OVERVIEW OF GUADELOUPE
Guadeloupe is part of the small Antilles archipelago, an arch of
islands which stretch from Anguilla in the north, to Grenada in the
south, with a total distance of 850km. Like its neighbouring islands
in the Caribbean it boasts the sea, palm lined beaches, tropical
forests, plus volcanic soil, a rich colonial history, Creole
traditions and culture, sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries.
Every one of its islands has its own particular identity, explore
each section dedicated to each island to find out.
|Sea and beaches
Find a beach in Guadeloupe and voilà the Caribbean sea !
Guadeloupe has a vast variety of beaches lapped by the sea,
which is a nearly constant minimum of 28 all year round. They
vary from the wild ocean lapped beaches of the Atlantic, to the
soft palm tree lined beaches of the Caribbean sea.
In the north of Basse-Terre, between Sainte Rose & Pointe
Noire, you can find large white sanded bays, some almost
rose in colour, which lead onto the Caribbean sea. Be
careful as they can sometimes be a little dangerous due
to changing currents.
In the south of Basse-Terre, between Bouillante and
Petit Bourg, you can find grey and black volcanic
beaches. In the south of Grande-Terre, between Gosier
and La Moule is where you will find the white sands and
crystalline waters. In Les Saintes and Marie Galante you
will find some of the most beautiful beaches on the
archipelago. Other beaches worth note can be found at
Souffleur and La Desirade, on the island of Petite
Terre, between La Desirade and Marie Galante. They are
often equipped and often with an abundance of coco
palms, almond trees and sea-grapes bordering the sea
line. It is not uncommon to find machaneel trees too, be
careful as they are toxic.
|Parks and Nature
The national park of Guadeloupe was founded in 1989, of
which its 17300 hectors cover 40% of Basse-Terre.
With 200km of pathways, which includes 300 species of
trees and shrubs, 270 species of ferns, several hundreds
of types of orchids, several species of birds and bats.
About half way on the Route de la Traversée, you
will get to the Maison de la Foret, or, 'house in the
forest,' a starting point from which to explore the
The nature reserve of Grande Cul de Sac Marine, founded
in 1987, covers diverse marine zones along the coast of
Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre, including the islands of
Petit-Terre and the south east of Saint Francois. The
reserve of 'Cousteau' around the islands of Ilets
Pigeons and the protected marine zone, but the reserve
has still not gained the status of a nature reserve.
Geography and landscapes
7000 km from Paris, between the tropic of Cancer and the
equator, 16 latitude north, 62 longitude west, where the
length of night and day are almost even, with sunrise
between 5.30 & 6.30 and sunset between 17.30 & 18.30,
depending on the season.
island of Guadeloupe is 1433km2 in size; It is also
called the, 'butterfly island,' as it takes the form of
one, if seen from above, as it is divided in two by a
narrow stretch of water. In the east is Grande Terre,
mostly flat, (135m above sea level at its highest.) It
is made of a coral base, with rolling hills, (Mournes
which are with out waterways.) It is mostly dry and
cultivated by sugar cane in the north. Basse Terre is
mountainous and volcanic in the west. It is green &
lush, with its highest point reaching 1467m on the
volcanoes peak at La Soufriere. Marie Galante is
approximately 60km from main land Guadeloupe and nearly
circular, with a diameter of about 15km. It is similar
to the north of Grand Terre, as in flat, dry and breezy,
cultivated again with sugar cane. Les Saintes,
proximately 15km of the coast of mainland Guadeloupe, is
divided into Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas. The first
part is a succession of plains, low steep hills and
tropical bays with white sands. The second is made up of
rocky outcrops which drop down to the sea with very
little access to the waters edge. La Desirade resembles
a large rock, 11km long and 2km wide. It is dry and
battered by the Atlantic ocean. Pointe a Pitre on
Grande-Terre is the economical capital. The city of
Basse-Terre is its capital.
|Flora and fauna
Apart from the important seaside areas, dive spots,
beaches and coastlines, 60 percent of Basse-Terre is
covered by tropical forest. The mesophilic forest
reaches up to 500 meters above the sea line and is that
which was has been, by the most part, that which is
mostly negatively affected by man. Large parts have been
cleared to make way for coffee and banana plantations;
it is made up mostly of mahogany & rosewood trees etc.
The rain forest stretches between 300 and 100 meters
above sea level, its green carpet is made up of ferns,
lianas, vines and other entangling green fauna. Above
1000 m the vegetation changes and is often covered by
cloud cover and battered by the winds.
Grand-Terre and Marie Galante has a dryer landscape, with
mostly shrubs and trees. Local pear trees and rubber
trees being the predominant. Along the coast line you
will find cactuses and agaves. Many of the species in
Guadeloupe where in introduced by man, including coco
palms and the beautiful flamboyant s, originating from
Madagascar, which become an explosion of reds, between
the months of May and August. The list of imports
include the voyager palm. Bougainvillea plants colour
the island. Fromager trees are also widespread, renowned
for their medicinal properties and often found standing
majestically in the grass lands with their long straight
Most of the native animal species have disappeared, such
as purple aras, pink flamingos and manatees, (Large,
herbivore, aquatic river mammals.) Today you can find 4
land mammals, various rodents, included in which rats &
mice, the raccoon, which was imported in the 19th
century from the United States, which today are a
protected species and the Mongoose which was imported
from India in the 19th century to fight off the rats
infesting the sugar cane plantations, but which
unfortunately considerably reduced the number of birds,
reptiles & turtles as a consequence. Bats are an
important mammal on the island, where you can find 13
different species, two of which are only found in
Guadeloupe. The last of the mammals to note is also
protected and seen, but rarely in Desirade and in the
north of Basse-Terre the agouti, a small nocturnal
rodent. Seasonal, migratory or non migratory, Guadeloupe
hosts many species of birds. In the gardens you will
often see, many types of hummingbirds, sugar birds and
marlins. In the forest you can find several thrushes and
to note, the Guadeloupe woodpecker. Along the coastal
areas keep an eye out for different types of waders,
white egrets, herons, osprey (gly-gly), frigates, and
various types of terns and gulls.
Among the reptiles, watch out for the chameleons,
iguanas, the gecko (Mabouya), turtles, frogs and toads,
including the toad-buffalo. There are no snakes.
|Culture and people
Creoles are the local people and Creole is the local
culture. Creole is born from a fusion between different
Caribbean elements, Europeans, Africans and Asians.
Many local habits, both culinary and artisanal descend
from the patrimony of its antique archipelago
inhabitants, the Caribs, an Amerindian population which
disappeared with colonisation.
The population of Guadeloupe in over 420000 inhabitants,
which are made up mostly of an afro and mestizo race,
descendents of African slaves and Indians who where
employed as a cheap work force after the abolition of
slavery. The Beke are descendents- of the French
colonialists. The Lebanese and Syrians arrived after the
first world war and installed themselves in the industry
s of commerce. There are also many 'French Europeans
from the mainland or 'Metropole.'
Traditions and beliefs
Once Guadeloupe became directed towards modern times, it
become part of the mainstream European flow as regards
to habitual practises and this had filtered into
everyday life. Cock fighting and the antique tradition
of the tug of war are still traditions very much alive
though and a chance for the local population to
celebrate. Christmas is celebrated vivaciously and sees
many a large family gathering. Unique Christmas culinary
traditions of which a speciality is the 'Boudin Creole,'
Christmas ham and coconut sweetmeats. The 'Petis
metiers, ' or little jobs are still pat of everyday life
too, with sellers of sorbet, sweetmeats, bokits, 'A type
of sweetbread sandwich,) and roasted peanuts, being a
frequently common sight.
Belief is also still very much alive in Guadeloupe, the
imaginary world of zombies, devils and other various
spirits are still part of life. Legends and
superstitions colour everyday life and particular
attention to religious celebrations and festivities,
such as the upkeep of its cemeteries and the
accompaniment of the dead to there afterlife.
|Rum and sugar
There are two sugar plantations on the archipelago, one at
Moule on Grand-Terre and the other at Marie Galante, and
several distilleries; Guadeloupe is rum land,
plantations, harvests.......;rum is actively present in
the lives of the Antilles and plays an important part in
the rhythm of life and social life.
|A little bit of history
The island of Guadeloupe has been inhabited since 4000
AC, the population of the pre ceramic era was from
Venezuela, the last indigenous population was the Caribs
(Kalinas,) disappeared , apart from a small pocket
living in the north of Basse-Terre still in the 19th
century, with the coming of the colonisation around
1635. The Spanish arrived in the archipelago of
Guadeloupe in 1493 with Christopher Columbus. On the 3rd
November pulled anchor at Marie Galante and the next day
dropping anchor at Guadeloupe, naming the place “Sainte
Marie of the Guadeloupe, after a Spanish monastery.
After their return in Europe followed a period of
tentative colonisations of the island and its
inhabitants up until 1635, the year that the French
started the colonisation of the island. The Caribs where
chased off the island, but in 1660 a peace treaty was
signed between the French English and Caribs. The Caribs
where granted the islands of Dominica and Saint Vincent.
In 1654 arrived a couple of hundred colonial Dutch
settlers, who had been expelled from Brazil, experts in
sugar cane production, which resulted in a new era of
production and the development of the slave trade. At
the end of the 17th century was the beginning of the
English armada of the archipelago, which would lead to
the conquest of the island of Marie Galante and the
subsequent attempt on the mainland of Guadeloupe. They
how-ever where easily over run.
the 18th century the production of sugar lead to a
subsequent occupation by the English in 1759 & 1763,
this in turn lead to a military assembly in Pointe a
Pitre and the introduction of many a slave in the area.
After 1763 the sugar production continued and coffee
production was also introduced. The French revolution in
1789 also involved the archipelago of Guadeloupe. The
land owners and patrons where opposed of the revolution.
This was followed by the slaves revolt, in which many
whites where massacred in 1793. The following year lead
to further English occupation, who installed themselves
on the island for several months, but where yet again
expelled by the new republican regime. The following
regime was 'terrifying,' in order to regain order. In
1797 Guadeloupe becomes a department of France. Slavery
was abolished in 1794 by the convention, but was
reintroduced in 1801 under Napoleons rule. Between 1801
& 1847 Guadeloupe also lost its status as a department,
its spirit seems to have fallen in the past. Slavery was
finally abolished in 1848 by the Layrle. The economy
which was aligned to sugar production subsequently fell
into a crisis in the 19th century, many plantations gave
way to distilleries. In the 20th century sugar
plantations made way for banana plantations and the
economy remained fluid until the second world war, where
which Guadeloupe became involved in the Vichy government
and fought on the side of motherland France. From 1946
Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France and
in 1982 a region of France.
Guadeloupe and France
Guadeloupe, like Martinique, became overseas departments
in 1946 and regions of France in 1982, with all the
Climate and Seasons
The island of Guadeloupe has a tropical climate, it is
breezy all year round, with an average temperature of
The sea is always tepid and the lowest water temperature
in the 'chilly' period is 24, from November to May and
can reach above 29 in the hotter period in August,
September & October. There are two different seasons;
From June to November is the wet season, which does not
mean that it rains everyday, but rainfall is more common
during this period than the rest of the year.
The temperature is slightly hotter, between 28 30 and
that atmosphere is more humid. The threat of a hurricane
is more probable, the hurricane season is between May
and November and it effects all the islands.
The dry season is between December & May and includes
the, 'Careme,' which is the period of lent. Starting
from February up until April, this period is dry and the
landscape can be dry too. This period though is normally
nice, but there can still be some thundery weather. The
temperature is normally around 27 and can be 'fresh' in
the hills at night.
The western coast line in Guadeloupe is down wind and is
more likely to be hit by rain than the coastline upwind.
For the weather forecast and storm information:
Meteo France Antilles-Guyane
Once upon a time the economy of the archipelago was based upon
the harvest of sugar cane & sugar. During the 20th century the
banana plantations became a fluid market. Today banana
cultivation is still active, but is suffering due to competition
from less developed countries. Agriculture still remains a
principle workforce in the archipelago. Tourism is how ever now
the main source of revenue for the island.
Creole cuisine in Guadeloupe...
The Creole Language
Creole is a language in all effects, with its own rules and
grammar. Born from the need for masters to their slaves during
the colonial period. The slaves began to adopt the simple French
that their masters where using, integrating their own phonetics
and expressions. From there a new language was born, still
spoken by all from the old, young and children. In the last few
years Creole has been reinstated, both in official studies, in
written form and even university materials.
Music and Dance
Singing and dancing, in Creole, where the only ways to celebrate
culturally in the years of slavery.
Tambourines and dancing gave rhythm to the night for the African
In the 18th century Creole music was born. The Marzuka and
latter Biguine arrived in the 20th century from Saint Pierre in
Martinique. During the second world war, Gwoka, played with
tambourines and sung in Creole, exploded in Guadeloupe. Latter a
type of Salsa, Cuban styles, reggae, compa from Haiti arrived.
Zouk, born in the 70s took off in the 80s with the group Kassav.
Want to learn more
about the Creole culture?
We recommend this French site,