Welcome to The Caribbean Islands! Globe Trekker Zoe Palmer travels to the spectacularly beautiful islands of St Lucia, Martinique and Montserrat. Steeped in a hybrid of English, African and French culture, dotted with volcanoes, lush with tropical rainforest, surrounded by turquoise oceans, and teeming with marine life, these islands are a real picture postcard.
Zoe starts in St Lucia's capital Castries and home to a third of the islands population of 170,000. It's also one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean with cruise liners passing through and cargo ships unloading their wares. Here Zoe explores the famous Castries Market and picks up some goodies before heading out of town.
The Caribbean islands are known for their sun, sea and sand - and St. Lucia is no exception. However, the island also has a dramatic mountainous interior to explore. From Castries Zoe travels to Fond D'Or Bay, and on to Pigeon Island where she learns about St Lucia's history of slavery, before heading south to Soufrière, where she hikes the majestic Gros Piton mountain with guide Jimmy Haynes. Sacred to the island's first inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, the 800 metre high Gros Piton was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004, and provides fantastic views from its summit of St Lucia and the Caribbean Sea beyond.
From St Lucia, Zoe takes a short ferry ride north to the French island of Martinique and its capital Fort-de-France, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the French West Indies. Here Zoe visits the remains of the birthplace of Martinique's most famous colonial daughter, Empress Josephine, and explores the La Pagerie sugar cane plantation.
From Fort-de-France Zoe Heads travels north towards St. Pierre in an open-top jeep with local guide Marc Martial. At the beginning of the 20th century St. Pierre was the economic capital of Martinique and a flourishing port city with a thriving population of around 30,000. In 1902 it was tragically devastated by Mont Pelée's massive volcanic eruption which killed virtually the entire population in the space of minutes. Today Mont Pelée provides a scenic and peaceful backdrop to St. Pierre, as Zoe discovers when local English teacher Jacques Bajal takes her on steep climb up through lush green vegetation to the crater of the volcano. Zoe cools off with a fascinating dive in St. Pierre's harbour where approximately 18 ships were devastated by the volcano. Accompanied by local diver Jacky Imbert, she explores The Roraima which is the largest wreck in the bay, whose 50 passengers and crew lost their lives when the vessel sank during the eruption.
From Martinique, Zoe travels north to Guadeloupe, switching ferries at Pointe-a-Pitre before continuing her journey to the remote island of Marie-Galante where sugar cane production was thriving back in the 1800s. Today the island's countryside is dotted with the scattered ruins of 100s of abandoned sugar mills. Although slavery has long since been abolished, sugar cane is still harvested here, much as it was during the 19th century at the height of the slave trade. English-speaking local guide, Sebastien Narcisse, takes Zoe to the only working sugar mill on the island. The majority of its sugarcane is supplied to the island's 3 main rum distilleries. Zoe visits the Bielle Distillery where she learns about rum production methods and gets to sample the finished product.
Zoe continues her journey northwards by boat to the island of Montserrat. Access is severely restricted to the southern half of the island which is now an exclusion zone, given the danger of further eruptions. Lethal hot lava flows, volcanic ash, and rocks, have been known to hurtle down the volcano at speeds of well over 100 kph. Zoe embarks on a helicopter trip around the area with Roderick Stewart, Director of The Montserrat Volcano Observatory to witness the destruction wreaked on this idyllic island by its volcano. She also gets special permission to trek through the area on horseback. Travelling with local radio presenter, Rose Willock, she visits the Belham Valley and the former capital of Plymouth which is now a ghost town.
Just days after the filming of the programme, the Montserrat volcano erupted once again. Within minutes, a deadly pyroclastic flow surged into Plymouth and the surrounding area. Luckily, Zoe and the Globe Trekker film crew got out just in the nick of time..
Travelling through the Caribbean Islands is truly a magical adventure. Zoe is enchanted and surprised at the power of nature to simultaneously destroy and create such amazing landscapes and abundant vegetation. Chilled by vibrant reggae music and warmed by the sun, the smiles, and the laughter of the local people - Zoe will definitely be back for more!