The shallow channel separating the islets of Petite Terre, surrounded by a lagoon, represents what is probably a must for snorkelers in Guadeloupe. Lying some 12 miles/20km off shore from Saint-François and accessible only by the sea (with organized tours or on your own boat), Petite Terre provides a unique concentration of underwater fauna. While the lemon sharks swim off shore in less than 2 feet/50cm of water, you will soon see, a few meters from the beach, rays, turtles and a whole host of fish.

How to get there?

The islets of Petite Terre are to the east of the island of Guadeloupe, about 6 miles/10km from the nearest island. Most excursions to Petite Terre leave from Saint-François, which is the only way to reach the reserve, unless you have your own boat and you’ve been given the necessary authorizations. Day excursions, with prices generally ranging from 70 to 90 euros per person, always include a meal on site.

Snorkeling with lemon shark at Petite Terre, Guadeloupe

Water entrance

The trip organizer will take you to the beach, which is covered with palm trees, and you can enter the water at any point. Most swimmers take the plunge opposite the picnic area, in the area where the boats are moored. But since the prevailing current runs from right to left, as you are facing the sea, it is better to enter the water on the far right-hand side (after a short walk) and let yourself slowly drift along the channel.

Petite Terre snorkeling map, Guadeloupe

Exploration

The area to explore covers about a 150 meters-wide channel between Terre de Bas (the islet where you arrive) and Terre de Haut (the islet facing you when you are on the beach). To the right, a coral reef partly “closes off” the channel. The further you go to the left, the rougher the sea is. Watch out you don’t drift too far (the end of the beach, with the last few palm trees, is a good reference point).

Snorkeling with spotted eagle ray at Petite Terre, Guadeloupe

As you explore, don’t overlook the first few meters from the beach (↕0-3ft/0-1m), as this is where you might come across little lemon sharks that have taken refuge in Petite Terre. The further away from the beach you go, the deeper the water is, as far as the central part of the channel (↕16-19ft/5-6m), where a number of rays live and a few barracudas. Nearby, fine coral formations are the home of surgeonfish, angelfish and pufferfish, in particular, as well as small groups of jack. If you cross to the other side of the channel, you are more likely to see green or hawksbill sea turtles in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the islet of Terre de Haut. Please note that the access to this islet – even setting foot on the beach – is strictly forbidden. Stay in the water.

Lemon shark at Petite Terre, Guadeloupe

Visibility is often good and the waters are protected from waves. The current is present at the center of the channel, but isn’t normally strong enough to destabilize a swimmer, especially one wearing swim fins. But you should remain alert and ask your trip organizer or the reserve guards for information about the prevailing sea conditions.

Restaurants & accommodation

There are no restaurants and no water supply on the islets. The excursion organizers must provide you with a meal and drinks, but you should still take water with you, at the very least.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Petite Terre
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Lemon shark Negaprion brevirostris  
Spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari  
Southern stingray Dasyatis americana  
Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas  
Great barracuda Sphyraena barracuda  
Atlantic blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus  
Doctorfish tang Acanthurus chirurgus  
Bar jack Carangoides ruber  
Yellowtail snapper Ocyurus chrysurus  
Rock beauty Holacanthus tricolor  
Spanish hogfish Bodianus rufus  
Spotted trunkfish Lactophrys bicaudalis  
Mutton snapper Lutjanus analis  
Permit Trachinotus falcatus  
Coney Cephalopholis fulva  
Bluehead wrasse Thalassoma bifasciatum  
Banded butterflyfish Chaetodon striatus  
  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaRéserve Naturelle de Petite Terre
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersCurrents, boats, stingrays
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsTour price
  • 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.