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   Friday, August 7, 2020 

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Throughout the island of Martinique, (pop: 399,000) the scenery is dramatic and very beautiful, with lush rainforest coating the slopes of the mountains and swathes of sugar cane grown on the plain. The island is 65 km long and 31 km wide with mountains in the north and south and a low-lying 'waist' where most people live. The coastline is irregular in the southern half, with peninsulas and promontories protecting islets and sandy bays. The Caribbean Sea is to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Martinique's neighbouring islands are Dominica to the north and St Lucia to the south.

Martinique is volcanic in origin and one active volcano still exists, Montagne Pelée (1,397 m), situated to the northwest, which had its last major eruption in 1902. The rest of the island is also very mountainous; the Pitons de Carbet (maximum 1,196 m) are in the centre of the island and Montagne du Vauclin (504 m) is in the south. Small hills or mornes link these mountains and there is a central plain, Le Lamentin, where sugar cane is planted. An extensive tropical rainforest covers parts of the north of the island, as well as pineapple and banana plantations. The coastline is varied: steep cliffs and volcanic, black and grey sand coves in the north and on the rugged Atlantic coast, and calmer seas with large white or gold sand beaches in the south and on the Caribbean coast. The Baie de Fort-de-France bites into the western coastline creating a sheltered bay where there are mangroves and wetlands. The Atlantic coast south of the Caravelle peninsula is good for windsurfing and scuba diving, due to the shelter afforded by headlands and islands for its shallow bays. The population of the island is over 400,000 of which half live in Fort-de-France, the capital, and neighbouring communes, including Schoelcher to the west and the industrial zones to the east. The industrial town of Le Lamentin, slightly inland and nar the international airport, is the second largest town. The rest of Martinique is fairly evenly scattered with the small towns or communes.

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