St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is a small island in the Caribbean Sea, just 37 square miles of glorious beaches around the coast and a rugged terrain covered with rain forest at the heart of the island. The varying terrain and climate, dry and rainy seasons, produce a variety of habitats for a variety of life to thrive, including many interesting species of fauna, some unique to the island. The island has several distinct natural habitats: mangrove wetlands, dense tropical forests on the mountain and dry scrubland in coastal areas. The Caribbean Sea is known for its huge diversity of marine life. The ocean has many hundreds of marine species which visitors can encounter diving or snorkelling. Click the underwater, diving, snorkelling links above.
People who appreciate nature will enjoy the natural world of St. Martin/ Sint Maarten
The island has a rain forest covered, mountainous terrain at its centre,
with dry, sandy scrubland areas around the rugged coastline
this variety of habitats enables a healthy diversity of fauna to thrive.
The coastal areas include salt ponds and lagoons, mangrove swamps and sandy shores. The salt ponds were linked to the sea and are now surrounded by the mangroves. Many rare species of flora and fauna can be found in the mangrove swamps, near Oyster Pond. A visitors' observation point allows visitors to watch animals nesting and feeding in the mangroves. This habitat is now better protected since the creation of the St. Martin National Nature Reserve (see below). Birds and animals vary from hummingbirds and sand kestrel to lizard and iguanas.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has over 100 species of bird, 40 of these species are breeding residents. Seabirds like Audubon's shearwater, brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, royal terns and sandwich terns, laughing gulls, brown booby, egrets and herons can be seen around the salt ponds and mangroves - and along the coast. Some ducks and geese nest on the island during the summer - while others are migrants – as are most of the wading bird species. Other birds you are likely to see, more "inland", are : falcons, hummingbirds, doves and pigeons,
There are 8 different species of bat, probably the only indigenous mammal on St. Martin / Sint Maarten. Bats are now recognised as the most important pollinators - more proficient than the birds and the bees. Rats and mice arrived with the first European settlers. Raccoons were introduced but no one knows why. Domestic animals like dogs and cats and livestock like pigs, cattle, goats, horses and donkeys.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has a few species of non-marine crustaceans, like the black land crab and the mangrove crab, seldom seen as they live under rocks during day. More commonly seen are the Caribbean hermit crabs, great land crabs and ghost crabs on beaches and rocks – and fiddler crabs in the mangroves.
Around 40 different species have been documented on St. Martin, many have beautiful coloursAmphibians
Including marine turtles and introduced species, there are 17 reptile species on St. Martin / Sint Maarten Saint Martin. One species, the Bearded Anole (Anolis pogus) is indigenous to the island. red-footed tortoise, red-eared slider, loggerhead turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle leatherback turtle, house gecko, sphaerodactylus parvus (new species of gecko) island least gecko, turnip-tailed gecko, Anguilla bank anole, Anguilla bank bush anole/ bearded anole/ Watts' anole, green iguana (common iguana), Anguilla bank ameiva, brahminy blind snake, flowerpot blind snake, leeward island racer.
There are three species of frogs on St. Martin / Sint Maarten, two of which were introduced - Cuban tree frog, red-snouted tree frog, lesser Antillean whistling frog (coqui antillano or Johnstone's whistling frog)
Colombier is halfway between Marigot and Grand Case, a green valley lush with tropical vegetation between rolling green hills. One of the most beautiful, and peaceful, places on St. Martin, perfect for private walks and relaxation.
Mount Concordia is on the border between St. Martin and St. Maarten, where the treaty dividing the island was signed by the French and Dutch. There are also the ruins of the old sugar plantation "La Sucrerie".
Terres Basses - the lowlands - are at the western end of the island beyond Simpson Bay Lagoon where you'll find two of St. Martin's prettiest beaches, Baie Rouge and Baie Longue, in Plum Bay.
Paradise Peak – Pic Paradis rises from the centre of St. Martin to a height of 424m (1,400 feet) the highest point on the island. At the top there are two observation decks, providing a spectacular view of the scenery and the tropical forest below.
Butter Fly Farm. You can walk amongst the rare and exotic butterflies, from around the world, flying freely in the tropical garden, with its flowers and waterfalls. You will see rare species like the Central American postman, Malaysian malachite, and Brazilian blue morpho.
Loterie Farm is a former sugar plantation, now a nature park of 54 hectares (135 acres). Well marked hiking trails lead to the highest point and a viewing platform with astonishing 360-degree panoramic views. Lots of flora and fauna to enjoy. Monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds and mongoose are common. The hills are covered by lush vegetation, running streams and beautiful sounds of the forest.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is proud of its natural heritage, and recently both sides of the island have created protection programs to conserve and regenerate the island's natural world. Saint-Martin's National Nature Reserve - 'La Reserve Naturelle' - is on the French side, a nature reserve which includes marine and terrestrial areas of more than 3060 hectares, in the north east of the island. The offshore section is over 2900 hectares. The land part of the Reserve includes rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches, home to many species of seabirds (see above). Visitors can also watch iguanas basking on rocks along the coast, or feeding in the forests.
The salt ponds and mangroves are highly productive biological systems that provide a safe haven for young crustaceans and fish. They also provide food and shelter for many birds (over fifty species). Sea turtles visit the large beaches of the east coast and the inlets to lay their eggs. Dolphins are a common sight offshore, and from January to May the ocean is a gathering area for humpback whales in the mating season. The coral reefs, provide a habitat for many species of invertebrates and molluscs (starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, slipper lobsters and conches), and many fish species (coffer-fish, grouper, surgeon fish, parrot-fish, tarpon, barracuda and angelfish).
The 'Nature Foundation St. Maarten', on the Dutch side, founded the 'St. Maarten marine park' including several small islands, and a terrestrial park is planned for the near future. The St. Maarten Marine Park surrounds the entire Dutch side, from Oyster Pond to Cupecoy Bay, extending from the beaches to include the ocean to a depth of 60 metres (200 ft.). This area includes some of the last pristine marine locations on the island, a breeding ground for birds, fish, and other marine life. The Marine Park features 28 dive sites that include natural and man-made coral reefs. Marine life includes blue crabs, banded coral shrimp, spiny lobsters, conches, sea urchins, sponges, porcupine fish, barracuda, moray eels, nurse sharks, a wide variety of tropical fish, seahorses, and dolphins. In recent years there has been an increase in foraging hawksbill and green sea turtles and the occasional loggerhead as well, all of which feed on the sea grass beds and sponges. Good news as most turtle species are endangered.
Mangroves line the south shore of Simpson Bay lagoon and around some salt ponds. Replanting of red mangrove and seaside lavender has been under way in Little Bay pond. Mangroves are ecologically vital. These woody plants grow in tropical tidal waters. The highly salt tolerant Red Mangrove roots help to prevent beach erosion by trapping and stabilizing sediments. In addition they act as a nursery for young fish and a habitat for birds like brown pelicans and snowy egrets.
Lots of ways – and very easy - to get out and about to explore and enjoy the natural world. Lots of tours – both bus and walking – with various topics of particular interest to nature lovers. A comfortable way to see the flora and fauna - not to mention the spectacular scenery. You can hire one of several modes of transport – and do your own thing – at your own pace. You can also walk most of the island, certain parts of the mountain are a bit of a challenge, but that is entirely your choice, how you feel on the day. The island has no dangerous animals or snakes of any kind, but some plants and insects can cause irritation. When hiking in the hills best to wear long trousers and long sleeves. Hiring a car is a great way to get the most out of a holiday on St Martin. The mountainous terrain hides many small towns and villages, with spectacular views and an amazing variation of landscapes. Whatever you fancy doing – let us know – we can advise, organise and reserve tours, vehicles etc. and include those in your holiday itinerary – if you wish.
St. Martin is recognised as a fantastic dive / snorkelling destination, but is relatively unknown by divers from the UK and Ireland. Crystal clear, warm water makes the ocean perfect for diving and snorkelling. The reef and ocean are protected, as on the other Dutch Caribbean islands, and are in excellent condition. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life, fantastic coral formations, pinnacles and caves and several excellent wrecks. Click the underwater, diving, snorkelling links for more information on St. Martin / Sint Maarten fantastic underwater world.