Beyond the beaches and seaside golf courses near Sainte-Anne or Saint-François, Guadeloupe offers a wide variety of other activities. Walking the flats of Grande Terre, takes you back through time through to the sugar cane plantations and the destiny of the creole people born from slavery and known here as noire marrons. You can follow the trails all the way to the northern tip, where hidden between the cliffs you will find la Porte d’Enfer (“The Door of Hell”), which is actually an idyllic beach paradise.
But the more challenging adventures lie on the Basse Terre side of Guadeloupe, where the geography is much more rugged, due to the 4977-foot high volcano of Soufrière. The climb to the summit is rewarded by an extraordinary panoramic view , which, beginning in February, is free from clouds. Its slopes are flanked by an astonishing untouched rain forest, protected by a national park, where wild banana trees and the emblematic parrot flowers bloom and thrive.
Ravines also run along these slopes. They are the islands torrential rivers which cascade into spectacular falls, such as the superb Carbet Falls. There is nothing more fun than splashing under the running water, jumping in the basins rappelling down down the falls! One can count approximately sixty canyoning routes, something for every level of aquatic prowess, and example of which is the Galion River. The notable difference between Guadeloupe and mainland aquatic playgrounds is the unique environment of lush forests, jagged rocks, remarkably tepid water (even in the torrential part) and the proximity to the sea. This definitely makes for more pleasant “canyoning”!
“Canyoning” is concentrated on the western slope and around Bouillante, a coastal village with an evocative name – it means “fiery”! On this rocky coast, described as sous le vent – or “up wind” because it is sheltered from the trade winds – one can also find the best sites for deep-sea diving. Fifteen of these sites are accessible from 19 miles along the shore. The reefs along the îlets Pigeon are classified as “Cousteau reserves” and they reveal marvelous sea-beds. One must stop and admire the first inhabitants clairvoyance, the Indian navigators known as Arawaks, who first baptized the island as Karukera, “the island with beautiful water”!
Guadeloupe offers other exciting off-shore excursions. At certain periods and only one half-day of navigation away, one can also go observe the migration of cetaceans. One should also explore Guadeloupe’s “little cousins,” the off-shore islands of la Désirade, Marie Galante and especially les Saintes, a small archipelgo which boasts one of the world’s most magnificent bays – the Bay of Terre-de-Haut.