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The Pigeon Islands (often nicknamed “Réserve Cousteau”) are two tiny islets laying 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. The islets are famous for the magnificent elkhorn and staghorn corals covering the seabed, where snorkelers can spot a large number of colorful reef fish species (angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish), as well as sea turtles.
A large number of local tour operators organize guided tours to the Reserve, including 1 to 3 snorkeling stops. The main departure points for tours are the village of Bouillante, Malendure beach, Plage Caraibes (Pointe-Noire) or the village of Deshaies. Prices range from 20 to 30 euros per person for a standard tour (1:30 to 2 hours), including snorkeling gear.
If you prefer to reach the Pigeon Islands by yourself, you can rent a kayak on Malendure beach (from 25 euro for 3 hours). The distance between the beach and the islets is approximately 1.3 kilometers. Keep in mind that paddling to the islands, sometimes with a 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 depends on the option you choose. If you reach the islands by kayak, you can enter the water from the tiny sandy beaches to snorkel the Coral Garden (the best spot in the islets) and the Pool.
To snorkel the Aquarium, walk on the small path to reach the northern side of the islet (5 minutes). If you are participating in a snorkeling tour, you’ll generally enter the water from your boat mooring near the reef.
The best snorkeling area in the Pigeon Islands is the Coral Garden, which covers the coral reef fringing the eastern side of the islets.
The northern part of the Coral Garden is probably the more spectacular. Sheltered from the swell, the seabed is covered by healthy and good-sized staghorn corals 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.
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 rocky drop-off. 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 has been immersed in 1998 on a sandy area (↕40ft/12m).
The Coral Garden is the best area for snorkeling in the Pigeon Islands, but two more areas can be explored:
The Pigeon Islands have some of the fishiest seabeds in Guadeloupe, due to the currents: several species of forage fish, snappers, damselfish… You’ll find on the area large parrotfish, almost 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.
There are no restaurants and no water supply on the islets. The excursion organizers may provide you with snacks and drinks.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Marine reserve with seagrass meadows and sea turtles
Level: Free shore access
Shallow cove with cannons, wrecks and reef fish
Fringing reef with fish and coral
Vibrant coral reef with a great diversity of fish
Sheltered cove with green iguanas and colorful fish
Fringing reef with a vibrant marine life