The island of Anguilla is more commonly known for its white sandy beaches all wrapped with the turquoise Caribbean sea. With the highest point on the island being 213 metres above sea level, Anguilla is fairly flat. The salty sea breeze and the arid soil limits most of the vegetation to a few feet above the ground. For someone who have traveled to Anguilla before, the thought of lush green forests and towering canopies may not be a true reflection of the natural environment, however every wilderness has it’s oasis.
Sheltered from the salty trade winds at the North Western side of Anguilla while laying between Crocus and North Hill is Katouche Valley, Anguilla’s very own rain forest. The foliage in the valley such as the Button Wood and the Wild Moses trees can surpass heights of 30 feet, a feature that is unique to this area. As a result Katouche Valley is the only place in Anguilla where a true canopy ecosystem exists.
Apart from its canopy Katouche Valley has other interesting features which earned it a spot on the list as one of Anguilla’s heritage sites. Starting at Katouche Beach and walking inland along the trail you’ll first come to a secluded pond that is shrouded with Button Wood trees. Here the ground is soft and is littered with many holes as a result of burrowing pond crabs that retreat underground at the first sign of human presence. Although the crabs are timid and there are no ‘dangerous’ animals to be concerned about, there is one critter that you
should avoid. Commonly known as a Jack Spanner this wasp has a nasty sting and attacks if provoked. It is not poisonous however allergic reactions may occur in some people. Jack Spanners make their nests under branches of rotted trees so be aware of these.
A short trek further up the trail will bring you to an old abandoned well. About 12 feet deep and 6 feet wide the well was constructed by plantation owners back in the day as a means for providing water for their crops. With the introduction of cisterns and more recently a desalination plant it is easy to understand why wells are no longer the first choice of obtaining water in Anguilla.
Further hiking sees the canopy thicken as the trail becomes steep while the rolling waves of Katouche Beach fade into the background and the sound of whistling birds and rustling ground lizards slowly become more pronounced. As you near the top of the valley the moist mulch of leaves beneath your feet slowly turn into loose gravel and the canopy shrinks just enough where you can catch a glimpse of the lush valley below.
Now the distant sound of traffic signifies that the trail is nearing its end as takes you through a series of rugged rocks and around some cacti when a rush of cold air hits you in the face and puts an immediate stop to your trek. With baby dragon flies floating in the steady stream air you now stand in front of an opening in one of the rock faces that only invites the curious and brave at heart. Katouche Cave is the main attraction in Katouche Valley and it is certainly a reward for adventure junkies after a 30 minute hike if you started at the beach. As the mystic allure of the cavern invites you in, its residents let you know that they are home. Bursts of high pitched screeches resonate through the cavern as bats hang from the ceiling. Being up close and personal with these nocturnal creatures issues goosebumps and creates a spooky feeling however if you venture a little further into the cave that feeling is soon thwarted by a majestic spectacle at the cavern’s centre. With roots burrowing deep into the abyss of the cave a tree shoots through an opening in the ceiling as if though it were thirsty for the light of day.
Katouche Valley is certainly an area that caters to those individuals looking for something outside Anguilla’s established niche of sun, sea and sand. A preserved ecosystem that is undisturbed by the rest of the developing island, Katouche is undoubtedly Anguilla’s oasis.