We, the St Maarten Map team had to leave the island after the hurricane Irma. While away from the island, we heard so many negative comments from the media about the island. We asked our friends who stayed on the island how it was on the French and the Dutch side, and yes the situation was difficult. Many bad things happened, but they told us that the media was exaggerating and that there were many good things happening in St Maarten. Many people are helping each other to rebuild the island, and the crime was not what was said in the media.
The fear of going back to SXM was installed in many of our readers’ mind because of what was said in the news. But we decided to check for ourselves.
We arrived at Princess Julianna airport at the beginning of March 2018. We could see that many reparations were made especially on the fences. The Arrival area at the airport was outside but very organized, quick, welcoming and with some good fans to cool people down. And we were very surprised regarding the structure that has been built to accommodate people who are about to leave the island.
We rented a car at Sax Car Rental, and someone from their company was waiting for us. On the way to the car rental office, we could see some of the damaged boats that were still in the lagoon, but compared to when we left the island just after Irma, most of the boats had been moved. The water looked pretty clean and there was enough space for the many sailing boats, catamarans, and yacht to navigate safely in the lagoon and in the marina. Arriving at Sax Car Rental we saw that their place that was previously destroyed by the hurricane has been well rebuilt. We did our paperworks and quickly got our car.
We stayed in Diamond Estate at our previous apartment which should soon be rented to tourists. Many hotels have reopened such as the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina but the apartment didn’t get any damage except for the coconut tree that was unrooted. The place was still clean, cozy and spacious. The plants in the yard had grown back, even the mango tree that had lost all of its branches. And the view of the ocean with the quietness of the neighborhood and the sounds of the singing birds were still as enchanting as before.
While driving around the island we could see that many reparations were made on the Dutch side but also on the French side, and more than we could imagine. There were a few areas that had more damages, but it is far better than what the news was saying. Indeed many places are rebuilding or are in the process of starting to rebuild. The vegetation has grown back very well and some trees already got back their leaves and fruits.
We have to admit that before arriving we were a little anxious about the safety. Especially because of what French relatives were telling us regarding events that they heard in the news. We are conscious that not everyone’s experience can be the same, but for us and many of our friends staying on the French side we never had any safety issue. People on Saint Martin as well as on Sint Maarten were extremely kind, welcoming and helpful. With a big smile on their faces, people were super friendly, and we know that it was not easy and that many of them are still recovering or even struggling. But the faith and mental strength of these people is great, and they live day by day with a positive attitude.
We visited a few beaches, which have been cleaned such as:
- Orient Bay, where all the restaurants had been destroyed, but everything has been cleaned up and was safe.
- Maho beach which didn’t have big rocks on it anymore but only white sand
- Buccaneer beach bar, which didn’t really change and was full of people
- Happy Bay that lost many of its trees but still is welcoming especially for special events
- Petite plage in Grand Case that had many shells in the sand but it was actually adding a charm, and it was still less full than other beaches and as relaxing as before
- Le Gallion that still had palm trees, and despite some algae, the water was still very quiet and the safest for kids.
We enjoyed walking in Marigot where many restaurants reopened, and the market was full of tourists from the cruise boats. Grand case had its Lolos opened as well as many other restaurants and shops. We could see that a few businesses have been destroyed or were currently closed like some places on the island. Nevertheless, many new businesses opened, probably by taking advantage of the situation, which in a sense is good because many people still need jobs.
Philipsburg didn’t change a lot and many reparations were very quickly made, probably because it is the main place cruise boats tourists visit.
Simpson Bay really impressed us because it was the first place that we visited just after the hurricane Irma and it was in a very bad state. It was sad to see all the destructions as it was one of the main places where we loved to hang out during the day and at night. But during our visit it was surprisingly still a cool place to hang out, most of the places reopened and some have been arranged even better than before. New businesses appeared as well. In the evenings most restaurants and bars are very full and the ambiance was the same as before.
We can say indeed, 6 months after the hurricane Irma, that some damages remain, some inhabitants are in a delicate situation, and many businesses are temporarily closed. But there is more positive than negative, life is still there and St Maarten is still “The Friendly Island”. Nature is astonishing, things to do are far from being boring and are varied, the island is safer than some developed countries in the world, and crime is lower than many big cities in the world that tourists visit the most, the atmosphere on the island is positive, relaxing and fun at the same time.
With this experience, we confirm that indeed SXM is strong… #SXMstrong!
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