Formed out of two volcanoes which erupted millenia ago, St. Eustatius' explosive origins have left their mark not only on the island's landscape but also its coasts and underwater world.
Divers delight in the fantastic coral reefs and contact with raresea creatures. The shipwrecks that you can discover in the waters of St. Eustatius are testimony to the turbulent past of the islandas well as the tranquil and historical capital, Oranjestad.
St. Eustatius, nicknamed Statia, holds a special attraction for scuba divers. An impressive underwater world rich in flora
and fauna, as well as shipwrecks sent to the bottom long ago, lie near the coast. On the island colonial style houses
testify to the Statia tumultuous history. Born out of a volcano, Statia's beautiful landscape is perfect for hiking.
Seeing peaceful Statia today - one would never imagine how many times this island changed hands in past centuries. Statia was discovered by Columbus, who named the island Saint Eustatius. Even Columbus must have liked the climate: a wonderful average temperature of 27° C year round. It rains intermittently in April, June and September which gives the island its beautiful lush greenery.
Spain, the Netherlands and England fought repeatedly over Statia, the so called golden rock, because of its strategic located trading post between the old and new world. Statia was so attractive that it changed hands 22 times.
Approximately 20.000 people lived on this 24 square kilometer island near St. Maarten in the 17th century. The warehouses in the capital of Oranjestad were full with supplies and arms for the American War of independence against England. It is said that even Benjamin Franklin used this trading post for his mail traffic with the old world.
On Nov. 16, 1776 Statia was the first foreign land that recognized the new United States of America, though more by default than intention.
A warship entered the habour of Statia firing a salute announcing American independence to the island. The island's inhabitants answered with a salute, unintentionally granting the new nation diplomatic recognition.
As a result of this St. Eustatius was disavowed as a trading post by England and sank into a peaceful oblivion for a long time.
Today 2.770 inhabitants with 20 different nationalities live on the the small island. They make a living from fishing, tourism and trade. After all the turbulence of the past Statia is now a friendly island where life is slow and quiet. Statians love to chat and also like to involve their guests in talks on anything and everything.
Already upon arrival by plane the geological past of the island can be seen: St. Eustatius was born out of two volcanoes which are located on each side of the island. Oranjestad is the only town on the island. A cliff divides it into upper and lower parts connected through a winding and hilly street called Bay Road.
Start in the historic upper part of town and travel back to colonial times. Many old buildings and places can be visited.
One of the most beautiful historical museums of the region is located in the Simon-Doncker-House, a restored Dutch trade house of the 18th century. The second oldest synagogue of the Western Hemisphere, Honen Dalim, was built in 1739 and is no longer in use.
Boys of all ages like to visit the well preserved Fort Oranje, with its cannons and walls in the upper part of town. In the lower part of town, where the present habour town was formerly located, you can visit some of the old brick warehouses.
Black Oranje-Beach is also very popular with the locals because of its very good swimming. Two months a year, usually August and September, the beach is flooded. When strolling by the sea in the evening contemplate the ups and downs of Statias past conflicts. In total there are 19 forts on the island, some nicely restored. From all the former fortresses you have a wonderful view to Statia's neigbouring islands, like the marvelous view of St. Kitts from Fort de Windt.
Beyond its rich history the island offers up a very sporting present. It is known above all as a first class dive destination. The Statia Marine Park, with a total of 30 indicated dive sites, was founded to protect the unique flora and fauna of the sea. Statia's colourful underwater world has many unusual coral formations, some of which have arisen from cooled lava streams to make the sea around the island so interesting.
The old ship wrecks that can be found at the bottom of the sea are also of special interest. In the 17th and 18th centuries many ships were stranded in Oranje Bay. The wreck of the Stingray, which sank in 1768, is located only minutes from lower town. But what really makes the wrecks special is that you can swim through them with a guide. This is an unforgettable adventure for experienced divers.
What did the Captain's quarters look like more than 200 years ago? Sometimes you can get a really close look at past splendour from the wonderful treasures that were once buried deep within the old trading ships. Even today, Dutch porcelain is found every now and again. In fact everything that belonged to the ships' inventory can be marvelled at deep down under the sea. Anchors and iron weights tell the story of peaceful an prosperous times; sunken canons paint a picture of Statia's not so peaceful past.
However deep divers plan to go - there is the perfect dive site for everyone. Caroline's Reef is a middle deep dive area with coral crusted lava streams where small sharks and lobster live. Beginners should start with the relatively shallow Kim's Coral. More experienced divers will appreciate Dobbie Crack: small sharks and swarms of bigger fish live in the big reef cleft.
Naturally you can also experience the beauty of the underwater world while snorkelling. Jenkins Bay is a wonderful site for this activity, with impressive coral reefs and beautiful fish. But Statia offers more than underwater activities: Experienced surfers will appreciate the roaring breakers of Concordia Bay. Or what about a nice stroll along the beach? The beautiful bays of the island offer wonderful views to the sea and can be reached while walking through the most charming landscapes. A trip to Zeelandia Bay or Venus Bay is always worthwhile.
Dance on the Volcano
For a very special experience take a hiking tour on the island. On a two hour trip to the Quill in the South East you will see one of the two inactive volcanoes on St. Eustatius.
Nearby you can find Mazinga, the highest point of the island. From here you have a beautiful view of the neighbouring islands Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten and St. Kitts.
From the edge of the volcano you can look down to the 300 m deep walls right to the bottom which is covered with dense vegetation, dozens of kinds of orchids, old mahogany trees and man-sized ferns. It is advisable to wear hiking boots for the tours.
This is an adventure not to be missed. Not many can say they strolled around on a volcano...
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