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Exotic Grenadines

Ensure yourself the stimulation of ever-changing scenery – All you need is your own private yacht!

After a week you can tire of even the most picture-perfect setting, so spontaneously flitting from idyll to idyll along a string of over 100 islands ensures the stimulation of ever-changing scenery. All you need is your own private yacht

The Windward Islands stretch down the eastern Caribbean from Martinique, St Lucia and St Vincent to the Grenadines – a chain of islands abundant with lush rainforests, dramatic mountains and sheltered bays fringed with white sandy beaches. Combine a few days ashore on the French island of Martinique with a ten-day charter aboard the 36.9m Broward motor yacht Java, cruising the islands and experiencing a part of the Caribbean that has remained remarkably unchanged over the centuries.

The French have long kept the tropical treat of Martinique to themselves, and until recently the island was used as a base for preparing yachts for charters starting further south in the Grenadines. But today Martinique is booming with yachting enthusiasts who are drawn by its combination of French flair and Caribbean warmth. The international airport is located close to the island’s well-dressed capital, Fort-de-France, which looks like a French provincial city given a tropical makeover. Around the bay from Fort-de-France is Pointe du Bout, the island’s tourism hub, but the opposite and most exclusive side of the island is home to the Hôtel Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa. Far and away the hippest, classiest place to stay, the hotel is a new enclave of luxury in Martinique’s ‘Beverly Hills’ area and is the perfect choice if you want total pampering after a long flight. A Relais & Châteaux property, it is nestled in a tropical garden overlooking a lagoon. In the hotel spa, Guerlain treatments combine with signature therapies using local island ingredients, while the resort’s gastro restaurant, Le Belém, is just perfect for delicious French fusion cuisine marrying local ingredients with the culinary expertise of Gilles Trouillot.

Eighty kilometres from tip to toe, Martinique has countless seductive sandy beaches and quiet moorings stretching from Fort-de-France to the south of the island. Here Le Rocher du Diamant – the Diamond Rock – is a strategic site that saw the French and British fighting against one another in the early 1800s. It makes for a fascinating trip and is blessed with the island’s best beach – Grande Anse des Salines – located on its undeveloped southern tip. An enormous, perfect curve of palm-shaded sand, the beach is wonderfully empty and is an ideal place to chill out.

Martinique offers a whole range of amazing diving spots for all capabilities, including Pointe de la Baleine, Les Jardins de Salomon and Pointe Burgos – all alive with turtles, crayfish, rays and multicolored sponges. For certified divers, the wreck of Nahoon – a three-mast lighthouse boat lying 36 metres underwater and inhabited by barracudas – lies just offshore, and Les Grandes Jorasses, also lying close to Martinique’s shores, is a wonderful coral staircase. The local dive guide, Walter Wargnier, is the perfect companion to show you every nook and cranny of these sites.

For amateurs of big-game fishing, Martinique provides several opportunities, and local sports-fisherman Yves Pélisson can show you the best unexplored spots in the currents of nearby St Lucia where he’s well acquainted with the marlin, tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo and barracuda.

Those who want to explore ashore can stroll around the beautiful gardens that surround the 18th century house on the Musée de la Pagerie. A former colonial sugar estate, the plantation was home to Marie-Rose Josèphe Tascher de La Pagerie, better known as Napoleon’s Empress Joséphine. For those in search of the heart of the island, follow in the footsteps of the early Jesuit settlers along the Route de la Trace. The trail winds from coast to coast through the island’s volcanic, forested interior and brings you to the Jardin de Balata, one of its finest gardens and a magical place for a private party. Also inland, located close to the capital Fort-de-France, Les Trois-Ilets’ Robert Trent Jones golf course is laid out on a magnificent site where the Empress Joséphine was born. Banks, trees, lakes and bunkers are skillfully distributed over 63 hectares, demanding maximum concentration to complete the 18-hole course.

Martinique makes a great launch pad for a charter through to St Lucia and on to the Grenadines, so after your few days ashore, prepare to step aboard Java at Le Marin. The marina here is one of the most professional in the south Caribbean, all thanks to the foresight of Eric and Glenn Jean-Joseph, two brothers who saw to it that Le Marin was furnished with more than 600 berths, round-the-clock security and high-quality services for yachts (including provisioning, sail-makers, mechanical repairs etc). Set in a large protected bay, it is conveniently located halfway between the airport and the beautiful moorings and diving spots of southern Martinique. Before you head off, sample some French Creole cuisine at the Ti Toques restaurant just across the road from the marina and, for a fun night out, try and catch the live bands and Sunday-night beach parties organised at The Zanzibar.

Sailing off from Martinique, head for the tropical mountain scenery of St Lucia. The island reflects a combination of Creole, French and English influences, ensuring a colourful ambience. The lush coastline is dominated by the duelling Piton peaks, a titanic pair of jungle-covered spires rising 800 metres high in sheer walls from the sea. Cruising gently towards St Lucia, the Pitons serve as an inspiring landmark. Your first day is a gentle introduction to life on board Java. Anchor beneath the dramatic peaks and take the tender ashore for a beach barbecue on Anse Chastanet, St Lucia’s most picturesque beach. An arc of volcanic sand at the very base of the Pitons, it is cooled by the breeze from the surrounding rainforest. Carrying scents of mango and frangipani, it will whet your appetite for an authentic Caribbean barbecue of spicy fish, grilled plantain, rice, beans and green-fig salad. St Lucia’s thriving marine park just yards from Anse Chastanet. Here snorkellers can pursue squid as they speed in military formation through clumps of giant brain coral. The surrounding waters also offer opportunities for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking and windsurfing.

After a relaxing night aboard Java at the new marina at Marigot Bay, described by novelist James Michener as ‘the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean’, breakfast at The Coffee Dock or on freshly baked pastries from The Bakery in the Marina Village. Venture inland and discover the network of hiking trails running through the rainforest from Fond Saint Jacques. You can hike across the island’s mountainous spine in a single day, scale Gros Piton, or tackle Petit Piton (you will need to be accompanied by a local guide for this).

More Stories By Miriam Cain

Miriam Cain is the communications and publications manager for Camper & Nicholsons International. She is also the managing editor for the the luxury travel magazine Sea & I.

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