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The Coral Garden is a spot located on the Pigeon Islands (often nicknamed “Réserve Cousteau”), two tiny islets emerging only 1 kilometer from Bouillante and Malendure beach, on the west side of Guadeloupe. This protected area, part of the Guadeloupe National Park since 2009, and accessible only by the sea, provides a unique concentration of marine life. At the Coral Garden, famous for the magnificent elkhorn and staghorn corals covering the seabed, snorkelers can observe a large number of colorful reef fish species (angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish), as well as sea turtles.

How to get there?

A large number of local tour operators organize guided tours to the Reserve, including 1 to 3 snorkeling stops. Main departure point for tours are the village of Bouillante, Malendure beach, Plage Caraibes (Pointe-Noire) or the village of Deshaies. Prices ranges from 20 to 30 euros per person for a standard tour (1:30 to 2 hours), including snorkeling gear.

View on Pigeon islets, Malendure, Guadeloupe

If you prefer to reach the Pigeon Islands by yourself, you can rent a kayak on Malendure beach. The distance between the beach and the islets is approximately 1.25 kilometer. Keep in mind that paddling to the islands, sometimes with headwind, can be exhausting. If you choose this option, leave your kayak on the tiny white-sand beach marked on the map below.

Water entrance

Water entrance depends of the option you choose: from a boat mooring near the reef if you are participating to a snorkeling tour, or from the tiny beach if you reach the islands by kayak.

The Coral Garden snorkeling map, Guadeloupe

Exploration

The area to explore covers the coral reef fringing the East side of the islets. It stretches from Pointe Carangue (the southern tip of the southernmost island) to the northern bound of the tiny bay sheltering the “Coral Garden”.

The northern part of the spot is probably the more spectacular. Sheltered from the swell, the seabed is covered by healthy and good-sized staghorn and elkhorn corals. These reef-building corals are vital to life in the Caribbean reefs. It is fragile and can be broken by a passing swimfin, so do not touch it and snorkel carefully.

Snorkeling the Pigeon islets, Malendure, Guadeloupe

The central part of the little bay is shallow, with a rocky seabed. Around ten meters from the beach, the first coral clusters appear and grow denser as you move away from the shore and reach the deepest areas. The outcrops are the most abundant in fish, as parrotfish and surgeonfish.

At last, on the southern part of the spot, swim along Petit Ilet to explore the abrupt rocky drop-off (0-12m). If you leave the drop-off to the west, you’ll find (approximately 30 meters from the shore) the bronze bust of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, which have been immersed in 1998 by 12-meters deep on a sandy area.

Banded butterflyfish at the Coral Garden, Pigeon islets

The spot is one of the most abundant in fish in Guadeloupe, due to the currents: several species of forage fish, bluefin trevally, damselfish… You’ll find on the area large and magnificent parrotfish, impossible to spot outside of protected areas, as well as most of the Caribbean reef fish species (butterflyfish, trumpetfish, trunkfish, angelfish… etc.). Don’t forget that you are in a National Park. Do not touch anything and don’t put your feet on the seabed.

Restaurants & accommodation

There are no restaurants and no water supply on the islets. The excursion organizers may provide you with snacks and drinks.



Species you may spot while snorkeling The Coral Garden
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Yellow goatfish Mulloidichthys martinicus  
Hawksbill sea turtle Eretmochelys imbricata  
French angelfish Pomacanthus paru  
Rock beauty Holacanthus tricolor  
Banded butterflyfish Chaetodon striatus  
Foureye butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus  
Spotfin butterflyfish Chaetodon ocellatus  
Stoplight parrotfish Sparisoma viride  
Atlantic blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus  
Doctorfish tang Acanthurus chirurgus  
Sergeant major Abudefduf saxatilis  
Bluehead wrasse Thalassoma bifasciatum  
Spotted trunkfish Lactophrys bicaudalis  
Smooth trunkfish Lactophrys triqueter  
Lobster  
Trumpetfish Aulostomus maculatus  
Beau gregory Stegastes leucostictus  
Jewel damselfish Microspathodon chrysurus  

 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaGuadeloupe National Park
  • Maximum depth12m/40ft
  • Water entranceFrom a boat or a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersMany dive boats sailing in the area
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsExcursion price or kayak rental
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.