The Chancel islet is one of the ten islets located next to the town called Le Robert. Apart from the Loup Garou (warewolf) islet, it is the biggest islet in Martinique, the farthest North in Le Robert’s bay, and the second most visited after Madame islet. Located on the Atlantic coast, surrounded by the Continental Red Peak, the Cave islet, the Little Peak islet, the Water islet and the Rat’s islet.
Formerly named Monsieur (Sir) islet, then Ramville islet and finally Chancel islet in 1891 (owner Mr Bally). Its size is 0,702405 km2 (2,1*960m), 80 hectars wide and a maximum altitude of 68 meters. The islet has a few little white sanded coves as well as white sea beds not far away.
Six major reasons to visit the Chancel islet
1- Splendid white sea beds
2- Presence of a rare speacies of iguanas (Delicatissima)
3- Presence of cursed fig trees
4- Discovery of a local mulberry, endangered species on the island
5- Archeological site
6- Graffity and mistery surrounding its authors
Practical informations for the Chancel islet’s visit
The Chancel islet is a protected area under the law number 053644 around the protection of biotope, natural habitat or protection of a geological site of interest from 11.21.2005. Access and circulation is strictly forbidden apart from the Trapeze beach and the archeological site with the old pottery factory and the lime kiln. This Martinican heritage is also a partly private property, thus the presence of fences preventing free circulation.
How to visit the Chancel islet
We can only access the Chancel islet by sea, using a boat or a kayak, mainly through two anchoring locations.
Endangered species of West Indies’ iguana present on the Chancel islet
Delicatissima iguana is an endemic species from the West Indies. It is at high risk of extinction mainly due to a lack of habitat. Thankfully, 400 iguanas (over 3 years of age) were counted on the Chancel islet in 2004, 900 in 2007 (Breuil source).
This rare species has found on the Chancel islet’s territory a suitable environment and enough environmental protections to develop its population.
Visiting the Chancel islet, particularly the archeological site, you are likely to see an iguana! Males are grey, females are green and turn brown/grey as they get older (accentuated sexual dimorphism for this species).
Archeological site of the Chancel islet: old pottery factory and lime kiln
Remains of the past sugar industry are still present on the Chancel islet.
You will have the opportunity to discover different types of ruins: pottery kiln, lime kiln, dungeon, well, bread oven. Some of these remains are classified as historical monuments for French heritage. Scientists regularly visit the islet in order to find and document other archeological sites which are yet to discover (authorized by prefectoral decree to walk around the islet).
The Chancel islet’s cursed fig trees
The cursed fig tree (better known under the vernacular name strangler fig tree,referring to different species such as the Ficus, which grow on a “host tree”) a typical epiphyte from tropical areas such as primary or secondary forests. A bird (or a bat living on the Chancel islet) plants a fig tree seed on the branch of any tree, the seed grows into a tree which will grow aerial roots towards the ground and branches towards the sky to capture light from the sun. This new tree grows and strangles its host tree until this one dies. The cursed fig tree then develops into an autonomous and self supporting tree with a hollow trunk (space of the host tree). On the Chancel islet, you will see cursed fig trees near the archeological site. Its ecological value is major because it allows the proliferation of insects.
The Chancel islet’s graffitis
Located in a cavity, on the archeological site, the Chancel islet’s graffitis representing boats have stimulated much attention and speculation. To this day, their origin is still uncertain. Rumor has it the cavity was used as solitary confinement for ancient slaves who would have drawn the boats that transported them from Africa to Martinique. After analysis by different scientist, this theory was denied. It seems more plausible these drawings were made by navy soldiers or sailors during the 18th century.