You’ve got to hand it to the French: whether it’s food, wine, fashion or Caribbean islands, their tastes are impeccable. Take Martinique. It’s one of the most divinely beautiful plots of paradise in an ocean specialising in them, and the French took it for themselves in 1635 when staking ludicrous territorial claims was all the rage. Come the mid-1900s, however, with the world’s colonisers and colonised rapidly parting ways, Martinique’s population elected to remain an overseas department of France. The result: a lush tropical island fringed by vibrant coral reefs and sweltering with zesty Gallic-Creole fusions of cuisine, language, music and sensibilities. It is – unsurprisingly – par excellence.
Martinique Tours & Travel
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- French, Creole
- Time zone:
- (GMT-04:00) Manaus
- Type C (European 2-pin) Type D (Old British 3-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Martinique
Martinique essentially abides by two climatic seasons: the dry and the rainy. With sunny days, balmy nights and light rains, the dry season, which runs from December to May, is the best time to visit – and is also the most crowded. May to the end of November constitutes the rainy season, with days hovering around the low thirties, heavy (but brief) showers during the day and higher humidity. Travelling here during this time can still be pleasant, however, and is certainly far more economical. August and September are technically the hurricane months, but touchdowns are rare.
History and government
When Columbus first set foot on Martinique’s shores in 1502, he found the island’s indigenous population comprised of two different tribes – the gentle Arawaks and the fierce Caribs, who regularly attacked them. Plus there were plenty of snakes. Displeased particularly by the snakes, he named the island Martinica and made a hasty departure three days later. Presenting little strategic interest to the Spanish, the island was ignored by European interests for the following three decades until the British kicked the French out of nearby St Kitts. Shamed and humiliated by his unceremonious dismissal, ousted French Governor Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc promptly sailed into the natural harbour of what would become St Pierre in 1635 with some 800 French settlers – and claimed Martinique for King Louis XIII.
To get the settlement prospering, King Louis XIII authorised the use of African slaves in the French West Indies – a decree that accounts for the island’s prominently Afro-descendant population today. Not taking kindly to land encroachments on the eastern side of the island to which they had been relegated, the indigenous Caribs rose up in revolt shortly after and were quickly quelled by musket fire.
After the French Revolution (1789-99), slavery was abolished. But when a man by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte married a Martiniquais girl of Creole origin called Marie Josèphe Rose, she apparently managed to convince him that any moral misgivings on the practice were ill founded. Slavery and slave trading resumed on the island until 1848, when French Cabinet Minister Victor Schoelcher finally succeeded in persuading the government that the business was, indeed, bad.
Since 1974, Martinique has existed as a Department of France, with the same legal bearing and rights as any of the mainland regions. Make no mistake: for all intents and purposes Martinique is France. Croissants are nibbled on for breakfast, champagne is sipped over sunsets and your ears will be treated to the sultry, silky tones of French wherever you go – albeit with a delectable Creole twang. Yet when days are lived out on palm-fringed beaches instead of Parisian boulevards, some things have to give. The daily pace is markedly more laidback than that typically encountered on continental France, and Creole culture – raw, vivacious, spontaneous – has imparted a delightfully uninhibited lust for life.
FAQs on Martinique
22 May Slavery Abolition Day
21 Jul Schoelcher Day
Domestic beer = 4 Euro
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant = 12 Euro
Expensive 3-course dinner = 50 Euro
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: No - Not required
Switzerland: No - Not required
UK: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Martinique Travel Tips
Top responsible travel tips for Martinique
1. Be considerate of Martinique’s customs, traditions, religion and culture
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts
4. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice
5. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals and flora
6. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|The Collected Poetry of Aime Cesaire||Aime Cesaire|
|Black Shack Alley||Joseph Zobel|