Guadeloupe, a tiny overseas region of France, is a beaut island located at the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and looks on a map very similar to the shape of a little butterfly. When I say it’s an island, it’s actually several- the main islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre connected by a bridge and forming the wings of the butterfly-shaped piece of paradise, and several nearby smaller islands dotted about in the sea. Back in the day, Christopher Columbus arrived here (as he seems to have arrived on just about every island in the Caribbean; he was clearly a massive beach fan), changed its name from its original Arawak name of Karukera to Santa María de Guadeloupe, and subsequently claimed to have discovered pineapples there for the first time in human history. Presumably the Arawak people had actually been eating pineapple for as long as they could remember; it’s one thing to change the name of an entire nation’s homeland, but claim to have discovered something they’ve known about for as long as they’ve lived and in my opinion you’re pushing your luck, Sonny Jim. After several nations had a good squabble about who owned Guadeloupe- the English, Spanish and French were all quite up for being the boss here due to its lucrative sugar cane- eventually the French won and to this day it’s been part of France and therefore also the EU. The currency is Euros, the language is French, and if any EU citizen wants to travel or live there, they have every right to do so. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Docking here meant arriving in the city of Pointe-à-Pitre, a place which I found full on fascinating due to its mixture of street art, the warm smell of spices wafting all around the place, and the French architecture all over the place, which all combined to remind me very much of New Orleans (which by the way is probs my number 1 city in the entire world, if you’re interested). After a couple of visits to Point-á-Pitre, we were informed of a secret island which wasn’t too far away but would for sure need several modes of transport to reach; the combination of the words ‘secret’ and ‘island’ meant that there was absolutely no question about the fact that we 100% needed to go there.
A not-so-classic Caribbean taxi journey
First up we all crammed into a taxi and haggled a price for the journey to the town of Le Gosier, located further down the coast. In other Caribbean islands we’d visited, the taxi drivers’ general view on passengers was ‘the more, the merrier’ with no worries about number of seats or seatbelts having to match the number of people. Fifteen people in a seven-seater vehicle was pretty much the norm. However in Guadeloupe and Martinique, the two French islands we visited over the three months we were in the Caribbean, the drivers were far more law-abiding (maybe it’s just because those laws are just stricter here, who knows?). So alas, on our several trips to the island we were such a big group that we had to take several taxis.
The journey without traffic should only be about 10 minutes, however the road between the two towns seemed to be always jam-packed with cars and ended up taking half an hour of mostly crawling at snails-pace past big rusting billboards displaying slogans in French and surrounded by tropical trees and the odd wandering chicken. It was so interesting to just be in a place so different to England that I didn’t even mind about being stuck in traffic if I’m honest.
Eventually we reached a park sitting on a hilltop overlooking the turquoise sea, with a pathway leading down to a long jetty where a load of kids were swimming in a little floating pool. In the distance we could see the tiny island- in actual fact close enough to land that a strong swimmer could’ve easily saved the $5 return price of the boat ride and just swum right on over. But, pals, a strong swimmer I am not; a little boat arrived just as we made it to the end of the long jetty, deposited its passengers, and on we hopped. This place was full on glorious.
Being a beach bum is easy here
Guadeloupe was hit pretty badly by Hurricane Maria in September 2017 (about four months before we first visited the island), and although it was generally well on its way to recovery, every now and then evidence of the disaster could be seen clearly. When we arrived at the concrete jetty stretching out like a little arm from the Îlet du Gosier, there were a few palm trees uprooted and creaking precariously over the sea, and places where the earth or sand had clearly been washed away, but aside from that it was all on the non-disastrous side generally. What a relief. How crazy it would be to live in a part of the world that hurricanes are kind of the norm.
Although there were plenty of other people on the tiny island already, it wasn’t at all overcrowded and we had a little mooch around to figure out where we wanted to set up camp as there were plenty of places to choose from. Some groups literally had set up camp, tents and campfires and all, so maybe this is a normal place for families to come and experience the outdoor elements, tropical-camping style? We found a spot a little further around the corner from the jetty with a view back to land on our left, and it turned out this would be our usual place every time we came back. Most humans are creatures of habit, ya know.
The sea on the inland side of the island is calm and relatively shallow, as well as being classically Caribbean in that you can see what you’re treading on/in, so it’s a beaut place for swimming whilst not feeling like you could be being polluted at the same time. What a joy!
The centre of the island
The majority of the Islet du Gosier is covered with trees, and after you first step off the boat it’s pretty much a given that you’ll be able to smell some form of barbecue taking place from within the shady centre. A little wooden kitchen has been constructed with tables and chairs set up where you can tuck in to the barbecued dreams that are cooked up right there and then, and a lady sells homemade sorbet from under another wooden shelter. And what a jolly lady she is, too! The coconut flavour was one of the best things I’d ever tasted, and she was pretty full on delighted that we enjoyed it so much. What a beaut.
A collection of chickens and geese-like creatures scratched their way around in the sand, some of them with posses of babies following after them and pecking curiously at leaves on the floor. I’m not gonna lie, the fact that they were always hanging out at the back of the kitchen made me wonder if they were what was being offered up on the barbecue every day, but I guess we’ll never know the answer to that pondering.
Pretending to be explorers. Casual.
As someone who can only take a certain amount of laying in the sun at one time, it was a given that a casual explore of the island should happen at some point, however small it may be, and setting off into the trees to see what we’d discover made me feel a bit like we were starring in Lost so I was loving life despite the scratches that started to appear on my legs from the low-level foliage amongst the trees. My main goal every time I was on Îslet du Gosier was to spot one of the massive iguanas that hang out in the shade; apparently they’re all over the place, although the only time I thought I heard the rustling of a reptile it turned out to in actual fact be a rather raggedy-looking chicken. Alas.
The opposite side of the island, facing outwards towards the open sea, is completely different to the calm and secluded land-side. The rocks jut out high above the waves which even on a calm day crash into the island with a mahoosive force. It’s all a bit beaut to be honest. An old lighthouse keeps watch on the whole scene, no longer in use although it’s possible to climb the winding staircase around the outside to keep a weathered eye on the horizon, as sailors often do, ya know. And I may not have spotted any iguanas but I was overjoyed to discover a patch on the rocks where presumably some bird likes to tuck into a crab or two, as a whole collection of broken bright purple shells were piled together. Call me crazy but these are the things in life that keep me entertained, pals.
Îlet du Gosier is such a pretty little island and Guadeloupe is such a generally beautiful place that if I could go back there today, would hop on a plane on the double, toot-sweet. It seemed far less tourist-filled than certain other places I visited in the Caribbean, with a healthy mixture of locals and visitors wherever we went- although who knows, maybe I just got lucky enough to find the more secluded spots? And this secret-ish Island was the cherry on the French-Caribbean cake fo sho.