Petite Terre

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 excursions 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 ($76-97) per person, always include a meal on site.

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.

Aerial view


The area to explore covers about a 500ft-wide channel (150m) 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).

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.

Snorkeling Report Petite Terre Guadeloupe Shark
Lemon shark at Petite Terre

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.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
    Intermediary level
  • Maximum depth
    20ft (6m)
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
    Currents, boats, stingrays
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
    Excursion price (approx. €80/$87 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Petite Terre

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Lemon shark
Negaprion brevirostris Abundant in sandy areas
Spotted eagle ray
Aetobatus narinari Common
Southern stingray
Dasyatis americana Common
Green sea turtle
Chelonia mydas Common
Great barracuda
Sphyraena barracuda Frequent, in sandy areas
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus Common
Doctorfish tang
Acanthurus chirurgus Common
Bar jack
Carangoides ruber Abundant
Yellowtail snapper
Ocyurus chrysurus Common
Rock beauty
Holacanthus tricolor Frequent in rocky areas
Spanish hogfish
Bodianus rufus Common
Spotted trunkfish
Lactophrys bicaudalis Common
Yellow goatfish
Mulloidichthys martinicus Frequent
Yellowtail snapper
Ocyurus chrysurus Frequent
Mutton snapper
Lutjanus analis Frequent
Trachinotus falcatus Common
Cephalopholis fulva Frequent
Bluehead wrasse
Thalassoma bifasciatum Abundant
Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus Frequent
Show all species
You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?