A press corps of environmental writers and photographers from the Netherlands and Dutch Caribbean recently visited the islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius on a DCNA sponsored trip. “The purpose of this visit was raise public awareness in the Netherlands about the biological wealth we have here in the Dutch Caribbean,” explains Director Kalli De Meyer. “To that end, we brought over some of the top journalists from the Netherlands and invited local media to show case nature and conservation on the islands.”
Media representatives from two major Dutch newspapers, De Telegraaf and Trouw, attended as well as a journalist from Grasduinen, the Netherlands’s number one nature magazine. Correspondents from regional media also joined the group including Curacao’s Paradise FM, Daily Herald and the Amigoe, a daily newspaper. “The timing of this important media event could not have been better,” explains de Meyer. “Not only is this the IUCN International Year of Biodiversity, but with the new political reorganization due on 10/10/10, it was a timely opportunity for the Dutch public to learn more about their Caribbean islands.
The first part of the media tour was spent on Saba, often called “the unspoiled queen”. The group hiked many of the island’s nature trails managed by the Saba Conservation Foundation, the highlight being a trek to the top of 877 m (2,877 ft) high Mount Scenery. The trail winds through a lush cloud forest of Elephant Ear plants, mosses, bromeliads, and Mountain Mahogany. This was a rare treat for the Dutch journalists, not only to see the peak’s stellar natural beauty, but to scale what is soon to be the highest point in the Netherlands. The group also hiked to an overlook with a grand view of Green Island. Both red billed and White Tailed Tropicbirds displayed their amazing aerial maneuvers, soaring above the craggy, rock pinnacle. Green Island is a critical nesting ground for tropicbirds and other Caribbean water birds such as boobies, Noddies, Sooty Terns and Bridled Terns.
The neighboring island of Sint Eustatius was the next stop where the group snorkeled a dazzling reef at Jenkins Bay, visited the turtle nesting grounds of Zeelandia Beach and toured the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden. STENAPA, the Sint Eustatius National Park Association, the led the group to the Quill, a classic, dormant volcanic cone that last erupted in 400 AD. The journalists trekked to the rim and peered down in the caldera. STENAPA ranger Hannah Madden led the more adventurous of the media to the bottom of the volcano, which proved to be an arduous hike. A landslide caused by September’s Hurricane Earl, made hiking challenging, but the group made it safely to the bottom. There they witnessed Behemoth Strangler Fig and Silk Wood Trees towering to heights over 30 m (~100 feet). “For me, this is the highlight of the trip,” declared Hans Marijnissen, journalist for the Dutch newspaper, Trouw. “Of course, we have nothing like this in Holland. But it is nice to know that this beautiful place is part of the Kingdom.
Bonaire, along with Sint Eustatius and Saba, now form the BES islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and after October 10, 2010, will share the same political status as openbaar lichaam, a special municipality. The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance will continue to serve the national parks of the BES, along with Curacao, Sint Maarten and Aruba. DCNA plans on hosting more media tours to the Dutch Caribbean in the future.