Saut de Gendarme, Fonds St Denis, Martinique
Saut de Gendarme – more impressive in pictures
Photo courtesy of bagolina

“That was disappointing,” I told my partner after walking for an hour from Gros-Morne to Fonds-Saint-Denis to see the Le Saut du Gendarme, said to be one of the most impressive waterfalls in Martinique. More of a picnic area or layover during a hike, the five minute walk from the parking lot to the waterfall is commensurate with how underwhelming it was. If it weren’t overrun with tourists it would be a nice place to eat and relax, but we had to sit on a rock as there were no picnic tables available. I was turned off from swimming because of how artificial it felt—it seemed as though someone had dug a hole into a wall and pumped water through it.

After that debacle you can imagine that I didn’t have high hopes for La Fontaine de Didier, which bears the same name as Martinique’s sparkling mineral water. My partner reassured me that it was worth the two hour hike, so we organized ourselves to go the day after.

Tunnel, Didier, Martinique
Tunnel, Didier

A ten minute drive into the countryside of Fort-de-France, you will find a parcours de santé, or fitness course, where families and individuals alike can be found walking, jogging, or using simple fitness equipment. Next to a water purification plant, there is a nearly unnoticeable path that leads down to a bridge over a river and up a hill to a tunnel about 50m long. Walking through at the two ends of the tunnel is easy as there is a railing you can hold on to and pipes to walk on. At some point in the middle, the railing disappears as does one of the pipes. It’s also hopelessly dark and we had forgotten a flashlight; walking on the ground is a little unnerving since you can’t see what’s there.

Didier, hike, randonnee, waterfall, cascade de didier
Didier I, the first waterfall you see

After this, thirty minutes of walking on a path along the river will get you to what I’ll call Didier I, a waterfall about 5m high. We stopped to swim and have a morue (codfish) sandwich (which was delicious—not too salty and not too much piment, yum!) from Jenny’s Patisserie in FDF and a mandarin. We put our shoes back on and made our way around the side of the waterfall with help from ropes and tree roots.

Then came the hard part. No longer an obvious path, we had to decide how to walk along the river using rocks. Since it’s slippery you end up spending more time deciding where to take your next step than actually walking. At first, I refused to get my feet too wet, but eventually gave in and just started walking in the river. Sometimes this would work to my advantage, other times, being unable to see the rock I was putting my foot on, I came close to disaster. My partner, on the other hand, kept his shoes mostly dry. After forty minutes of foot placement and a couple instances of freehand rock climbing we came to La Fontaine de Didier.

Fontaine de Didier, Didier waterfall, cascade, Martinique
The all-powerful Didier waterfall

It was misty and overcast; the water was a deep blue-green, making me feel like I was in a scene of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was immense and the water crashing into the pool below was so loud I had to yell things to my partner a couple of metres away. Wild and powerful, the current was so strong it was difficult to swim close to the stream. We decided against swimming under it since the basin is quite shallow.

We stayed for a little while and then started making our way back. The return trip was just about more difficult than the way up. At Didier I, I decided to jump off so my partner took all of our stuff and off I went. I had seen a few other people, including children do it, so I wasn’t too nervous. That is until I walked up to the edge, looked down and realized I am deathly afraid of heights. I jumped anyways, though timidly, so I actually undershot the deepest part of the pool. I was okay and some other visitors clapped once I had surfaced.

More of a crapahuter (a trek over difficult terrain) than a hike, going to La Fontaine de Didier is not for the faint of heart. Like Le Saut de Gendarme, the rewards are commensurate with the effort and the exertion required for La Fontaine Didier means great returns. In the end, I probably won’t do this hike again mostly because it played on all of my fears (heights, falling, dying in the middle of nowhere), but I was really glad to have done it.

**If you plan on doing this hike, I would recommend the following:

  • Not going after it’s rained
  • Wearing shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting wet
  • A waterproof bag and flashlight

3 thoughts on “Hiking La Fontaine de Didier”

  1. Hey!

    This is a great blog and a great post! I’m traveling with my boyfriend and his brothers to FDF on Jan 3rd, and our tour just fell through *UGGGGGG we have like no time to plan!

    We’re looking for other things to do for the 8am-5pm day we have. I just got back from living abroad for 3 years an have traveled like you, to over 40 diff countries! The fact that we’re doing a cruise stop is hard for me because I’m not quite sure how to plan around that itinerary. (I’m used to just hitch hiking or whatever and having a lot of time) But i’m hoping that maybe you could help me plan something for the day?I’ve been wracking your blog for ideas, but I figured I’d just ask you directly!!

    We get into FDF at 8:00 am, and I wanted to go hiking, get something to eat, and hit up the beaches before heading back to our boat at 5:00. What are your thoughts on this?? I speak a LITTLE french

    I taught and worked in Bulgaria, so if you ever find yourself in in Eastern Europe and want travel tips for countries there, let me know! We can swap knowledge!! 🙂

    1. Hi Hannah,

      That’s incredible – sounds like a lot of travel! I think you’ll be hard pushed to hike, eat, and beach in that time frame without a car. I would recommend a nice little walk around Coeur Bouliki in St Joseph. It’s a river in a quiet wild part of the centre of the island. Then Lili’s Beach Bar in Schoelcher for food and the beach. They’re all accessible by city buses from Fort-de-France. Otherwise, I would head straight for a collective taxi to St Pierre in the north. Explore the ruins for a bit, then head to Carbet (about 5 minutes back towards Fort-de-France) for a meal at Chez Les Pecheurs, ice cream at Ziouka Glaces, and the beach at Anse Turin. Enjoy!

  2. Just did this hike late last week. It was so great! I definitely recommend bringing headlamps (we brought ours to Martinique but then forgot them at our Villa 🙁 ) as phone flashlights are not super great in the tunnel and it’s easier to get through it if you have both hands free. I’d also point out that there are several spots where you have to scramble over some rocks or part of the pipe structure, and one spot where there’s an old iron ladder, but it’s missing the top rung and it’s very wet, so hard to climb. Watch yourself on the little muddy bridge toward the beginning as the rope is pretty much gone from both sides. Most of the railing in the tunnel has collapsed as well. From the first waterfall to the upper area that leads to the second, I really had to rely on the ropes and tree roots to get up there (my hiking companions decided to not even attempt it) and it was fairly difficult for my old and overweight self. Shortly after I got to the top, some locals met me coming the other way and said it was pretty much impossible to get to the second waterfall at that time. They said they used to take people there a lot, but it’s too difficult now. I didn’t continue up to see what they meant; instead I turned back. As I made my way back down, another tourist told me I was making the right decision. Again, getting back down via the ropes/roots was fairly difficult/dangerous. I whacked my elbow pretty good against a rock and if I’d have lost my grip I’d have certainly gotten injured. My recommendation for people who don’t have climbing experience is to call it a day at the first waterfall, which was still very awesome and fun to swim in!

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