Guadeloupe Hiking
The National Park
This is probably the best Caribbean island for overnight hiking.

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Basse-Terre is also home to the 74,100-acre National Park, which is not only one of the Caribbean's most visually lush parks, but unique in that it has no gates, no admission fees and no opening and closing hours.

That means you can walk its 180 miles of hiking trails whenever you wish, taking days if you like.

You can arrange overnight treks of 4 to 5 days along the trails of the National Park with one of the forest service personnel. Their English isn't always the best, but the guides try their hardest to explain the amazing variety of terrain you'll pass through.

Contact the Organisation des Guides de Montagne le la Caraibe, Maison Forestiere , 97120 Matouba; tel. 0590/94-29-11. They are familiar with all the best hikes inside the national park. Through them, you can arrange day hikes or treks of a week or more.

Having a guide describe the terrain and vegetation on the La Soufriere climb made all the difference between knowing and guessing about what we were seeing.

Campsites are available (as are small bungalows) off the beach at Sable d'Or near Deshaies in Basse-Terre; tel. 28-44-60; Camping Traversee near Mahaut on Basse-Terre; and the Guadeloupe Hotel at Saint-Francois, also offering complete camping facilities.

Fully equipped campers sleeping up to six can be rented from Vert'Bleu in Deshaies, Basse-Terre; 0590/28-51-25. Or check with the local park service office or police about other sites that might look interesting to you. Be aware commercial campgrounds sometimes are so crowded tents are up against each other.

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