"2005 - Natural Wonders and the Zoo" Sint Maarten Travelogue by grandmaR
Sint Maarten Travel Guide: 308 reviews and 863 photos
Security wouldn't let us back into the dock area unless we showed our ship's cards. We got back from the morning tour at 12:05, which was the time that the second tour was supposed to leave. So Bob told me to wait there in the boarding area, and he took the tickets and walked down to the ship. I thought I might buy some water at the visitor's center, but the line was too long because Bob came back with a little group, and we again got on a bus. This tour was called the Natural Wonders Tour, and it was to be 3.5 hours.
The first place we went (at 12:30) was to the St. Maarten Park, which has the biggest exhibit of exotic parrots in the Caribbean. A nice blond girl took us on a tour. It turned out to be a zoo somewhat like the zoo in Belize. It apparently was started by someone who had or acquired a male baboon (neutered) as an alternative to having him displayed in downtown Philipsburg. Now the Park has various former pets, and some endangered species breeding programs. The baboon is still there and he has a female in the cage with him - she was in season, but of course he couldn't do anything about it. Our guide said the female was quite proud of her red bottom (which showed that she was in season) and would stick it onto the cage bars to show it off. But sometimes the male would make her stop that.
There were various iguanas which may have originally been pets and other lizards, and there were also a lot of chickens and at least one peacock running around loose.
We went by the aquatic bird exhibit including some Scarlett Ibis. Then we got to the white faced Capucan Monkeys. There were three - father, mother and son. The son had found that he got attention if he threw things at the visitors, so the father started doing that too. The guide said they threw food and gravel, but nothing nasty. The mother sat over in the corner with her back to them - she acted like she was embarrassed by the antics of the males in her family.
They had some peccaries which she explained were more related to deer even though they smelled like pigs. There was a large area mostly with water birds - ducks, swans and ibis including some beautiful scarlet ibis. The brown pelican is the national bird.
There were some raccoons which had probably originally been pets - they were asleep in the trees and almost looked dead, although the guide assured us that they were not.
One animal that I didn't get a picture of was the Rhea which of course are not native to Sint Maarten. There was a large spectacled owl, and inside a large dark area there were some fruit bats, most of which were asleep. The bats are native to the islands - there are 3 species here, one fruit, one insect and one that eats small animals. They can really only keep the fruit bats. They also had a reptile exhibit.
There were some green parrots at the entrance and then we saw some blue macaws and scarlet macaws. Then there was a pool of red earred sliders and on the opposite side some red footed tortoises, which they think were introduced as a food source by the Arawak Indians. The guide picked up a large male tortoise and showed us how the lower carapace was concave which I suspect is to facilitate mating. She also showed us a baby which was about 3 weeks old. She said they separated the babies and put them in a separate area until they got bigger.
The Vervet monkeys were imported as pets by the slave traders in the 1600s so they've been on the island a long time. They also had two ocelots (a mother and son). There was a bush dog from South America too.
We saw two kinds of toucans, masked lovebirds from East Africa and Eclectus Parrots from Australia where the males are bright green and the females are bright red and purple. Originally they were thought to be 2 different species.
The park then gave us lemonade or fruit punch, and a chance to buy souvenirs and go to the bathroom. I bought a bottle of water which cost only $1 although it costs $3 on the boat. So my thirst was quenched at least.
Most of the rest of the tour the guide pointed out various plants on St. Maarten. She also passed various plant parts and pictures around so we could see them sort of like a 7th grade field trip. . They have a tree called the cotton tree which has long white fibers.
She talked about the various kinds of mangroves (black, white, red and button), and the coconuts and traveler's palms, but she didn't say much about the sea grapes. The national flower is a Flamboyant (?) vine with a nice flower on it, but the guide said not to plant it too close to your house or it would cover it from view in about two weeks.
There are two main kinds of cactus which are quite evident, the Pipe Organ (C. Peruvianus) and Turk's Cap. There is also a tree (A. Lebbeck) which has long seed pods which they call Mother-in-Law's tongue
We saw some boys playing cricket, and both guides pointed out the two desalination plants, one for each side of the island. The second tour's guide said that there was a considerable eastern influence in the island with many shop keepers of Indian descent.
We stopped again about 2:00 near Ilet Pinel and Ilet Tintamarre, but this time it wasn't a place to shop, but just to look at the ocean.
In addition to Dutch and French there are Spanish, Portuguese and Carib Indian inhabitants. She stopped again after we passed Simpson Bay just to get out and look at the scenery, and she let some folks off in Philipsburg who wanted to stay and shop. I really liked and would recommend this tour, and Bob tipped the guide which he didn't do for the first tour.
We got back to the boat about 3:15 and crawled back to our room. I took a shower, and Bob went to the Yacht Club and brought me back a cookie and a piece of pound cake for lunch. He had ice cream.
We were to leave port at 6, and we went for dinner a little after 5:30. We were at a table with a very nice waitress, For an appetizer I had concord grapes and they had all been cut in half (the guy next to me said he wouldn't want to be the guy with that job) which had a delicious sauce. Then I had a very fancy (small) salad and Bob had split pea soup. I decided to have a steak tonight as I didn't feel too adventurous. The other options were veal scaloppine, grilled wahoo, red currant glazed port chop, roast leg of lamb with polenta stew or Indian vegetable curry. The steak came with about a 3" piece of corn on the cob (which was very sweet), a double baked potato and some grilled vegetables. Bob had Apple in a jacket puff pastry with raisins and marzipan vanilla bean sauce for dessert, and I just had ice cream.
I was finally successful at sending some email just before we went up to play progressive team trivia. We have been doing pretty well, but this is a tournament and we didn't start doing it until the middle of the week. This time we got 15/20 right. We missed the location of Whistler's Mother (Louvre), the date of death of Florence Nightingale (1910), the number of Oscars won by "The Color Purple" (0), and the name of the first ship without a propeller. I never heard of it. They wouldn't accept the Ark. We also missed the name of the country that calls electricity "Hydro" - I didn't think it would possibly be Canada, because that would give the Canadians such an advantage but that's what it was.
Today we are at sea on the way to Curacao. We had a late breakfast, and a late lunch. There are carved pumpkins all over the ship. It is a little rougher and it rained this morning. I noticed that the photographer used a palm tree backdrop for some of the portraits, and they way the ladies are posed, the palm fronts appear to be coming out of their heads. It looks like they are wearing hats with big plumes. I pointed that out to the photographer, and asked if he did that on purpose or as a joke, and he said no, he wouldn't joke. Then he looked at me and said "You think that way".
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