Cruising Guadeloupe

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Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

With many bays, marinas, and anchorages, snorkeling and diving spots, small and big cities offering relaxing atmosphere, good shopping, restaurants and boulangeries (bakeries) with French and Creole delicacies, and lots of unique and exciting natural sites, Guadeloupe, one of the biggest island groups in the region and territory of France, is a main destination for the Caribbean cruiser.

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Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

If you start at daybreak sailing in moderate tradewinds on starboard tack from English Harbour, Antigua, 40 nautical miles to the north, you will reach the first anchorage on the northwest side of Basse-Terre, the western island of Guadeloupe, by early afternoon and grab one of a few free mooring balls in front of the charming fishing village of Deshaies.

Desaies

Desaies, Guadeloupe

From Monday to Friday you can clear customs at the Pelican souvenir shop by filing in a custom’s form on the computer there, for which small service you have to pay a small fee of 3 euro per boat. Otherwise, there are no customs or any other fees, and, it appears, you can remain in Guadeloupe indefinitely.

Fish Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Fish Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

If you like hiking and waterfalls, you can walk from Deshaies along a shallow river, jumping over rocks and fallen trees, up to a small waterfall. The one-hour hike can be challenging and you will need good shoes, best if waterproof. You can also visit the Jardin Botanique de Desahaies, a kilometer and a half from the village, for 15 Eu per person (10 Eu for kids).
For more detailed account of our experience at the Deshaies waterfall read Island of Beautiful Waters.

Mira at Deshaie Waterfall

Mira at Deshaies Waterfall

If you continue sailing south from Deshaies for about 10 nautical miles, which can be slow as you are behind tall mountains acting as wind-stoppers on the lee side of Basse-Terre, you will get to another small bay home of hundreds of sea turtles, Pigeon Island.

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The Aquarium, Cousteau Marine Park, Guadeloupe

You can anchor there in front of the beach and take your dinghy or kayak across to the tiny Pigeon Island where mooring balls for diver are available. This used to be one of Jacque Cousteau’s favorite underwater exploration sites, and today it is a national park, Cousteau Underwater Park, with some excellent scuba diving and snorkeling sites, like The Aquarium on the north side of Pigeon Island.

Scuba Divers at Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe

Scuba Divers at Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe

If snorkeling makes you hungry, you can enjoy a grilled lobster or another excellent fish-dish at the waterfront restaurant La Tuna, a place with cozy atmosphere, friendly service, free Wi Fi, and reasonable prices. When you order a rum punch there, as I did, do not be surprised when they bring you a full 1.5-litre bottle of rum…(Also, do not bring your computer charger if it is not 220 volts.)

Shop at Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Shop at Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Further south, there are a few more options to drop anchor, including in front of the capital of Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre, from where you are the closest to La Soufriere volcano. It is an active volcano with craters still steaming and bubbling, emitting deep industrial sounds and heavy poisonous sulfuric gases. The hike there is about 1.5 hours starting in rainforest and then steep climbing up the barren slopes of the mountain. The view from the top is spectacular, and the nature up there is out of this world. La Soufriere is the best and most popular tourist destination in Guadeloupe. For the hike, bring sandwiches, water, good shoes, and a small jacket.

For more detailed account of our experience at Soufriere Volcano read Mountain of Magic.

.Io and Maya climbing up La Grande Soufriere

.Io and Maya climbing up La Grande Soufriere

Next, you can sail south-southeast to Îles des Saintes, 20 nautical miles across the channel where you might have to tack against tradewinds and current in order to get to one of the world’s most beautiful bays in front of Terre-de-Haut. The mooring balls here are not free, 9-10 Eu per boat per night (for 38-40 feet boats). But you can also anchor on the other side of the island in Baie du Marigot, for free, and walk 10 minutes to the main village. For 4 Eu per person you can visit Fort Napoleon, or you can just walk or rent a scooter to the top of the hill and from there enjoy the free-million-dollar view of the bay and adjacent islands.

For more detailed account of our experience in Îles des Saintes, read Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

From Îles des Saintes you can sail back north to Pointe-a-Pitre, the biggest city on the Grande Terre island, as there is a lot more to see and do in Guadeloupe. It is another 20 nautical miles, and in east to southeast winds you should get there on a port tack in 4-5 hours. There you have many options for anchoring, off Ilet a Cochons or on the other side off the town docks, or you can go to the marina in the Lagon Bleu, but be ready for extremely dirty stinking waters there.

Marina and bay, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Marina and bay, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

From Pointe-a-Pitre you can rent a car for about 35 Eu per day and drive to some of the island’s many waterfalls. The Ecrevisses Falls is a popular destination with easy access from the road, no entrance fee, where locals and tourists come in great numbers to chill in the small shallow natural pools formed between the rocks of the river. A more hard-to-get-to and secluded falls are the Cabret Falls, a series of 3 waterfalls, 3 Eu per person entrance fee, and about 1 to 1.5 hours hike to the second and most spectacular waterfall with a 110 meters drop descending from the Soufriere volcano.

For more detailed account of our experience at the waterfalls, read Island of Beautiful Waters.

Cabret, First Cascade, Guadeloupe

Cabret, First Cascade, Guadeloupe

If you start early in the morning and rent a car from Pointe-a-Pitre, you will have time to visit the Cabret Falls on the island of Basse Terre, and then drive back and visit Sainte Anne in the afternoon, if you are not planning sailing there. Saint Anne is a picturesque little town, very touristy, with a nice beach and fun shopping.

Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

If you are sailing to Dominica next, you can check out in Pointe-a-Pitre and get going, or you can sail to Marie Galante first, another small island 20 nautical miles south-southeast of Pointe-a-Pitre, part of Guadeloupe. You can check out from Grand Bourg anchoring in the tiny anchorage in front of the docks if there is any space. The custom’s officer there is very friendly.

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Named after one of Columbus’s boats, Marie Galante is a quiet unspoiled island with a few rural fishing and agricultural communities, not a popular tourist destination. Here you can relax and enjoy the island-time atmosphere, visit the old windmill Le Moulin de Bezard, or just go for a walk or a scooter ride among cottages and pastures where you will encounter an occasional cow or a pig staring at you.

Fruit Market, Guadeloupe

Fruit Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

 

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Island of Beautiful Waters

Guadeloupe

River in Guadeloupe

River in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe, one of the biggest and most populated islands of the Lesser Antilles island chain, is an overseas region and an integral department of France. French language only is spoken here, and the euro is its currency. Like pretty much every other Caribbean island, the main industry is tourism, but agriculture is also well developed, with vast banana plantations on fertile volcanic soil.

Guadeloupe consists of two islands in the shape of, most people say a butterfly, but to me they look more like human lungs. Basse-Terre to the west and Grange-Terre to the east are joined, almost like Siamese twins, separated by a narrow strait crossed by bridges. There are two smaller islands also part of Guadeloupe: Marie-Galante and Iles des Saintes.

Evo with dorado

Evo with dorado

Guadeloupe is our next stop after visiting the sovereign state of Antigua and Barbuda. Sailing there on a beam reach in moderate tradewinds from English Harbour is a sheer pleasure, and we even catch a small dorado. Evo has been hoping to catch a dorado for months now and it’s funny that his first one is so tiny and doesn’t fight at all. Small, but fish, one of the tastiest out there, and it feeds us all that evening.

Deshaies

We arrive in Deshaies, a main port of entry to Guadeloupe on the northwest side of Basse-Terre and a charming little fishermen village, and are happy to find s/v Passages already moored in the bay there (mooring balls in the bay are available free of charge, for now).

Desaies

Desaies

We met Caryn and Mel briefly when we were checking out from Nevis, and then again in Montserrat. With them and with the crews of two other boats in the Deshaies anchorage: Bev aboard s/v Aseka and Mark and Tina aboard s/v Rainbow, we organize our first waterfall expedition.

Deshaies Waterfall

Guadeloupe was once named Kerukera, The Island of Beautiful Waters, by its first known inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, for its abundance of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.

River near Deshaies, Guadeloupe

River near Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Not far from the Deshaies anchorage there is a small river flowing through the forest, and a waterfall. But to reach the waterfall, which has no name (or maybe it does but we don’t know it) we have to walk beside and inside the river, over boulders and fallen trees for what seems an eternity.

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Maya

Maya

Evo

Evo

We stop for a short refreshing splash-around in a small pond up river. Everyone is happy to chill before heading up and up again until we reach the place.

Maya and Evo in the river pool

Maya and Evo in the river pool

Cruisiers in the pond

Cruisers in a pond

It’s a beautiful miniature canyon with dark mossy walls dripping with water, a green pool and a small waterfall hidden in the dark behind a huge rock.

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We are really glad we have finally reached it, it was not an easy walk-in-the-park kind of hike. On the way back we pick up a few coconuts and lots of mangoes from the forest.

Mira

Mira

Ecrevisses Waterfall

A few days later we hire a car with our new best friends Caryn and Mel s/v Passages, very sweet people form Australia, and visit another waterfall, this one really popular and very close to the road, Ecrevisse Waterfall. You can park your car on the side of the road, get your towel, enter the forest, and walk 2 minutes to the place.

Ecrevisse Fall

Ecrevisse Fall

It’s full of people even at 6 in the evening, and everyone is cooling down in the pool under the cascade and in the small ponds formed here and there in the shallow wide river.

Maya having fun at the river, Ecrevisse Fall

Maya having fun at the river, Ecrevisse Fall

Most visitors are locals enjoying the refreshing waters in the afternoon, and we join them for a dip.

 

Cabret Falls

Days later we share a rental car again with Caryn and Mel and drive to the Cabret Falls for another expedition. The Cabret Falls are a series of waterfalls in a national park and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Guadeloupe. There is an entrance fee to the park of about 3 euros per person which is well worth the excellent trails with wooden paths and steps in some parts of the path.

Maya

Maya

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Maya on the trail

Maya on the trail

The first cascade is about two hours of uphill walking from the visitor’s center and descends from the Soufriere Volcano’s slopes dropping 125 meters (410 ft) in a deep pool of green waters surrounded by yellow and red rocks.

Cabret First Cascade

Cabret First Cascade

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Mira

Mira

Mel and Caryn

Mel and Caryn

It is not an easy hike to the first cascade and not too many visitors go there. Most people are content with the 15-minute walk from the visitor’s center on a paved wheelchair-accessible path to the second cascade which has a 110 meters (360 ft) drop.

Cabret Second Cascade

Cabret Second Cascade

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

The access to the third cascade, the one with most water volume, is currently restricted after an earthquake in 2004 and heavy rains caused landslides and cut off the trail.

Maya

Maya

We spend the day walking up and down the slopes of Soufriere volcano amidst the intense green vegetation of the tropical rainforest, going from one waterfall to another, eating sandwiches, singing and dancing among giant trees, enjoying Guadeloupe’s beautiful nature.

Maya

Maya

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Maya

Maya

Mel and Caryn

Mel and Caryn

Maya

Maya

Maya-elephant

Maya-elephant

Evo

Evo

Mira

Mira

Maya sleeping on a rock

Maya sleeping on a rock

Evo's blond-forest hairstyle

Evo’s blond-forest hairstyle

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Maya dancing and singing: I Will Survive!

Maya dancing and singing: I Will Survive!

The Life Nomadik family in Guadeloupe

The Life Nomadik family in Guadeloupe

 

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