St. Eustatius

EUX_Island-300x300A volcanic island with black sand beaches, St. Eustatius features two very different landscapes. The southeast end of the island is dominated by a 600 metres high, dormant volcano, the Quill, full of dense forests and clouds that bring rain forest conditions, while the lower northern hills that formed from an eroded, extinct volcano, have a drier weather pattern and savannah-like vegetation and fauna. The island’s only town, Oranjestad, is on a famous historical harbour that once made St. Eustatius a thriving centre for trade in the Caribbean.

The Quill/Boven National Park encompasses around a quarter of the land area of Statia and includes biologically diverse habitats ranging from arid vegetation in coastal areas to rainforest at higher elevations filled with orchids, ferns, mosses, towering Kapok trees and characteristic Balsam trees with enormous aerial roots. Statia is also home to the endemic creeping vine, the Statia Morning Glory, which is the rarest and considered the most endangered plant in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island has a rich cultural heritage, evident as archaeological sites in the national park including a fort, ten slave villages, industrial complexes, plantations and walls dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Quill/Boven National Park and the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden offer some of the best hiking in the Dutch Caribbean with views of neighbouring islands Saba and St. Kitts.

The St. Eustatius National Marine Park encircles the entire coastline from the high-water mark to the 30-metre depth contour and extends up to three kilometres offshore. The marine park boasts a network of beautiful, biologically rich patch coral reefs, extensive seagrass beds and open water communities, which are considered amongst the healthiest in the Caribbean. In some parts of the park, abundant stands of rare black coral can be found and general coral cover reaches up to 50%. The reefs shelter an abundance of species, including charismatic seahorses, manta rays, sharks and turtles. The park also lies on the seasonal migration route of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Within the marine park are two well-defined and actively managed reserves in which no fishing or anchoring is allowed. Tenfold increases in some fish species have been found within these reserves.