Dominated by the volcano, the Basse-Terre part of the “Butterfly island”, corresponding to the butterfly’s left wing, offers some incredible tropical landscapes and an outstanding biodiversity. With cascades, waterfalls and rivers, the National Park abounds with hiking trails waiting to be explored, with or without a guide.
Is there ever a more magical moment than that when the mind and body wander off the beaten track? Oh and the state of joy you feel, after walking uphill for miles to admire a view that takes your breath away! After climbing to the top of the Soufrière volcano, at an elevation of 1,467 meters, you are rewarded with a 360-degree view over the islands of Guadeloupe. The paths, some well-marked, others more discreet, take you to contemplate this stunning panorama, as well as the incredible sight of sulfur vapors rising from the craters. For this opportunity, you need the weather on your side, as the summit is often trapped in cloud. Remember to check the weather forecast before you set out in the morning.
For a different, incredible experience, walk amid tropical surroundings to the Matouba fall. This short hike takes you across a banana plantation and down a steep path to Saint-Louis river. Here, the plant world unleashes its full force and the biodiversity is exceptional. Our guide explains why the roots of the trees are visible; it is because they cannot grow through the rock. To survive, they help each other to keep their balance, intertwining to remain upright: strength lies in unity. Further along, we find treelike ferns, kinds of parasols that already existed when dinosaurs walked the earth. More than 260 varieties of ferns have been listed. We learn that the begonia can be eaten raw or cooked, and that the waterwood tree provides solid timber that is used to make furniture, particularly kitchen cupboards, as it is resistant to water. The flower with a little white tail is edible. It is known as “rat’s tail” and has a peppery taste. Our guide is a mine of information. When we reach the bottom, we follow the riverbed upstream to a pool which is fed by a little waterfall. The rigid volcanic rocks take center stage, very impressive! Here, we must keep an eye on the rainfall and surrounding terrain. A good way of checking is to pile three small flat rocks on top of an immersed stone. If the water level rises, they will disappear under water. Also, be wary if the ground is too dry.
For those who struggle with slopes, the hike to the blue pool is an easy one. It starts on a marked route and continues on a fairly wide path. When the sky is free from cloud, you can see the Soufrière massif. The white gum tree can be recognized by the presence of a white paste, which is used as natural incense. En route, we observe installations that supply the town of Gourbeyre with fresh water. All the way along, there are pools which can be reached with the use of ropes and where it is possible to swim. Once you arrive, you can relax and try to distinguish the song of the bananaquit and other species of birds that inhabit this heavenly place.