Martinique is mostly known for its magnificent beaches, its hikes and its impressive waterfalls; the impetuous volcano Mount Pelée; the rum, the colors, the music; l’art de vivre.
But we often forget to talk about what is happening under the sea — Martinique’s underwater island ecosystem, so sensitive and yet so rich.
But travelers can visit this part of Martinique without a scuba tank.
That’s because this French Caribbean island is quietly one of the region’s greatest snorkeling destinations.
Equipped only with a mask and snorkel, you can, just a few meters from the shore, discover a wide variety of species.
There are fish, starfish, eels, lobsters, corals and sponges in a thousand colors — and turtles, too.
You’ll see the French or royal angelfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, the flying gurnard, the lionfish (the Caribbean’s unwelcome visitor).
And then there is the the sergeant-major fish which will surely come say hi out of curiosity.
It’s a true natural aquarium.
But the island’s biggest snorkeling stars are easily the turtles.
There are five species of turtle present in the waters of Martinique; but you will especially have the chance to meet two of them during your snorkeling excursions.
First, the green turtle: it’s very easy to meet one near the beaches, especially those of Anses d´Arlets.
It is mainly found in the middle of the herbaria on which it feeds.
This turtle is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Second, the hawksbill turtle: This turtle is the only species of reptile known to have a spongivorous diet, that is to say that it feeds mainly on sea sponges.
It is easily recognizable by its beak which allows it to tear off those sponges.
You can find her during her lunch in the middle of a coral garden but also on the beaches during the egg-laying season between March and October.
Unfortunately this turtle is classified as “critically endangered.”
Because while sea turtles have lived in the oceans for over 150 million years, they’re are now endangered — and it’s more important than ever to protect them and their habitat.
All these creatures add up to what is perhaps the great undiscovered gem of Caribbean snorkeling.
Martinique will offer exceptional “water hikes” that you will never tire of.
With each dive you will meet new species and if you take the time to take a closer look between the corals, an incredible miniature world will open up to you.
Stacy Hate is one of the top underwater photographers in Martinique. For more of her photos and videos you can follow stay_sea_rhums_lovers on Instagram.
It’s getting easier to travel to Martinique this winter, with American Airlines’ relaunch of flights from Miami to Martinique in the first week of November. You can find more about how to visit the island here.