Big Whales and Lots of Marine Mammals
For sheer variety, few whale watching destinations can match the Guadeloupe Islands. At any time of the year, more than two dozen species of marine mammals may be spotted. Just a few miles from shore, an area of deep water is home to sperm whales, and right in the pathway of migrating humpbacks. In addition to these two high-profile species, the waters hold a veritable who's who of Caribbean whales, including long and short finned pilot whales, orca, pygmy right whales, false killer whales, pygmy sperm whales, melon-headed whales and the rare Antilles beaked whale. Also frequenting these waters are spinner, spotted, bottlenose, Risso's and Fraser's dolphins.
- Best for: Solos, couples and families, beach lovers and adventurers
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Steady trade winds account for relatively minor differences in seasonal air temperatures, which range from the 70s into the mid 80s. Rain showers are less common from December to May
Guadeloupe Islands Information
Animal Interactions in the Islands of Guadeloupe Overiew
The most popular and prolific area for seeing all whale and dolphin species is in Caribbean waters a few miles from the northeastern corner of Basse-Terre Island. Here, an area of deep water is home to sperm whales and sits right in the pathway of migrating humpbacks. More than 20 species of whales and dolphins are seen all around the Guadeloupe Islands, and waters on the Atlantic side provide seasonal sightings for larger whales. If you want to swim with sea turtles, Bouillante and the protected reserve of Petite-Terre islet are must-does. The 2 islets of Petite-Terre are surrounded by a turquoise blue water lagoon with an open-air aquarium where one can also spot rays, lemon sharks and many colorful fishes.
Animal Interactions in the Guadeloupe Islands Tips
The crews of whale watching charters increase the odds of an encounter through the use of underwater microphones, which can locate sperm whales by the clicking sounds these animals make. At any time of year, operators claim a better than 60 percent chance of finding the sperms, and encounters with one or more of the area's other species of whale or dolphin is all but guaranteed.
Best Places for Animal Interactions in the Guadeloupe Islands
For reliable encounterswith whales, dolphins and more cetaceans, the best spot in Guadeloupe is the Agoa sanctuary (named after the goddess of the sea in Amerindian mythology) which was founded on the initiative of the French Marine Protected Areas Agency and on behalf of the French government thus rewarding many years of efforts made by NGOs. Over 20 species can be found in our waters, including dolphins, sperm whales year round and humpback whales from February to May during excursions lead by The Shelltone Whale Project. In winter and early spring, tours from Saint-Francois or Grand Anse find humpbacks near La Desirade island. The Agoa Marine Sanctuary is home to more than 20 species of marine mammals.
If you want to swim with sea turtles, Bouillante and the protected reserve of Petite-Terre islet are must-does. The 2 islets of Petite-Terre are surrounded by a turquoise blue water lagoon with an open-air aquarium where one can also spot rays, lemon sharks and many colorful fishes.
What to Pack for Animal Interactions in the Guadeloupe Islands
A camera, of course. Polarized sunglasses and a brimmed hat to knock down the glare for better viewing on bright sunny days. It's the tropics, but you might still want a light windbreaker during winter months when the trade winds blow. Seas are typically moderate, but those especially prone to motion sickness should remember medication.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket. Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry and 1 page required for entry stamp.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to Guadeloupe Islands. Yellow Fever is not a problem here. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
The Guadeloupe Islands are a department of France, but they are also very much a part of the Caribbean. In bustling Pointe-à-Pitre, a stroll along Rue Frébault provides boutiques stocking perfumes, haute couture and delicacies straight from Paris. The scene shifts at Rue Duplessis when shoppers are immersed in the sights, sounds and scents of the St. Antoine Spice Market. In this open-air celebration of micro-capitalism, animated vendors hawk handicrafts, seafood and produce, and the smells of exotic spices permeate. Similar dualities abound across the islands. One can linger over buttery croissants and cafe au late at a sidewalk cafe, or duck into a corner rum shop for a bokit sandwich washed down by a Ti Punch. A local favorite, bokit is similar to fried naan bread stuffed with delicious hams and cheeses. Guadeloupe's dining scene is among the most celebrated in the Caribbean, with island chefs drawing on both French and Creole traditions. Lively dance traditions such as zouk, quadrille and toumbélé are enjoying newfound popularity in a culture that celebrates its roots, but also enjoys fusion jazz and dancehall music. The islands also support a vibrant arts community and have produced some of the region's most respected writers. For an immersion in island culture, plan a visit to the lively market days staged on alternating Sundays at the towns of Le Moule, Sainte-Anne and Saint-Claudeon. Grande-Terre's magnificent beaches host a number of upscale hotels, while the green slopes of Basse-Terre are home to nature preserves and parks where hiking trails lead to hidden waterfalls. Harbors on the island's western shore are launching points for whale watching excursions, and as many as 15 species of marine mammals are known to frequent the area. A network of excellent roads facilitates land travel while an efficient ferry system making island hopping easy. Favorite destinations include postcard-quaint bays of Les Santes and the quiet island of Marie-Galante, which provides a glimpse of old-school Caribbean life. When on Les Saintes, be sure to try a Tourment D’Amour -a pastry that resembles a height- challenged cupcake flavored with coconut and tropical fruits.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity is 220 Volt, 50 cycle with European standard wall plugs. U.S. appliances will require an adapter. WiFi is available at many hotels.
Guadeloupe Island's country/area code is 590. It is recommended that you check with your local provider to see what data plans are available or roaming charges will apply.
The water is safe to drink Guadeloupe. Many brands of local and imported bottled water is available for purchase at most restaurants and stores if preferred.
Language & Currency
French is the official language of the Guadeloupe Islands. You will hear locals speaking Creole. While at the hotels and tourist areas, English may be spoken, but outside of these areas very little English is spoken. A French translation book is recommended.
The Euro is the currency in the Guadeloupe Islands. U.S. Dollars and sometimes traveler checks may be accepted. It is a good idea to rely on your credit cards for purchases. Please let your credit card company know that you will be travelling out of the country to make sure your card is available while on vacation and see if they charge any foreign transaction fees due to the currency exchange.
Guadeloupe Islands is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Guadeloupe Islands are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Guadeloupe Islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and are part of the Lesser Antilles. The islands encompass nearly 630 square miles including the 2 connected main islands of Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre and the smaller islands of Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Desirade.
The population of the Guadeloupe Islands is 470,755 (2016).