Saint Martin’s often dry climate means that vegetation on the island is different from neighbouring islands, offering both dry and lusher vegetation.
The most widespread plants are cactus, bougainvillea, hibiscus, crotons, paradise flower, poinsettia and alpinias.
Many species of seabird can be found living along the beaches and rocky shores, including terns, frigate birds, brown pelicans, ospreys and many others. Many rare wild and plant life species are concentrated in the mangrove swamps in the north of the island, near Oyster Pond.
A dedicated tourist vantage point allows visitors to watch animals nesting in the mangroves.
This habitat is now better protected since the creation of the Nature Reserve in 1998.
Saint-Martin's National Nature Reserve, which covers 3060 hectares, is located in the north-eastern part of the island. The offshore part of the Reserve is its largest area, at over 2900 hectares.
The onshore part of the Reserve comprises rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches which are home to many species of seabirds (terns, Northern gannets, frigate birds, brown pelicans and many more), and many herons, who make their nests in the mangroves. Visitors can also watch iguanas basking on rocks along the coast, or feeding in the forests.
As for mammals, racoons and mongooses, they feed on crabs, eggs and small fish living in the mangroves and in the many coral heads along the coast.The mangroves are dominated by the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), which can be found in the salt ponds. Ponds and mangroves are highly productive biological systems that provide a safe haven for young crustaceans and fish. They also provide food and shelter for many birds (around fifty species have been counted).
Sea turtles (Caretta caretta, Eretmochelys imbricata and Dermochelys coriacea) also visit the large beaches of the east coast and the islets to lay their eggs. From January to May, the offshore zone is a gathering area for humpback whales, who are particularly fond of the shallow waters in the mating season.
The offshore area is composed of marine flowering plants and many coral formations. These trees, like the coral reefs, provide shelter for many species of invertebrates and molluscs (starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, slipper lobsters and conches), and many fish species (coffer-fish, grouper, surgeon fish, parrot-fish, tarpon, barracuda and angelfish). Further out to sea, humpback whales can be observed during the mating season from February to June, as well as large dolphins.
The aims of the nature reserve are naturally to preserve the biodiversity and the potential of the wild, plant and marine life of the three great ecosystems present on St. Martin.
We are pleased to welcome you to this special place where nature has been allowed to flourish and we hope that its natural riches will inspire you to respect our environment.
In the interests of protecting the environment, strict rules have been established by a ministerial decree in the Nature Reserve.
It is forbidden :
• To disturb or remove, distress or endanger animals, their eggs, hatching sites, holes or nests, or remove them
• To pick, destroy, introduce or remove plantlife
• To hunt, fish by line, net or basket, spearfish with a speargun or similar instrument, or collect living or dead animals
• To throw away rubbish or pollute the environment with any substance liable to compromise the quality of the water, air or soil or of the site, or the integrity of the wildl and plant life
• To throw away rubbish of any type in the Reserve
• To disturb the peace through excessive noise, except for activities authorised by the decree
• To camp under canvas, in a vehicle or under any other shelter. However, the "Préfet" may authorise and oversee camping with no shelter
• To endanger the natural environment by making fire outside the designated areas, or erect signs other than those required for public information or reserve management
• To water ski or jet ski anywhere in the Reserve
• To gather minerals, fossils or archaeological remains
• To fly over the Reserve at an altitude of less than 300 metres.
Please respect our wild and plant life and take your rubbish home with you.
Do not support illegal trade in natural species (shells, cactus, turtles).