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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Saturday 23 April - Fort-de-France, Martinique

Our tour today is billed as a superb botanical garden set in an old sugar plantation, which now accommodates a zoo. An hour's bus ride across Martinique got us to the site of Capitaine Latouche where we were told by our guide, that this place is not a Botanical Garden - it is a zoo. Many people were confused, as this is not what they thought they'd signed up for.
One of the birds in the tropical aviary of the zoo.  So colourful
Anyway, I can say that the grounds are full of the ruined buildings and workings of the old sugar plantation, which were interesting. It did use to be a botanical garden and there were loads of plants and cacti about that would have been part of that. It is also the Zoo de Martinique. It's not a very big zoo, but it is a zoo nonetheless. The combination of all three made for an appealing hour's walk around. Our guide was knowledgeable about the plants and plantation history, which also helped.
The waterwheel providing some of the the power to process sugar cane.  I love these old pieces of history.
For me, the highlight was this bird. I didn't catch it's name, but our guide told us it was rare in this part of Martinique, and I only managed to get one photo. Something I have to look up when we get home.  (Apparently it's a village weaver bird and an immigrant from Africa.  So there you go).
Our return trip took us on a twisting road through the mountains and the rain forest and past the active volcano, Mount Pelee. The scenery was quite awesome. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures through the bus window, but I did get a picture of this hawk moth caterpillar. Apparently the Martiniquians (?) call them the Rasta caterpillars, because of their colours and they like Frangipan leaves I'm told. Apparently they turn into the Frangipan Hawk Moth.   I've seen them in Brazil, (I think).

Back at the ship, we took a leisurely lunch and decided it was time to take a look at Fort-de-France. As we went ashore, people coming back from the town were complaining that everywhere was closed. The further we walked, the more people we spoke to with the same grumble. We had decided to look for a beach and with map in hand, headed for Plage de la Francaise. There were loads of the local children swimming there, but it wasn't really much of a beach and didn't make us want to dive in.

So we to have a look at the ferry prices to get across the bay where apparently the beaches are much better. For €7 each we could get a return trip, but sadly, at was 15.30 and the last ferry from most of the beaches was at 16.30. In other words, we'd have to come back as soon as we got there. Something to remember if we ever visit this way again.

Instead, we kept on walking. Sticking mainly to the coastline we followed all sorts of paths and run down roads. We didn't really find anything worth mentioning except a "plague of crabs" (as Peter described them), in a sewage outflow. As we approached, they obviously heard us and all headed back to the sea - quite a sight.  It turns out that they are young Sally Lightfoot Crabs.  They start out black or olive in colour, and get really colourful as they get older.  So the big red one is older. 

The other thing we came across was this egret. The colouring is not something I've come across before, Something else to look up when we get home.  (I've since found out it's a Cattle Egret).

After a certain amount of exploring we turned to go back. Approaching the town centre, it was obvious the town was still closed - something we were surprised about for a Saturday afternoon - so we headed back to the ship.

The ship wasn't due to leave until 10pm - so we took advantage of the free port wifi in the evening. I managed to Skype my son in South Korea (it was morning for him). Good eh? Tomorrow afternoon we'll arrive in Barbados - our last stop before going home. No tours this time, and we are gonna make another attempt to find a beach.

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