Category Archives: St. Maarten

The Blue Flag – Long May It Wave At Divi Little Bay Resort

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort gets lots of compliments on its beach. Newcomers and long-time repeat guests value the lovely arc of sand, but they rarely see the work that goes into maintaining it. If guests rise early, they might catch a glimpse of the new equipment that grooms the sand or observe work crews making sure the area is spotless for guests. Behinds the scenes, Divi monitors water quality, implements safety procedures and conducts environmental awareness training with its staff. In fact, there is a check list of 37 things members of the staff at Divi Little Bay Resort do routinely to ensure the beach is a winner, not only for guests but to earn the Blue Flag, an international eco-label. On December 7, the Blue Flag was raised on Little Bay Beach at Divi, signifying the second consecutive year the resort has been recognized for environmental management of the beach.

The flag was handed over by Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet together with local Blue Flag Coordinator Rueben Thompson of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation and partner St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. Divi General Manager Celine van Meer was on hand to accept the flag. The flag will fly for one year, when the honor must be earned again. Little Bay Beach at Divi is the only beach in all of the Netherlands Antilles to be honored with the Blue Flag.

Van Meer spoke at the flag raising ceremony, noting that the clear water, clean sand and abundance of fish and sea turtles in the bay are a part of the Divi Little Bay experience. “To merit the recognition a second year in a row bears witness to the keen sense of purpose and inspired dedication all of us at Divi share in caring for this beach.”

Divi Resorts president EJ Schanfarber has often referred to the people working at Divi’s ten resorts across the Caribbean as “stewards of the land.” The Blue Flag is evidence that indeed they are!

Divi Little Bay announces a new check-in policy…for sea turtles.

Certain guests, those going by the name of Green Sea Turtles, when arriving by sea onto the beach at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort will receive special accommodations and an unlimited stay. The policy was announced when a female Green Sea Turtle “checked in” to the Divi Little Bay Resort the weekend of August 25, looking for a place to deposit as many as 200 Green Sea Turtle eggs.

Management at Divi Little Bay also announced 24-hour protection and, in addition, that any and all measures will be taken to ensure these guests total privacy for the duration of their stay, which could be as long as two months.

On August 25, a female Green Sea Turtle came ashore at the Divi Little Bay Resort in St. Maarten to lay her eggs.  She arrived at night, which is the custom of sea turtles. When the hotel’s regular guests spotted the turtle, it was apparent that she was having difficulty building her nest due to the rocks and debris left in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.  Staff at the hotel quickly summoned the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, which arrived to help clear the beach.

After about four hours of digging with her front and back flippers, the turtle laid her eggs, covered the nest with sand and returned to sea. Divi staff then cordoned off the area to keep human visitors from disturbing the nest during the incubation period.   The nest is about 50 feet from the front desk and the entire Divi staff is keeping watch.

Now the wait is on.  The incubation period for sea turtles is anywhere from 45-70 days, so the arrival of hatchlings is expected in early October.  Green Sea Turtles lay anywhere from 50-200 eggs at a time. When the hatchlings decide it is time to leave, they will do so under cover of night to avoid natural predators.

Green Sea Turtles are one of the largest species of sea turtles.  Females weigh about 120 pounds; males, 200 pounds and are as long as 60 inches.  Nesting season lasts from March until September The population of sea turtles has plummeted over the last century to the point that all sea turtles are internationally protected.

This is the first time that any member of the Divi Little Bay staff could remember that a sea turtle had nested on the beach. (Perhaps, the female turtle noticed the Blue Flag flying — the global environmental recognition accorded the beach last fall.)  But, once a turtle comes to a beach to nest, it often returns each year.  That’s not unlike a lot of other Divi Little Bay guests.

When In Rome..

It’s the motto of travelers ’round the world: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, when in St. Maarten, have a guavaberry colada! Chances are you won’t taste guavaberry liqueur anywhere else in the world. These little wild berries – no relation at all to guava – grow high upon the hills in the center of the island and elsewhere across the Caribbean. But, no one has turned them into a cultural and tourist “don’t miss” event like the Sint Maarten Guavberry Company right in the heart of Phillipsburg.

Even the quaint, colorful gingerbread cottage on Front Street where the liqueur is made is a must see. Once a synagogue, abandoned around 1785, the store serves up free samples of the liqueur and guavaberry coladas and sells a full line of liqueurs, rums and hot sauces. Yum.

The cottage/headquarters was one of the first stops on Angela Lawrence’s recent whirlwind visit to St. Maarten. Lawrence, a Toronto writer of Jamaican heritage, came to St. Maarten to write about this year’s Carnival festivities. Lawrence will tell you more about her first taste of the guavaberry liqueur on her blog, Cook like a Jamaican. She must have liked it enough to want to take a bottle back to Toronto. Sadly, there’s a cautionary element to her telling of her intro to guavaberry liqueur. (Pack it; don’t carry it on.)

Gizmo’s Bar & Grill right on the beach at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort serves up two guavaberry cocktails. Dylan from the Divi Little Bay food and beverage staff offers this recipe for Oldman Punch.

Oldman Punch

Drink Ingredients:
2oz. Guavaberry Island Folk Liqueur
2-3oz. orange juice
2-3oz. pineapple juice

How to mix the drink:
Mix ingredients well and put in tall glass with ice. Add dash of grenadine. Garnish with fresh flower, half a lime or freshly grated cinnamon.

Gizmo’s also serves the Guavaberry Colada. It’s a little sweet for my taste, but hey, I tried it. When in St. Maarten, I want to try everything! This following Guavaberry Colada recipe comes from the fine folks at Guavaberry. You’ll find lots of other recipes there.

Guavaberry Colada

Drink Ingredients:
2oz Sint Maarten Guavaberry
1oz Coconut Cream
3oz Pineapple Juice or Pieces
Ice

How to mix the drink:
Put ice in blender, add Sint Maarten Guavaberry, Cream of Coconut, pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with pineapple, toasted coconut & fresh nutmeg.

That Girl Gizmo

That gorgeous redhead over by the bar on the Divi Little Bay beachfront, her name is Gizmo. Why she’s called Gizmo is part of her mystery. It’s a word typically applied to gadgets, especially one whose true name cannot be recalled. But, once you’ve met Gizmo, she’s unforgettable. She’s been lending her colorful personality and presence to the Divi Little Bay property for twenty years.

Though she’s a daily fixture either at the bar or nearby in the new patio dining area, not much is known about her. She is indeed a girl macaw, sporting just about every color in the rainbow, from her crown that is the clearest red in any artist’s palette to her brilliant royal blue tail ending with long feathers of aqua and red.

What brought her as a young bird from her native South American rain forest to St. Maarten and then to Divi Little Bay in 1992 is anybody’s guess. She eats fruits and bird seeds. (No feeding, please. The maintenance staff takes good care of that.) Gizmo also has her own beachfront digs, and does not room with the resort’s other two macaws in the aviary across from the grocery.

The girl always draws a crowd. She is friendly, and the other bar regulars know she’s got a real liking for men. Jewelry, too. Something about the screw winder on watches. Take a bit of precaution if you decide to allow Gizmo on your arm. She will pose for pictures.

What makes her even more unforgettable is that she finally got a bar named for her. (That never happened for Cliff or Norm on Cheer’s.) After surviving Marilyn and Luis, the two hurricanes of 1995, Divi Little Bay underwent extensive renovation (and an expansion to its present size). It somehow seemed fitting to name the new beachfront dining establishment after Gizmo, whose penchant for that particular spot endured. Gizmo’s Bar & Grill got even better in 2008 with another renovation and today is a gathers all birds of a feather, who like simple grilled fish, homemade pizza and a favorite cocktail or an adventuresome guavaberry colada. (A bit sweet for my taste, but when in St. Maarten, why not?) The restaurant is open until 10pm every night, the bar until midnight. But, Gizmo is long gone to bed by then. A namesake needs her rest.

My Day Trip to St. Bart’s

I know there’s a speedboat in my future. I just love to be on the water and going fast. (Part of the joy of every journey is in how you get there, right?) On my recent trip to Divi Little Bay in St. Maarten, I learned about the fast ferry over to St. Bart’s. Zipping around the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea – that’s for me.

The fast ferry trip from St. Maarten to St. Bart’s is a fun way to spend a day while vacationing on St. Maarten. Dock to dock in less than an hour means you will have a full six hours to make like you’re a celeb in this ooh-so-French playground of the Caribbean. You’ve read about it in People and heard about it on Entertainment Tonight. Now, you know what the fuss is about. Entering the harbor in the capital of Gustavia and you know: it’s gorgeous. Red tiled roofs, exquisite shop facades, stunning fashion inside the windows, cafes, a landscaped esplanade around the U-shaped harbor, towering hillsides enveloping the town, and croissants aplenty. I came prepared to spend time soaking up the ambiance of this beachy bit of France, rather than dishing out cash in the pricey shops. But, window shopping is affordable and fun in St. Bart’s.

Here’s a tip: Hit the shops as soon as you dock, because most close for a leisurely French lunch from noon until 3 (some close at 1 instead). So, after eying the fashions and jewelry, I headed over to Shell Beach, an easy, 10 minute stroll away. True to character and name, it was a wide swatch of sand, beautiful with big boulders and laden with shells. There’s even a little bistro and beachwear shop. Chaise lounges can be rented from the restaurant for a more comfortable angle for people watching.

After heading into the surf, relaxing on the beach or even a little snooze on a chaise, head back to town for lunch. Remember where you are: meals are not rushed here. The fast ferry returns to St. Maarten at precisely 4pm.

If you want to check out all of St. Bart’s, another option for the day is to take a taxi for an all-around-the-island tour. Next time, I’ll do that.

The day I went, it was a smooth ride over under a gorgeous blue sky with pillowy puffs of clouds, the kind that give pictures a little contrast from all that gorgeous blue.

If the wind in your hair is not your thing, sit inside in the smooth comfort of the cabin and enjoy a beverage, chat with the hostess and scan the horizon for St. Bart’s up ahead and Saba to your right. You’ll get a nice view of St. Maarten as you leave it behind or approach it on the return.

The lovely and amiable Eugene at Divi Little Bay will make the arrangements for a trip from Divi.

I did mention that the fast ferry leaves St. Bart’s precisely at 4, didn’t I? And that’s a good thing. You’ll be back at the marina in St. Maarten at 4:45. Which means you can do the slow sunset sail offered by Passaat, departing nearby. It’s a tranquil antidote to the fast life you’ve just lived in a day in St. Bart’s.

The fast ferry operates year-round, but here’s a deal you should hop on now: Divi Little Bay has a 4-night $499 for two special that includes the fast ferry trip to St. Bart’s, (the trip alone is a value of $130), plus the transportation over to the marina from Divi Little Bay. It’s all included in the $499. Book by June 30. Travel until December 16th. Get on it fast!