The small propeller airplane lands quickly and softly, like a butterfly, on one of the world’s shortest commercial runways on the rain forest-capped island of Saba, which rises stunningly out of the Caribbean.
It won’t take long for visitors to see why the sign outside declares: “Welcome to the Unspoiled Queen.”
Saba’s Mt. Scenery, at 2,877 feet, is touted as the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (The island became a Dutch municipality following the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles.)
Still, some of the island’s most sought-after peaks are underwater near Saba’s sharply rising shores. The small island’s volcanic nature has sculpted the seascape for recreational diving, as its coral-encrusted pinnacles and seamounts top out within diving limits of 85 to 120 feet. Yellow sulfur deposits on the sand show that volcanic activity continues at the dive site known as Hot Springs. If you stick your hand in the sand, you can feel its heat.
Forget the beach. There isn’t one. No casinos, either. After hiking and diving, one of the next best things to do is simply relax and wait for the symphony of whistling frogs to fill the night with song.
Many who take the time to visit this remote and verdant island about a 15-minute flight from St. Maarten are scuba divers who come to explore the colorful underwater life. A main draw are the pinnacle dive sites, where magma pushed through the sea floor to create underwater towers of volcanic rock that start at about 300 feet down and rise to about 85 feet beneath the water’s surface.
“There’s tons of color and, of course, because they are out in this blue oasis of water and then all of a sudden you’ve got formations; it attracts corals and sponges which, of course, attract the smaller fish, which of course attract bigger and bigger fish,” said Lynn Costernaro, who owns the Sea Saba Dive Center.
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