Kate on Conservation

Saint Lucia: The birds and the baby

kate-on-conservation-st-lucia-infinity-pool-and-view

The water trembles at the wriggle of my toes, sending a gentle ripple trundling outwards from the edge of my foot until it touches the invisible corners of the infinity pool and makes its escape by spilling over the edge. 

A slosh, as the water hits the hidden overflow channel and I look up from where I’m seated to see an Antillean Crested Hummingbird flit by and hover for a second at a bright pink flower, purposefully extracting its irresistible nectar. 

LESSER ANITLLEAN HUMMINGBIRD. Image credit: Anse Chastanet

The power of healing

Breath in. The Saint Lucia rainforest air drifts up from the trees below and fills my lungs with a new freshness. Exhale; and with it some of the heaviness of pregnancy seems to leave my swollen, aching body.

Bird-watching has become my solace as the weeks expand into months and the months turn into trimesters. At this stage I’m told I should be ‘glowing’, but before touching down and embracing the vibrant Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, I feel nothing but tormented.

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

I have lost count of the number of times my sleepless nights have been shrugged off as “nothing; compared to what will come soon!”, and as medical appointments have bleed into medical appointments — all with the predictable diagnosis of “pregnancy: this is what you should expect for the next few months, and at least a few months following” — I’ve begun to accept that I’m slipping into a state of depression. 

Carrying a child should be blissful, beautiful, ‘earthy’. But the black dog walks beside me frequently and I can see him stand over me sometimes in sleep-deprived hallucinations. 

Saint Lucia’s bird life seems to be gradually chirping, twittering and pecking him away.

Birding for better mental health

Of the 157 bird species that live on the island, it’s the National bird; the Saint Lucian Parrot (Amazona versicolor), that I long to see.

SAINT LUCIA PARROT. Image credit: Anse Chastanet

The Saint Lucian Parrot is one of five native parrot species found in the Commonwealth country, and I make it my mission to spot at least one of them before my time here is up.

We have six days. 

On day two I have a proper appetite for the first time in weeks. 

Image credit: Anse Chastanet

Pregnancy has wreaked havoc with my immune system, and my thyroid levels and red blood cell count have plummeted below the acceptable line. 

I haven’t eaten meat for years now, but the local chef gives a convincing argument for Saint Lucians building an economy around sustainably fishing the invasive and ecologically damaging ‘lion fish’.

On his recommendation I sample this dish and try traditional Saint Lucian banana cake for dessert. My body thanks me. 

On day three I have the energy to swim in the sea. Respectfully gliding over coral and tropical fish. I snorkel, I dive down and touch the sand at the bottom and I remember what it feels like to not be bound by this new weight on my body.

Image credit: Anse Chastanet

Sleep.

By day four, I sleep. I dream. Real dreams of rainforests and tropical coral reefs and sighting a blue parrot. 

By day five I’ve walked, I’ve climbed, I’ve hiked. I’ve seen banana plantations and sunset mists roll through towering gum trees and encase fiddlehead ferns.

But I haven’t seen a parrot.

The power of the rainforest

On my final day I journey skyward through the Babonneau rainforest in a green gondola that gently rocks and climbs its way over 76 square kilometres of lush, protected rainforest.

The island’s aerial tram showcases the tropical rainforest, which is home to large wild boar; the unusual agouti; rodents; lizards and four different species of snake. 

I’m glad that the tram ride gives rest to my now fat, swollen feet.

At 430 metres above sea level we emerge from the treetops and are treated to incredible views of forest, clouds and distant ocean. 

We see hummingbirds; the Purple-throated Carib and the Green-throated Carib. We see magnolia shrubs and giant hibiscus flowers brought over from Jamaica. 

But I don’t see a parrot.

Perspective

On the way back down I realise it doesn’t matter. I feel alive again. I feel like some of the fog in my mind has lifted. I feel like my baby and I are going to be ok.

Drifting in and out of exhausted slumber as the taxi bumps and bounces its way towards the airport, our driver slows to a near halt. “Look!”, he exclaims, pointing excitedly, “over there you can see our national bird; the parrot!”

My heart races as I bolt upwards in my seat and reach the taxi cab window just in time to catch the slightest glimpse of colour pulling itself forwards through the humid afternoon air. I recognise the animal’s methodic figure-eight wing movements. 

At check-in a representative from Travel Saint Lucia hands me a blue linen bag with a smile; “For the baby”, she adds. 

I open it to find a cuddly toy parrot. 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider voting for me in the Terra Incognita Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 competition: https://www.terra-incognita.travel/2019/saint-lucia-the-birds-and-the-baby

Want to learn more about Saint Lucia? You can read my St Lucia Facts at NatGeoKids.com or find out about my visit to a St Lucian primary school here. With thanks to Anse Chastanet Resort and Bay Gardens Resort.

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4 thoughts on “Saint Lucia: The birds and the baby

  1. lovely post and congratulations on being a nearly Mommy! It will be worth it in the end. You should up your vitamin and mineral intakes though and if depressed etc, Vitamin B1 (250 mgs) and B5 (500 mgs) combined with a good B-complex work wonders. Pregnancy wreaks havoc with hormones so the nervous system vits are important. Assume you take an iron supplement of some kind too if not a meat eater 🙂

    Anyway, my two pence worth on that and kudos to you that you still find the energy to do what you do – great photos and gorgeous location. Guess the parrot meeting will have to wait for a future time, maybe with your baby too one day 🙂

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment 😊. I didn’t say it in the post, but it’s actually a year ago today that I boarded my flight home from Saint Lucia. It’s taken me a while to be able to reflect upon it all, but I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy on the 3rd April this year. In fact, he stars in the last image on the post — with his cuddly toy parrot 😊. He is my absolute world, and you’re right; it was SO worth it! 💚. x

      P.S. I was never allowed to take an iron supplement, as I have a low platelet count and a platelet function defect. I was constantly advised to just change my diet to include more meat, which was so hard to hear as someone who lives meat and dairy-free for ethical reasons. It seems there is a complete lack of professional advice and dietary support for pregnancy within a vegan lifestyle. I hope that one day there is access to this information directly from a GP.

      1. Ah, I did wonder if that was the case when I saw the final pic. Super photo and memory for you – and what a bright eyed baby 🙂 Obviously didn’t suffer from your tribulations!
        Couldn’t agree more on lack of effective, safe info for those with alternative diets etc. It’s improving slowly I think though, as more natural remedies etc become better known – one day as you say.

        All the best
        xx

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