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st barthelemy, tide pool, Anse de Grande Saline

The gin-clear waters of a tide pool in St. Barthélemy

ST. BARTHELEMY / Health and Safety

Probably the greatest danger to Caribbean travelers is overexposure to the sun.
Remember to work on your tan gradually and use plenty of sunscreen.

Mosquitoes are always found in the tropics and, during rainy periods, they tend to be the most bothersome. In addition to their standard itching bites, some mosquitoes may transmit nasty diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria. The most reliable defense is a liberal application of personal repellent, particularly at dawn and dusk. Other defenses include locally available plug-in and burning coil devices that help to repel mosquitoes both indoors and out.

Outside of the rarely seen fer-de-lance snake on Martinique, there is not much in the way of really dangerous land critters in the French West Indies. The Manchineel tree (le Manceniller) puts out a highly toxic sap. You should never stand under one in the rain or taste its little green berries. These trees are usually marked with red paint by the locals.

In shallow coastal water, watch out for sea urchins, sharp coral and jellyfish. Always wear fins (palmes) when snorkeling and ask the locals about swimming and diving conditions before you go in the water.

Swimming in fresh waters in the tropics may lead to exposure to certain parasitic diseases. Check with locals regarding the safety of ponds and rivers in the Caribbean.

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