feet in some places. Leaves on the trail are slick after a rain. The sounds here are marvelous. The wind in the trees sounds like rain, and swaying bamboo as it rubs together making the creaking noises.

The banana plantation adjoining the trailhead is a reminder of the once rampant rain forest cutting. Acre for acre, it’s doubtful that any banana plantation here generated as much income as this one modest hiking trail.