FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 June 2020
Be an EPIC hiker
What better way to spend a few hours of your staycation than walking through nature and reconnecting with the natural beauty and biodiversity of the island we call home? Get away from technology and the business of our normal lives and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature on one of Sint Maarten’s many hiking trails. There are also walks that take you through more urban areas but still lead you to our islands’ hilltops with stunning views. And still others that meander along the coast either on rugged rocky terrain or along a beautiful white sandy beach.
I don’t know where the trails are. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) thought of that and has mapped 10 trails for your hiking pleasure. You can find the maps and information about each trail, including the distance, terrain and difficulty of the hike online with Avenza Maps (more information below). You can download the maps for free and with the map on your smart phone you can follow the trail and enjoy a walk in solitude or with your family and friends.
OK, so I got the map but I’m not really confident to hike alone. EPIC runs free hikes on the first Sunday of each month. Covid-19 necessitated the cancellation of EPIC hikes in April, May and June, but now that restrictions have eased, the first post-lockdown hike is planned for next weekend. On Sunday 5th July EPIC will lead hikers along the popular coastal Guana Bay trail to the Natural Pools and back.
This sounds great! What do I need? Luckily you don’t need much. A sturdy pair of shoes, comfortable and sun-protective clothing and water, which of course should be in a reusable bottle as EPIC supports a ban of single-use plastics in Sint Maarten. The hikes that EPIC runs start early, at 6 a.m., which is a great time to get out before the rising sun and avoid the intense heat of the day.
I’m new to hiking will it be hard? EPIC selected a mix of urban, coastal, grassland and secondary forest trails. The hikes are of differing difficulties and rated by a three-tiered scale as easy, moderate, or challenging. Some trails are flat while others are undulating or steep ascents to high points on the island, giving spectacular panoramic views of Sint Maarten and neighbouring islands. Chose an easy or shorter hike to start with and work up to the challenging hikes such as Fort Willem and Sentry Hill.
Can I bring my children? Of course! Some hikes are more challenging for younger children, but EPIC welcomes children with their parents, either walking or sitting on a parent’s shoulders! When EPIC leads a hike, they adapt to the group to maximise enjoyment and won’t leave anyone behind.
Is it safe with the Corona virus? Experts note that staying active and healthy is important and that being outside is one of the safest places to be. EPIC does not ask hikers to wear masks but requests hikers who don’t live together to socially distance on the trail. In addition, for the foreseeable future, carpooling is suspended, which is why the hike on Sunday 5th July will return to Guana Bay rather than continuing from the Natural Pools to the basketball court in Pointe Blanche as usual.
Hiking is a great recreational activity. Hikers should remember to respect nature and the trail, and especially to not drop litter. It is also worth remembering that sometimes part of trails, or access to the trails, are on private land so hikers should not stray from the trails themselves or park vehicles inconsiderately at a trailhead. Since the lockdown, EPIC staff and volunteers have seen a growing number of people out walking the trails. It is so good to see more people out enjoying nature and keeping fit.
So, what are you waiting for? Download a map and head off on a trail. Or join EPIC Sunday 5th July for the Guana Bay Hike, meeting point Mr. K Supermarket at 6 a.m. The Guana Bay hike is a moderate hike, it is approximately 2 km each way (so a total of 4km from the start to the Natural Pools and back) and will take between 2 and 2.5 hours.
For more information check the EPIC Facebook page. To download free trail maps go to https://www.avenzamaps.com/vendor/3770/environmental-protection-in-the-caribbean