The STENAPA Junior Rangers and leaders traveled to St Maarten during their school mid-term break to investigate nature and observe any differences in the nature from their home island. The tropical environment on islands in the Caribbean are similar, but not the same. For example, St. Maarten has mangrove forests that are not found anywhere on St Eustatius, except for saplings of the red mangrove that sometimes wash ashore on the eastern beaches. The raging waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the ever-changing beach take the saplings back out to sea before they can become established. The protected lagoons and ponds of St Maarten have flourishing mangrove forests that project young fish for water birds and fishermen alike. The group went on an exciting adventure on kayaks rented from TriSport, to mangroves located in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. This adventure was possible thanks to support from Blue Marine Foundation and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance.
Their first nature education activity was a visit to Amuseum Naturalis from Les Fruits de Mer. After viewing the museum’s exhibit, they got to participate in a small hike activity, led by Mark Yokoyama, focused on birds and their needs.
They also participated in a 5-location bird tour around the entire island, led by Eusebio Richardson from Nature Foundation St Maarten, where the Junior Rangers got to observe many birds that are not seen on St. Eustatius. A highlight of this tour was the pelican nesting site on the cliffs of Fort Amsterdam, that had nesting adult with their eggs or chicks. Many of these locations also had mangrove forests, showing that they are also indeed important sources of food and shelter for birds.
Another activity by Nature Foundation St Maarten was an informative presentation and activity on their Marine Spatial Planning Project. After learning about the benefits of zones for the many users of the sea, the Junior Rangers took on the role of fishermen, environmental agency, shipping company, and government. They planned, discussed, and negotiated their way to a unified zoning map where everyone had their needs met.
Closing off the trip was a snorkel opportunity with Random Wind Charters, the group went from Simpson Bay to Little Bay and Cay Bay. At Little Bay, the pelican nesting site could be seen again from below and many schools of fish making their home around a sunken submarine and helicopter. Cay Bay had stingrays and tarpons swimming in the crystal blue water. Throughout the day, the Junior Rangers also had the possibility of practicing their bird and fish identification skills, as well as put to work their snorkeling skills.
Other fun activities included a trip to the Caribbean Cinemas, the ShellJen Skating Rink and Restaurant and Kids Zone Playground and Barefoot Restaurant.
“This field trip was an adventure with a lesson. I am sure the Junior Rangers now appreciate the nature that they have on their home island and how it can be both similar and different on an island so close to them.”, shared Achsah Mitchell, the Education and Outreach Officer at STENAPA.