St Lucia B&B accommodation, Marigot Bay

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: St Lucia B&B accommodation, Marigot Bay

Environment

Mango Beach Inn is built in a wild area of bush on a steep hillside overlooking ‘the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean’ according to novelist James Michener. There is no road to this side of the bay so all our guests and all our supplies come by boat. This means that we are able to protect a largely natural environment – we don’t take out trees and we don’t fog with pesticides and there is a lot of undisturbed wildlife habitat. Fogging is toxic to many more species than just mosquitoes - it also takes out the predator species (many moths, birds, bats, frogs and lizards) which eat mosquitoes. We are about to become even more proactive by building a bat hotel because when they are allowed to nest in the house they are very messy creatures!

We attract a lot of birdwatchers who send us wonderful photos from their high tech cameras and we have every endemic species of bird in St Lucia on our property except the parrot (which comes down occasionally when we have a drought). Of course we also have some mosquitoes which we keep under control by planting neem and citronella and creating mosquito ponds full of guppies with water lilies. And we encourage all our guests to sleep under nets rather than drenching themselves and their rooms with Deet.

Sometimes invasive foreign species such as cane toads and African snails can be a problem but both of them seem to be declining whereas are local creatures are doing well. We can’t be sure but the decline in the numbers of African snails seems to coincide with the rise in the number of hermit crabs wearing African snail shells. We are investigating the connection, but we think it’s probably the manicous which are eating the snails by sucking them out of the shells, leaving them empty for the crabs. The manicou population seems to be on the rise and also the mongooses.

We have land crabs, huge ones, an incredible variety of reef fish living in the artificial reef we built under our dock and also some spectacular insects that are bigger than the smallest mammals (mice). Many visitors are a little afraid of huge insects like Clack Clacks (anomalous katydids) when they first arrive but they often become quite fascinated when they learn more about them, Most children love bugs – and we have an entymologist called Brendan who stays with us regularly and runs bug workshops for local children. These involve rigging up sheets with lights behind them after dark and then waiting to see what they attract. Guests and their children are welcome to join in and often give Brendan rave reviews.

Our wildlife is actually part of our attraction to the guests and we are dedicated to protecting the diversity. Incidentally, one of our most magical and captivating insects is one of the smallest – the firefly. In many places they seem to have died out but in our garden around April, on a dark night, we have miniature fireworks popping off all over the place and zipping through the bushes. One small child said ‘I know they have lights in their bottoms but how do they switch them on and off?’

Our latest guesthouse conservation project which we are doing in partnership with the local children’s Environment Club, is a Mangrove Trail. Marigot has the longest stretch of mangroves in St Lucia which is why the government has designated it a conservation area – mangroves being essential to protecting the environment by filtering pollution and debris and providing a safe place for fish to spawn among the roots and for the eggs to hatch and grow to a reasonable size before heading out to see. The new mangrove trail, is a guided trail (by the children) which is non-invasive but spectacular. Visitors get to see not only three kinds of mangrove but also the blue and orange crabs that live in them and many other wonderful creatures. There’s also a ruined sugar mill and a haunted, ruined house (according to the children) and avenues of tangled tree roots that look like a set from Lord of the Rings. We are working with an environmental charity which started in Marigot 11 years ago and is now active through several other islands: the Caribbean Students Environmental Alliance (Caribbean SEA): www.caribbean-sea.org

Community

Marigot is unique in St Lucia and unusual in the Caribbean in that it is a living, organic community. The fishermen and the people who work in the resorts, maintain the landscape, run the water taxis and road taxis and the restaurants and bars, live in the village close by and walk to work. Most tourist areas and resorts in the Caribbean are concrete creations which depend on bringing staff in by bus from more urban areas. The people of Marigot however are stakeholders in Marigot tourism, committed to maintaining their beautiful bay and making friends with the visitors they serve.

We know the families in the village, employ them and work alongside them. We are members of the Marigot Development Committee which is linked to the Ministry of Social Transformation which facilitates and funds higher educational standards and facilities and employment opportunities in the Marigot Bay.

This is a village of families who for years have depended on their environment, particularly the underwater environment, for the means of making a living. The advent of tourism, gradually over the last forty years, has provided new opportunities and the need for more skills. More than ever it is important that the families – and the children who want to stay in their community – also get involved in conserving the environment, keeping it clean and garbage free and understand the need for pollution control. The children are being encouraged to value and focus on their education while they are at school while at the same time taking advantage of opportunities to learn to swim, to work with boat engines, learn to sail and gain practical skills that could enable them to work in water sport related tourism in the future.

We work with a charity which we tell our guests about – it’s the Caribbean Students Environmental Alliance and we provide a base for visiting teams of academics who work with local teachers and children and run environment camps in the summer. Again – it’s something that has given us a much better understanding of the fragility and possibilities of our beautiful environment and also our responsibility to keep it that way.

Mango Beach is proud to be involved in all aspects of the life of the community we live in and sometimes our guests enjoy getting involved too!

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