Martinique Arrival Briefing
Best hotel values are the family-run "auberges."
Where to Stay: Prices are high, almost equal to what you would pay in Europe. Best values are the family-run "auberges" in the more remote and scenic northern parts of the island, where you'll also find the best hiking. One of the most convenient is Auberge de la Montagne Pelee, located at the foot of the volcano at Morne Rouge. It offers eight rooms and several bungalows with hot water, a real necessity at this high, cool altitude. Reservations should be made well before arrival: tel. 52-32-09. Another good bargain are the 200 "gites," furnished apartments, studios and rooms in private homes specifically designed for vacationers. Contact Gites de France, 596/73-67-92.
Camping: One of the relatively few islands where this activity is popular in the forests and on the beaches especially between June and September. For details contact the Office National des Forests (596/71-34-50, fax 596/68-47-43) Close to Fort-de-France at Anse a l'Ane is Le Nid Tropical (tel. 68-31-30, fax 68-47-43)campsite, which even rents tents, though you're welcome to bring your own. On the south coast is Vivre et Camper (tel. 76-95-52, fax 76-97-82) on the Pointe Marin beach in Ste-Anne. Also Tropicamp in Sainte-Luce (tel/fax 596/62-59-00).
Safety and Health Warning: The beautiful rivers naturally entice the weary walker to swim. Be very careful. Many rivers in Martinique are infested with parasites, especially the well-known bilharzia, which causes very serious problems. This is due to the insufficient sanitation control in rural areas. People pour waste buckets each night into the rivers. This perpetuates a condition already threatening to the population. Drink bottled or purified water.
Snakes & Other Venomous Creatures: The deadly fer-de-lance resides in Martinique . However, since it likes the warm coasts and you'll probably be spending most of your time in the cooler mountains, not to worry.
Hiking & Walking Services: An excellent city walking tour is offered from the Savanne in Fort-de-France by an outfit called Azimut. The walks last about 1.5 hours, and the friendly, multi-lingual guides show you many aspects of Fort-de-France you would probably miss on your own. One of their stops is at a small cafe for a glass of cane juice. Talk about sugar overload! Call Azimut at 596/70-07-00.
Hiking should be arranged through the national park office, Parc Naturel Regional in Fort-de-France; 596/64-42-59 or 73-19-30. These tours are well organized, visit most of the popular sites and cost only about US$12 per person. Most people speak French, which is no problem since you have a competent guide to get you where you need to go.
Several tour operators also offer guided hikes. Caribtours (596/50-93-52) in Lamentin does half-day tours of the rain forest and volcano; Basalt in Bellefontaine (596/52-57-82) and Madinina Tours (596/70-65-25) in Fort-de-France provide similar trips. The Village des Z'Amandines in St-Marie (596/69-89-49) has weeklong packages that include 4 days of hiking.
If you speak French and want a private hike, you can usually arrange for a guide to climb Mount Pelee at Morne Rouge.
Additional Information: Web site: www.martinique.org.