st. eustatius: miriam c. schmidt botanical garden
At the base of Statia’s well-known volcano, the Quill sits the product of Miriam Schmidt’s vision – a botanical garden exhibiting an array of plant species native to the island, a safe haven away from animal grazing and the burdens of development. Weave your way through the arbors in the Sensory Garden, catch a glimpse of the rare Statia Morning Glory in the Shade House and enjoy the views of St. Kitts from the Lookout or the occasional humpback whale if you’re lucky enough to spot one (between December and April).Or you could increase your chances to spot passing whales by partaking in one of the first of my own personal encounters with volunteer travel on the Dutch Caribbean islands.
In cooperation with Working Abroad (an international networking service for volunteers, workers and travelers), the St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA) Foundation opens its doors to volunteers to lend a hand in conservation of the Marine Park, Quill National Park and the Botanical Garden – which also doubles as camping grounds to utilize for the duration of your project. After working with turtles, on trials and having a go at tropical gardening, get to know your fellow volunteers under the shade of the pavilion snacking on fruit picked straight off the tree or over chitchat while unwinding in a hammock under the open air pavilion. Once the dinner table is cleared there’s plenty of time for drinks under the endless starry night sky – with no TV or internet to distract you, all you need to keep an eye out for is a shooting star!
Feedback from past volunteers, a detailed breakdown of what the project entails and more on the amenities provided on the campsite at the botanical garden can be found on the Working Abroad page and on STENAPA’s site. You will also want to check out these blogs covering Liam Robert Handley’s adventures as an intern (http://thebotanintern.blogspot.com/) and those of Claire Blair, the Botanical Garden Ranger (http://gardenonthegoldenrock.blogspot.com/).