The Caribbean island of St. Lucia is a place that needs little introduction, such is its reputation for being one of the world’s most desirable holiday destinations. Famous images of sun-kissed ivory beaches at the foot of the Piton mountains or the lush rain-forest that blankets the island simply don’t do it justice – St. Lucia is a place that needs to be seen, smelt and touched at least once.
To complement its bounty of natural gifts, St. Lucia is also home to a vacation resort that is truly out of the ordinary. In an age where generic cookie-cutter hotels have become an unwelcome norm, the Fond Doux Plantation & Resort offers its visitors an authentic St. Lucian experience – one that is unspoiled and in harmony with its beautiful surroundings.
Setting foot onto the grounds of the old French colonial estate in Soufriere can feel like stepping through a portal back into the 19th century. Secluded amidst the hills and tropical rain-forest that surrounds it, the Fond Doux estate is in fact built on a working plantation. With its lovingly tended organic gardens and rich swathes of fruit and cocoa trees, the subtle scents of which hang on the air, the sheer beauty of the resort is breath-taking.
Straight away, it is clear to see that Fond Doux Plantation & Resort has been built with great love, from the finish and paintwork of the old-world wooden plantation house to its immaculate, rustic décor, both inside the guest cottages and out. Take the old estate house, for example: a structure of exquisite beauty with architecture like that of a 250-year old colonial building, because it is one that has been painstakingly restored.
“The Fond Doux plantation was and still is a working is one of the oldest estates in St. Lucia, possible the entire Caribbean. When we purchased the estate, the previous owners had left it abandoned and derelict. The family have had to do a lot of work from replanting in the grounds to bringing in ancillary facilities, electricity, running water and telephone lines. The building itself was in a terrible state of disrepair, and we were even advised to knock it down. We went in the opposite direction – there was so much history there that we couldn’t just let it disappear.” explained Eroline Lamontagne, the charismatic co-founder of Fond Doux.
Naturally, the impact of this for those who stay in the resort is like no other. Each of the small number of guest cottages are nestled in the hills of its 134-acre lands overlooking the rain-forest, appealing to honeymooners and couples seeking romantic get-aways.
“Right now, we’re in the process of putting up an additional ten cottages – in all we now have a total of 15. Some of them are one-bedroom cottages with pools and a beautiful, relaxing setting, perfect as honeymoon suites! They have a plunge pool and outdoor showers, set on the hillside with sweeping views out over the town.”
The resort also has larger cottages that appeal to families, as each of the cottages are sequestered. The resort is large yet also small enough for a stay to be whatever guests want it to be – if you want to mix, you can mix. If you don’t, you can relax and stay in a world of your own and while away a day with a good book. It is a sanctuary of sorts that offers complete privacy for those who seek it.
“We provide complimentary shuttles to the beach and complimentary breakfasts, made up of a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables and our very own St. Lucian cocoa tea. So while there are no TVs or the like in our cottages, there is plenty to do see and do. There is a lot here at Fond Doux.
When you walk our hiking trails up to the plantation point, you can actually see the Pitons, and then just a further 5 minutes away you’ve got the sulfur springs. There are mineral baths and forest trails, and then of course there are the Pitons trails, which are popular with many of our visitors. These peaks are over 2,800ft tall, and you can actually climb to the top of them.”
With its many strong attributes, the past decade has been a period of ongoing success for the resort. However, the roots of the Fond Doux story stretch even further back to 1999, a troubling time which still lingers in the island’s memory. Like their fellow St. Lucians, Eroline and her husband Lyton suddenly became collateral damage in a vicious dispute between the US and Europe over the EU’s preferential treatment for banana growers in former colonies. When the EU finally conceded to US wishes, banana growers who had farmed ‘green gold’ for generations suddenly lost their protections against American multinational giants at the stroke of a pen.
However, fears that the island’s economy would fold proved to be unfounded. Eroline explained:
“A lot of farmers were forced completely out of the green gold market, and we diversified instead to cater to holiday makers and cruise ship passengers.
Our journey started for us in 2006 – that’s when we learned that the main building was slated for demolition. We bought it, took it down piece by piece, and assembled it here again at Fond Doux. This was our first building. We wanted to combine its historical authenticity with the plantation’s agriculture, and how we’ve molded it with tourism.”
It was only two years later when Prince Charles visited and came here to see some of the work that we had started.
Suffice to say, Fond Doux has come a long way over the years since, during which it has evolved and grown to become one of the world’s top five highest rated plantation resorts. Fond Doux Plantation & Resort was the first of its kind to open its doors for business in St. Lucia, and like all new and different concepts it naturally raised eyebrows. However, where once the skeptics questioned whether Fond Doux would last six months, today, it is recognised universally as one of the world’s leading eco-friendly resorts. In a world where many are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of environmental good practice, Fond Doux holds a strong appeal for the modern holidaymaker or traveler.
This place is as close to paradise as you’re likely to find, and Eroline plans to keep it this way through her dedication to doing business sustainably. Her success in achieving this has won no little degree of international acclaim:
“We’re all St. Lucians – all of our staff come from St Lucia, and Fond Doux is a true sample of St. Lucia. So far, we’ve started to attain international recognition for the agriculture and extensive plant life here,” Eroline told us. She continued: “Operating sustainably is incredibly important to us; our vision has always been to be as environmentally conscious as we can. If we have to cut down a tree, we’ll plant another one – we value nature and the environment around us. We are the only true organic resort on the island, and the only resort engaged in eco-friendly building practices and cultural preservation.
We have won a number of international environmental awards, and have recently been named the Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel in the Americas – an award we had the pleasure of travelling to London to receive.”
Unlike the average concrete hotel that could be found anywhere, Fond Doux is comes with a difference. It is unique. If the world is getting on top of you and it’s time to get away from it all, perhaps it’s time to see for yourself what it has to offer.