The French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe comprises seven islands, creating a wealth of opportunities for snorkelling. Home to the largest coral reef in the Lesser Antilles, you can expect to see an abundance of sea life here – from lemon sharks and barracudas to sea turtles. It even inspired the research of conservationist Jacques Cousteau. Discover our pick of the best places to snorkel.
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Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve
Named after Jacques Cousteau who campaigned for the protection of biodiverse marine life and filmed a documentary here, the waters are now protected as an underwater park. It is situated just off the coast of Basse-Terre, surrounding Pigeon Island. The reserve is a must-see for snorkellers. A statue of the man himself was submerged in the sea here in 2004. The shallow waters make it ideal for beginners and advanced snorkellers alike who will see coral, turtles and tropical fish, such as parrotfish and triggerfish.
Snorkellers hoping to spot sea turtles should head to Malendure, on the west coast of Basse-Terre, just across from Îlets Pigeon. The sea bed is comprised mostly of seagrass, which attracts the green sea turtles; it is possible to see two or three of the elegant creatures at one time. Keep an eye out too for small jacks, damselfish and other species of aquatic life darting around. There are a few pretty shops and snack bars on the beach here, making it a lovely spot to spend an afternoon.
Plage de Sainte Anne
Close to the lively town with its good cafes and restaurants, the Plage at Sainte Anne is also a great spot for snorkellers in Guadeloupe. Wade in and snorkel straight off the beach over the sandy seafloor, where you will see grunt and jewel damselfish, Atlantic blue tang and butterflyfish. Nearby is the Plage de Bois Jolan, which is ideal for families who want to try snorkelling, thanks to the calm waters, lots of shade and lack of crowds.
The most off-the-beaten-track island in Les Saintes, La Desirade (translated as The Forgotten) has a string of white sand beaches protected by coral reefs, which attract those looking for pristine snorkelling in Guadeloupe. All the beaches are safe and calm; keep your eyes peeled for colourful officers’ fish or balloon fish under the water, as well as the occasional iguana above ground. The popular Fifi Beach, just two minutes from the marina, opens onto a lagoon, surrounded by coconut trees and bars.
At Vieux Fort, north of Saint Louis, Massacre Beach is a spotless white beach that is often almost secluded. While its name refers to its bloody past, today it’s a truly tranquil spot. On the other side of the beach, you can access the preserved mangrove swamp of the island of Marie Galante. Turtles are often spotted there. Like many beaches in this area, the conditions for snorkelling are ideal with clear waters and an away-from-it-all ambience.
Pain de Sucre Beach
Pain de Sucre beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Les Saintes, named after Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. The walk down to the beach is rugged but worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with clear waters that are ideal for a snorkelling session. On either side of the little bay, you can follow the blue yellow and orange fish as they move between the sea fans, plus spot sponges and coral that have colonised the rocky seabed.
Anse du Souffleur Beach
This long, gently arching beach in northwestern Grande-Terre has soft, pale sand and bright blue waters. From here, you can see mountainous Basse-Terre in the distance. Despite being a popular hangout at weekends, it is relatively unspoilt with just a handful of simple cafes and restaurants. Head down with just a snorkel and mask and you’ll see plenty of sea urchins, a rainbow array of fish and various types of coral.
Terre de Haut has a number of good beaches, some of them allowing topless sunbathing and swimming. But for snorkelling, seek out the sheltered and pretty Plage Figuier. There are shady spots here under fragrant coconut, almond and mango trees. Swimming and snorkelling can be enjoyed, but check the sea conditions before you get in – strong swells are often better suited to surfing. On a clear day, you can see the island of Dominica in the distance and it is sometimes possible to hear the humpback whales breeding nearby.
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