Tourists flock by the hundreds to take pleasure and plunge in its aquamarine waters, amble on its white sand beach, unwind on a bench under the sun or feast in its local food and beverage from the restaurants nearby. But it has something more than that, something that is peculiarly seen in St. Maarten. Something called the Maho Beach Experience.
What makes it unique is that it is located just right at the end of Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway, thus the moniker Airport Beach came to be. So, I took on a 25-minute journey going to this beach to do some birdwatching; not your Egrets or Pelicans but the metal birds coming in and going out of the island.
I was looking straight ahead, not minding the scorching midday sun, unwearyingly staring and waiting for something to emerge from the horizon. The anticipation that started for a few seconds have turned into minutes then to an hour, but my determination and of the others who were with me in this endeavor didn’t wane until something flickered from the skyline.
Everyone got excited, people were on their feet and we were all looking towards the same direction. The tiny speck from the sky grew bigger and bigger as it moved in high-speed headed to my location, and in no time, it revealed its true form.
It was the spectacle that I have been looking forward to witness. I moved around to look for a better vantage point to capture its advent. People who were swimming, eating and drinking had to take a break at what they were doing and focused on its arrival. Arms were held up in the air, cameras aimed to the arriving plane and in no more than 5 minutes when it appeared, suddenly it was already passing over our heads.
I can hear its engines reverberating in my ears, it was so close that I could almost touch it, tourists started to cheer and scream until it completely touched down on the runway. Then and only then that everyone went back to what they were doing until the next scheduled flight came in.
There are more or less 120 flights arriving and departing in this relatively small international airport. Most planes of different types and sizes, from chartered flights to the ginormous commercial 747 carriers, arriving to the airport pass above the beach.
Those flights leaving blow people away, literally, as its jet engines power up (check here). This is in spite of all the warning signs and additional barricades that were put up to stop thrill-seeking tourists from getting closer to the airport’s perimeter fence to feel the jet blast.
I had seen the small and medium-sized planes come and go but those were just like appetizers, it would be better if I can have a taste of the main course as well. To see those huge commercial planes would be the highlight of the Maho Beach trip but unfortunately I was running out of time and had to leave. But hey, maybe on my next visit I can already see those colossal 747s up close.
- Though the restaurants has it posted on their boards, it is better to Google the flight schedules for the day and save a screen shot on your mobile device or print it out if you can. So you have a guide to what type of plane is coming and going at a specific time.
- Most of the bigger planes are arriving and leaving in the afternoon around 1PM onwards.
Are you ready for the Maho Beach experience?
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