Île a Vache

South of Hispaniola, one hour of boatride from Les Cayes, lies a little island called Ile a Vache. Map



Île à Vache was originally claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Hispaniola, the first landing site of Christopher Columbus in 1492, and for the next two centuries it was known by its Spanish name, Isla Vaca.



You can either fly there directly– or take the road along the countryside to Les Cayes.

Cement-packers in Les Cayes

Port Morgan is named for the pirate captain Henry Morgan (c.1635–1688) for whom the little island served as a frequent base of operations.


Cement transport from Port-au-Prince

Cap. Henry Morgan was a British privateer of Welsh birth, who made a name in the Caribbean as a leader of buccaneers and roughnecks. He set Ile-a-Vache as a base in 1668 to attack the Spaniards fearing an attack upon Jamaica. His main ship the Oxford exploded killing 300 of his 900 men. A privateer was a private ship (or its captain) authorized by a country’s government to attack and seize cargo from another country’s ships.



Bay in front of the hotelMorgan planned and staged many of his largest raids from Isla Vaca and in 1676 he narrowly survived a costly shipwreck on its shore: Morgan’s ship Jamaica Merchant sank with a full complement of cannon which the pirate had been bringing to bolster his presence at Port Royal.


…and the bay behind the hotel

In 1697 the island of Hispaniola was formally divided between Spain and France in the Treaty of Ryswick which ended the Nine Years War. France assumed control of the western half of the island, Haiti, and Isla Vaca took on its current name, Île à Vache.



In 1863, during the American Civil War, the island’s owner Bernard Kock offered to resettle freed black slaves from the United States. Despite support from President Abraham Lincoln, funding never materialized, and the first attempt to set up the colony failed in a matter of months. ©wikipedia



16’000 people are living on the 50km2 island today, scattered in a few villages, the main one called Madame Bernard.



Mangroves and plantations, little houses and fishermen’s boat along with yachts in small gulfs around the island.


There are two holiday resorts on the island: Abaka bay – Abaka was the original indian name of the island – with one the most renowned beaches in the Carribean – and Fort Morgan, a gingerbread-house complex with a smaller and more private beach in the shadow of pine trees and mangroves.

The restaurant at Fort Morgan

You can get everything you need there, including massage, a bath in a jacuzzi pool, scuba diving equippment for rent. The owner is a former engineer from Leman with a very good taste, so you will even find fine quiches for lunch, tasty wines and a lighthearted atmoshpere.


From Fort Morgan you can swim out to a little rock, admire the many starfish and seaurchins in the shallow water on the way.

Or you can take a boat to Ilet des Amoureux – lover’s island – a deserted little island with a white sandy beach.

But every break has to end sometime, so – back through Les Cayes and passt the cementpackers..


Taking the long, beautiful road eastwards, through green villages and plantations.


Odd structure – church? hangar?

On the return trip we passed through a storm and had to stop, in order to avoid getting run over by other mad drivers.

When it rains, it pours

Half an hour later all was calm and shiny, we passed lake Miragoane.


Miragoane lake

A few years ago the lake inexplicably flooded the valley and cut off the road from Miragoane to Petit Goave – and never retreated. So you can either take the route diversion or, like the locals, pass the water by boat.

Boats take you over to the other side, the road passes under the water

Back in Petit Goave, take a left for the office

Infovideo on Ile a Vache 

Music video Carole Desmenin

Map of the island