WHEN SHOULD I TRAVEL TO MARTINIQUE?
The Caribbean climate is tropical and temperatures are high all year, but the sea air tempers the heat. Martinique has a tropical climate, which is tempered by sea air and trade winds. There are two seasons in Martinique as in the neighbouring islands: the dry season called “Carême” (Lent) between January and June, and the wet season between July and December.
The average temperature is 27 °C, and there is little difference between the warmest months (25 °C – 32 °C) and the colder months (23 °C – 29 °C). The average water temperature is 28°C.
Administrative and customs rules and regulations:
French citizens must be in possession of a valid ID card or passport.
Travellers from the US or Canada, the EU, Norway or Switzerland need a valid passport and can remain on the territory for a maximum period of three months.
Travellers from any country NOT mentioned above are advised to contact the French consulate for visa details.
HEALTH: There are few health warnings, however mosquitoes are definite pests! Anticipate and purchase repellent or buy some at local pharmacies or supermarkets. There is no risk of malaria.
Tourist areas are safe in Martinique, especially around hotels and holiday residences. Leaving belongings on beaches and visible objects in cars is not advisable, however. Fort de France has the reputation of being an unsafe city, especially at night.
For EU animals: a health certificate established no earlier than 8 days prior to travelling, anti-rabies vaccination, tattoo or chip, document showing proof of up-to-date vaccinations. Rabies is NOT a threat on the island. Animals are often not accepted in holiday rentals and hotels. For longer stays, it is preferable to consult a veterinary surgeon for appropriate worming medication.
Banking and currency
The euro is the official currency.
Major credit cards are almost always accepted, Visa being the most common. Travellers’ Cheques are also accepted but non-local cheques are usually refused.
Keeping a small supply of cash is necessary for small purchases. ATMs are widely available and most credit and debit cards are accepted.
Standard European: 220 volts, 50 Hz, outlets are also standard European and adaptors should be used for all US or UK devices.
Personal objects can be imported without tax or restriction (tobacco, camera, film). Dangerous objects, such are firearms, are not permitted, in any case, French law applies (prison in the tropics is far from being a fun experience!). Produce cannot be imported or exported, excepting cut flowers from an approved point of sale.
Tap water is drinkable, however, river water should not be consumed as it could be contaminated (bilharzias or schistosomiasis). There are several local brands of mineral water (Matouba, Capes, Didier) as well as imported water.
Tourist offices (syndicat d’initiative) open in most towns
Bus: different private companies connect all towns starting from Pointe-à-Pitre or Basse-Terre. Variable timetables, and stops upon request.
Taxis: although rates are set officially, they are rather high out of urban zones.
Car rental: most international companies have local representatives, it is preferable to book in advance during the high season (December – April)
Bound to:, la Dominique, la Guadeloupe, Sainte Lucie
From: Ferry terminal of Fort de France (Gare Maritime de FdF).
Transatlantic: Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Corsair, Air Caraïbes, Norvegian air line have flights for Martinique.
Domestic: Air Caraïbes, Air Antilles Express, Liat connect the archipelago islands and the Caribbean
With a total area of 1,128 km2, which ranks third after Trinidad and Guadeloupe in the string of islands that make up the Lesser Antilles or Windward Islands, Martinique stretches for about 70 km in length, For 30 km of width. The highest point is the volcano of Mount Pelee (1,397 m). Like the rest of the Lesser Antilles, Martinique is subject to the seismic risk (strong seismic hazard): on 29 November 2007 at 3 pm local time, an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 on the Richter scale took place Of the island.
Martinique is generally separated into two distinct zones. On the one hand, an area north of a Fort-de-France axis – Le Robert, which is the most mountainous part of the island, a tropical forest area, and a zone Located to the south of this axis, less rugged, drier.
Martinique has few indigenous animal species. The most common wild animal species remain timid: manicous (family of opossums), pinktoe tarantulas which are endemic tarantulas, the lesser Antillean iguana and the green iguana, the mongoose, the Martiniquan pit viper or Martinique lancehead and giant centipedes.
In the air, Martinique is the country of cattle egrets, hummingbirds (4 species in Martinique: the purple-throated carib, the Antilliean crested hummingbird, the green-throated carib and the blue-headed hummingbird) and sucriers (recognisable from their yellow chest).
On land, mongooses were imported to reduce the population of ‘lancehead’ snakes (or pit vipers). Unfortunately, there were serious consequences because the mongooses also destroyed many endemic species of bird which have now completely disappeared. Nowadays, one is more likely to encounter many snakes and a few inoffensive green lizards, anolis as well as mabouyas, which are a translucent brown. They are very fearful and come out at night24.
Two species of tarantula cohabit:
• Acanthoscurria antillensis is a ground tarantula which lives in the south of Martinique, from Rivière-Pilote via Cap-Chevalier to Trois-Îlets.
• Avicularia versicolor is a tree tarantula and lives in the north of Martinique, in the humid tropical forest of Le Prêcheur at Grand-Rivière. This species, which is relatively calm and not aggressive, is protected locally.
The Atlantic coast is bordered by a Coral reef which is practically uninterrupted, where fish swim from the open sea and where sedentary fauna take shelter.
The aquatic environment has strongly deteriorated over the past twenty years. Industrial pollution, in particular from the distilleries, the lack of waste water treatment facilities, the intensive backfilling of mangrove areas, which are nurseries for many species of fish, and fishing as well, are the causes of the reef surface shrinking and a large reduction in the number and variety of fish25.
However, in the past 5 years there has been a notable expansion of the coral and giant sponge reefs, as well as an increase in the fish population. This is due to two factors:
• Since Hurricane Lenny in 1999, no cyclonic swell has been powerful enough to seriously damage the reefs. These years of relative calm have given time to the submarine fauna and flora to pick up;
• The implementation of fish concentration devices anchored along the coasts, often 3,000 metres deep, has encouraged local fishermen to fish in the open sea, due to better profitability, and to relieve the reefs from over-fishing. The fish population has therefore been able to increase.
The Martiniquan rainforest, which is tropical humid or equatorial, has ferns and trees such as mahogany and courbaril, which are used for making furniture. Some can reach 60 metres in height. Many flowers in the Zingiberaceae family populate the undergrowth and are very sought after by florists due to their atypical shape and their flamboyant colours. These flowers gave Martinique its name (Madinina in Amerindian), which means “the island of flowers” in the language of the Caribbean Indians.
Note that many spices, such as Cocoa or Bay-rum, originate from the island forest.
In the rainforest, only 1% of the sun’s light gets through the canopy and reaches the green shoots on the ground, which therefore do not develop. One must wait for a tropical cyclone to knock down the tall trees for the green shoots to be able to receive the solar energy necessary for their development. Tropical cyclones are therefore essential to the regeneration of the humid forest and are an integral part of the insular biological cycle.
In the dry tropical forest xerophile plants grow which are suited to the very dry climate (acacia, pithecellobium dulce, pink manjack, gumbo-limbo) and succulent plants (giant club cactus, agave).
In the high mountains, above around 900 metres, the almost permanent violent winds and the temperature between 0°C and 15°C do not allow the tropical vegetation to prosper. This is therefore replaced by sub-tropical vegetation which grows at altitude, suited to extreme conditions: dwarf trees, dwarf Bromeliaceae and Araucariaceae (small conifers which do not grow taller than 20 centimetres high) are the most predominant species in the vegetal cover.
In its degraded form or under extreme soil conditions the vegetation may also become a savannah, where cactuses and succulent plants share the soil with wild grass.
Mangrove is present across the whole of Martinique:
• La Caravelle peninsula (nature reserve)
• Génipa Bay – Ducos
• Bay of the English – Sainte-Anne
Strelitziaceae including the traveller’s tree were imported from South America and the Indian Ocean. Some palm trees are endemic to the island, such as the Acromia or Roystonea, while others were also imported from other continents (in particular Asia and Australasia), such as the Cyrtostachys or Cocos nucifera. There are also many fruit trees on the island (avocado, breadfruit, tamarind and ambarella).
Bordered by magnificent beaches and well-known for tourist trips – but there’s much more to Martinique! There are all manner of activities to enjoy as the island offers so many possibilities to its visitors. There is hiking on Mount Pelée, along the mountain tracks or on the coast, discovery Safaris, a multitude of waterfalls and rivers, diving, boardsports and sea and land trips to discover the fauna and flora. Boat excursions take you around the island… not to mention horse riding, deep-sea fishing or dolphin and whale viewing and discovering the mangrove … you will never have enough time on one stay to do it all!
The Islands of Martinique offer wonderful diving opportunities in certain well-known spots. With flippers and a mask you will start your exploration in just a metre of water. Just off the beach or further away on the coral reefs, you can be accompanied by guides who are passionate about diving.
From 30 mins to more than 12 hours, hikers will be spoilt for choice with a broad selection of routes in the mountains or by the sea.
Kitesurfing & Windsurfing
With regular trade winds during 8 months of the year and perfectly calm water… in short, ideal conditions for kitesurfing and windsurfing…
Although there are few of them, the surfing spots have a very good reputation.
You need a licence to drive a jet ski alone, as its use is regulated. You will find several companies offering excursions supervised by qualified instructors to help you overcome this obstacle.
Kayaking offers an opportunity to visit the mangrove, the islands and wild beaches which cannot be accessed by land.
Sea excursions: there are very many possibilities for sea excursions.
Rent a boat for an afternoon to view dolphins or whales, or for a few days of coastal navigation.
Like on all the islands of the West Indian archipelago, in Martinique you will find water abundant with fish. Windward or leeward, you have the choice of perfect fishing grounds for deep-sea fishing.
Built in 1976, on a natural site of great beauty, the Fort-de-France Bay. In addition to its natural setting, it bears the natural signature of the great architect Robert Trent Jones who made it one of his most beautiful accomplishments.
If you feel like being pampered, or just need to get back in shape, Guadeloupe is the place for you!
SPA, massages and other relaxing treatments are available in a wide selection of wellness hotels.
If you would rather be outside, there are waterfalls, rivers, pools and warm thermal baths all over the island.
Martinique is an ideal spot for hikers seeking magnificent trails to discover the national park eco-systems, waterfalls, rivers and the natural beauty of Martinique heritage.
Along the coast To the wind, there are wonderful hikes through plantations or the mangroves.
There is a wide selection of trails in Martinique which can be walked alone although it is preferable to hike with a guide who will introduce you to the local fauna and flora and will make sure you don’t lose your way. Remember the sun sets very early.
All forest trails can be flooded under heavy rainfall and rivers can rise rapidly, sometimes forming waves several feet high.
16/17 APRIL – Easter week-end (Public holiday)
1 MAY – Labor Day (Holiday)
8 MAY – Armistice of 1945 (Holiday)
22 MAY – Abolition of Slavery (Holiday)
14 July – Bastille day (Holiday)
1 NOV – all saints (Public holiday)
2 NOV – day of the Dead
11 NOV – Memorial day, World War I (Holiday)
25 DEC – Christmas day
1 JAN – New Year’s Day (Holiday)
CARNIVAL 2017 : From 6 January 2017
Mardi Gras (Pancake day) : February 28th
Mi-Carême Mi Lent : March 23
Martinique’s gastronomy is varied and bears witness to the history of the island and its inhabitants, with influences from the Caribbean (such as buccaneer chicken), Europe, Africa (brought by slaves) and India (dating from Indian immigration), always adapted to the island’s produce. The ingredients are also the result of crops and varieties from other regions of the world and the Caribbean (cane sugar, cocoa and many fruits) and local species (such as queen conch and crab) and other foods which have been imported to the island since the colonial era to feed the population (such as rice and cod).
The starters and side dishes include specialities such as féroce d’avocat (an avocado and cod dumpling rolled in cassava flour), cod fritters (cod marinades) or tiriris (small fish fritters), dombré (flour and water dumpling with a few spices), Creole black pudding, kalalou (green soup containing callaloo leaves and okra) and pâté en pot (soup with vegetables, mutton offal, white wine and capers). The gratins are also varied, including christophine, yellow banana, papaya and bread fruit.
With respect to sea produce, chatrou is a dish with boiled octopus, rice and red beans, Lambi brochettes are cooked from shellfish (also called “conches”) and sea urchin dishes are eaten in the season they are gathered. Crabs are captured close to the sea and in freshwater and are eaten in dishes such as matoutou (cooked with rice and spices).Breadfruit migan is a sort of purée with large pieces of breadfruit and salted pork. Cod may be eaten with rice in the dish called “macadam”. Other dishes are prepared with green bananas, such as Ti-nain lanmori (green banana with cod, traditionally eaten at breakfast) and Ti-nain tripes (green bananas with tripe, mutton and vegetables).In the north of the island, trempage is a typical dish consisting of cod broth, bread, vegetables, fish and meet, all soaked in a sauce.
Meat is prepared in different ways, for example in a sauce with pork or chicken Colombo (recipes with spices including curry, originating from India) or over coals with buccaneer chicken. Chélou is made from beef offal, mutton and rice.
Chocolate butter bread also called “first communion chocolate” (chocolate drink with spices served with buttered bread) is served on this occasion. Blanc manger-coco is a popular dessert.
Sugar cane was introduced to Martinique in the 17th century.
It was intended for 2 types of industry: sugar and rum production.
Maison de la Canne
Pointe Vatable Regional Council 97229 Les Trois-Îlets (Martinique)
A former distillery which has been restored and developed.
A permanent exhibition: a land, a plant and a people tracing three centuries of sugar economy and a broad panorama of the many complex relationships which result from it.
The history, techniques and production of Martiniquan rum, the only rum in the world to have an “appellation d’origine controlee” (AOC – controlled designation of origin).