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The Underside of Martinique

Life in the Reefs

The Carribean Sea

Welcome to the Caribbean Sea: clear water all year round that oscillates between 26 ° C (Christmas) and 30 ° C (July-August). On the southwest coast of the island, at Grande Anse d’Arlet, we do not have a coral reef. We dive directly into the Caribbean Sea, which offers us very varied reliefs and depths, all accessible from our anchorages along the coast. The reefs of Martinique, and especially those of Grande Anse, are very rich and very colorful. An abundant fauna wanders on our reefs made up of corals and especially sponges, animals that have the simplest way of life underwater.

The Molluscs

Molluscs are soft-bodied animals. They are well known to foodies and gourmets because they garnish our plates. Indeed, oysters, mussels, scallops and octopus are mollusks. In Martinique, you will find octopus in the traditional dish called “Chatrou”. A large part of the mollusks protect their body with a shell, like the queen conch that we sometimes observe while diving in Grande Anse. Molluscs are almost all mobile. Some are barely so like mother-of-pearl and others like the squid are among the fastest marine animals (they can move at a speed of 20 knots)!

The Worms

Annelid worms are made up of several ring-shaped segments (hence their name). There are also mobile worms like the fire worm. It is found on the cnidarians on which it feeds. Be careful, as its name suggests, it “burns” its attackers. We also have sedentary worms. They are fixed and live in tubes. We can especially distinguish their plumes which are used to filter water. At the slightest warning, they retract their plumes in their tubes, as is the case with the Spirograph or the Christmas Tree Spirobranchs, which can be found nestled in the brain corals of Grande Anse d’Arlet.

The Crustaceans

Crustaceans are animals with a rigid and articulated skeleton. Besides the most famous crustaceans such as shrimps, crabs, lobster or lobster, there are many planktonic species. In all, there could be around 50,000 species of crustaceans. En Martinique, le plus couru (dans les restaurants) des arthropodes est bien évidemment la langouste dont nous rencontrons souvent des mues en plongée. En effet, les crustacés possèdent une carapace qu’ils doivent renouveler quand ils grandissent : ils muent. En attendant que sa nouvelle carapace durcisse (environ 24heures), le crustacé est très vulnérable aux prédateurs.

The Sponges

Sponges inhabit all seas and we find them at all depths. They are the richness of the Caribbean Sea, which borders Grande Anse d’Arlet in the south of Martinique. Yellow, green, blue, pink, purple,… no doubt: these are the sponges that give it such pretty colors! The sponges are still attached. They filter water to remove oxygen and the microorganisms it contains. They have another particularity: spongine. It is about this very elastic material that we call sponge and which has been used since Antiquity for the toilet! The size of the sponges is very variable. Some are only a few centimeters long, while barrel sponges from Martinique can reach 2 meters. They grow 2cm per year: they are therefore a hundred years old!

The Cnidarians

They are stinging animals: cnidarian comes from the Greek knidê which means nettle! They are very common in the Caribbean Sea and especially in Grande Anse d´Arlet (corals are part of this branch). They are characterized by a mouth surrounded by tentacles. These tentacles contain stinging cells called cnidocysts. It is both a means of protection and a means of nourishing oneself. In Martinique, although most cnidarians are harmless to humans, some can still be particularly stinging, such as fire coral and some jellyfish. This branch is rich and diverse: some cnidarians are pelagic (jellyfish), some are benthic (corals), some live solitary (anemones) and others live in colonies (corals, sea fans).

The Echinoderms

They are stinging animals: cnidarian comes from the Greek knidê which means nettle! They are very common in the Caribbean Sea and especially in Grande Anse d´Arlet (corals are part of this branch). They are characterized by a mouth surrounded by tentacles. These tentacles contain stinging cells called cnidocysts. It is both a means of protection and a means of nourishing oneself. In Martinique, although most cnidarians are harmless to humans, some can still be particularly stinging, such as fire coral and some jellyfish. This branch is rich and diverse: some cnidarians are pelagic (jellyfish), some are benthic (corals), some live solitary (anemones) and others live in colonies (corals, sea fans).

The Vertebrates

In the branch of vertebrates we will meet reptiles (turtles), mammals (whales and dolphins) and fish of course. In Martinique, we meet whales from January to March. Turtles are present every day on the beach of Grande Anse d´Arlet. There are two main categories of fish: bony fish and cartilaginous fish (unlike the previous ones, their skeleton is not made of bones, so they are very flexible: these are sharks and rays). Fish only represent 5% of animal species … A very particular inhabitant of the reefs of Grande Anse: the Diodon Porc-Epic which is of course a bony fish. When frightened, he swallows a lot of water and inflates a pouch near his stomach. By doubling in size and bristling the thorns that cover it, it tries to scare away its predators. Some parts of his skeleton are even absent so as not to hamper dilation

Martinique from above

Martinique from above

Life on the island

The Bananas

You never dive on an empty stomach! And why not a little banana before joining us at Alpha Plongée ? Native to Asia, the banana tree is a plant that is often thought of as a tree. It is a symbol of the tropical world and of Martinique. There are more than fifty species. Some bananas are “cooking bananas” (vegetables), others are “eating bananas” (desserts). Some bananas have very evocative names in terms of their sizes: “get dressed, young man”, “God forbid”…

The Carnival

Funny outfit that of the diver. You put on your wetsuit and you are disguised for your dive! If in addition to your immersion you had the urge to parade, go to the month of February for the Carnival in Martinique. Carnival begins on the Sunday following Epiphany and ends on Ash Wednesday. Each fat day, the disguises will be different: Sunday is the day of the multicolored parade, Monday is that of burlesque weddings (men dress up as women and women as men), Tuesday is the day of the devils (the color disguises will therefore be red), and on Ash Wednesday, everyone will dress up in black and white to attend the funeral of Vaval (the king of the party). The Carnival period is an important moment of the year that every Martinican loves to celebrate.

Flower Island

During your dives, you will almost see only animals. For plants, go to earth. Martinique is also called Madinina, “the island of flowers” because it has a great variety (more than 1,700 species recorded without counting all that man has introduced himself over time). Flowers, plants, trees: the richness of the soil and the tropical climate favor lush and very diverse vegetation. In fact, in Martinique, it rains eight times more at the top of Mount Pelée than in Saint Anne. Diversity is therefore present in Martinique.

A Volcanic Island

Throughout your dives, you will discover very diverse but always rugged reefs, surely due to great volcanic activity. Twelve volcanoes contributed to the formation of Martinique. Mount Pelée is the youngest of all. Mount Pelée does not owe its name to the scarcity of its vegetation since in the 19th century it was covered with a dense forest of palm trees and tree ferns. Its name comes from the Caribbean Indians, settled at the foot of the volcano, who spoke of the mountain of fire and who worshiped in homage to their Goddess of Fire: the Goddess Pelé. When this very touchy goddess was angry, she would strike the ground with her foot and cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The Lobsters

As much sought after by divers as by gourmets, this spiny-shelled crustacean with long antennae will be offered to you in almost all the restaurants of Grande Anse d´Arlet. After a nice dive on our reefs, the lobster will delight your taste buds and its price in Martinique will make you want to take more. In Martinique, lobster has long been considered the poor man’s dish. We ate it for lack of something better when there was no fish. You bought fish and the fisherman offered you lobsters… that leaves you dreaming.

The Rum

A dive at Alpha Plongée always ends with a planter, to share your underwater adventures. And in the planter, there is obviously rum, an essential drink in Martinique. There are two kinds of rums. Industrial rums are obtained by distilling the residue from the manufacture of sugar: molasses, and agricultural rums, produced in the French West Indies, are made from the first cane juice: vesou. Since 1996, agricultural rum from Martinique has benefited from the Controlled Origin Appellation. The notoriety of Martinique rums has only grown since. Thus, the old rums of our island are among the best in the world!

The Turtles

You dream of it… they are there! During your stay in Martinique, you will not fail to meet this endangered species: sea turtles. You can admire the green turtles present all year round in Martinique waters. They can be over a meter long and weigh over 100 kg. You will see them for sure while doing Fins, Mask and Snorkel in front of our diving club. The bay of Grande Anse is in fact a huge herbarium, so it is the favorite spot for green turtles, which mainly feed on phanerogamous beds. You may also encounter hawksbill turtles (measuring about one meter and weighing on average 70 kg) while diving. Hawksbill turtles feed on sponges, crustaceans and molluscs that live around corals. Another turtle also visits us in Martinique. She measures an average of 1.50 meters and weighs 500 kg. But it is above all a pelagic animal (living in deep water) and can dive to more than 1000 meters. Enough to make all divers pale! This is of course the Leatherback Turtle. The Leatherback turtle comes to amaze us by laying eggs on the beach of Grande Anse from March to July. Sea turtles are on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are considered critically endangered. So let’s protect them!

The Tour des Yoles

Our boat is a skiff: the traditional boat of the fishermen of Anses d´Arlet. Equipped with sail, she becomes a competition boat. In Martinique, in August, you will not fail to attend the tour of the skiffs. The sailing skiff is a boat of about ten meters without a keel with one or two rectangular sails. The crew was then forced to hang from the oars outside the boat to avoid capsizing the skiff. This event was created in 1985 and quickly gained considerable popularity. It is a great moment of celebration for the people of Martinique, just like the carnival.

Where to find us?

Our Alpha Plongée center is located on the beach of Grande Anse d’Arlet, about 200m to the right of the pontoon, looking out to sea. We are in the middle of the pedestrian street which runs along the seaside, between the restaurants “Bidjoul” and “Arcades”.

If you decide to join us by car, you can park in the large car park which overlooks the road opposite to the grocery store. It is indicated by a large blue sign. To find us, all you have to do is cross the road and slip between two rows of houses.

GPS : Trajet GPS Apple Trajet GPS ANdroid

138 rue Robert Deloy – Plage de Grande Anse
97217 LES ANSES D’ARLET.

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