Pigon Island and diving

Mon 17 Apr 2023 18:14

This article may appear out of sequence; we were at Pigeon Island on April 14th.


We only stayed one night in the marina at Riviere Sens, the facilities were not particularly good and the primary objective of clearing immigration into French Guadeloupe had been achieved, so we set off next day for a 12-mile run up the coast to the Ilets Pigeon – these are a marine reserve called the Reserve Cousteau as recommended by the legendary father figure of SCUBA development. We anchored in Malendure Bay on the mainland coast and about half a mile from Pigeon Island 16:09.97N 61:46.66W) 

Approaching a completely new (to me) anchorage in a bay is interesting psychologically. I can see the topography and potential for shelter from the chart; the pilot book says it is sheltered from such and such wind/swell and has good holding, there will probably be other yachts there too. But…. from seaward, on first approach, it always looks unwelcoming, lacking shelter, often crowded and a bit suspect ….it may be a matter of perspective or just my natural wariness.   However, once the anchor is firmly dug in with room around to swing if the wind changes, the whole place takes on a much more reassuring, friendly outlook.  Even more so when you have found the best place to land a dinghy and explored the shops and bars, and sometimes showers and laundry facilities.  After a short while, looking seaward, it is difficult to imagine leaving this snug berth for the open sea.

There were numerous dive shops, so prices were competitive and we booked a guided dive for the following morning at 8am. The three of us, with the guide, spent 50 minutes at a maximum depth of 20m eye to eye with a wide range of marine animals ranging from large to very small and including a ray and a turtle, and every imaginable colour in a garden of coral and sea fans.  Enthused by this we did it again at another nearby site the following day.

On the 17th, Sunday, we decided to go offshore about 5 miles to look for whales that migrate north through the Caribbean at this time of year.  We had been advised we needed be in a water depth of 1000m or more and, as it was calm, we pootled slowly out from the coast under headsail and saw our first whale about 15 minutes later in relatively shallow water just offshore from Pigeon Island.  The whale was about a quarter mile away had blown a jet of vapour, splashed a bit and then stood on its nose to dive giving us a perfect whale-tail display.  It would be difficult to say what type or size whale we saw but it was a good start to the morning.  After this the day went downhill, we stooged around, drifting over the 1000m contour as the increasing swell made the boat roll and putting us off lunch.  We were encouraged by the presence of several other whale-watching boats around us, but only saw one more whale a lot further away.

Tuesday 18th we had an early morning snorkel dive on the Cousteau Reserve from our dinghy before the commercial boats arrived and later in the morning, after breakfast, set off on the 12 mile transit to Deshaies, 16:18.50N 61:48.00W, on the NW of Guadeloupe, to explore and clear immigration before crossing the forty miles to Antigua to meet Keith Baker who has signed up for the return trip to the UK.  Deshaies is the location for the Death in Paradise TV series and very picturesque.

Tony, Brian and Cilla