The coconut palms lining North Shore Road as you pass by Big Maho Bay have always been my favorite. And the closeness of the road to the beach and sea always tempts me to slow down to take in the view. I recently finished reading a local history book, The Night of the Silent Drums, by John L. Andersen, detailing the history of St. John and the slave rebellion that occurred here in the 1700’s. In it I learned that the plantation at Big Maho Bay planted and harvested the coconut palms that you see there today! My hope is the VI National Park will work on sharing the history of that area now that it is part of the park. You can still literally walk through much of St. John’s history since development has been limited. It is not necessary to visit only the ruins to see the history of St. John. It can be seen everywhere once you learn about the island’s past. If you want to walk through the coconut palms, I recommend bring a hard had since the coconuts do not give warnings before falling from the trees!
The Night of the Silent Drums is out of print, so if you want to read it you have to find an old copy. Thankfully, locals and visitors have traded in old copies to the Coffeeshop / Used Bookstore called Papaya Cafe at the Marketplace. I don’t know if they ship or not, but the book run about $40 or so, many hardback editions. You may also find a copy online. A great island read if you are visiting St. John!
The beaches and snorkeling on St. John are fantastic! But I will admit to becoming a “beach and snorkel snob” since living here. While I don’t have a ‘favorite’ place for beach or snorkeling, I tend to eliminate some destinations automatically. For instance, I often eliminate Jumbie as a beach to visit due to the shade and rough waves. It is not bad, but there are others I like better. Snorkeling is the same too. I snorkeled Cinnamon during vacations, and since living here found other reefs that I prefer. I have not returned to snorkel Cinnamon in years.
So I was long past due for a snorkel at Cinnamon and decided the calm seas and warm water of the summertime were the perfect time to swim around the entire cay off of Cinnamon Beach. I wasn’t fighting against a current and was able to take my time looking, and since the water was calm, it was also very clear with no sediment kicked up! The park beach was open but Cinnamon Bay services and campground were closed due to the government shutdown, so it was quiet and uncrowded, with everything green from the summer rains.
This visit was a good reminder that the snorkeling on St. John is good everywhere! It just depends on factors such as what you want to see, the type of beach you want to go to, and the weather and water conditions at the place you have chosen, which have a big impact on the quality of your snorkel!
I have come to prefer snorkeling here in the summer because we have just enough of a longer day to have more time for good visibility when snorkeling, and with the chill taken out of the water I will easily snorkel for one or two hours. The winter water usually chills me and chases me out much earlier. Also the Parrotfish have got their summer pastel colors, which I love to see. It is like visiting another world!
P.S. If anyone knows the name of the coral in the 3rd image, please let me know!
Today I want to share to a meaningful charitable cause and initiated by a generous and thoughtful former Maho Bay guest, Cathey Beard. Cathey, who first visited St. John in the early 80’s and later stayed at Maho Bay Camps with her children, has set up a charitable fund “In Memory of Althea, Beloved Calico of Maho Bay Camps”, in honor of Althea who many guests came to love while staying at Maho. Sadly, Althea passed away a few months after Maho’s closing. All donations will benefit the non-profit St. John Animal Care Center (ACC), going towards care of the islands cats.
The ACC states “the money raised from the “In memory of Althea” fund will help us catch/feed/spay & neuter/medicate many of the islands stray cats. And not just the free roaming cats, but the cats that the shelter puts up for adoption. One of the shelters biggest expenses is supplying the feeding stations on island. Last year the ACC caught 321 cats and had them fixed. Our main goal is population control.”
You may donate to Cathey’s ACC fundraiser online at Razoo.com, linked here.
Not only has Cathey visited Maho and St. John on at least seven trips over the years, but her daughter Lauren fell in love with the island too and came down as a 4-hour worker for a couple of summers at Maho Bay Camp. Cathey’s feelings about the specialness of her time at Maho Bay Camp captures a collective sentiment:
“Maho to me is HEAVEN!! For a marine biologist who grew up in Miami and the Florida Keys – for a frustrated scuba diver who can only snorkel because of ear problems – to someone who just thrives on sand, sea, sunrises & sunsets – it was always perfect!! To be able to walk off a beautiful beach into crystal clear water to see glorious reef fish and corals – it was just “Heaven on Earth” to me!! I am so praying that heaven is just like Maho when the time comes too!! We visited Annaberg Ruins on New Year’s Day one year and saw a huge pod of dolphins down below. One dolphin did couple of flips out of the water in front of a small boat – I’m sure those people couldn’t believe it!
I want to wholeheartedly thank Cathey for creating this fund for the ACC and the island cats on her own time! It was her intention to create a positive way to respond to the sadness of losing Maho Bay Camps and of losing Althea as well. This is Cathey’s third summer fostering cats and kittens at her local animal shelter, and her work inspired the idea for the In Memory of Althea Fund. She knows there is always a tremendous need for help, homes and funding! And while she knows firsthand the beauty of St. John, it is also a harsh environment for homeless animals trying to fend for themselves. And it seems Althea was doing just that for a while. Cathey said she can’t stand to think of helpless animals suffering in this challenging environment.
We need more people like Cathey who respond to situations with thought, compassion and inclusion of others (human and animal!), versus simply reacting to what happens around us. All it takes is one person who feels strongly about doing something good to make a big impact, especially on St. John.