as seen in...
You've earned your vacation! Let's make the most of it by preventing any
glitches and giving you
'the inside scoop' of traveling to and from our special island. If
you don't have time to read through this entire page, we really suggest
you print it out and stick it in your carry-on bag--there's loads of
great and pertinent info...
What thickness wetsuit? Do I need long sleeves at night time? Use this chart as a gauge of temperatures to expect:
What will we see?...Well, that's not an easy question...Check out our Nature News page for the latest unusual sightings as well as our revamped Saba Images & Beyond which gives you some classic photo examples as well as a bit of background on the creatures--even some photo tips. The Nature News page is regularly updated with recent sightings. You can also check your time frame of travel in past seasons to get an idea of 'usual suspects'. Check our photo tips below to be more intrigued.
Photo enthusiasts...For digital enthusiasts, be sure to bring a spare memory card. There is no where to purchase cards on Saba. Sea Saba will let you use our card reader at our retail shop in Windwardside to download images. You won't believe how many photo ops you'll find on our incredible island--quaint villages, interesting churches, wonderful cultural mix for portraits...and that's before we look at nature! Just outside your hotel or rental cottage you will find amazing photo opportunities. Ocean views, sunsets, sunrises, flowers galore, incredible greenery, lizards, geckos, hummingbirds, tree frogs, and iguanas! Oh, you came here for diving? Look forward to experiencing the results of 21 years of the Saba Marine Park's protective work. Macro enthusiasts will never grow tired of the varying substrates that host our critters ranging from nudibranchs to blennies, frogfish, batfish, etc.. Up close opportunities await for turtles, stingrays and sharks. Seasonal sightings of seahorses, mantas and humpback whales can be hoped for! So double check to make sure you have what you need! Don't want to make the investment but want to try the fun? Sea Saba offers digital cameras with underwater housings for rental and now a separate strobe with a tray and focusing light that fits any point-and-shoot or SLR camera. For those of you who just can't let go of that expensive film camera, be sure to pack all film in your carry-on luggage, knowing that you will need to request 'hand check visual inspection' of the film at each security check point to avoid exposure to radiation by the x-ray machine. As x-ray exposure has an accumulative effect on your film, one pass through may not effect the film's integrity but after 3 or 4 passes, it will probably result in damaged film and unacceptable results. Good luck with this; it's getting harder all the time to get manual checks but worth the effort. Another option is to purchase a lead bag from a specialized camera store to protect the film. Your film will be destroyed from the high level x-rays if you leave it in your checked baggage. There is no longer film processing available on Saba or St. Maarten and few places to buy film. So, perhaps it's just another reason to consider digital options!
Dive Equipment...Before you RENT equipment from your local dive shop, check out Sea Saba's quality equipment and great prices. As major carriers and Winair now have stricter baggage regulations (see below), renting bigger less personal items is another consideration. Most divers are comfortable with skins, Polartecs or 2-3mm wetsuits in the summer months, depending upon your propensity to getting cold, body fat, etc. In the winter months, divers wear from a minimum of 2-3 mm wetsuits to 5-6mm for those with little body fat or acclimatized to the tropics. Saba does not officially have a "No Gloves" or "No Knives" rule; however, use of either is discouraged. Although our mooring lines have growth on them, most find no problem to dive without gloves or only use the gloves for the mooring lines as wearers of gloves are known to inadvertently damage corals without the sense of touch to assess what should or should not be touched while diving. The only real use for knives while diving Saba are to either bang on your tank (or to share your lunch with others).
Don't Forget...C-Cards or proof of certification are a must. If you have lost your certification card, contact us BEFORE you get to Saba. Only PADI has an easy-to-use on-line data base for easy verification. Other organizations require more time, numerous phone calls and patience. Please understand Sea Saba, or any reputable dive center, requires proof of your diving status. Any medical concerns that might effect your ability to dive safely should be addressed before you travel. With your safety as our #1 concern, we have the right to refuse you to dive with us or request written medical clearance should we be made aware of any medical concern at any point during your stay. If you are not a D.A.N. member, use this easy link to sign up and be insured before your trip.
our 'new post 9/11 world', regulations are constantly changing. As
of January 1, 2006, all U.S. citizens (as well as all other nationalities)
are required to travel with a valid passport for ease of
travel. Only a few nationalities (i.e. former Soviet
countries, South Americans and some Middle Eastern countries) require the issuances of a
visa. Visit the website of the St.
Maarten airport to check for specific immigration regulations as St.
Maarten is the first point of entry in to the Netherlands Antilles.
New weight and battery restrictions on large carriers... Most U.S. carriers are now limiting checked bags to one bag per person and a maximum weight of 50 lbs. per bag (exceptions are normally if you fly first class or have gold card status). Many are now charging for each bag or for sure the second bag. Don't be embarrassed or delayed by having to adjust or pay at the check in counter. In most cases, they will allow you the extra weight or extra piece but at some hefty prices. Check with your airline. Although we have not experienced any actual checking of batteries while we were traveling, know that new regulations are 'on the books'. Review this link for more information on battery restrictions.
Winair Weight Restrictions. As of July 1 '08. Winair has new, even stricter policies on both checked luggage and carry on luggage.
Windward Island Airways " Winair" has an official weight restriction of 22kg per person (50 lbs.). You may check up to 64kg (140 lbs) but you will pay overweight after the 22kg allowance. Officially, the 20kg includes your carry on luggage--but luckily, we have not yet seen this enforced. Although they used to allow an additional 10kg (22 lbs) allowance for diving equipment, this is no longer clarified on their website. Officially, each passenger is allowed one (1) carry-on bag which is subject to a maximum weight of 3 kilos or just over 6 pounds--again, we are not seeing that enforced but know this is the official rule. Carry-on bags the size of a reasonable backpack, but quite heavy are regularly allowed on with no questions asked. But, a larger roller bag that can fit in the overhead compartment of a major carrier has no place on Winair flights with no overhead compartment and little room under the seats. In addition to the carry-on luggage, a customer may carry a handbag or pocketbook, overcoat or wrap, umbrella or walking stick, camera, binoculars and reading material for the flight. The unspoken rule seems to be 'whatever can reasonably fit on your lap or at your feet' is allowed.
If you are ticketed through to Saba on USAir, Delta, Air France or KLM, the luggage restrictions of those airlines apply. American Airline passengers must re-check bags in St. Maarten. Some suggestions:
Because of the new restrictions on both Winair and major carriers, Sea Saba has further upgraded our rental equipment so that you can still dive in comfort and feel secure that you have properly maintained equipment. So, feel free to lighten your load. See our Workshop and Rental Equipment page of this site for more details regarding our rental fleet.
Provisioning...We did say concierge-level service. If you will be staying at a rental cottage, consider taking us up on our offer to have a few essentials in place upon arrival. We don't charge for the service (only the goods will be put on your bill to pay at the end of your trip), just another Sea Saba difference. The island's food/freight boat arrives on Tuesday night, so if you intend to cook or just like to have things in place for arrival, best to send us a list ahead of time--things like fresh fruit, veggies and milk go fast! Grocery store hours are now 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.; absolutely closed on Sundays and local holidays. If you're arriving on the last flight, it's no problem to make the super market. But if you're arriving on the Dawn II ferry (7:30 p.m. by the time you reach your accommodations) or on a Sunday or holiday, we'll be happy to have some basics in place for your arrival like breakfast stuff, coffee, beer, wine, etc....simply email us and we'll have it in place. You'll be surprised at the variety of wines at great prices.
Considering carrying a laptop? Perhaps the easiest way to stay in touch now that Sa-tel (our local phone company) has installed Wi-fi throughout Saba. Prepaid cards can be purchased in many locations for $5-$45. Most hotel properties and rental houses as well as a number of restauants also have wireless access. We hope you can relax and leave work behind but as business owners ourselves, we understand the need to be reached. Assured high speed access (well, high speed by Saba standards) is possible Mondays through Saturday at the island's only internet cafe located near the Windwardside Post Office: Island Communications Services. ICS also has low cost international phone access and a decent inventory of DVD's to rent. Juliana's Hotel has a computer station for use by their guests. Concerned you cannot be easily contacted in case of emergency? Feel free to give Sea Saba's contact information to your family, business or friends. If you have a family concern at home, contact Lynn and we will even provide our home number.
Interline Baggage Agreements...At this writing, USAir, Continental, Delta, United, KLM, Air France have interline baggage agreements with Winair. If traveling on these airlines, you may check your luggage through to Saba at your gateway city. The airport code for Saba is "SAB". These agreements regularly change but it never hurts to ask when you're checking your bags to save time and inconvenience when you land in St. Maarten. In order to take advantage of this check-in process, you must have a ticket for same-day travel to Saba. The reverse is true when departing Saba. Note: Air France has extremely high overweight charges of 35 Euros per excess kilo and the weight limit is only 23 kg. Be sure to check individual air carriers policies on weight restrictions before you pack--or even before you ticket. You may find it more economical to ticket with one carrier over another once you investigate these policies
St. Maarten ("SXM") airport...A MUST READ! Princess Juliana Airport officially opened in November 2006. The new airport is modern, clean and bright with many shops to kill time at...duty free electronics, jewelry, cosmetics, chocolates and liquor are readily available. In case you just could not find the time before leaving home, there's even the Express Spa aka Marie Antoinette Coiffure: facial, massage, pedicure or manicure at a good price and quick! There are also bars, ice cream and many good eating choices from Japanese to burgers to a proper sit-down restaurant. Exiting the airport is now a pleasure due to these upgrades. Getting to Saba on a connecting flight from the new airport warrants a bit of additional information to ensure delays are avoided.
If you are traveling on a carrier that requires you to re-check your bags with Winair, please read the following...When you arrive in St. Maarten (almost to Saba!) have your entry permit filled out ahead of time so you do not have to go to the back of the line. There is no real customs at the Princess Juliana Airport. Occasionally officials will spot check luggage and request it is x-rayed; but long lines and delays are NOT the norm. Once you clear immigration, there are 3 luggage belts. Your airline and flight number are posted on the corresponding monitor. If you are traveling with a companion and you have a close Winair (less than 2 hours) connection, have one person wait for the luggage while the other gets in line at Winair. After clearing immigration you need to accomplish 3 things (get luggage; check in to Winair, clear security) before getting to your departure gate for Saba--any of the 3 can take some time. A major improvement at this new facility is that a Winair counter is right behind the luggage retrieval area (after you have cleared immigration but before exiting the luggage claim area). IF a Winair agent is at this counter, you can easily check in here. Often times, this counter is not manned and you must exit the luggage claim area to the departures hall and recheck at the general Winair line. After checking your bags with Winair, you will need to go upstairs, clear another passport inspection area and then security lines to xray your carry on bags. This can take from 7 minutes to over an hour depending on how busy the airport is. Once out of the security area you'll find numerous colorful shops and several food choices and places to buy cold drinks (a cold one might be in order by now!) Especially in high season, there are often numerous "last flights" for several islands. Winair has a stellar safety record but organization and keeping the public informed are how they've made their reputation in other areas. Often the flight to Saba is not announced on the loud speaker AND can leave up to 30 minutes early (or late; it's the islands, mon!). Grab a cold drink and enjoy the local scenery but don't take a nap or stray far from the gate.
If you miss your flight or your flight is cancelled...If you arrive at the St. Maarten airport and find there is weather causing flights to be cancelled (cross winds will cause this on Saba), there is now an alternative. Dawn II has just started servicing Saba at times that are conducive to those staying on Saba (unlike The Edge which is set up for 'day trippers from SXM). Present schedule: Dawn II will departs SXM at 5 p.m. on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Dawn II leaves from a dock at Chesterfields Restaurant in Great Bay Marina, 20 minutes to one hour+ from the airport, depending on traffic. If you find your flight to Saba will not be departing, find a way to call the Sea Saba office (from St. Maarten airport: 0416-2246 or 416-2246--depending on the type of cell phone) and we'll do our best to confirm a seat for you on the ferry or maybe even have them wait for you if you will not be delayed long. Most days you will need about 1 hour to get from the St. Maarten airport to Chesterfield's dock where Dawn II departs. If this option fails, relax and make the most of the evening. Before we advise you on where to stay and eat options, make sure you make a flight reservation for the earliest morning flight out of St. Maarten. If they advise you flights are full, make a ferry reservation by either calling the Sea Saba office or booking it directly (544-2640 local number). The Edge ferry departs Pelican Resort docks area at 9 a.m.--best to get there by 8:15 to properly check-in. Their office closes at 5 p.m. daily. The ferry to Saba runs daily Wed-Sun (not Mon or Tue). We suggest Royal Turtle Inn as your first option of a place to stay. Walkable from the airport if you can easily manage your own luggage. $79-$110/night depending on the time of year--clean, big comfortable beds, airco'd, bar and restaurant on the lagoon.
The real fun begins...
Saba airport...Get a window seat on the right so you can see this fascinating approach to the Caribbean's most unique island. When you arrive on Saba with a Sea Saba reservation, Garvis should be at the airport looking for you. If not, either ask Immigration to make a quick call to Sea Saba or take any taxi to your hotel and advise them you are on a pre-paid dive package. The driver will collect payment from the hotel---tipping is at your discretion.
Once you've settled in to your hotel, give Sea Saba a call. We will stay open until we have made contact with you, preferably an in-person check-in so that we can give you a bit of orientation to the island, explain the dive plan and make dinner reservations for you. If you are staying at Queen's Gardens, we'll ask the driver to stop before heading toward the hotel. If you are staying at El Momo, The Ecolodge or The Gate House and arrive on the last flight, you may just want to give us a call with a proper check-in arranged for the next day. Enjoy your first evening!
Can't wait? Fill the time by learning more about Sea Saba's Crew or check out our diving diversity on our newly formatted Diving the Saba Marine Park page--there's loads of information here from the how the Saba Marine Park started to dive site descriptions. Our Nature News page has interesting news items including weekly reports on strange and unusual creatures spotted.
OK, you forgot...No Worries, few things are truly unobtainable...You will probably be surprised how many things are available on our small island...Sea Saba offers excellent quality resort wear from infants to XXL--an array of shorts, shirts (Columbia, J. America, Champion, Gear For Sports and more), Merrell sandals and hiking shoes, long-sleeves,,,not just t-shirts! We no longer carry film but have a variety of batteries and will let our customers use one of our workstations to download images (we have a universal card reader and you can purchase cd's from us). Video tape is not regularly available for purchase on island. There is no commercial film processing on the island. Our local groceries store may not have the volume and variety you are used to but you will find it more than adequate. A grand selection of wines and spirits are available at much lower than U.S. prices. The Sea Saba office is open from 7:30 a.m. and most often well after 5 p.m. Just ask for our help and we'll do everything within our power to accommodate your needs. The A.M. Edwards Medical Center is staffed with two respected doctors and nursing staff and can handle basic health care and some pharmacy needs.
Diving notes...Our office stays open for every check-in. We understand that "getting off on the right foot" is important to your valuable vacation. Bring your c-card and walk over to our office/shop. We'll let you know what is planned for the next day, the pickup time and orient you to the island. If you have a mesh bag for your dive gear, bring it. Otherwise, we'll issue one to you (we also sell simple ones or excellent quality bags). Your gear will stay on the boat until you are finished diving--so it's best if we can pick up the divers bags to clean the boat rather than 100+ pieces of dive gear. We'll tell you plenty more at your checkin!
Instead of sitting at the St. Maarten airport...If you have an afternoon connection, let us make suggestions for the best use of your time. If you really don't want to leave the airport, go home not only suntanned but relaxed with a maasage or other treatment @ Spa Express. The Spa Express is located across from the main quick food area, on the first floor before security. Other options...get your white-sand-beach-fix at award-winning Mary's Boon. A $8 taxi ride whisks you to St. Maarten's landmark beach hotel. Let us make a lunch reservation at their famous beach bar and they will let you use their pool, the beach, shower facilities and even arrange for your return airport transfer. Other options are a taste of France in Marigot, the capitol of the French side or a taxi tour, or hustle in to "town" for jewelry and electronics shopping (recommended only if you have 4 hours or more). Why sit in the airport for hours when you can finish off the trip with another great experience?
Back home...Keep your Saba memories alive by sharing images with us--we love to post our divers' images on the Nature News page of our website--we'll make you famous, not rich :-) Forgot to bring your logbook to Saba? Click here for our downloadable, easy to print map as a souvenir. Go to Sea Saba's exclusive map with dive sites and reminisce, or print it for your scrapbook or your log book. Check our website for all the news that's fit to print about this special place that's now a part of you.
This page last updated on 02/18/2010 from our Windwardside office.