Tag Archives: Caribbean

Snorkeling at Waterlemon Cay

One of the best things about a visit to Maho Bay Camp was the chance to go snorkeling every day at a different bay and see the fish and coral at the different reefs. I will admit that over the years I have varied in my interest in snorkeling. Some years I would go every day and others I thought the water was too chilly and would venture underwater less often. This past year was a fantastic year for snorkeling due to the lack of rain. The more rain we have, the more runoff from the mountains hits the bay and clouds the water in the bays. I also finally decided to purchase a “real” underwater camera. (The disposable ones have always been a wast of time and money.) I bought a digital Panaxonic Lumix and could not be happier with it! And it has made my time snorkeling more fun too. I don’t get out snorkeling as much as I would like to.

I will be writing more about the reefs in future snorkeling posts, especially about the coral bleaching event that occurred some years back and what we can do to help the reefs survive the stress they are placed under due to environmental and human factors. But in the meantime, here are a few photos from a snorkel at Waterlemon Cay in mid-September of this year.

The view of Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay of the far left edge of the bay. The path took us along the right side edge of the island, past a beach and some ruins and the start of the Johnny Horn Trail.
The view of Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay of the far left edge of the bay. The path took us along the right side edge of the island, past a beach and some ruins and the start of the Johnny Horn Trail.
This is the path we took to hike past Leinster Bay out to Waterlemon Cay. This is as green as I have ever seen it!
This is the path we took to hike past Leinster Bay out to Waterlemon Cay. This is as green as I have ever seen it!
The lush green path out to Waterlemon Cay.  (I expected Frodo to jump out at any moment!)
The lush green path out to Waterlemon Cay. (I expected Frodo to jump out at any moment!)
I have been seeing more of the Scrawled Filefish around the reefs in St. John. They are distinguished by their beautiful blue marking and the fact that they will change color much like squid or octopus. Amazingly they feed on fire coral!
I have been seeing more of the Scrawled Filefish around the reefs in St. John. They are distinguished by their beautiful blue marking and the fact that they will change color much like squid or octopus. Amazingly they feed on fire coral!
The beautiful Peacock Flounder, with bright blue oval and spots on it body, is often seen blending into the ocean floor.
The beautiful Peacock Flounder, with bright blue oval and spots on it body, is often seen blending into the ocean floor.
The Southern Stingray is a common sight around the reefs in St. John. This one was stirring up the sand, but at the same time was being pestered by a group of fish that included the brown spotted Trunk Fish (on the right). I have never seen fish look like they were attacking a stingray before.  He began to puff up in the center. Not sure if he was eating or if it was a defensive posture he was taking.
The Southern Stingray is a common sight around the reefs in St. John. This one was stirring up the sand, but at the same time was being pestered by a group of fish that included the brown spotted Trunk Fish (on the right). I have never seen fish look like they were attacking a stingray before. He began to puff up in the center. Not sure if he was eating or if it was a defensive posture he was taking.
The Staghorn Coral at the bottom left is not often seen in the reefs around St. John and was the first coral species listed under the US Endangered Species Act.  Hopefully there are colonies doing better in less traveled bays.
The Staghorn Coral at the bottom left is not often seen in the reefs around St. John and was the first coral species listed under the US Endangered Species Act. Hopefully there are colonies doing better in less traveled bays.
Tarpon swimming in the deeper waters of the north side of Waterlemon Cay. Once I got used to their size (up to and over 4 feet) I have enjoyed swimming with them. If you are at Big Maho Bay when the pelicans are feeding you will see plenty of tarpon swimming in the shallow water among the silversides!
Tarpon swimming in the deeper waters of the north side of Waterlemon Cay. Once I got used to their size (up to and over 4 feet) I have enjoyed swimming with them. If you are at Big Maho Bay when the pelicans are feeding you will see plenty of tarpon swimming in the shallow water among the silversides!
A singular Feather Duster Worm amid the base of some Pillar Coral. The Pillar Coral is a hard coral but looks fuzzy because the tiny coral animals have their polyps out for feeding. It is one of the few hard corals that will do this during the daytime!
A singular Feather Duster Worm amid the base of some Pillar Coral. The Pillar Coral is a hard coral but looks fuzzy because the tiny coral animals have their polyps out for feeding. It is one of the few hard corals that will do this during the daytime!
A brilliantly colored purple Sea Fan at Waterlemon Cay, St. John. There is a large grouping of various colors that wave in the shallow water above the reef on the north side of the cay.
A brilliantly colored purple Sea Fan at Waterlemon Cay, St. John. There is a large grouping of various colors that wave in the shallow water above the reef on the north side of the cay.
I saw a lot of blue-spotted fish that day at Waterlemon Cay and cannot recall what fish this is!
I saw a lot of blue-spotted fish that day at Waterlemon Cay and cannot recall what fish this is!
These are called Social Feather Dusters because they group tightly together. They are actually worms and these feathery crowns often retract into tubes when a snorkeler approaches.
These are called Social Feather Dusters because they group tightly together. They are actually worms and these feathery crowns often retract into tubes when a snorkeler approaches.
Sea anemone spotted in 6 inches of water right at the edge of the bay where snorkelers enter to swim out to Waterlemon Cay! I believe it is called a Sponge Anemone.
Sea anemone spotted in 6 inches of water right at the edge of the bay where snorkelers enter to swim out to Waterlemon Cay! I believe it is called a Sponge Anemone.
The male Parrotfish are the colorful ones and it seems summertime is when the colors come out the most! The parrotfish eat algae off of coral and usually inadvertently ingest some of the hard skeleton of the coral, which later is expelled and becomes the soft white Caribbean sand we love so much! I believe this is the Stoplight Parrotfish.
The male Parrotfish are the colorful ones and it seems summertime is when the colors come out the most! The parrotfish eat algae off of coral and usually inadvertently ingest some of the hard skeleton of the coral, which later is expelled and becomes the soft white Caribbean sand we love so much! I believe this is the Stoplight Parrotfish.
Someone created a coral sculpture similar to those found on Drunk Bay on the edge of Leinster Bay, just as we turned off to head towards Waterlemon Cay. It reminds me of the traveling gnome!
Someone created a coral sculpture similar to those found on Drunk Bay on the edge of Leinster Bay, just as we turned off to head towards Waterlemon Cay. It reminds me of the traveling gnome!
We've had some good rain on St. John this summer and it has caused some interesting things to appear, namely this white fungus seen sprouting from a rotting tree. Looked like the color was spray painted on the fungus!
We’ve had some good rain on St. John this summer and it has caused some interesting things to appear, namely this white fungus seen sprouting from a rotting tree. Looked like the color was spray painted on the fungus!
My fellow snorkeler, Genia, ahead on the path leaving Waterlemon Cay. This island is all about the variations of the colors blue and green!
My fellow snorkeler, Genia, ahead on the path leaving Waterlemon Cay. This island is all about the variations of the colors blue and green!

Maho Bay Tents: The Rewards of Extra Effort

Or “I Survived the Steps at Maho Bay Camp” in order to stay in the Best Tent!

Like so many others visitors I stayed in an A-Section tent on my first visit to Maho Bay Camp. Tent A-16 I believe it was. It had a porch overlooking the water at Little Maho beach and the weather was perfect the entire time. The location was perfect as far as the main boardwalk because it was mostly a flat walk under a shady canopy of trees. That flat boardwalk was decidedly nice when toting luggage on arrival and departure days, as well as after a hike up and down stairs around the rest of Maho or from Maho’s beach.

View of Francis Bay and Little Maho Bay from the A-Section of the now closed Maho Bay Camp on St. John, USVI.  I believe this was from A-Vip.
View of Francis Bay and Little Maho Bay from the A-Section of the now closed Maho Bay Camp on St. John, USVI. I believe this was from A-Vip.

We always booked our tent a year in advance in order to get the best chance at having our first choice, but somehow we never stayed in the A-section again.  Which turned out to be wonderful! Over the years I stayed in the D-section with it’s large volcanic boulders, the E-section with its newer style bathhouse and shady afternoons, the C-section with its lush green foliage, and even the B-section. But I never grew fond of the B-section because I stayed in the tent behind registration and next to the bathhouse.

One thing I discovered was that every section has tents with fantastic views! For instance, if you were in tent E15 you had a fantastic view of Big Maho Bay and an extra large porch (due to the fact you entered through the porch to get in the tent.)  The C-section tents had some nice ceiling fans and solid wood floors which helped when things were buggy. And last year my E-section tent had deer running around all day in September and October.

A quiet and shady E-section tent (taken during the final season of Maho Bay Camp, which is the reason for the poor condition of the wooden boardwalks.)
A quiet and shady E-section tent (taken during the final season of Maho Bay Camp, which is the reason for the poor condition of the wooden boardwalks.)

But better than all of those sections, my favorite was the F-section tents! When we first arrived and found out we were staying up there for the first time,we were a bit reluctant. It was more of a climb to the F tents and they felt removed from the rest of the property. But when we arrived at F4 to see the view, it took our breath away! It was like having a room at the Maho Bay or Trunk Bay overlooks, only better. We were higher and could see further. And we could plan our day by standing on our porch in the morning. If there were rain clouds anywhere, we were going to see them!  F-section tents were distinctly hotter during the day than most others since they were so high on the side of the hill and had minimal shade, but they had a breeze and the F-section had a relatively private bathhouse. Making the hike up to the F-section was more than worth it when you were rewarded with the view overlooking the north shore of St. John.

View of Maho Bay and Cinnamon Bay from the F-Section high up on the hill.
View of Maho Bay and Cinnamon Bay from the F-Section high up on the hill.

Beach Break at Oppenheimer!

View from Oppenheimer Beach where someone has so generously hung a tire swing from the coconut palm!
View from Oppenheimer Beach where someone has so generously hung a tire swing from the coconut palm!

Need a Beach Break? Let’s visit Oppenheimer Beach!

I know many people on the East Coast are dealing with the aftermath of strong storms the last day or two, so I thought I would offer a view of a much calmer and warmer place just waiting for your return!

View back towards Oppenheimer Beach, St. John.
View back towards Oppenheimer Beach, St. John.

One of my favorite beaches to visit when I stayed at Maho Bay Camp and also while I have lived here is Oppenheimer Beach. The sand here has eroded to almost nothing but the beach itself is still beautiful and lined with coconut palm trees. The water is the most incredible turquoise blue, especially in the summer when the angle of the sun shifts and the beach is not put into the shade as quickly as it is in the winter months.

My favorite memory of this beach was back in July of 2000 when Inner Visions, a local reggae band, was playing next to the house on Oppenheimer Beach, and food and drinks were for sale as a fundraising for a local organization. After a 10 minute downpour of liquid sunshine, as we call a sunny rain shower, we headed down to the water with our drinks and listened to reggae while dancing in the bay! It was my quintessential Caribbean beach day!

Often referred to as Gibney beach, Oppenheimer Beach is the same stretch of sand. Gibney is about 3/4th of the beach that is closer to Hawksnest Beach, while Oppeheimer is the the small beach on the opposite side with a small building and now a tire swing!  Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the Atomic Bomb” used to own this small piece of land, which was later inherited by his daughter. When his daughter died she donated it to “The Children of St. John”.

Looking up from the tire swing at the coconut palm tree at Oppenheimer Beach.
Looking up from the tire swing at the coconut palm tree at Oppenheimer Beach.

In light of the fact that the Government Shutdown has closed all public access to the beaches, bays and hiking trails of the National Park here on St. John, as well as stopped any personal or charter boats from mooring in the bays, I am inclined to want the new owners of the Maho land to make any donation to the VI Government or to St. John in some way. Locally we enforce public access to all beaches up to the high tide or tree line. When you consider the beaches and bays incorporated into the VI National Park, it is almost all of the beautiful North Shore beaches that visitors come her for and locals go to on their days off. The idea of arresting someone for going for a swim in the ocean is absurd and requires more manpower than is ever put forth when the government is not shutdown.

Some specifics of my above paragraph could probably be nitpicked for the more technically accurate information, but I am more interested in two ideas to consider:

  1.  Maybe there is an alternative way to donate land for public use on St. John than the VI National Park, since any mandate that our tax dollars go to keeping these areas open to the public seems to be in question. Really, who closes the Ocean?!
  2. Living on the island already means you are working with limited resources – of income, food, entertainment, etc. Many are happy with that, of course, but when you close access to 65 or 75% of the entire island, it hurts everyone in one way or another – vacationers who saved all year to come visit our beaches, those who charter boats for snorkeling and sailing to the bays, locals needing to cool off in an afternoon swim in the hottest month of the year or looking for some exercise by going on a hike…
Afternoon beach break at Oppenheimer Bay, St. John.
Afternoon beach break at Oppenheimer Bay, St. John.