A break from the beach - Top picks for a holiday in the Caribbean with a shot of adventure
Daring discoverers, wild Indians and savage pirates - adventures have always been part of the Caribbean as much as swaying palm trees, white beaches and the turquoise blue sea. It's true that Columbus, canons and cannibals are past history. Nonetheless, visitors to the paradise islands needn't do without that stimulating shot of adrenaline in their holiday cocktail.
|Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica are an eldorado for adventurous holidaymakers in the Caribbean. And the thrill is different on each single one of these islands. Unspoiled Dominica, by nature, is a place providing a very special experience. The home to the last Carib Indians is furrowed by deep gorges and covered in dense jungle, hiding massive waterfalls and mysterious phenomena such as a boiling lake.
| "Even on an ordinary round trip or a boat trip along the Indian River you’ll feel like Indiana Jones," says Ken Hinterland, owner of a tour agency in the island’s capital of Roseau. Less archaic, and somewhat more refined is the kind of adventures offered in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
|"It’s like being Tarzan in the jungle," says Millot Sebastian, who runs an adventure park in Martinique. Visitors can swing from tree to tree on a 9 hectare area of tropical forest, climb 18 meters jungle giants up rope ladders and sway between the treetops holding on to ropes. Martinique and Guadeloupe boast three such parks. But there’s a great deal more.
|Almost any kind of adventure is possible on the two Caribbean islands of the European Union: bumping along jungle tracks behind the wheel of a jeep with a group of others, abseiling from 40 meters high waterfalls, jolting up hill and down dale with four-wheel all-terrain motorbikes or racing along tropical forest trails with broad-tyred downhill racing bikes. You can do similar things in the Black Forest or in the Alps, but you might find there’s one crucial difference.
"What’s so special here is the exotic and tropical nature," raves Stephane Gatin, who organizes all-terrain tours in Martinique. "And the mild climate of course.
|Adventure makers: Tarzan, Indiana Jones & Co.
Adventures to suit every taste: if you’re looking for a bit of Tarzan spice or a touch of Indiana Jones to add to your holiday in Martinique or Guadeloupe, all you need to do is tear yourself away from that beach chair for a few hours. The professional adventure directors will take care of everything else - from the equipment to the necessary training.
Tarzan parks: Adventures amidst tropical jungle giants. Suspended bridges, ropes for swinging and gliding and other equipment connect platforms between the trees. The Mangofil parks offer circuits for children, adults of average fitness level and athletes. Location: close to Trois Ilets in Martinique and near St. Claude in Guadeloupe.
Jeep safari tours: Along field and forest tracks, through streams and waterfalls. Évasion Tropical in Martinique organizes tours crossing the island from south to north through the mountainous centre, stopping in between for some interesting experiences. Max. 6 vehicles, duration 9 hours. Contact: Stéphane Gatin, ph. 0696 227358.
|Canyoning: Wading, climbing and swimming through streams and waterfalls at pleasantly tropical temperatures. Vert Intense in Guadeloupe offers various levels of difficulty from easy to extreme. Diving suit and helmet are provided. Contact: 0690 554047.
Mountain biking: Uphill in the shade of mahogany trees, downhill across trails covered in roots and through streams – by Vert Intense in Guadeloupe (ph. 0690 554047).
Quad: Up hill and down dale with four-wheel all-terrain motorbikes. Half or full day tours in the south of Martinique with Évasion Tropical (ph. 0696 227358) or on the private Habitation Céron in the north-west of the island.
Volcano hikes: Up Soufrière in Guadeloupe (organised by Vert Intense, ph. 0690 554047) and Mt. Pelée in Martinique (organised by Vert Soleil, ph. 0696 829635).
Downhill biking: First you drive up to the starting point in a jeep, then it’s down mountain tracks on special broad-tyred bikes without pedals – a gliding feeling similar to skiing. In the north of Martinique. Contact: 0696 395941.