Great Salt Pond

The Great Salt Pond was the main source of income for the Dutch on Sint Maarten for over 300 years, the salt collected from this pond was exported to both Europe and the Americas. Currently the IBA is not used for salt production, but the walls which formed the salt pans still remain and—during winter and spring when water levels are lower—birds happily take advantage of these rocks sticking out above the surface. Birds use the 17th century rock walls to rest, nest (e.g. Black-necked Stilts), and feed from.

Black-necked Stilts (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

Black-necked Stilts (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

There are several (not indicated) viewpoints around the pond for viewing the numerous Great and Snowy Egrets, fishing Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigate Birds, Black- and Yellow-crowned Nightherons, Green Herons, American Coots, White-cheeked Pintails, Common Gallinules, Pied-billed Grebes, Black-necked Stilts and, during Summer, lots of Laughing Gulls and other terns and gulls.

Photo by Seagrape Tours

Snowy Egret (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

Other animals that can be spotted here (unfortunately all invasive): Green Iguanas, Red-eared Slider pond turtles, fish such as Tilapia.

Visiting

This is a great site to visit for a couple of hours! If you’re arriving via cruise ship, walk from the cruise ship terminal toward Philipsburg, keep following the main road and you will run into a roundabout with a statue of a freed slave in the middle. From there, it’s a great view on the east side of the pond, you can then also see the island (with sanitary landfill) in the middle of the pond which is blocking the view of the rest and greater West side of Great Salt Pond.

Birding at Great Salt Pond (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

Birding at Great Salt Pond (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

For that part of the pond: keep on walking along the main road (Pondfill Road, officially known as Walther Nisbeth Road) and pass the Salt Pickers roundabout, then view from the sand parking lot lining the south bank of Great Salt Pond, behind the parked cars.

Other viewpoints require a car or taxi to get there, including the canal between Fresh Pond and Great Salt Pond and from the sand strip behind the St Maarten Zoo (both on the north side of the pond).

Both Birding Tour guides on St Maarten visit this pond during their birding tours: Ilja Botha of Seagrape Tours and Binkie van Es of Sint Maarten Birding.

Common Gallinule (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

Common Gallinule (Photo by Seagrape Tours)

Additional Information

Great Salt Pond is the reason why the Dutch settled on Sint Maarten in 1631: for over 300 years the Dutch have harvested salt from this pond. Remains of the salt production era can still be seen when the water level is not too high and the walls of the salt pans are visible.

Currently Great Salt Pond houses a man-made island which was created to house the sanitary landfill. This landfill has been growing into a hill (twice the size ever imagined at the start of the project) and now forms an eyesore. It causes contamination of the water of Great Salt Pond and also pollution of the air, especially when the dump is on fire. Despite the landfill, birdlife is thriving and so are the fish. Several NGOs are lobbying for a boardwalk next to the salt pans and through the mangroves for both a historical educational walk as well as birdwatching from behind blind walls.


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