Sint Maarten is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; it is the Dutch side of an island called Saint Martin, which is shared with France. Located in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, the surrounding islands include Anguilla, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and St. Barts.
The island is roughly divided in half, with the southern section belonging to the Netherlands. The capital city is Phillipsburg on the south coast, with the highest proportion of people living on the Dutch side of the island. English and Dutch are the main languages spoken, with Spanish, French Creole, and Papiamento also used.
Sint Maarten has a reputation for excitement, adventure, and activity. Scuba diving is just one of the many thrilling activities for visitors. Hiking, motorbike riding, go karting, golf, tennis, and museums and forts provide varied land activities. Sailing and other watersports are extremely popular; Sint Maarten hosts the Heineken Regatta annually in March; it has a great atmosphere and is a well-attended event. Many cruise ships visit Sint Maarten, giving the island a busy, cosmopolitan feel.
Twelve beautiful beaches line the coast of Sint Maarten. Great for snorkelling, Little Bay Beach is calm with clear visibility. Great Bay Beach is a popular party hangout; it has a lively boardwalk and 2 mile long beach area. Mullet Bay Beach is quieter; a picturesque white sand beach fringed by palm trees - great for chilling out.
The island is famous for its bustling nightlife. Boasting 14 Vegas-style casinos and a wide selection of Miami-inspired nightclubs, it's a party island where you can keep going all night if you choose. Chilled out beach bars offer socializing on a lower key, and there are over 350 restaurants to choose from on this "Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean". The shopping is superb; the island enjoys a duty-free status, meaning items are 50% less other countries.
The island has a subtropical climate; dry season extends from January to April, and rainy season from August to December. The trade winds normally blow from the east or the northeast, meaning that temperatures remain fairly stable throughout the year. The average air temperature is 27°C (81°F), with highs of 34°C. Sea temperatures range from a low of 26°C (78°F) in February to highs of 28°C (83°F) in October.
Sint Maarten offers scuba divers a range of diving experiences from shark diving, to historic and modern-day wrecks, and coral-encrusted boulder formations. The reefs around Sint Maarten consist of boulder and rock formations, which have been covered by corals and sponges - there are a few true coral reefs. Sitting on a shallow plateau, the dive sites average 18m (60ft) and visibility depends on weather conditions - windy months such as December and January have the lowest viz. Visibility is between 18-25m (60-80ft) normally. A short or long 3mm wetsuit should be adequate thermal protection in the tropical waters, depending on the season.
A popular dive is Shark Hotel; aptly named for the amount of sharks that divers encounter. Reef sharks and nurse sharks are the most common species that divers will see. Turtles, stingrays, eaglerays, and barracuda are some of the other larger inhabitants on this reef system. Great for all levels of diver, the reef sits at a depth of 17-20m (55-65ft). Overhangs and crevices hide spiny lobsters, and Caribbean reef fish such as grunts and chromis flutter around.
HMS Proselyte was a Dutch frigate, launched in 1770 and accidentally sunk when it hit a reef in 1801. It now lies on a sandy, boulder-strewn bottom and is completely covered in coral and sponge growth. Cannons, anchors, and general debris is scattered across the bottom which averages 14-17m (45-55ft). Currents are mild and it is an easy dive, allowing good photographic opportunities. Divers frequently see turtles, barracuda, octopus, stingrays, and porcupinefish.
The wreck of the Fuh Sheng is a deep, advanced dive. This Taiwanese fishing vessel lies on her port side at a depth of 34-40m (110-130ft), and penetration is possible for those properly trained. Schooling fish use the wreck as their base, and stingrays and eaglerays can be seen on the sandy plateau around her. Eels and angelfish can be seen inside.
Another interesting deeper wreck dive is the Porpoise - a local tugboat that was purpose-sunk in 1995. Sitting upright, her shallowest depth is 17m (55ft), with the seabed at 28m (90ft). She has a couple of fun swim-throughs to explore! Stingrays, spiny lobsters, flounders, barracuda, and trumpetfish are common to see around the wreck.
Sint Maarten has seven registered PADI dive operators, including a liveaboard that departs from the island. All of the centers have equipment rental for diving and snorkelling. The dive centers have experienced diving teams, with international instructors and good safety records. The instructors are multilingual with the predominant languages being Dutch, English, German, and Spanish. Diving is year-round and the nearest recompression chamber is on Saba or Sint Eustatius. Pre-bookings should be made if you are visiting on a cruise ship.
The Caribbean Dive College is a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center and National Geographic Dive Center in Phillipsburg. They run PADI courses from beginner up to instructor levels, SNUBA, and offer PADI TecRec, DAN, and HSA certifications. A PADI Course Director is resident. This is a popular dive center due to high standards - great equipment, top-rated instructors and nitrox available on site. CDC has two dive boats for daily guided diving trips; The Peter Pan - a spacious 54ft custom dive boat with a bar and music; and The Splash - a 34ft speed boat which gets to the further away sites quickly.
Ocean Explorers Dive Center is the longest-running dive center in Sint Maarten. Lu and Jef are the passionate owner-operators. The standard PADI certification courses are available, as well as TDI technical courses. This team loves shark diving and underwater photography! They run two fast 26-28ft boats - Ocean Explorer and Undersea Adventures; both with custom ladders and shaded areas. Guided diving and courses are always in small groups, based on experience level. They have a retail store on site and offer equipment servicing for many manufacturers. Check out their Facebook page for some great photos!
Explorer Ventures Liveaboard has its base on Sint Maarten. This luxury dive boat, called Caribbean Explorer II, accommodates 18 passengers in 9 staterooms - all ensuite. Even a photo/video lab is set up on board! Guests give great reviews of the spacious dive deck that is complete with nitrox/air filling station, personal lockers, camera tables, and separate fresh water rinse tanks. Two dive ladders give easy access to and from the water to the dive platform. An air-conditioned salon and lounge offers space to chat and relax, with a separate sun deck to enjoy the view.
The Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is the major airport. Flights take 3 hours from New York, and 4 hours from Miami. Direct flights are offered by American Airlines, Continental, U.S Air, United, Delta, Jet Blue and Spirit. Inter-Caribbean flights operate to many of the other islands, with connections to Saba and Sint Eustatius.
The cruise ship port and boulevard is ranked as world-class and berths up to four cruise ships at a time. A developed infrastructure means that on island travel and transportation is easy. Rental vehicles available include cars, motorbikes, and scooters. There are many taxis and tour companies to choose from.
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The staff at Buddy Dive Resort were really helpful! Augusto, the dive shop manager, made sure we got all the spots on the boat dives that we needed. The dive operation there is great, we loved the drive through for the tanks and the shore dives were amazing. The room was big and clean.
Good location to take check out dive on your equipment before really diving. Excellent location to night dive. Ladder or giant stride entry. It is used by Buddy Dive for scuba certifications. Sandy bottom shelf down to about 35',then out to wall. Wall drops down to about 95' plus. This is great location to check equipment and get buoyancy right before real diving.
Sint Maarten offers scuba divers a range of diving experiences from shark diving, to historic and modern-day wrecks, and coral-encrusted boulder formations. The reefs around Sint Maarten consist of bo...
Sint Maarten has seven registered PADI dive operators, including a liveaboard that departs from the island. All of the centers have equipment rental for diving and snorkelling. The dive centers have e...
Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles, guarantees to get divers bubbling - World class reefs, laid-back shore diving lifestyle, and a year-round holiday attitude!