Maho Beach | Airplanes!
The two keen sunbathers that triumphantly thought they secured the best spot on the beach, clearly hadn’t read the signs. Consequently, mere minutes after smugly settling down on their carefully positioned blankets with a fresh coat of sun screen, the pair, and all their belongings, were quite literally blown out to sea by the forceof the jet blast from the American Airlines Boeing 737 taking off from Princess Juliana International Airport right behind them. Maho Beach is an (in)famous place for plane spotting as it’s uniquely located right at the end of the airport runway on the Caribbean island of St Maarten, resulting in spectacular up close views of planes on low approach for landing, and, as the unaware sunbathers found out the hard way, rather eventful take-offs.
Although the beach itself is quite pretty, with powdery white sand and azure blue waters, the maindraw here is the proximity to the airport. Thanks to some impressive videos and photos on YouTube, the front row seat view of planes coming and going has become so popular that spotters (seasoned as well as happy amateurs) flock here from across the globe. The bars and restaurants post the daily arrivals and departures on surf boards on the beach, and the Sunset Bar & Grill announce the biggest planes on loud speakers, so visitors can time their beach activities accordingly. Some daredevils irresponsibly ignore the warnings (although no serious injury has ever been reported) and line up along the fence, holding on for dear life, to experience being lifted up by the immense force of the airplane jet blasts.
The avian highlight of the day we were there was the afternoon arrival of an Air France flight from Paris, a big four engines Airbus A340. It did not disappoint. From the announcement of its imminent arrival, people flocked to the beach with cameras and binoculars ready, the atmosphere quiet and expectant. The silence was broken when the plane finally appeared as a small speck in the sky. People pointed and joyously clapped as it got ever nearer the beach, and seemed to grow bigger and bigger by the second. To see this enormous aircraft glide through the air at such low altitude and so near us was quite an exhilarating sight, and the noise on its final approach as it crossed directly over our heads was deafening. Equally so was the rapturous applause and adrenaline fuelled cheers from the crowds under it. For the arriving passengers onboard, it must have seen like such an enthusiastic welcome! And with the last plane having touched down for the day, the music at the bar was considerably cranked up.