We report the experimental observation of nonlinear switching dynamics in an InP photonic crystal nanocavity. Usually, the regime of relatively small cavity perturbations is explored, where the signal transmitted through the cavity follows the temporal variation of the cavity resonance. When the cavity is perturbed by strong pulses, we observe several nonlinear effects, i.e., saturation of the switching contrast, broadening of the switching window, and even initial reduction of the transmission. The effects are analyzed by comparison with nonlinear coupled mode theory and explained in terms of large dynamical variations of the cavity resonance in combination with nonlinear losses. The results provide insight into the nonlinear optical processes that govern the dynamics of nanocavities and are important for applications in optical signal processing, where one wants to optimize the switching contrast.