Friday, March 24, 2023

It was a good thing that we had a very early excursion in Martinique and needed an early night because we weren’t fit for anything other than lumbering back to our room after our Canaletto dinner.

We had the same appetizers as the last time we ate here this cruise. We each had a different main course. Chuck had the chops, and I had the chicken parmigiana. Both were excellent as usual. Service was a little slow tonight, but the place was very crowded. The servers and kitchen were working as fast as they could.

Room Service Breakfast menu – to hang on door the night before

We got up at 6:15 and breakfast was delivered at 6:30. Unfortunately, Chuck’s order was missing from the tray. The delivery person went right back and got it. He was back in just a few minutes, and I was glad the food was still hot.

Our HAL tour today was entitled Snorkel Martinique.

The tour description: Welcome to Martinique’s silent underwater world. Guided by a professional French-, English- and Spanish-speaking staff, you will discover the wonderful life of the coral reef and tropical fish.

Your excursion boat will cross the bay, passing all the main hotels. Sip on a delicious non-alcoholic exotic fruit punch before arriving at the beach and fishing village of Anse-Dufour — your first snorkeling site.

The boat will anchor very close to the beach and the staff will assist you in selecting appropriate snorkel gear.

The second snorkel site will be at the Bat Cave where, under the guidance of the staff, you will watch angelfish, parrotfish and many other marvelously colored creatures swimming in an aquarium-like environment. Should you prefer to remain on board, the boat is equipped with shaded areas.

On the return journey, a well-deserved rum punch will be served.

Notes: Wear your swimsuit; bring a towel, sunscreen and a hat. Guests with heart problems, epilepsy, diabetes or asthma are not allowed to participate. Waiver must be signed and medical conditions disclosed. Minimum age is 6 years. Participants must climb down a ladder to get in the water. Sites may vary depending on conditions of the day.

The last time we were here in December 2021, we were going to take this snorkeling tour since we had already done an island tour here. But Martinique decided not to let us in because of COVID. There was no issue today.

I thought we were going to have to tender to Martinique like we did the first time we visited, but we were docked which is so much better. We also did not need our passports like we did the first time – just a government ID like the other ports require.

I was glad. I hate taking my passport off of the ship. If we are on an independent excursion, I take copies of our passports in case we need them, but I don’t even do that if we are on a HAL excursion.

Today, we met the excursion group on the pier and left right at 8:00. It was a big group who opted to take this tour so I worried that the snorkeling areas would be crowded. I’ve been kicked before by people snorkeling in a too crowded snorkeling area.

It was an overcast day which sometimes makes the visibility in the water worse. At our first stop at the Bat Cave area, two of the tour operators jumped into the water to determine the visibility. They said it was adequate.

Chuck was the first to jump in the water. I jumped in next. It was an awkward jump. Your feet/fins are supposed to hit the water first. That was not the body part that hit the water first when I jumped in. I guess gravity took over and my largest part smacked the water. I splashed so hard that my underwater camera flew off my wrist. Luckily, the floaty attachment kept it bobbing at the surface until I could retrieve it.

The next thing I quickly realized was the water was really, really cold. I was so happy to have my neoprene shirt on. Otherwise, I would have gotten right back into the boat. Chuck said he wasn’t laughing at my less than graceful entrance, but I knew his shaking body was not from the cold water.

Two of the tour operators were in the water with us. One lead a group of us to the entrance of the Bat Cave.

Google photo – much better than mine was

She explained that the bats not only kept the insect population down, but their guano attracted breeding fish because it sustained the young fish and helped the coral. But I hated to think about bat poop being in the water.

We were then invited to swim into the Cave, but she said to be careful as the sides of the cave would get narrow.

Nope. No thank you.

The cave was very dark. I could hear the bats squeaking even from the entrance. There was a lot of wave action today because of the storm on the horizon. The waves made the swimming difficult, and I was already pushing seaweed out of my way.

If I got tangled up in seaweed in the cave and had a bat fly down and poop on me, I would have been in my own personal horror movie. Others chose to swim into the cave. I swam back toward the boat to look at the fish in the coral. Chuck came with me.

We stayed at this location about 45 minutes. It wasn’t too difficult to climb back into the boat. The operators were there to help.

For our second stop, we were anchored not too far from a beach, and there was a lot of sea grass. The tour operators spotted some turtles feeding on the grass, so the majority of people swam toward the turtles. I would have done the same thing if it was my first time to see turtles. But we’ve been fortunate enough to see many sea turtles before, so we swam in the other direction toward the reef to look at the fish.

At least this time I jumped in the water correctly. The sun had come out, so the water didn’t feel as cold either. However, it did eventually cloud back up and even rained some, but it didn’t mess up the visibility.

We got about 45 minutes here also. There were a lot of fish around the coral.

Never could figure out what this creature above was – slinked thru the coral like a worm

On the sail back to the dock, they brought out all kinds of rum and invited everyone to try them either straight, with a soft drink, or in a punch. You could also have just a soft drink, just punch, or water.

I had a shot of the spiced rum, and it made me cough. I then had a cup (or two) of the rum punch, and it was very good. For people who wanted to purchase a bottle of the rum, the tour operators gave out information about the store near the dock that sold it.

We got back to the dock around noon. It was a fun morning and I recommend this tour. We had our own equipment, but the tour operators did have plenty of fins, masks, and snorkels. I chose to use a pair of their fins as they were a lot nicer than mine. The two areas to snorkel were large enough that everyone had plenty of space to snorkel without being on top of each other.

We changed out of our wet swimwear and then went for some lunch. I chose a grilled chicken sandwich at the Dive In. Chuck got an assortment of items at the Lido.

My intention was to read for a while on the balcony. I ended up falling asleep. The swimming and the rum punch must have taken its toll. Chuck visited with some of his buddies on the Sea View deck.

I finally roused myself up to get ready for the evening.

Travel Trivia

Fort-de-France, Martinique

Martinique is an overseas territorial collectivity of the French Republic. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, northwest of Barbados and south of Dominica.

Virtually the entire population speaks both French, the only official language, and Martinican Creole, an Antillean Creole. Antillean Creole’s grammar and vocabulary include elements of Carib, English, and African languages.

The northern end of the island catches most of the rainfall and is heavily forested, featuring species such as bamboo, mahogany, rosewood and locust. The south is drier and dominated by savanna-like brush, including cacti, Copaiba balsam, logwood and acacia.

Historically, Martinique’s economy relied on agriculture, notably sugar and bananas, but by the beginning of the 21st century this sector had dwindled considerably. Sugar production has declined, with most of the sugarcane now used in rum production. Banana exports are increasing, going mostly to mainland France. The bulk of meat, vegetable and grain requirements must be imported.

One of Martinique’s most famous dishes is the Colombo, a unique dish of curry chicken, meat or fish with vegetables, spices, and often containing wine, coconut milk, cassava and rum.

Google photo

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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