Ask any one of us and we will say that Gaudeloupe is our very BEST and FAVOURITE Caribbean island.
We arrived in Gaudeloupe from Dominica. A huge downpour of rain hit us within the first hour as we anchored just off the Capital, Basse-Terre.
Clearing into the French Islands is a very easy process and involves only the Captain. We were very happy for Frans to pull rank here. He got totally drenched, but the rest of us stayed nice and dry – and – for the first time in a long, long while, even discussed the possibility of making some hot chocolate.
We chose to overnight here, because of the foul weather. We were anchored VERY close to the Marina entrance. The bottom of the sea falls away suddenly and the anchorage is small and narrow. To our surprise no one came to chase us away. In fact, immediately upon reaching Gaudeloupe, things started feeling more laid-back. The French have a tendency to over-legislate, but then they do not to follow those rules too closely.
Real destination in Gaudeloupe : PIGEON ISLAND!!
When we were planning our route, Gaudeloupe was actually not even on the books. We had already done one French Island (Martinique) and thought that we had a good idea of what Gaudeloupe would be like and that we could easily skip it.
That is…. until I happened to read in the guidebook that the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Marine Park is there. That was all it took. With Frans just likely being the WORLD’S GREATEST SCUBA LOVER, we had no choice. No choice at all. Gaudeloupe would definitely be seeing us and to be specific – Pigeon Island.
Wow! We were sooo glad that we didn’t miss it!
The anchorage next to the beach of Malendure lies in clear, blue waters. There is reef all around the edges and turtles graze on the grass right underneath the boats. As evening dawn, you can sit on your yacht and watch the turtles as they pop up for air.
And this is just the anchorage.
The Marine Park is large, but the best dive sites are clustered around little Pigeon Island, a short dingy trip from our boat.
We have never seen so many fish in one location. We have never seen parrot fish this large or this tame. For the first time ever, we saw a lobster leave its hiding place and leisurely ‘stroll’ across the ocean floor to another crevice
Here, everything is protected and nobody is allowed to hunt. It resembles, if anything, a huge, underwater aquarium.
AND we could dive every day, all day, if we wanted. And Frans WANTED!
But alas, we did have some restrictions. The time available and how quickly Frans could refill the cylinders. If you take into account that filling 6 (or 7 cylinders if our friend Ricardo joined us) takes up to 2 hours, that Frans had to work as well during the day and that filling the cylinders makes one heck of a noise (meaning that it could not be done at unreasonable hours), we really did a record amount of diving.
Right here, I have to note another huge perk of the French Islands.
Thanks to the obedient taxpayer in France (may they live long and productive lives), the French islands do not have to generate their own income as do the Independent Islands that once belonged to the British Crown or other Monarchies. Therefore, they do not charge for independent diving. They will charge for diving courses or the rent of equipment or air-fills, but if you own everything that you require and are willing to dive at your own risk, you may do so for free. Vive la France!
Pigeon Island is not the only beautiful place to dive in the Caribbean. There are numerous dive sites, both amazing and accessible. Only not to us.
To generate their much needed income, other islands charge for everything. And while we do not blame them, it makes diving there impossible. The rules state that you HAVE to dive with a known dive operator and then the average price is close to $100 per person! At the time of writing this, it is the equivalent of R1500.00! Times by six ………completely unaffordable!!!
Pigeon Island is unique in so many ways. Not only does Pigeon island offer amazing marine life, but it is also possible to do all kinds of different diving here. Shallow diving (for more than 80 minutes on one tank), de-compression diving, cliff diving, night diving, drift diving, crevices and overhangs and even nearby wreck diving. What an amazing time Frans (and of course the rest of us) had.
Marike figured out that if she held her hand in the shape of a fish at a cleaner station, and she kept it still for long enough, the little cleaner wrasse will eventually start to clean her hand. Frans was testing this theory on a cleaner shrimp.
There is a bust of Jacques Cousteau in the water next to Pigeon Island. We don’t think he is doing too well. The hand that used to give the OKAY diving signal is missing. In the picture Frans is covering the stump that is left.
We dived at Pigeon Island so many times that we could start distinguishing all the different reefs and choosing favourite spots to dive in. A great place to tie the dinghy was close to a shallow reef with beautiful elkhorn coral. This meant that we could end our dive on the three meter decompression stop while still seeing amazing things.
For the landbased activities on Gaudeloupe, you will just have to wait for the next blog 🙂