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