We hitchhiked to the Zoo de Martinique and back to St. Pierre as a family, ha! This turned out to be as much a botanical garden and historic site as it is a zoo. Plus there’s a pirate museum at the end, arrrgh.
The place is built around the ruins of Habitation Latouche, a 17th century plantation that was destroyed in the infamous 1902 Mount Pelee eruption. Indigo pools, a rhum distillary and the cassava mill are artfully and botanically displayed in ruins which are also used as part of the uniquely designed animal enclosures.
A sturdy swinging suspension bridge crosses over the river that runs through the old plantation — the water had been dammed back in the day and used to power all the machinery. The boys loved shaking and bouncing the it as we walked across. We passed spider monkeys who minding their own business untillllllll Bodin tore off a piece of baguette for a snack. Then like a shot, they swung over rope, tree branches and vines using agile tails, arms and legs in an instant to say…. bon jour, give us some bread!
The butterfly pavilion is nestled within what was once the rhum distillery. Atmospherically overgrown, there’s a big rusted wheel that was used to crush the sugar cane, an old furnace and boiler, and several big pots that looked like a giant’s tea set. The old chimney still towers above.
There wasn’t a huge variety of animals, but just enough to watch and enjoy. Sifting and fishing in the ponds, the flamingos stood on one leg with knees that seem to bend in the wrong direction. A crowded group of scarlet ibis sat in a flock above us. Colorful parrots danced and crowned cranes meandered. A lonely pygmy hippo was fun to see up close.
Of course, we always love a good pirate museum too. The one here at the Zoo was full of movie memorabilia and French pirate information. We ended our visit with grenadine and framboise floup popsicles. Then hitched a ride back to St Pierre with a robed man who seemed to be a happy monk.