This January 2019 we made our second pass through some of the most beautiful French islands. We were able to spend two weeks exploring the island of Guadeloupe and its smaller sister islands of Iles de la Petite-Terre and Marie-Galante. The French Caribbean islands are as varied as they are beautiful – with lush mountains and volcanoes, white sandy beaches and dense forests.
Since Guadeloupe is a French department (essentially France), the food, wine and cheese are divine. Every French island that we visit, we stock up. The only stumbling block was that the French prefer to speak only French. But luckily, Glenn, armed with his high school French, was a fearless interpreter. And, it was SO worth it!
As we sailed our way south from Antigua, Mira and her crew were in for the surprise of their lives. We were about 5 miles off the northern tip of Guadeloupe when Glenn spotted a large dark stain in the water that was not moving like the rest of the waves – then, a spout of water erupted – a whale – just in front of our boat!! The rush for phones was hysterical!
After the whale excitement, we continued sailing down the western coast and settled into our first anchorage in the bay across from Pigeon Island for the night. Pigeon Island is the home of Jacques Cousteau’s famed Marine Park – a world destination for snorkeling and diving. It lived up to its reputation! And, the sunsets from our back porch looking out over Pigeon were also spectacular!
High winds and waves were predicted for the next week, so Mira made her way into a protected anchorage at Pointe-a-Pitre. Over the past 18 months of full-time sailing, we have learned the limits of our sailing comfort zone. Since we couldn’t explore Guadeloupe by boat, we rented a car for the week. Not as much fun as sailing, but it turned out to be a tremendous week getting to know the beautiful island of Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped island separated by the Salee River. Basse-Terre, the larger side of the butterfly, is characterized by rocky mountains and lush rainforests. With completely different topography, hilly Grande-Terre has long beaches, sugarcane fields and white sand beaches.
La Grande Soufrière, is an active stratovolcano on Basse-Terre. It is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, and rises 1,467 m high. Glenn has always wanted to hike a volcano, so I read a few articles on the internet and off we went. Not the smartest thing we’ve ever done – but, again, another “outside the box” experience. We learned later from the locals – that no one attempts to climb Soufriere if the top is obscured by rain clouds. The day we went – the entire mountain was obscured by rain clouds! After an hour and a half of struggling through pouring rain and high winds, we were out. Climbing a volcano is still on the list, though!
The day was not completely wasted though. Carbet Falls is a series of waterfalls on the Carbet River in the Parc National de la Guadeloupe. Its three cascades are set amid the tropical rainforests on the lower slopes of the volcano La Soufrière. The day that we were there – only the second falls were open – the other two falls were too dangerous to climb. It was a beautiful site to see!
The day after exploring Basse-Terre, we headed off in our car to explore the smaller half of the butterfly, Grande-Terre. We drove along the southern coast and explored one beautiful beach after another. Last stop was in Ste. Francois at the very southeastern tip of Guadeloupe. Found a nice cafe in the marina (of course!) for lunch and also enjoyed the requisite French wine. A beautiful day.