Imagine going back 30, 40 or even 50 years and visiting the Caribbean. No traffic lights, no McDonald’s, no casinos or high-rise hotels. Now imagine that you can still visit that place. Where? The Netherlands territory you’ve never heard of: St. Eustatius. With a landmass of just 11 square miles, some might be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing to see on St. Eustatius—affectionately known as “Statia”—but this volcanic gem offers fantastic birding opportunities. Where else can you get close to hundreds of nesting Red-billed Tropicbirds by simply walking along the coast? Or hike up the dormant Quill volcano to see Bridled Quail-dove? At the top of the Quill, gaze across the impressive crater to see Scaly-naped Pigeon flying overhead; or descend into the caldera in search of Purple-throated Carib and Scaly-breasted Thrasher. If reptiles are more your thing, go in search of the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima), which used to number over 20,000 before Europeans colonized the island. Today just a few hundred remain, but Statia still boasts a genetically pure population that is free from the threats of the green iguana (Iguana iguana). From the top of the mountain to the beach and beyond, Statia offers peace and tranquility, unspoiled nature, friendly faces and a guarantee of safety. Leave your door open and your keys in the car. By the time you head home, everyone on the island will know your name, and you will never forget this tiny Caribbean island that is rich in history and biodiversity. Contributor: Hannah Madden/www.natureonstatia.com.
Statia supports one of the last genetically pure populations of the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissma). Regionally endemic reptiles include the Orange-faced Ameiva lizard and the Red-bellied Racer snake. Green, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles nest on Zeelandia Beach. Look for the Lesser Antillean whip scorpion or the rare orange soapberry bug, which may one day be described as an endemic species on Statia. Endemic plants include the Statia Morning Glory and the newly discovered vine Gonolobus aloiensis.
History and Archaeology—Statia was historically one of the most important islands in the Caribbean, and it was the first foreign nation to officially acknowledge the independence of the USA, on November 16, 1776. Visit Fort Oranje and the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum to learn about the diverse history of the island. Statia also boasts the largest concentration of archaeological artifacts of any nation in the world; learn more from the St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research.
Diving and Snorkeling—Statia is considered one of the top 5 diving destinations in the Caribbean, and the Statia National Marine Park surrounds the entire island to a depth of 30 m. The park includes two marine reserves, where anchoring and fishing are prohibited to protect the reefs. For detailed information on diving and snorkeling, visit Scubaqua on Gallows Bay or one of the other two dive shops on the island, Golden Rock and Dive Statia.
Hiking opportunities abound on Statia. Contact Nature on Statia for more information.
Multiple flights daily from SXM on St. Martin. Stay on Statia a minimum of 2 nights to allow a full day to explore The Quill; 3-5 nights would be much better, especially for those who want to snorkel or dive.
Note that all visitors to the National Parks must purchase a Hiking Tag ($6, as of December 2015); tags can be purchased either at the STENAPA office at Gallows Bay or at Statia Tourism in Fort Oranje.
As with other Caribbean islands, visiting between November and March increases the chances of seeing North America’s Neotropical migrants. Red-billed Tropicbirds are actively nesting through most of this period. Sea turtles nest from March through October. The best time for blooming orchids is June through October. Be aware of hurricane season when making plans!
Contact Hannah Madden at Nature on Statia for guided tours of any length. Hannah is a professional biologist and the Terrestrial Lands Manager with Statia National Parks (STENAPA), and she is the single best resource on the island’s flora, fauna, history, and archaeology.
Contact Statia Tourism for general details on maps, events, food, lodging, diving, and much more.