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Last updated on July 1, 2023
The shallow channel that separates the islets of Petite Terre and is surrounded by a lagoon, is a snorkeling must in Guadeloupe. Lying some 12 miles off shore from Saint-François and accessible only by the sea boat tours, Petite Terre provides a unique concentration of underwater life. While the lemon sharks swim off shore in less than 2 feet of water, you will soon see, a few yards from the beach, rays, turtles and a whole host of tropical fish.
The islets of Petite Terre are to the east of the island of Guadeloupe, about 6 miles from the nearest island. Most tours to Petite Terre leave from Saint-François. This is the only way to reach the reserve unless you have your own boat and you’ve been given the necessary authorizations.
Day tours, with prices generally ranging from $70 to $90 per person, generally include a meal on-site.
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.
The prevailing current runs from right to left as you are facing the sea, so 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.
The area to explore covers about a 164 yard-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 that you don’t drift too far out. Use the end of the beach, with the last few palm trees, as a good reference point.
Once in the water, pay attention to the first few yards from the beach (zone 1 on the map, ↕0-3ft/0-1m), as this is where you might come across small lemon sharks that have taken refuge in Petite Terre. Right of the beach (zone 2 on the map), fine coral formations are the home of surgeonfish, rock beauty, and trunkfish, in particular, as well as small groups of jacks.
The further away from the beach, the deeper the water is in regard to the central part of the channel (zone 3 on the map, ↕16-19ft/5-6m). Here you are more likely to see green sea turtles, barracudas, as well as different species of rays in the crystal-clear waters bordering the islet of Terre de Haut.
Terre de Haut is a wilderness area, and it is prohibited to walk on its beaches. So remember to stay in the water.
Visibility is often good and the waters are in an area protected from waves. The current is present in the center of the channel but isn’t normally strong enough to destabilize a swimmer, especially one wearing swim fins. However, you should remain alert and ask your trip organizer or the reserve guards for information about the prevailing sea conditions.
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.
Green sea turtles are a familiar sight in Petite Terre. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:
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.
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