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Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Natural Preserve

Water area - Baie-Mahault

Bounded by 25 km of coral reef on the ocean side, and by the longest mangrove belt in the Lesser Antilles on the land side, this nature preserve is a remarkable reservoir of biodiversity. The 15,000-hectare Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin bay connects Basse Terre and Grande Terre islands. It is bordered by 5,000 hectares of mangrove swamps, bayou forests, and herbaceous marshes of great ecological value. Coastal wetlands protect the shoreline from ocean swells, filter runoff, hold high volumes of rainwater generated by hurricanes and tropical storms, and provide habitat for migrating birds. The shallowness of the water makes it ideal for the development of vast herbariums of marine spermatophytes (seed-producing plants), which serve as nurseries for many species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. The bay is protected from ocean swells by a 39-km coral reef, which is itself a habitat of remarkable biodiversity. Offshore lies a string of islets, each with its own distinct features, alternating between mangrove swamps, dryland forests, marshes, and beaches. A number of rivers descending from the mountains of Basse Terre empty into this bay, the largest of which is the Grande Rivière à Goyaves. The bay is also home to a many business enterprises, including 300 registered small-scale fishermen, and 80 tourist operators, who offer water activities, guided tours, and other eco-tourism activities. For more information: Parc national de la Guadeloupe: 0590 41 55 55 - www.guadeloupe-parcnational.fr.

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