Îles des Saintes

Feb 22, 2019 - Sea Cloud

Early in the morning we found ourselves anchoring at Iles de Saintes’s harbor. The island is part of an archipelago belonging to France’s Départment d’Outré-mer. The French maritime jurisdiction of Guadalupe comprises seven larger volcanic islands; only two of them have permanent residents. We have selected the best one for our journey of discovery because of its variety and beauty.

We’ve sailed into another world. We took a short, fun van ride to Fort Napoleon located on a picturesque lookout more than 500 feet above the island’s impressive landscape. Inside the fort, we were immersed in decisive naval history with a lecture by our historian and then walked through charming capital of Bourg (meaning “city” in English), its actual name. Unsurprisingly, everyone speaks French here and there are little colorful cafés, souvenir shops, churches, and houses that call to mind southern France. The soft, sunny day with its cool breeze called for a local beer or cocktail. We were in the Caribbean and it was beautiful.

Some guests opted to snorkel at a distant beach that could be reached directly from the ship or by shuttle after our Fort Napoleon visit. The snorkeling was breathtaking. There were iguanas on land; brown pelicans, frigatebirds, red-billed tropicbirds, and a masked booby in the air. Beneath the waves were sea-fans, corals, octopi, fishes—there was so much biodiversity I could barely keep up.

After lunch, we heard a lecture, “Caribbean Reef Ecology,” presented by our naturalist who shined a powerful light on the importance of coral. Approximately 1 to 9 million species rely on the slow-growing, symbiotic polyp that is present in very specific latitudes.

As we set sail, Sea Cloud displayed her beauty with her square rigs. Our expedition leader presented an impressive, fun, and insightful history of this enigmatic vessel. Tradition, love, and even scandal brought us back in time to her heyday, followed by sad  years of misuse. Right now, we’re honored and happy to be here, part of history, immersing ourselves in luxury, escorted by our captain, officers, and crew. I heard the background music in my soul.

After dinner, we sailed under the Caribbean moonlight and listened to the piano at the lounge. This is why we travel, to shake our boundaries, to discover, to learn and have fun by transporting ourselves through time.

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About the Author

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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