Exploring Les Saintes

Terre de Haut. The main mooring field.

Terre de Haut. The main mooring field.

I’m really tempted not to say anything nice about Les Saintes. In fact, it is awful here. Never come here! Oh…. alright. I’m lying. Les Saintes is an absolute gem. It combines the best of civilization (good restaurants, decent provisioning, no IRS offices) with great access to nature and even a few undeveloped pocket anchorages. How awesome is it that one of the science experiments in the kids curriculum included comparing natural and artificial sponges? We did the extra credit and compared a dry sponge from the beach, a fresh one with a live sea urchin in it, and the one from the galley.

The Sugarloaf. A very tight anchorage can be found on the west end. There is more room for anchoring off to the left of this picture closer to the main mooring field.

The Sugarloaf. A very tight anchorage can be found on the west end. There is more room for anchoring off to the left of this picture closer to the main mooring field.

The main town on Terre de Haut provides decent provisioning between the Discount market and the mini Carrefour. We especially enjoyed the food at Les Genois which is located on the water between the dinghy dock and the ferry dock. Good pizza can be acquired at Le Mambo in the evenings, as well as decent internet. If you want one of their outside tables facing the street, a reservation is recommended. There is also a decent little kebap shop on one of the side streets near the ferry dock. The boulangeries seemed to be closed on Mondays, and many of the shops and markets close between 12 and 3.

The kids chilling, Lake Travis style.

The kids chilling, Lake Travis style.

The main island also features several nice beaches, although the one facing the mooring field has a large number of fishing boats moored to the shore. There is a great kids park on the water across the street from the mini Carrefour, and we were able to tie up our dinghy at the park and shop while the kids played. The park was perfect for kids ages 3-12, with plenty of climbing structures and the tiniest but perfectly balanced merry-go-round.

The smaller mooring field at Ille Cabrit.

The smaller mooring field at Ille Cabrit.

Fort Napoleon is about a 20 minute hike up the hill from town. There is a very small gift shop in the fort if you run out of water. The fort has been well maintained and has a surprisingly good museum in the main building. It also provides a great view of the islands and some good photo opportunities.

The south end of the beach on Ille Cabrit. Great snorkeling to be found past the end of the beach.

The south end of the beach on Ille Cabrit. Great snorkeling to be found past the end of the beach.

After a few days we moved the boat over to the mooring field at Ille Cabrit. It is small, with only 11 balls, but we’d heard it was less rolley and more natural. Plan to arrive between 9 and 12 AM if you want to get a ball. You might still be able to catch a ball in the main mooring field by town in the afternoon if you are lucky. The Ille Cabrit mooring field is on the far side of Ille Cabrit from Terre de Haut, so the island blocks most of the nearby lights for better stargazing. Other than a few fishermen roaring through the anchorage in the evening, it proved to be significantly quieter than the main mooring field. Ille Cabrit features the ruins of Fort Josephine, about a 20 minute hike. Bring water. Most of the area photos above were taken from Fort Josephine. If you get a sunburn, there is plenty of aloe vera growing on the island. Some can be found in the ruined building near the ruined dock. Another larger patch can be found on the side trail when coming down from Fort Josephine. Take the path past the ruined modern barracks along the east side of the island. There is also a nice lookout point at the end of the path that provides a great view of Base Terre.

The north end of the beach on Ille Cabrit. There is decent snorkeling all along the rocky shore out to the point.

The north end of the beach on Ille Cabrit. There is decent snorkeling all along the rocky shore out to the point.

The main attractions of Ille Cabrit are the beach and the snorkeling. Unfortunately there were a large number of manchineel trees on the beach, so try to pick a spot where the kids won’t get burned. There is great snorkeling at either end of the beach, and a little bit under the ruined dock. The north end of the beach, closest to Guadeloupe, is a fish nursery with a decent selection of coral giving way to turtle grass. There were many juvenile yellowtail damselfish and some foot long cuttlefish in this area. The south end of the beach, closest to Terre de Haut, has a series of 20 foot tall underwater hills with larger fish and coral. We encountered scorpion fish, lots of tangs, cowfish, and even an elusive adult queen angelfish. I’ll post snorkeling pictures in a separate photo dump.