I got into guiding by being involved in the tourism, hospitality and hotel industries since the age of 16. My position at the hotels had me in direct contact and communication with the guests coming in and out of St. Maarten at all times, which gave me a love for and fellowship with people of all nations and cultures.
The transition happened when the hotel changed management; I was multi-talented, able to work as a cook, at the bar, in customer service etc., so I moved into other departments. At the same time the main economy of St. Maarten transitioned from salt and sugar cane production to tourism and also I wanted to be self-employed to broaden my chances of sharing myself and my experiences and the history of the island, its people, its culture and more, with everyone I met.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It begins the day before, with the preparations involved in all the services contained within the tours and taxi services. On the day of the tour, I go to the port of St. Maarten to meet the guests and off we go to discover this beautiful, friendly island.
Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
Yes, I do. My style of guiding comes from my birth-right of being born and raised here in St. Maarten, and is influenced by my love for this island, upbringing, experiences, history of the island, the people, the visitors to the island, my ancestors and its present and future development.
My privilege to give of that which I have received from being a native of St. Maarten. I have received the island’s all: its past, present and future, history, culture, traditions, people, cuisine, sites, secrets (of which only a native of any island would know), its ups and downs, its heartaches and its celebrations.
The island has a very long history, including settlement by American Indian settlers in 2000 BC and being named ‘St. Martin’ by Christopher Columbus in 1493 – what do you feel is an interesting fact, or the most interesting part of the island’s history?
The original name of St. Maarten was ‘Svalugia’ or ‘The Land of Salt’ by the first inhabitants, the Arawaks. Indeed, it was rightly named, there are salt ponds on the island which are not in use anymore and this was our main industry before it became tourism, but with time, changes took place and now we have ‘The Friendly Island’, empowered by tourism, and its inhabitants.
What must first time travellers to St. Maarten see, and why? What local food should they taste and why?
For the first time traveller - an overall tour where they will get to have a taste of land, sea and culture. They should try out different types of cuisine, that which they are not accustomed to, such as the local dishes and our local seafood. Specific local dishes to try include conch and dumplings (the conch is a large edible sea snail).
A shallow reef and wreck site along the Fort Amsterdam peninsula in Little Bay. The wreck is a sailboat that got destroyed in Hurricane Louis in 1995.
Part of the island is part of the Netherlands and part is a French collectivity. Do you need a passport to go between the two?
You do not need a passport – there is no security checkpoint either to go through the border. The Treaty of Concordia was signed in 1648 atop Mount Concordia, which agreed that the island would be divided between the French Kingdom and the Dutch Republic. However, the two nations would continue to dispute ownership until 1817, when the borders were set. The symbolic border crossing is only indicated by an obelisk.
The benefits are receiving a full insight into the island’s past, present and future, they will get to know what’s around every curve and corner especially from an insider (a native of the island). They will be able to relax, have fun, and have flexibility, without worrying about the driving. And with a designated driver’s experience they can avoid worrying and concentrating on doing everything involved accordingly.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
First and foremost, if the person is a native of the island, they are acquainted with all of it. Someone who loves what he does, a good listener, someone who loves to meet with different nationalities and cultures and someone who knows the history and happenings of the place involved, therefore, one involved in hospitality, tourism and service to others.
Tell us something about St. Maarten that only a guide would know?
Growing up in St. Maarten, I lived in an area called Marigot Hill, which only consisted of around 15 houses (farmers). I was a part of a family of 12 children (I am number nine). Since 1979, through Hurricane Frederick, this area has changed drastically, along with its name. It is now called St. Peters Cole-de-sac and consists of more than 4,000 homes.