After staying in St.Barts longer then anticipated, we found the best 24-hour weather window we could manage and made a dash to get to Guadeloupe (the island in the Caribbean, not the town in Mexico of the same name). The sail ended up being a bit more sporty then expected so we decided to take a more scenic route in order to be in the lee (less wind and waves) of the islands of St.Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. We did see lots of dolphins and a whale, so that helped make the journey more enjoyable!
Guadeloupe is nicknamed the “The Butterfly Island,” due to its shape. The island is divided in the middle by a narrow river, Rivière Salée. The west-wing of the butterfly is Basse-Terre and the east-wing is Grande-Terre. We decided that our first stop in Guadeloupe would be the little town of Deshaies (“Dey Hay”) located in the northwest corner of the west-wing.
The main attraction in this area, as recommended by several guidebooks and other cruisers, is the Botanical Garden. Upon further research, I learned that you can climb up the steep hill from the town or you can get picked up by the free shuttle, which of course we chose the shuttle route. Putting my best French forward (which is very, very little), I called and requested a pick-up. After about 45-minutes of walking around looking for our ride, I finally found the bus. Pleased with myself, I stepped onto the bus to confirm with the driver that he will be taking our group up the hill to the garden. Well, my satisfaction was short-lived. Between hand signals, broken French/English, and Google translate, I learned that this is a public bus that is currently on break and does not go to the garden. However, the driver took pity on me and yelled to the group to all hop aboard. This very nice man gave us a ride to the Garden, he wouldn’t let us pay him anything!
The Deshaies Botanical Garden is located on a 7-hectare property that belonged to the French comedian Coluche. Michel Gaillard, a nursery gardener, friend of Coluche, opened a palm tree nursery in Guadeloupe to supply his Paris-based company. In 1985 Coluche asked Michel Gaillard to look after and maintain his property in exchange for land to create his nursery. Unfortunately Coluche died a year later. Thanks to his knowledge of the property, Michel Gaillard bought it in 1991 and took many years to turn it into the magical garden that is visited today.
We also hiked up the Deshaies River to the waterfall. Described in a cruising guide as “a five-year-old hiked here for two hours without problem”; well, after hiking all day, climbing over boulders and pulling ourselves up very muddy terrain, I call BullShit on this description! What should have been a couple of hour hike took our group of five all day and we never found what any of us deemed to be any sort of worthy waterfall. At least the foliage along the way was pretty.
Information for Cruisers traveling to Deshaies, Guadeloupe (as of January 2020):
- Moorings are Free but almost all are taken by local boats that leave a dinghy to reserve their spot when they leave. Hope for a mooring but plan to anchor in 30+ feet of water behind the moorings. Leave plenty of scope as you will spin 360.
- Check in/out can be completed at the Police Station for free. Use the computer in the hallway then see the front desk clerk with all paperwork. The Police Station Opens at 7:30 each weekday; closes midday for lunch then opens again in the afternoon, closed by 5.
- Bringing a pet? No Problem. Be sure all paperwork is up-to-date, thats it! This French Island has no additional fees and does not require any special vet exams in order to import your pet.