I have always wondered what the difference between St Maarten and Saint Martin. Saint Martin is the French side and St Maarten is the Dutch side. I found this article, which I thought was interesting:
Saint Martin is known as “the friendly island,” a Caribbean paradise amiably split between the French side (Saint Martin) and the Dutch side (Sint Maarten) since 1648. There’s no border patrol, customs, or fences between the two independently governed territories. The two sides say they’re friends, but after 366 years of being neighbors, don’t doubt for a minute that each part of the island has a few things it would like to say about the other one. Both the French and the Dutch are convinced that their portion of the island is really the best place to visit, live, and play. So here’s a smackdown of what each side of Saint Martin would say about each other if they weren’t quite so friendly.
The French side of Saint Martin is what island life is all about: a laid-back attitude, fine food, pristine beaches, unspoiled nature, and an appreciation for the finer things in life. There’s no need for the cruise ships, casinos, and nightclubs of the Vegas-meets-Caribbean Dutch side of the island. We have culture, nature, French and local cuisine, outdoor fun, and, oh yes, topless beaches. Want McDonald’s and soulless time shares? Go to St. Maarten, or just stay home. If you want to experience a unique taste of France flavored with some hot Caribbean spice, come to Saint Martin.
So obviously this article was wrote by someone that lives on the Saint Martin side.
I did my research, I wanted some place "new". The cruise forums did not let me down. I managed to find a place to go to and that would be called Pinel Island. Pinel Island is on the opposite side of "town" than the cruise ships. So, we figured the best (and safest) way to get there would be to book an excursion using the kyaks. We would book using, Caribbean Paddling. When you book with them, they provide the transportation to and from the cruise port. That way we wouldn't be stuck wondering if we would be able to get a taxi back. You can take a ferry over to the island, but there was no way of getting a package that included that. Hey, we're up for a little kyaking across the ocean to an island right? lol
We walked outside the port and our instructions said to meet by the white tent. We easily found the tent they were referring to. In the parking lot, there was a lonely vehicle. The driver approached us and we told them who we were and where we were going. He said he was there to get us and we piled in. The girls didn't look too thrilled. The reason why? Because it was SO HOT and after that very short walk out of the port at 8:30am, we were sweating and roasting. The driver did not have the a/c turned up and the controls to the back would not go any higher without him turning it up from the front. We panted, we threw comments out like "man it's hot", and fanned ourselves. However, he just didn't get the hint and never did turn it up.
It was a 20 minute drive of pretty much silence. The driver didn't talk at all. I would just continue to snap some pictures along the way. Nothing too interesting. There were a lot of nice houses along the way and we played the game "If I lived here, I would live in that house". LOL Of course I played "If I lived here, I'd probably be here from the heat." The graveyard...
The one and only time our driver spoke: "We are entering the French Side right now"
Hey there's Orient Bay. It's been 5 years since we have been here. I have seen pictures of all the changes. I just can't imagine. It looks so different now.
It was a 20 minute drive and we were pulling into the bay.
We pulled in and there was no one there. The door was shut and no employees or anything. Gasp.
The driver called them twice with no answer. You could tell the driver was getting a little upset and antsy. After his last call and no answer, he said "He'll be here shortly" and he jumped out of the van and opened the doors for us to get out. Um, ok, I guess we will have to stand in the blazing sun now until someone arrives. Great. It was seriously hot.
They did have a table and bench there to sit on, only the problem was that it's sitting in the full sun, so that wasn't going to work.
We immediately smelled the most pungent smell ever created. It was worse than rotten eggs. It was worse than anything I have ever smelled working in the emergency room. It took your breath away. We kept moving to different areas, but it wouldn't go away. I figured it was the entire area and not related to a trash can or behind the building or anything, so we were stuck with this aroma for awhile.
I headed to stand in what little bit of shade I could find behind the little hut that still had some ground area to stand at. The hubby ran over to the parking lot, where there was a stand selling drinks, and picked me up this...a wonderfully ice cold diet coke!
At least it was something to quench my thirst. Only I wasn't drinking it at the moment, I was using it as a cold compress on my over heated body parts. Man did it feel good! This is going to be THE STAND to get your drinks at. They are CHEAP! Only $1 for a can. I couldn't believe it. I had wished that we would have stocked up on them.
As we were standing in the bushes, Sakari spots a bird. Do you see it? Yea, I didn't either. I had to get closer and zoom in.
So we are at Caribbean Paddling and we are ABOUT TO RENT KAYAKS....and then attempt to paddle our way to 2 islands across the ocean. Ok, go ahead and let your minds run wild with that one. Me and my family (especially Kendra) paddling across the ocean...in the open water...in a "boat"...with children. HA! Yea, I know, this is our idea of extreme sports!! We are going to Pinel Island.
I can't believe I had never heard of this place before. It was highly recommended by others on the boards to go here. I did my research and I loved the pictures, that I seen online, of the beach. I knew I had to go there. However, I was going to catch a cab and go over and then get on the ferry to take me to the beach. People tried to talk me into renting the kayaks...don't think I didn't figure you people out! "It'll be fun they said" "It's easy they said" I know that you thought this would be funny to see me and the family trying to do this. I know you all would sit back and laugh.
However, the one and only thing that convinced me to book the kayaks over the ferry was that after I found out the price of the kayaks (you pay per kayak and not per person) and then I found out round trip transportation was included, I just knew I couldn't beat this price! I booked online, got my confirmation, and then broke the news to the hubby by using words under my breath. I showed him the beach we were going to, I showed him the area of the island THEN I told him we were actually getting there BY kayak and not actually kayaking while we were on the island. (insert evil smiley grin here!)
Kendra thought it was a great idea and was definitely game!
So as we are waiting, I noticed that the sign on the door of Caribbean Paddling said they open at 9:30am. Gasp. We are going to melt! However, he showed up at 9:10am and we were relieved to see him.
He pulled out the dry bags and told us to put our things in there while he pulled down our kayaks. I still didn't understand how this very long bag (probably about 4' long and round) was going to go on a kayak with 3 people in it. Do I put it on my lap? Do I throw it over on Kendra's since they only had 2 people? Nope, it attaches to the very back of the kayak. How cool.
We headed over to the dock, still dying from the smell. We were shown a "map" that was posted and told about being able to go to both islands. He explained the first island was small, but did have a beach and a sand bar. He said we could "park" our kayaks out by the buoys and walk to the beach on the sand bar. Then he said the other island (Pinel) we could pull the kayaks up on the beach.
The water was an ugly brown and full of seaweed. AH HA! That's the smell...I think (it would later be confirmed that it is indeed what is causing the smell).
We would shriek as we put our feet down in the water and attempt to all get in the kayak. Then we pushed off and away we went. This water was so ugly. Kendra was asking me why I picked such a nasty place. Sigh (Notice who's doing all the work here?)
Between the 3 of us, I think we were doing pretty good. Then I look back to take a picture of Kendra and B...and they are way behind and going in different directions. LOL
We came across a half sunken boat. I have no clue what happened here.
Kendra and B were really struggling...like REALLY struggling. We stopped and waited for them. I got the "Never again mom, how could you think this would be fun? This is hard!" She complained that it was because she only had 2 people and we had 3 that she couldn't keep up. She said "I'm only going to 1 island so where we stop, that's going to be our stop of the entire day. No way am I doing this twice!" I was really getting "that look" from Kendra.
You are drifting again Kendra...keep it together. I would hear a lot of "Brayden!! Stop! Do it right!" I told the hubby to not move and let Kendra and B get ahead of us...they would need the head start. "I'll give you 10 cars and the go Kendra" She looked back to make sure we weren't moving yet and she was getting the lead.
So, I said we would have to keep going and head to Pinel. We started to pass the other little island and there were tons of seagulls everywhere on the rocks in the water.
Pinel Island was finally in sight and this torturous ride was almost over.
We made it over to Pinel and you could tell that the water was clear and shallow. I looked back and at least Kendra was still in sight this time. Yep, we had passed her shortly after we gave her the lead. I made sure to get far enough to not be able to hear her moaning and groaning, but close enough to know they were still alright.
There was a wide open space between the only 2 beach clubs there on the island. This would be where we decided to "park". It looked beautiful there.
HERE AT LAST! Our arms were sore, our bodies ached, we were hot and drenched with sweat, but we made it. I would not let on that I was experiencing any of the above symptoms and had a smile on my face while I teased Kendra about it. "You are young, you should be able to do this easily" I think she put me on ignore mode at that point. LOL
Immediately the hubby went to the water. It was so refreshing. The kids were quickly behind him.
This would pretty much be where everyone would spend the.entire.day!!! Like seriously. Everyone had wrinkled fingers and hands and no one wanted to get out of the water due to the heat. Even the hubby spent the entire day in the water sitting. It felt so good. We didn't even bother to rent any of the chairs and it's a good thing because I don't think we would have used them at all.
Of course I had to go exploring after getting cooled off in the water.
There are 2 beach clubs there at Pinel, on opposite ends of the beach. One is Yellow Beach and the other is Karibuni.
I will start on the Karibuni side.
I started to head down a path that led over to Yellow Beach. Along the way, I ran into Mr Iggy the Iguana.
So there I was...standing at the edge of the water on Yellow Beach. I had my camera in one hand and my goggles in the other. What else is there to do but have a look around in the rocky looking area in front of me? Right?
In I went...
A few fish...Hey, at least I discovered a four eyed butterfly fish. There really wasn't much around...And a rainbow wrasse. It was super cloudy in the water. I came up a few times and discovered two guys that were "snorkeling" (HA) kinda ahead of me...only the problem was, they weren't really snorkeling. They were basically walking and stirring things up. Just stepping all over everything and looking down. GASP! It was very aggravating. Even the fish were hiding.
I guess we were all headed to the same place...over by the snorkeling path. There were guys at the dock, where you PAY to snorkel this path. I don't know what the path is like, but I did swim for a little bit beside the ropes and really didn't see anything that was worth paying for. For the sake of the people who pay to do it, I hope it got better.
I really wish this picture of the red coral turned out. It was pretty and red. (See, this is proof that I don't always take awesome pictures...I have my screw ups and I even took this picture several times from several angles and still didn't get it right).
Woo hoo, I found an anemone, with a lot of guard fish.
I finally turned around and headed back toward the shore. There just really wasn't much to see in the area I was in.
After all the awesome snorkeling I had in St Lucia, this just wasn't interesting to me.
I always love to find things to "frame" my pictures with, such as trees, grapes, flowers, and so on. I just think (usually) it makes things look neat. But sometimes looking at the picture produced gives you a different idea of the area you think the photographer may be in. Like above...relaxing on the beach under the grape trees in a secluded setting, just watching the waves roll in. Peaceful right?
In reality, I'm down on my knees, crawling in the sand, under a tree, trying my best to find that one grape hanging from the tree to help frame a picture. Let's just say here's a behind the scene tour of Mitsugirly the photographer.
So I go up a small hill and come to a trail. I didn't explore or take the trail. I really would have loved to, but it was just too darn hot and I'm sure if I didn't return soon, the hubby would come looking for me and not be able to find me.
In front of Yellow Beach, they had this...the fresh catch of the day...lobster. I assume these were the lucky contestants today for the lunch menu since they had tables also set up in the water. These tables said reserved. I bet if you bought a lobster for lunch, one would have your name on it!
By the time I got back, our beach looked like this now...
A lot more people had arrived, but it really is a big beach and a lot of water, so it NEVER felt crowded at all.
When I returned, everyone was talking food talk so the hubby went across the hot hot sand to get us some menus.
The hubby went to put the order in at Yellow Beach and I went out to play with the kids. "Hey, I brought you a drink"...YES! Ice cold diet pop! These things were like $4.50 or something. I really wish we would have just brought some over with us. That's ridiculous.
I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, Sakari had the chicken nuggets and fries, And the hubby got a pizza.
It was so hot that we were going back and forth taking a dip in the water, then trying to eat, dip again, trying to eat. Sakari decided that she would grab some of daddy's pizza and just eat in the water. Of course B seen this and took his whole plate out.
Sakari accidentally dropped a piece of her pizza and the fish came outta nowhere. So it became a game of trying to get them to jump out of the water.
I kinda sorta got a shot under/over with the fish under.
Sakari had a friend that found her there on the island (from the kids club). She played with them a little bit and then Kendra started pointing at this island in front of us. I said "Kendra, that's the other island we could have went to". DUH...she didn't realize that was the other island and said "Oh, I didn't know it was that close. I would have went there and then here, since it's on the way". Sigh
Ok, so let's start to pack up and head back and we'll take time to stop at that island on the way back.
At that point, we seen a guy walking down the beach with a head of lettuce. He was going to feed the iguanas. The kids grabbed their lettuce from their plates and headed over too. Ouch ouch, hot, hot...across the sand we ran.
I guess Mr Iggy knows the real animal lover...he went straight for Sakari. It would only smell B's lettuce.
We packed up our dry bags and pulled the kayaks into the water.
We got on ours....and Kendra continued to pull hers out. Um Kendra, how do you think you are going to get in there once you get so far out? She was already to the point where she was almost floating. Believe it or not, she managed to climb up in it without tipping the kids over and the water was up over her waist at that point.
We gave her some extra man-power for the trip home so she didn't say it was unfair 3 vs 2 people. Sakari is an experienced kayaker.
We had also been told, by Caribbean Paddle, that it was a much easier trip back because of the waves and wind. So, she shouldn't have any problem or complaining.
However...that was not the case (both in her complaining or easier). It actually wasn't easier. The wind kept blowing us to the left and we would struggle to go in the direction we needed to go in. I couldn't wait to get to the other island to rest.
We arrived at the island and notice a family was there...and then the trouble began...
It was a VERY small beach and VERY small area of sand in front of it. Beyond that was nothing but sea grass and it was so shallow that you couldn't swim.
We pulled our kayaks up to the side of the beach area and we were being stared down by the rather large family. They had came there by both kayaks and a boat. They had taken over the entire area. By taken over...I do mean taken over. They had a grill there, they had a tarp strung across all of the tree area for shade, they had their stuff spread out and they were all spread out. We got the "you're unwelcome here" feeling from them as they continued to stare at us like we had invaded their space on their private island.
There really wasn't anywhere to sit other than in the water. The kids decided to explore a little around the rocks. The hubby called me over to the edge of the sand/sea grass. There was also another not-so-friendly welcome coming from that direction too...a crab.
He was spread eagle and was ready for attack, going back and forth as if he was saying "puttem up!"
I snapped a picture of how far it was to paddle back. It didn't seem far...until we actually had to do it.
About that time I hear Kendra screaming at one of the other ladies on the beach "Don't you yell at my kid and snatch something from his hands like that! Don't you touch my kid".......bleep....things went silent and I had no idea what just happened. Apparently Sakari found a broken up conch shell and she handed it to Brayden to see. Since it was already broken and had several pieces missing, Brayden decided to throw it over in the rocks (of course in a place he knew that Sakari was not going to climb up that far to retrieve), which pissed off Sakari because she wanted to keep it anyhow. So B went over to retrieve the shell again and one of the lady's from the beach ran over real fast, said a few choice words in French in a scolding voice and snatched it out of his hands. Um, ok! Kendra went off and her temper was flying high at that point.
I told her to calm down and let's just go. But, she wasn't about to let anyone run her off like that. She's gonna plop right down in the water on the beach and be pissed.
My attempt of over/under while we were just sitting there waiting for this thing to pass.
I was finally seeing a smile out of Kendra.
So I took that as a hint that she had recuperated and decided it was time to leave and get out of this unwelcome area. We went over to get the kayaks and Kendra still had her stink eye going on I'm sure and we pulled them out and headed back.
I do want to say that this is the French side of the island, which means that topless (and sometimes nudity) does exist over here. When we were at Pinel, there was a lady walking up and down the beach and in the water from one end to the other without a top on with her (I assume) husband and son. She seriously did it all day...one end, turn around, go back to the other end, turn around, go back.
At this small island, the children were also running around without their tops off (girls).
So, if this is something that might offend you, I just want you to be aware. It doesn't bother me one bit. I've seen it all before, nothing phases me. It's like another day at work.
Our dry bags attached to the back kept everything good and...well...dry.
It didn't take long before this was in my rear view mirror..Kendra & B way behind us again. We had to stop for awhile and let them catch up. I did catch Kendra resting on the job...maybe this is why they couldn't keep up. I think she was really worn out...at least that was what her body was communicating to me.
I will admit though, it was rough coming back with the wind constantly pushing us the wrong way. But I just didn't complain about it like she did.
As we got closer to the shore, all of a sudden it was if someone has just dumped raw sewage a foot beside us. Barf! Oh my goodness...seriously couldn't stand the smell. What the heck???
Are you noticing anything about some of these pictures? Sakari seems to be the only one paddling. The hubby was the only one smiling at this point and that was only to pose for the picture I was taking. Look at the faces on Kendra and B. The color of that water=ewy
Over yonder is the ferry house...which we should have used as transportation instead.
It was so hot and humid...hubby ran to get me a cold drink. Hubby told the guy at the concession stand selling the pop that he would be sure to let his wife know to tell all those cruisers out there to get their CHEAP drinks here at this stand and support his business. He's not out there ripping anyone off like the islands are.
Once we returned we had to still sit in the blazing sun while we waited for our ride to return to pick us up. We came back about 20 minutes earlier than we had told him, so no fault of theirs of course.
We did get a chance to sit around and chit chat. He told us about the smell there and the sea weed. He ask about our experience, we told him about the island being over ran by another family...and he said "Oh yea, the barbecuers". He said that he was planning on getting a better building and also a covering for people to stand/sit under out of the sun. I honestly don't remember anything else about the conversation. My brain was melted from today, my body was drained, and I think I was drifting in and out at that point because I was so tired. We did pay our balance at this time. When you book the trip and put your deposit down using a credit card, he can run your credit card for the remaining balance if you want. I thought that made things nice.
Our cab arrived at 3pm and she immediately got out and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and we all piled in.
Once again, not talkative AT ALL...nothing to say. She did keep looking back in the mirror and I felt like I was on a school bus and we weren't allowed to make a sound. She caught me taking a picture out of the front window and look at the look on her face. Clinching jaw and all.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I attempted to try to get a shot (out of the window) of the concession stand the hubby bought drinks from.
We made it back to the port in silence and felt relieved to get out of the van. Remember what I posted earlier about the perception of the island people on the French side? Where was that "friendliness"?
We were all a little tired from the day and decided to just head straight to the ship. It had been a long day, but a nice one for the most part.
We were real excited to visit this island after seeing multiple pictures of the place. It looked beautiful and it did not disappoint. I didn't think the snorkeling was good, but then again, I didn't pay to do the snorkel "trail" either. Hopefully it was better than what I was able to see going along side of it for awhile.
The food was good and plentiful, but pricey. The pop was even pricier so if you can...take a cooler with ice and buy some pop at the local stand prior to kyaking over.
Was it easy to kayak there? Maybe. We didn't think it was as bad as Kendra thought and we got a lot of laughs out of it.
I would highly suggest others trying this. The island is just beautiful with calm, shallow water. It was a lovely way to spend the day experiencing something new in St Maarten.