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Snorkelling on St. Martin / Sint Maarten

St. Martin / Sint Maarten has a unique character with some exciting sights for snorkellers.  The variety of ocean conditions and underwater features provide a wide range of habitats home to huge diversity of marine creatures - fantastic snorkelling which will suit all ages and experience levels. Snorkellers will be astonished at the underwater "landscape" and the amazing diversity of a very healthy underwater world.  St. Martin / Sint Maarten, has something for everyone who enjoys the ocean - from novices to the most experienced divers and snorkellers.  St. Martin / Sint Maarten is in the eastern Caribbean with one coast facing the Caribbean Sea, the other coast facing the Atlantic ocean. The warm water of the Caribbean has many species of colourful tropical creatures, large, colourful sponges and dramatic coral formations. The Atlantic is home to larger ocean roaming creatures.  St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a volcanic island with dramatic underwater formations like lava tubes, coral "canyons" carved out of the rock by the ocean, "mountain" pinnacles rising up from the deep to within a few metres of the surface. On a small island the proximity of two different bodies of water, and the variety of underwater features produce numerous habitats, home to a wonderful diversity of healthy marine life. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is ideal for families. "Perfect" weather almost every day of the year excellent beaches and lots of activities and excursions - warm, clear water and a thriving underwater world make for wonderful snorkelling.

                       A beautiful, tropical island with coral reefs and wrecks close to shore in warm clear water.
                            Spectacular underwater features -
brightly coloured coral reefs, sponges, lava tubes
underwater "mountain ranges", shipwrecks and a staggering diversity of marine creatures.
                   Snorkelling on St. Martin / Sint Maarten is easy and exciting for everyone who enjoys the ocean.


St. Martin/ Sint Maarten has a huge diversity of creatures from the numerous colourful reef fish of gold, purple and red (including seahorses) to some of the large deeper ocean dwelling creatures. Some are seasonal like spotted eagle rays, dolphins (December to April), African pompanos etc. In crystal clear, warm water you can expect to see: eagle rays, huge stingrays, porcupine fish, angelfish, butterfly fish, barracuda, hawksbill and green turtles, tarpon, flying gurnard, moray eels, manta rays, lobster, sergeant majors, blue tang, surgeonfish, blue and brown chromis, trumpet fish, filefish, sailfin blennies, remoras, frogfish, octopus, reef squid and many more. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is famous for sharks. Although there are no guarantees underwater it is common to see nurse sharks, black tip reef sharks, Caribbean grey reef sharks and occasional hammerheads.

You will also see colourful corals of orange, purple and red. The most common coral types are mustard hill, brain, fire, box fire, low relief lettuce, great mound and elliptical star coral. The island has many brightly coloured sponges and lots of bushy gorgonians. The sponges vary in colour form soft purples and pastel pinks to sharp yellows, oranges and reds. Rope and barrel sponges are common the latter are great hiding places for smaller creatures.  The dive page link above has a map and a brief description of the sites.

The Reef

The natural (and artificial) underwater features are both beautiful and very exciting - a magnificent underwater world for snorkellers to enjoy. Not all St. Maarten / St. Martin's "reefs" are coral reefs, many are rock formations encrusted with sponges, hydroids and coral. The famous Proselyte Reef was formed by lava flows. The reefs are in shallow, warm water, close to shore in sheltered conditions - giving snorkellers a unique snorkelling experience that might normally require scuba gear. The island's underwater world is a mixture of pristine reefs, fantastic lava formations and many great wrecks - including cargo ships, tug boats, sailing boats, cannons, huge anchors, an articulated lorry, the remains of a bridge (!) and the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. All are encrusted with wonderful coral formations, sunken gardens of orange, red, pink and deep purple sponges fan and "mushroom" corals - home to an amazing range of creatures. Even the truck "wreck" is covered with beautiful coral and has created a wonderful home for lots of fish. From the shallow water wreck the Tugboat, to the Proselyte snorkellers can enjoy some of these fascinating wrecks. 

So many sites .........so many sights

On an island just 7 miles by 6, you are never far from the ocean. You can explore the different snorkelling sites easily and you can snorkel from just about anywhere on the island. Most of the dive sites are located on the south western coast. As this is a volcanic island, the island rises steeply from the ocean and most sites are very close to shore. St. Martin / Sint Maarten has over 30 official dive sites, including 11 shipwrecks.  Snorkelling is generally in shallow water, usually 20 metres or less, in protected sites, in warm clear water. There are several sites you can snorkel from the many beaches, however there are special snorkelling excursions and snorkellers are welcome to join dive boats and most "off shore" dive sites are less than 15 minutes from shore. These trips will get you to the best sites very quickly. Boats usually take around 6 - 8 people on the (very) short ride to the dive sites.  Boats are shaded and stay at the site, usually for around an hour or so, you can get in and out as often as you wish. Boats provide complimentary fruit and water. The great thing about the boat trips are they will be planned - not just the best sites - but the best in the prevailing conditions. Please click the Dive page link above and see the dive map of the island for more information.

Some favourite snorkelling sites

Dawn Beach on the east side of the island, the water is around 14 metres deep with incredible visibility. A beautiful reef and lots of angelfish, butterfly fish, sea urchins, and colourful corals of orange, purple, and red. Swim directly out to the sea-side of the reef for the best snorkelling and look out for squid.
Friar's Bay - quite shallow - 2 to 5 metres deep with a reef around 30 metres from shore. Lots of small, colourful reef fish, and gardens of purple sea urchins and anemones, with arrow crabs, banded coral shrimp, and scarlet ladies.  
Ile Pinel to the south east is the tiny Pinel Island. A pristine coral reef circles the island and is home to some lovely Sea Fans, Angelfish, Butterfly fish, Sea Anemones, and Spanish Hogfish.

The Ocean

The island has an average daytime temperature of 27c. Water visibility is up to 40 metres. The ocean is warm - ranging from 27c in January/ February to 32c in September/October.  Weather and ocean conditions are generally easy and comfortable. If you snorkel on the Atlantic (east coast) at certain times and in some locations, conditions can be a little more challenging, but there are more than enough sheltered dive sites to keep you busy for the whole of your holiday.
Marine Reserves
St. Martin /Sint Martin has dedicated marine reserves, crucial to the diversity and health of the reefs in Saint Martin. The reefs and wrecks are part of the St. Martin and St Maarten Marine Parks and are in excellent condition. Moorings are provided for dive boats to protect the reef from anchor damage. The protection of the underwater environment has ensured that divers and snorkellers will be able to enjoy a very rich and healthy marine habitat.

Snorkelling Trips

We work closely with the dive centres on the island and we have information on all the favourite snorkelling sites. If you want to take some boat trips, special courses or excursions, you should book in advance. Boat trips and excursions are in small groups and can get booked up. You may also wish to hire a vehicle to explore the island. We have the best rates for vehicle hire and we have worked with a reliable hire company for many years. Booking your on-island services with us is a little cheaper and we can include that into your ATOL protected holiday itinerary.