At the end of 2013, while visiting Nassau, I saw cruise ships for the first time in my life. At that very moment, I've got a dream to sail on a huge ocean liner among the small Caribbean islands. The dream came true only after a year and a half, when I stepped aboard the ship called "Horizon", sailing from the capital of the Dominican Republic. Our cruise lasted a week and my cherished desire was to see the island of Saint Martin and Maho Beach. I've heard so much about it!
St. Maarten was our very first island on the route and we had to arrive there at noon on the second day of the cruise. This was my first cruise, but when planning the next one, I will definitely take into account the fact that it is much better when the ship sails to the port early in the morning and leaves at 5-6 pm. Walking is always better on a light day, and everything is already closed at 4-5 pm on many islands, and there's almost nothing interesting.
However, we came at the port of St Maarten only at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. People were already yearned for the land so much that they crowded at the exit of the cruise liner creating huge human traffic jams.
After 10 minutes of waiting, the door was finally opened. I stepped on the land of the most famous Caribbean island.
Upon arrival at the port, all tourists, who did not buy a tour on the ship, ran to the nearest taxi parking lot. I think that taxis behind the port area are much cheaper, but the small clock arrow was already aiming to "4 pm", which meant that the last planes would soon be landing at Princess Juliana International Airport. In fact, I came on this Caribbean island exactly for this.
Here's the moorage of cruise ships near Philipsburg.
The island belongs to two states, the southern part - to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the northern part - to France. Cruise ships come to the southern part of the island and stand near Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch part. In 1648, the Dutch and the French decided to divide the island peacefully. Representatives of both countries met, began to measure and divide, but then suddenly the Frenchman treated the Dutchman with wine. He drank it, it got him drowsy in the heat and he fell asleep.
Meanwhile the Frenchman divided 21 square miles of land, leaving 16 square miles for the Dutch. This is the legend telling why the French part of the island is larger that the Dutch one.
Now Saint Martin is a well-known resort, and once upon a time there lived the Indians of the Arawak tribes and extracted salt.
The most popular photos of the island are from Maho Beach. This beach together with Princess Juliana International Airport made the island so popular throughout the world.
Maho Beach is a small beach with a width of only about ten meters and a length of about two hundred meters. Most of all, it is famous for the fact that right behind this beach begins the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport - the main air gate of the island of Saint Martin. Every day hundreds of spotters and just fans of thrill who want to stand next to the taking-off planes gather on this small beach.
After jumping out of the taxi at Maho Beach, I immediately saw Boeing 737 of the American "Delta" airline , which was preparing to take off. Many tourists, who have visited this place, wrote about the danger of standing under the planes coming in for landing or preparing for the take-off. I could not help but check this danger on my own.
The plane's commander started the engines, and I rushed like a crazy man to a fence to understand what was happening.
I managed to join the "four lucky ones" and firmly froze my hands to the fence of the airfield.
The strongest stream of hot air abruptly struck my face trying to tear me from the fence. I was holding it with one hand, while trying to take some pictures with the second one.
Is it dangerous? I would say rather no, than yes. Firstly, it all depends on the type of the plane. If we talk about small screw-propelled aircrafts, then absolutely nothing happens when they take off. This attraction does not work at all. Medium-bodied aircrafts, such as "Boeing-737" or "Airbus 319-321", can give a few pleasant emotions, but they aren't able to throw back a young healthy person who firmly holds onto the fence.
A light sand storm rises on the beach during the take-off of medium-bodied aircrafts.
There is also the most important thing about the show - the take-off of large-bodied airliners. Of Airbus 340 belonging to Air France, and most importantly - of huge Boeing 747 of the Dutch KLM. I didn't manage to try the take-off of this huge giant, since, alas, this happens only a few times a week.
My driver told me that one of the fans of extreme sports was thrown a few meters away from the fence and broke his leg on the same day in the morning. It's also bad that the person can be thrown away on the road that passes behind your back. There can be moving cars at the moment.
Here's how he stood. I think that even the strongest guys will be dropped from this mini-pedestal by 4 jet turbines while standing like this under the taking-off "747".
Therefore, it's better to lie on the beach and enjoy the beautiful warm ocean for those who do not like extreme.
Even Embraer 190 almost did not give a breeze during the take-off, it is too small. It is a pity that I did not see the real show here. This is a good reason to return here again. :)
Nobody even feels the screw-propelled aircrafts taking off.
However, first of all, people come here to see how the planes land, and do not take off, because photos of the landing appear to be very interesting.
The peak of activity of take-offs/landings at Maho Beach is 12pm -13 pm. There's the largest crowd of people at this time. When I arrived at the beach, there were almost no people.
Of course, it's better to find the schedule of landings on the Internet, but there's SunSet bar for those who do not use smartphones. It has a surfboard with the schedule of airplanes landings.
I saw only 3 landings and tried to experiment shooting the planes from different points. Many people swim on this beach, periodically peering far away, waiting for the appearance of a very small spot in the sky. Then it very quickly turns into a winged metal hulk.
Small screw-propelled aircrafts do not fly high and appear from the side, outlining a small circle in the air, but large jetliners appear directly from the clouds, as if descending from heaven.
The liner becomes larger and all vacationers take their cameras and phones.
Of course, you need to spend the whole day at this beach - from morning till evening. Then you will definitely bring a huge number of interesting photos. This is the largest liner I saw when landing - Boeing 737, and it is high enough above people. Big four-engine "Boeing 747" and "Airbus 340" land significantly lower.
I took this picture from the dividing strip. This is an interesting point for shooting, but still 737 flies a bit high ((.
After flying "above the heads", the plane safely landed on the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport.
There are enough beaches on St. Martin, but people rush to Maho Beach to sunbathe for hours and watch the "iron birds" flying above.
Here's a small screw-propelled aircraft flying from the side. I was trying to shoot it already standing on the beach.
In fact, the planes land very quickly and I shot them moving the camera after the airliner.
The coastal line is also the interesting point for shooting. While standing overshoe in water, you can take picture of the huge plane, so that it will take the maximum space in the frame. However, in my case, alas, it was the third and the last small screw-propelled aircraft.
There are posters warning about the dangers of "low-flying planes" in several places on this small beach. Nevertheless, a huge number of people gather at Maho Beach every day to watch one of the most unusual and interesting airports in the world.
I didn't have time to explore Philipsburg - the capital of the Dutch part of the island - because the ship was late. Therefore, after Maho Beach, we immediately went to Marigot, the capital of the French part.
The French part is considered the territory of France, people use the Euro and all cars have French plates.
The Dutch part is considered a special territory with a self-government and has its own national currency - the Antillean guilder. The plates here are not the Dutch, but the island's ones.
There is no border between the two parts of the island. Only a flag and a sign.
It is a pity that everything turned out to be very concise and I spent only half an hour in Marigot - the capital of French Saint-Martin. I was sincerely surprised that all the shops were already closed. It was the time when, according to the normal schedule, all the ships were already leaving the island. I managed to catch only the twilight in Marigot because we came late.
Fort Louis is the symbol of the French capital of Saint-Martin. All the tourists visit it. When you climb it, you can see the whole Marigot harbor.
The French flag flutters above the ruins of the ancient fortress.
Here's the harbor of Marigot during sunset.
Local people spend their evening after the departure of tourists. They can relax, drink a mug of beer, smoke a cigarette and play dominoes. Tomorrow new ships with tourists will come, and they all need souvenirs and tours.
Orient Beach is considered one of the best beaches on the French part of the island. It is next to the famous Club Orient naturists' hotel. Previously, this beach was completely nudist, and now it is divided into two parts. Naturists swim on the right side.
The beach is beautiful, but there was no one in the evening. Only an interesting sign prohibiting to take picture of the naturists' side.
Nudity is strictly prohibited on the other side of the beach.
After passing a circle around the island of Saint-Martin, you can put 2 plus signs at once according to the new classification of countries and jurisdictions).
I also really like to drink at least one bottle of local beer in each country and take a picture of it. Local "Carib" bear has a taste a bit similar to famous Mexican "Corona".
Huge glowing ships were preparing to take the last cruise lover from the island to go further to other islands scattered in the Caribbean Sea.