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Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
April 7, 2010
Brooklyn, New York
November 23, 2004
And they do quite well, given the fact that even a softie like me was able to get by fine in their original and most basic accommodation option, a tent-cottage—one of 114 packed into the camps’ enormous main site on a hillside overlooking Maho Bay. The ingenious innovation here is that the cottages, instead of being built on the ground, are raised on stilts and connected by a network of similarly raised boardwalks. (Note that since the camp is built on a hillside, you’re going to be going up and down tons of stairways! Maho is definitely not handicapped-friendly.)
Sixteen square feet of floor space can be supported by just nine small holes in the ground. What does this mean? For one thing, animal habitats go undisturbed; for another, clear-cutting of the forest, which can cause dangerous erosion, is avoided. In fact, the trees help to screen the cottages from one another for privacy—which gives them the feel of nifty treehouses, especially since the walls only go halfway up. Their upper portions are open to the air, covered only by mosquito netting. If you want total privacy, there are curtains you can let down—but trust me, the breezes coming through will really help to keep the cottage cool.
Accommodation-wise, don’t expect the comfort of a hotel room; but if you come in expecting to be camping, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Each cottage is equipped with electric lights and outlets, fans, two twin beds (linens provided), a table and chairs, a couch, a small deck, basic cooking utensils, a propane stove, and an icebox. Water for cooking is available from spigots scattered along the walkways. Bathrooms and showers are communal—and there’s no hot water, so be warned! (Not that I never found that much of a problem in the tropical heat.)
Another top attraction at Maho is its gorgeous outdoor dining pavilion, set high on the hillside with a sweeping view out over neighboring Francis Bay. The food there is very tasty, if a little on the expensive side.
Phew! I think that just about covers the bare basics—but that’s not all by a long shot! To read about Maho’s cushier accommodation options, Harmony Studios and Concordia Eco-Tents, follow the links to fellow IgoUgo-er Jose Kevo’s entries. And for much, much more from me on life at Maho, check out my companion free-form entry, The Maho Experience.
From journal St. John on Land
by Jose Kevo
July 8, 2002
Both facilities have been constructed using labor intensive methods which prevents the need for heavy machinery. This promotes minimal defoliation which helps to retain ground water and natural shade. The elevated walkways avoid ground contact and conceal pipes and cables negating need for trenching. Perhaps the biggest fete and showcase example is the swimming pool at Concordia Estates. The descending depth scale, from 3' to 8' feet is width-wise rather than typically length-wise, taking advantage of the hill's natural slope without needing bulldozers.
Within Harmony and Concordia studios, materials include floor tiles made from recycled clay scraps; counter and table tops from recycled glass; nails of remelted steel; wallboards of paper and gypsum; decks of recycled newspaper; roof insulation from milk jugs and roof tiles of cardboard and cement.
Some of the specialized design features are cisterns for collecting/storing rain water and composting toilets which contribute to a rich top soil. Recycled gray water run-off from sinks/showers provide a natural irrigation system. Wind scoop roof-designs help pull heat from within the building. Window and patio doors are coated with a solar cool glazing with placement to maximize cross ventilation. Solar and wind generated energy provides electrical needs including for ice makers, outdoor ovens, and high efficiency 24-volt refrigerators which use 60-90% less electricity than standard models.
Most of the furnishings have been "recreated" left-overs from other sources of the tourism industry, while carpets have been made from recycled plastic, and linens made from unbleached genetically colored cotton. Decorations are hand-crafted from natural substances and have been collected from many countries.
Exposure to such practices only fuels the consciousness and self-awareness possibilities for how we all can be involved with ecological issues regardless of where we come from. And in doing so, the theme of these photos is, "Save the Picture Frames"!
From journal Keeping The Island Virgin At Maho Bay
There are two sizes of studios - Bedroom, which can comfortably sleep four, and Living Room, which can house six. Patio-type furniture is limited to the 6' x 18' decks while the interiors are elegantly decorated with revamped/recycled furnishings. In addition to the utensil and flatware stocked kitchen, guests also have the luxury of microwave and refrigerator usage along with a private bath.
Studios come with a ceiling fan and window unit, though they weren't really necessary of an evening as the building design maximizes the trade wind breezes...and also made the "questionable" blankets welcomed while sleeping.
With screened windows and the double patio doors left open, sights and sounds net the same back-to-nature experience as those staying in tent-cottages. Sea views from the decks are somewhat limited thanks to the natural vegetation which was purposefully left uninterrupted during construction. If there was any downside to the studios, it is their location at the top of the hill and guests with physical limitations would likely struggle coming to/from the rest of Maho's facilities. For those in good condition, I highly recommend the exhilarating sunrise and after dark jaunts around the compound.
Take note - room keys are coupled with a smaller key which activates electricity from a meter just inside the studio door. This ensures guests conserve energy by having to take the key when leaving. Also, doors automatically lock behind you.
During the winter season, bedroom studios run $185-$200 double occupancy, and living room studios are $195-$210. Summer rates are the biggest savings of all accommodation types with $110-$135 for bedroom studios, and $130-$145 for living room studios. Additional guests are $25 per night either season.
Today, there are 114 tent cottage units peppered across the 14-acre compound. They've been constructed on 16-foot platforms which includes an outdoor patio/sitting area, and the entry way which connects to the extensive elevated wooden walkways which link everything at Maho Bay. Inside, there's a combined kitchen area and small sitting area which comes with cooler and basic kitchen utensils, a propane stove, dining room table, and futon couch which has an extra single sleeper mattress stored behind it. A sleeping area, with two other single beds, is off to the side and can be sectioned off with fabric privacy dividers. Tent cottages are stocked with bedding and linens and wired for electricity.
Four very large bathroom/shower facilities are shared by campers, and house and pay phone stations are also readily available. Potable and non potable water faucets and charcoal grills are regionally located for general usage.
When checking in, guests are given a color-coded map of the extensive facility. I would suggest you familiarize yourself with your entire surroundings while there's still daylight. Part of the magic of Maho Bay comes from the labyrinth of wooden walkways which are engulfed within the lush vegetation creating the "privacy factor" with nearby neighbors. Small signs with directive arrows are placed along the railings, but it would be easy to get turned around. It is also why flashlights are needed at night.
During the winter season, tent cottages run $110 a night double occupancy with the price going to $115 during February and for Holiday weeks. Additional guests are $15 per person each night. During the May 1st-December 14th summer season, the double occupancy cost drops to $75 with additional guests 16-over paying $12 a night and 15-under paying $10.