The Zoo (Martinique)



      A zoo is probably not your first stop when arriving on a Caribbean island. I’m betting it’s more along the lines of sand, sea and as much sun as possible. But after the mandatory tumble in the Caribbean sea (or the Atlantic if you feel confident about your swimming capabilities) you start looking around for places to see.

     In Martinique, the sugar cane distilleries and old plantations are the regular sightseeing hubs (we’ll get into those later on). Lately, a few domains have been repurposed as botanical gardens and last but not least, a zoo. And while you may have seen quite a few zoos in your time, this one is truly special due to the nature of the animals within. Many of them were recovered from smuggling rings and poachers; others are former pets and simply living out the remaining of their lives in a much better environment, properly nourished and looked after 24/7. They are currently working on several repopulation programs for various species.

     The variety is not enormous and neither is the dimension of the zoo. This is not a place to get lost in. The visit is very well thought, in specifically marked places, and you’ll be passing each animal enclosure, without having to turn around in circles. From jaguars and pumas to parakeets, monarch butterflies and even giant anteaters, the zoo is the perfect content to a bigger open plan which is the former plantation. The Latouche plantation (“habitation” in French) is one of the first trading hubs mentioned in Martinique, around 1643, known for its typical colonial trade merchandise: sugar and rum from the sugar cane, indigo and cassava. A big stone wheel used for crushing the sugar cane and stone walls recently cleaned are all that’s left of the ancient plantation.The ruins have been cleverly used as part of the enclosures, sometimes so perfect that you won’t notice them until you read the instruction boards scattered here and there with bits of vital information about the animals and the location.

      At the end of your visit you will be passing through a small colonial house with various pirate memorabilia, meant to ensure you remember that, a few hundred years back, these places were crawling with pirates and they were the first to establish proper trade routes in the area. The area was one of the most powerful pirate centres in all of the Caribbean. On your way out, a small gift shop enchants the wallets of all ages and tastes; you will find everything from fridge magnets, magnificent stuffed animals, local pottery and handmade trinkets to pirate head beer cups, local lingo funny t-shirts and last but not least images with your favourite animal.

      Martinique’s Zoo is a place full of history and so are its inhabitants, so upon entering, please remember this is a place that was originally built from slavery and now caters to formerly enslaved animals. Life has come full circle for this domain that awaits patiently for you to discover its story and the beauties inside.

Enjoy your visit!

Info

Habitation Anse Latouche, on the road to Saint Pierre, Carbet, Martinique   Tel: 0596.52.76.08 .

Daily from 9.00 - 18.00. Last admission is at 16.30.

Adults - 15.50€ ($17.65); children under 3 - free; children 3-12 years with identity check - 9€ ($10.25).

Forms of payment accepted: holiday cheques, credit cards (VISA, MASTERCARD, etc), cash.

 Zoo Martinique Info Leaflet