Forty-eight feet down, looking up from the sandy ocean floor where the JabJabs — a once floating bar, now artificial reef, lists starboard — I’m surrounded by life. Moray eels, lobsters, rays, and two juvenile reef sharks swim in the cerulean waters around me.

The sharks are close enough to touch with  my camera mount and more curious than adults that haven’t learned fear. Life has been on repeat since landing, waking early for some mango and johnnycake, watching the sun come up over the ocean, assembling dive gear, boating out to one of the many wrecks or reefs of the waters of Sint Maarten, (also known as Saint Martin) making my way down the line from the mooring ball to the vibrant world under the sea.

The 37-square-mile island, home to two countries, is friendly, above and below the water. Smiles are abundant, words of welcome fill the air, life is peaceful. The only marking of a division between French and Dutch territories is a monument on the roadside.

To the north, travelers will find some of the tastiest eats and lively beaches. To the south, cosmopolitan bars, clubs, and casinos dot the landscape. High-energy outings ziplining across the pinnacle of the island and leisurely days soaking up rays on the beach, staring at those almost-too-beautiful waters, mingle for the perfect getaway amongst the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Because strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet on Sint Maarten.


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