Marie Galante, Vieux Fort

Marie Galante is agricultural, wooded where uncultivated, and always green even in the dry season. Away from the built-up areas it is picturesque and old-fashioned with fields of sugar cane, oxen and wooden carts. You gain enough elevation to give pleasant views with the distant sea in the background. The Vieux Fort trail is lovely combination of coastal paths along cliffs and beach, and interior terrain of sugar cane fields and farmland. If you do the extra green trails, (we did not) this adds in a whole mangrove habitat. It took us 2.5 hours at a steady pace to complete the hike we did. The park gives a time of 3 hours for the whole trail. Given the extra distance, I would think this on the optimistic side.

Saint-Louis is the main yacht anchorage and these hikes can be done from here. I recommend anchoring in the northern part of the bay not too far from Restaurant Eden Voile. Eden Voile is an excellent place to start. You need to get to know the owner Jacqueline, easily done with a few beers in the afternoon, or a delicious Creole meal for lunch or dinner. Eden Voile has a dinghy dock, and Jacqueline lets her customers use it. Alternatively, just south of Eden Voile is a long beach used by fishermen where you can beach your dinghy. You could also anchor in Anse Canot and start your hike down there.

Eden Voile stands a few yards down a minor road that comes off at a corner of the D205. If you follow that road to the end you come to a lovely modern apiary called Miel de la Belle Hotesse, where they sell honey, honey drinks, and honey products. They also sell regular cold drinks, which can be handy. I am going to describe this trail clockwise, but if you want to do it anti-clockwise, go the apiary, come back one house (on your left as you come out) and take a small path that goes left just past the house (it is hard to distinguish from the grounds). This will bring you to the main path where you turn right. The path comes out on the D 205 and you have to turn left on the road for a short while, while looking for the green arrow which marks trail that goes right off the road by a bend.

Back to the clockwise route. Take the small road from Eden Voile towards the apiary. Look for the unmarked trail on your left. When we went it heaps of gravel were piled at the turn off. The trail follows the cliff quite closely with views of the sea through the trees. It is shaded in woodland. After a while it goes downhill and over a river bed, which is in the area of Massacre. You meet a T junction just over the river bed and turn left towards the coast. This delightful path is shaded and takes you along the coast to Point Cimetiere, where people often stand in the surf and fish, through woods, where the lower story is covered in sweet smelling spider lilies, to Plage de Moustique. The trail here follows this lovely beach for one and half kilometers where it ends. However, the road runs very close to the beach and if you prefer the shaded edge of the road you can follow that instead. At the end of the beach the trail starts again and takes you over the cliffs to Anse Canot. The next part of the trail, marked green on our map, which we did not do, takes you along the coast to the mangrove swamp area and back along the swamp, till you wind through the hills and join the little Grand Pierre Road. We just came out of Anse Canot onto the road, turned right and followed the road back to the small road signposted to Grand Pierre. This is a tiny farm road and you are unlikely to meet traffic. It goes steeply uphill and makes a big change from the coastal hiking so far. You go up and up, and if you are looking, you will see where the green trail joins back into the road on your left. You get right to the top of the hill and start a little down the other side (from up here you can see way over to the eastern side of the island though the trees), but look closely for the trial which is on your right. It is a clear trail, an old narrow cart track, and it is not well marked. However, when you turn up it, you should see one of the green trail marks fairly soon. You then know you are on the right track. . It starts uphill but soon passes over the apex and is down all the way. Down through lovely farm countryside till you come out on D 205. Turn left on 205 and it is easiest to continue back on the road to Eden Voile. But you can also follow the trail which starts in a short way on your right. The only sign of it is a green arrow on D205 opposite the trail. Follow the trail till you come out in a cleared area with a view down to the Saint-Louis anchorage. Just after this clearing and before the trail heads downhill take a tiny path on your left which brings you out to the house above the apiary. Turn left here and you are soon back to Eden Voile.