> 1 month of island hopping across Dominica as well as Martinique and Guadeloupe´s Basse Terre (two French territories) <
Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe’s Basse Terre form together the southern part of the Volcanic Arc in the Antilles. Obviously, since we had visited the northern islands in the Volcanic Arc (see our island page: Antilles I), we needed someday to progress south to complete the exploration of this volcanic island chain. The opportunity for doing so followed shortly after during August and into September in the hurricane season, which made the landscape even more dramatic as weather changed between sun and heavy rain.
During the trip to the northern part of the Volcanic Arc we had to fly between islands, but here good, old-fashioned ferryboats still operate the seas. So, while planning the trip, we concluded that all of the islands should be approached by boat which was not only convenient and cheap, but also offered enormous flexibility in terms planning the entire trip along the way. We ended up spending a full month crossing these three islands. Our experience: an explosion of mountains, rainforest and waterfalls, magical beaches and turquoise waters, great music and happy people, and an encounter with a Category III hurricane hitting Dominica.
We started our trip in Dominica. And what a start! If we only had to pick one island across the entire Caribbean it would be Dominica! It is often nicknamed “nature island of the Caribbean”, and it was easy to see why. With several high volcanic peaks, deep valleys, thick rainforest, emerald freshwater pools, coastal woodlands and dramatic black-sand beaches it is a dark-green world full of rushing torrents, cascades and more than twenty-five stepped waterfalls. Everywhere are pretty valleys, catching the colors of orchids, bougainvillea and hibiscus. Very Jurassic Park-like. We spend two weeks in a small bungalow in Calibishie – a very remote village - on the north coast, rented a 4WD jeep and spent all the time doing trips across the island to reach remote villages, waterfalls and beaches. We also did several hikes into the mountains to explore sulfur deposits, hot water springs and steaming gas vents, cloaked in a dense blanket of primary and secondary rainforest, that run down the center of the island as part of the series of volcanic peaks. When we got tired of exploring the higher elevations we drove to the west coast where the Caribbean sea laps gently along the shore. The entire island is very unspoilt by tourism, and truly off the beaten track.
We then moved on to Martinique, which Christopher Columbus sailed past in 1493, making a note that it was “the most beautiful island in the world”. Well, this a daring postulate, but the island’s Creole chic is indeed very charming and somewhat a Caribbean wonder. To us, Fort-de-France is not only the main city on the island but also the epicenter of French-ness in the Caribbean offering a constant assault on the taste buds by the smell of coffee and freshly baked croissants and baguettes from the many bakeries and quay-side cafés. But the real charm is venturing outside Fort-de-France into the nature. We stayed for 10 days in an AirBnB-rented house and spent most of the time exploring all corners of the islands on day trips. The north is green, mountainous and wild, home to the still-active volcano Mt. Pelée, which wiped out St-Pierre and twenty-five thousand inhabitants in 1902. The hiking and black sand beaches here are very good. To the east, on the Atlantic coast, are steep coves and remote villages. The south boasts many small off-the-grid villages and hundreds of coves, where the fishermen fleet bring home the day’s catch as well as picture-perfect white-sand beaches. This is also an island that we strongly recommend coming back for.
Our tour was completed on the island of Basse Terre in the Guadeloupe archipelago. Yes, Guadeloupe is actually a pretty big collection of islands (we have traveled around several of these), but on this tour, we wanted to concentrate on Guadeloupe’s trump card: Basse-Terre. This is also the only island in Guadeloupe that is part of the Volcanic Arc and we had to stay true to the itinerary. The biggest of the islands in the archipelago this island is home to an enormous national park with steep mountains laced with waterfalls, the spectacular La Soufrière volcano, and excellent beaches. Off the west coast of Basse Terre we got to do several dives in a marine reserve that has been named after the famous French diver, Jacques Cousteau.
SOUTHERN VOLCANIC ARC
of the LESSER ANTILLES
Across the Caribbean islands of Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe's Basse Terre
of Dominica the two arcs converge and the islands are made up of volcanic islands. On this trip we visited the southern part of the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc.