The South coast of Martinique

The southern part of the island is part of the first emerging points of Martinique, more than 20 million years ago. This explains its flatter topography in its southern part. The coasts here are turned towards the sister islands which form the lower part of the Antilles Arc, with first of all, Saint Lucia, from which we are separated by only a few dozen nautical miles (40km at the closest) and whose silhouette can be seen in the distance when the weather is clear. You will find long white sandy beaches, with a more or less present vegetation, often of the xerophilous type (loving the dryness) as the rainfall can be low, especially during the Lenten period.

It is also these sunny conditions that have made this area of the island the most touristic, making its coastline a major ecological challenge.

From Diamond Rock to Marin Bay

Marin Bay in Martinique
Marin Bay, Martinique. Photo by Pascal Stanilas.

We will start our journey on the southern coast of Martinique, by the commune of Le Diamant. Before arriving on this iconic white sand beach, crossed by regular waves, stop at the foot of Morne Larcher, to be seized by history. Indeed, on the cliffside, above Anse Caffard, stands the Cap 110 memorial, symbol of the atrocities of the slave trade. In the distance stands the Diamond Rock, the central vestige of a volcano that emerged from the Caribbean Sea 1 million years ago. More than a thousand birds find refuge here every year, some of them even interrupting their migratory ballet, as this haven is so protected from any human influence. The ocean current rushing between the coast and the rock makes the beach a dangerous place to swim, even for the most experienced swimmers. Choose to play in the foam of the waves, taking care to keep your footing. Enjoy lazing in the shade of the peyi almond trees, in this coastal forest protecting its beach.

Diving is also popular around the Rock, as the drop offs are so steep and the species present are of a rarely equalled diversity.

Opposite Sainte-Luce, a coral reef with the highest number of coral species is located at a few metres depth. It is because anthropic pollution has had a deleterious effect in some places thatASSO-MER, an association for the protection of marine heritage, has set up a coral reef restoration programme with the town of Sainte-Luce. It is possible to dive on the domes hosting these new colonies ofAcropora Cervicornis with one of the many diving clubs that are partners in the project.

Coral restoration dome off Sainte Luce - Photo L'ASSO-MER

Then follow cliffs, white sandy beaches and a small bay with a few scattered mangroves. The arrival on the bay of Le Marin is striking, with its thousands of boats sharing the space between the channel, and the coral patates or underwater sandbanks that can be seen from the surface, and which give these thousand reflections to the blue of the sea. At the bottom of the cyclone holes, a discreet mangrove which has lost its superb quality to human development. And, above all, this tongue of white sand which almost closes the entrance to the bay: the Pointe Marin. Further on, you can see the beaches of the commune of Sainte Anne.

From the Tourist South to the Wild South

This part of the coastline, associated with the commune of Sainte Anne, is very popular with tourists. The long beaches which follow one another, tick all the boxes of the postcard, with its turquoise water, its white sand, its coconut trees, and especially its affluence all year round. Nevertheless, as soon as you pass the Pointe des Salines, you find a more preserved area. This area takes its name from the past, since salt was produced in the pond of the same name during the colonial period (up to 550 tons were produced there during the Second World War). It has since become a protected area, for its rich biodiversity, and was awarded the RAMSAR (Wetland of International Importance) label in 2008.

The landscape in this area is sometimes desert, with numerous cacti, or dry forest, sometimes populated by mangroves, with a coastline that is sometimes rugged, rocks of a thousand colours follow each other in the rhythm of the slow construction of what is called the Savannah of Petrifications. Here, we are on the oldest part of the island with a first base that appeared about 25 million years ago. Here and there, fossilised wood fragments are hidden, the natural moulding of the species of the past.

Further on, the white sandy beaches return with very interesting coastal vegetation. One finds there in particular beds of potatoes on the edge of the sea. The first barrier against soil erosion, this perennial plant, which crawls on the sandy soil, delights us with its pretty purple flowers which only remain open for one day.

When one observes a beach heavily colonised by various creeping species, with a dense forest fabric behind, one could be reminded of the vision the colonists had when they first set foot on Martinique.

To take advantage of these landscapes, where a desert atmosphere and the underwater wealth of the West Indies are combined, it is possible to follow all or part of the Trace des Caps, or to take part in a boat trip with a professional service provider.

Did you know that?

Palm trees are not endemic to Martinique. And although we automatically associate them with our vision of heavenly white sandy beaches, they are not good at retaining substrates, as their root system is not dense enough! This is why some municipalities, in collaboration with theONF and nature protection associations, have set up beach reforestation projects, with species whose root system can retain the sand, and thus protect the beautiful beaches of Martinique. 

Cocotiers sur une plage de sable blanc, photo de Thibault Desplats.

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