After two LONG days at sea (I only survived it by waiting for the daily cornhole tournament), we arrived in Saint Maarten/Saint Marten. What’s the difference? One is the Dutch side, the other is the French side (there’s a whole story involving lots of alcohol as to why the French have more land and I encourage you to research it).
I think if I were a resident I’d like the French side better because there’s free boat mooring in their hurricane hole (for those that don’t know, that’s a harbor where people stow their boats during a hurricane and hope for the best). It was beautiful: a mountainous little island surrounded by shallow waters. After securing our own little boat tour of the island, we snorkeled at Creole Rock and Mullet Bay. Creole Rock is a protected marine park on the French side of the island, and affords a glimpse of the neighboring island of Anguilla on a clear day. Mullet Bay is a (quieter) beach adjacent to the famous Maho Bay; which I highly recommend visiting if you like the thrill of watching planes as they practically land on your head! While in Mullet Bay, we were encouraged to look for a colorful, but odd shaped, fish known as a Flying Gurnard. When spooked, they fan out their pectoral fins, which are said to be brilliantly colored with blue. Although we did not find any gurnards, we were meticulously inspected by a shoal of squids. Pro diving tip: squids are incredibly curious, and if you hold out your hand they may be inclined to swim over.
St. Kitts was incredibly reminiscent of Saint Maarten, but I felt it was a bit more commercialized. Everywhere we went, there was an opportunity to take a picture with a Vervet monkey in varying costumes. We took a bus across the island to the popular, but secluded, Reggae Beach where everyone is encouraged to “Rush Slowly”. The bus afforded us a mini tour of the island, pausing the ride for a photo opportunity where we could see the deep blue Atlantic meet with the shallower Caribbean. Coming from a flat state, it is always breathtaking to be driving up a mountainside, yet still be so close to the water. As we snorkeled the seagrass beds at Reggae Beach (for those curious, it was on the Caribbean side of the island), I found a funky looking fish. Although it still wasn’t a Flying Gurnard, I was thrilled all the same. Seagrass beds often go under appreciated because of their dull appearance, but taking more than just a glance can reveal so many wonderful creatures: like my friend the Shortnose Batfish. If you aren’t yet a fish nerd like me, Batfish look like the goblins of the sea. They have two frog-like legs and a nose that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Flying Gurnards and Shortnose Batfish aside, Saint Maarten and St. Kitts capture the essence of the Caribbean. They are small, quaint islands that will do just the trick when you need an escape. Whether you’re staying for a day or for a week, you can’t go wrong with Saint Maarten and Saint Kitts.