Friday evening, while exploring a cave near Maho Beach in St. Maarten, I hit my head on a low-hanging rock. I did not get hurt, but the sunglasses resting on the top of my head were crushed – the left eye was completely blown out.
Annoying, for sure. And also not a good thing to happen the day before you visit a nude beach – you know what I mean?
Especially since, as it turns out, I had to walk through the clothing-optional section at Orient Beach twice. The first time was to check it out – to investigate – and I did a very good job of reminding myself that my eyes were uncovered. I did not bring my camera – they have strict rules against photography in that area, and I wasn’t about to get it confiscated.
Yet I was kicking myself when I reached the far southern end of Orient Bay and the land curved out to a peninsula, my eyes overwhelmed with a stunning view of the bay. At the risk of looking like a pervert, I went back to the car to get my camera and returned with it hidden in my backpack, once again walking past the unclothed vacationers, some sunbathing, others congregating on the shoreline, men standing together drinking a beer. I saw a couple snorkeling in the shallow waters, a few people hanging out on the floating dock in their birthday suits. Probably the most memorable sight was a topless mother playing in the water with her daughter.
Hang on – it’s not about me being a twenty-something year-old voyeur – I can see naked people on the Internet, for Christ’s Sake. There was something about the image that just stuck with me, something that you would never, ever see in the United States of America. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I saw more skin in those two ten-minute walks than I have in my entire existence, and that’s what travel is all about, yeah?
Another observation: I had no idea that senior citizens groomed themselves as much as they apparently do.
As I walked that beach I thought of all the barriers we put up to protect ourselves – makeup to cologne to hairstyles – and my respect immediately went out to all the people of all different body types and attractiveness that let it all hang out – that had the courage to quit being fearful of their bodies.
Throughout my two walks, I overheard many conversations of others passing through the beach, couples half arguing, half discussing the prospect of joining the party. Interestingly enough (but far from surprising), it was typically the younger males who were hesitant – I saw several retrace their steps back to the regular beaches of Orient.
I’m not banging on the boys – I too kept my clothes on due to the fact that I was alone – yet as I said last week, if a significant other was down, I wouldn’t be able to get my suit off fast enough.
I’ll be honest: I was a bit curious when I saw a man preparing to wind surf naked – I’d imagine that’s one hell of a free feeling.
Photos from a distance: