Recently I’ve come to love something other than the sun, sand, sea and salt water of Saint Lucia’s lovely white sand beaches. There is so much more adventure in chasing waterfalls deep in the lush, tropical rainforests of the island. The air seems fresher and the experience more relaxing, at least to me. When I do go waterfall chasing with a girlfriend or in a small group, my parents sit home worrying and those friends who stayed back try calling, then start to panic because there’s no service in the heart of the island.
Of course, I know it’s hardly a safe practice for young women, in particular, to go anywhere alone on this island, far less deep into the forest. There’s always the risk of running into strange men who cannot use their privates and physical strength responsibly, as well as those who may be suffering from the economic crisis and VAT. The latter seems to be more prevalent at waterfalls since numerous tourists have been relieved of their valuables whilst visiting waterfalls in the past.
In December 2009 fourteen tourists were robbed at River Rock Waterfall in Anse La Raye. The robbery was committed by locals. The situation caused mayhem and cast a criminal light on Saint Lucia by some of our most valued tourism customers. Even more recently, in December of last year, the keeper of the popular New Jerusalem Falls in Soufriere was admitted to St. Jude Hospital after being beaten by three masked bandits. Mr. St Prix was trying to rescue tourists visiting New Jerusalem Falls from the robbers but came off worst.
God’s beautiful creation of crystalline waters melodiously toppling over a precipice of rich earth and crashing with gravitational force into its destiny below is almost off-limits to desirous visitors because, well, other people find different opportunities in the same area.
Victims of robberies and similar crimes near waterfalls are not limited to tourists only, our locals get a blow too. The most visited waterfalls are located in Soufriere including Toraille Falls, New Jerusalem Falls and Piton Falls. Although the police were unable to comment or provide statistics specifically about incidents at waterfalls in the Soufriere area, a few owners and caretakers have claimed that on multiple occasions their visitors have been traumatized by robbers lurking in the bushes on the way.
The more secluded and not as visited waterfalls could be harbouring dangers other than snakes. Locals and residents have admitted to attacks and robberies along the trails to some but not all waterfalls. They are quick to emphasize to questioning visitors the need to be safe. “Just make sure you ladies have your cutlass or a knife to go in that bush,” I remember one in Dennery telling me because “some dangerous people up there sometimes.”
However, most owned waterfall lands are protected by caretakers to ensure a comfortable environment for their visitors. New Jerusalem Falls is included in that list – staff have ensured that security is in place especially during public holidays to prevent another incident similar to last year’s. Others like Toraille and La Tille say that they have yet to experience that kind of trouble.
Then again, similar crimes occur in the concrete and tar streets of the city. It’s just a matter of being as mindful and prepared as possible when going on an expedition.