Tag Archives: Caribbean

Stanley Selengut, Maho Bay Camp’s Founder

I have been absent lately working on other things, but in the process of working on an upcoming post I found some interesting interviews with Stanley Selengut, the founder of Maho Bay Camp, Harmony Studios and Concordia,  that I wanted to share. Despite having worked there for many years, I never heard him speak much and am always surprised when I see so much attributed to him. My impression of him was almost one of shyness, but he is very personable and revealing in his YouTube video!

The text below is a long excerpt from the September 15, 2008 edition of American Way (magazine of American Airlines), in an article entitled “Paradise Lost?” by Jack Boulware.

DESPITE MAHO BAY CAMPS’ reputation as a green destination, Stanley Selengut says his original vision had little to do with conservation. “I was going to build a little lodge right on the ocean, and a nice old couple would run it. They’d have a little scuba boat and a little sailboat. My friends would visit, I would visit, and if it lost money, who cares, because I could take my vacations as a tax deduction.”

When the news arrived that a New York builder had gotten hold of commercially zoned property, the park superintendent of St. John was irate. He met with Selengut, telling him that development could easily disrupt topsoil, potentially ruining the beaches and coral reefs. Selengut then agreed to construct a pedestrian community, with elevated walkways between the trees so nothing would be destroyed.

“In those days, the way you developed was you clear-cut the land, you built what you wanted to build, and then you landscaped with grass and palm trees,” Selengut says. Instead, he hired a few locals and built a series of 18 tent cabins, inspired by structures he’d seen on a trip to Africa. All the buildings were erected on hand-dug footings in order to minimize impact to the land.

From the beginning, the idea was for Maho Bay to be affordable, not elitist. “That was more of a challenge than the green part,” Selengut admits. “Being green, if you have endless supplies of money and want to charge $600 a night, isn’t that hard. But being green and remaining affordable doubles the challenge.”

Not long after Maho Bay opened, two things happened that completely changed the little camp: Neighboring hotels began to send their overbooked customers to the ecoresort, and a writer for the New York Times came to visit and wrote an article that went on to be reprinted throughout the United States.

“We were full right off the bat,” Selengut remembers. “That gave me the feeling this wasn’t really a toy — there was a real market for what is now called nature-based travel, or ecotourism. So that gave me the encouragement to put some real money into it and make it into a real business.”

As more cabins were built, Selengut’s curiosity about his customers grew. He would send every guest a personal letter with a questionnaire and a postage-paid return envelope addressed to his office in New York. Many of the suggestions he received in those replies came from professional landscapers and botanists and were directly incorporated into the Maho Bay design plan. Other ideas were a little different.

“One guest was an artist who worked in fabric,” Selengut says. “I went down [and found a] worker taking our waste sheets and tie-dyeing them and batiking them and sewing them into stuff. Somebody else found out that a kiln can fire ceramics using pallet wood [as fuel], so we’d go to the dump and get bunches of pallet wood and use it to fire the kiln. And then somebody came up with the idea that we could take the lint from the laundry and mix it with the office paper and water in a blender to make art paper. Every time I go down there, they’re doing something new that sounds like great fun.”

Neat little interview recorded with Stanley Selengut & posted by Audubon Magazine in 2008:

(this was posted five years ago and does not appear to allow embedding, so click on this link to watch it on YouTube!)

 

Snorkeling Cinnamon Bay Cay

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!

beach path

beach shop

I am not sure what this coral is. I think Boulder Star Coral but if someone knows, I would love a confirmation or clarification!
I am not sure what this coral is. I think Boulder Star Coral but if someone knows, I would love a confirmation or clarification!
Colorful sponge and soft coral seen around the cay at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Colorful sponge and soft coral seen around the cay at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Flamingo tongue snail (a sea snail) leaves its trail on a sea fan in Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Flamingo tongue snail (a sea snail) leaves its trail on a sea fan in Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Love the color on these Christmas Tree Worms seen at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Love the color on these Christmas Tree Worms seen at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Blue tang, Grunt and Squirrel Fish gliding in the coral reef at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Blue tang, Grunt and Squirrel Fish gliding in the coral reef at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
A peach colored flamingo tongue snail perched on a sea fan in Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
A peach colored flamingo tongue snail perched on a sea fan in Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Finger coral with the polyps out during the daytime! Seen at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Finger coral with the polyps out during the daytime! Seen at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
School of Blue Tang, along with Bar Jack and Surgeon Fish, eating on the coral reef at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
School of Blue Tang, along with Bar Jack and Surgeon Fish, eating on the coral reef at Cinnamon Bay, St. John.
Large and healthy Brain Coral seen while snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay this summer.
Large and healthy Brain Coral seen while snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay this summer.
Cinnamon Bay Beach, St. John: The water feels as good as it looks!
Cinnamon Bay Beach, St. John: The water feels as good as it looks!

 

Recipe for a Caribbean Painkiller

The famous Caribbean concoction, the Painkiller, with the mountains of Coral Bay, St. John in the distance, and a papaya tree directly behind the drink.

Drink in my hand & Toes in the sand!

Straight to you: a Painkiller Recipe! 

Two activities that many people do when they stayed at Maho was a boat trip to Jost van Dyke, BVI and a Painkiller from the Soggy Dollar Bar. Even if you have not had the fun of going over to see the small island of ‘Jost’ you can sample a Painkiller here on St. John. As a matter of fact, the restaurant at Concordia (sister eco-resort to Maho Bay Camp) has a full service bar and makes an excellent Painkiller.

My favorite island drinks are the Painkiller and the Bushwacker, and I probably like the new version of the Painkiller made at Soggy Dollar, the ‘Nilla Killa! There are plenty of Painkiller recipes floating around the internet on how to make an “Original” or “Authentic” Painkiller, but I have a recipe that actually comes closer to the taste of the Painkiller & ‘Nilla Killa. Why should you believe this? Well, I had a few months with a severe foot injury that led to many days off work spent reading good books and perfecting my ‘Nilla Killa recipe. Secondly, I have had the chance to visit the Soggy Dollar Bar a few times this year and compare my drink to theirs! One thing no one ever mentions is that the Soggy Dollar pours their Painkillers out of a gallon jug, and it is a rational decision since they pour so many. But I am also quite sure they make the recipe in larger batches as a starting point, and that is the way I have perfected my recipe!

soggy dollar bar
White Bay, Jost van Dyke, BVI as seen from the Soggy Dollar Bar – A great place to get a Pain Killer!

The new Nilla Killa:  My thought was that if you can’t make it to the islands this year, to soak in the sunshine, refreshing blue water and buttery soft white sand, then maybe you can bring a bit of the island to you! The Painkiller is a suitable replacement to a Mimosa or Eggnog as a Holiday libation! It is orangey-creamy goodness that will remind your time in the Caribbean.

The basics:

  1. 1 empty gallon jug
  2. 1 15oz can of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut
  3. 32 oz of Orange Juice
  4. 32 oz of Pineapple Juice
  5. 32 oz of Mango Juice
  6. fresh grated nutmeg for the top of your drink (can be ordered from St. John Spice if necessary, only $10 for the grater and bag of nutmeg)

Now, it is your Rum that makes it a Painkiller or Nilla Killa. I prefer the ever available Cruzan Rum found here in the US Virgin Islands, but you can try your favorites.  I usually put 2 Cups Dark Rum in for a Painkiller or 1 Cup Dark Rum with 2 Cups Vanilla Rum for the Nilla Killa. I put this in with the Coco Lopez first and fill up the jug with the juices. Great for serving ready made drinks to a crowd. Of course some people want different amounts of alcohol, so you can mix it without the the rum, adding rum to desired amounts to each drink. Down here that might be considered too much work though….  Only 100 calories per drink, (if you drink it here in the islands! )