There’s more than one way to go wild on holiday on St. Maarten, you can also go seeking out the island’s coolest critters and creatures. You can start by taking a walk on the wild side at the St. Maarten Zoo in Philipsburg. It’s a huge non-profit foundation housing over 300 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate making it the largest zoological park in the Caribbean. They also have lovely gardens, a snack bar, a gift shop and the island’s largest children’s playground - a perfect spot for a family day out.
Also with lovely tropical gardens is the Butterfly Farm on the French side on Le Galion Beach Road, Quartier d'Orleans. Go early in the morning when hundreds of species are at their most active to witness their flights and feedings. And if you want to attract them to you, wear bright tropical colors and if you have applied tropical flavoured Banana Boat sunscreen, it has a chemical in it that male butterflies look for to pass onto their female partners to protect them! Guided tours are available and you will also see all stages of their metamorphosis on site.
If birds in their native habitats are the winged-wonders you’d rather seek out, then the Sint Martin Birding Foundation offers information on where to spot them, and they also can arrange guided tours. And to learn lots more about the island’s fauna, pick up local naturalist Mark Yokoyma’s book The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin, and you can also download the second edition online at his website for free! Visit: www.sxmwildlife.com. You can also join his group Les Fruits des Mers for wildlife workshops and guided walks, and they often hold public events centered around nature education. Visit: http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com for more information.
And if you’re missing your pet, or just want to get up close to some new warm fuzzy friends, all the animal shelters on the island welcome volunteers to come and play with the cats or walk the dogs. They can also help you adopt an island pet to take home with you. Animals R Friends, Elizabeth's Caribbean Dump Dogs Foundation and St. Maarten Animal Welfare Foundation are great places to start.
And of course, there is a wealth of marvelous marine life waiting for you below the waves all around the island. See our activities page for snorkel and dive operators to submerge and discover them: http://nightspublications.com/st-maarten/activities
Photo courtesy of St. Maarten Zoo