One experience I always loved when I returned to stay at Maho Bay Camps was listening to songs of the frogs and birds while falling asleep in my tent at night. It is a phenomenal chorus that starts at sunset and continues throughout the night.I’ve discovered that there are a variety of frogs (so far I’ve found four) that are singing on St. John:
the local tree frog,
the Antillean frog,
the Coqui and Whistling Eleuth from Puerto Rico.
It is intriguing that I will go all day without seeing a frog anywhere, but as soon as the last rays of sunlight dissolve, I hear thousands of tree frogs in the bush, both near and far, begin their nightly songs. I especially love driving along North Shore Road through the National Park after dark with all the car windows open, listening to all the thousands of frogs in the forest and seeing the bats swoop down and back up in front of my car.
From what I can gather the local tree frog only sings when it is wet or has just rained. But others clearly sing every night regardless of the weather. One sound I used to hear at Maho Bay Camp came only after the rain; either a frog or a bird made a pleasant and irregular (thankfully!) sound of water dripping.I recall hearing it when the rain woke me up at night when I first arrived and was not used to living in a tent and hearing all the sounds around me.I would listen to the rain, usually hearing it end shortly after it started. Once the rain stopped I heard that “drip” sound. Wondering if there was a slow leak in the tent roof I would get up to inspect.My inspection said no. And it quickly became clear the sound was outside and up in a tree!I always loved that drip sound; it was uncommon and it served the same purpose of counting sheep – listening to it would help me fall right back to sleep.
Singing in the Rain
After a rainfall the frog chorus can be phenomenally LOUD if you are surrounded by trees and bush! Now that I am living in a house in Coral Bay (vs. a tent at Maho) I have the opportunity to watch TV again. One night while watching a movie, there was a brief shower and once it had passed the frogs picked up their singing in force. I kept turning up the volume so I could hear the movie, until it occurred to me that it might be disturbing my neighbors, even though I could barely understand what was being said on TV! At that point it is best to just give up and turn off the TV. Island life….
While staying at Maho Bay Camp, whether you were prepared or not, there were always plenty of land creatures nearby. When I was observant, they were everywhere; and when I was oblivious, they were still numerous! During the time I more or less “lived outside” I realized the buggy-versions of these island creatures bothered me less when I discovered them inside. In many ways I was invading their space, not the other way around. Although there were still limits to what I cared to deal with on a regular basis! I’m sure many guests discovered their limits over the course of their visits also. Over the years since my first visit in 1995 I have seen:
Wandering peahens on the Maho boardwalks.
Braying donkeys under my tent-cabin, walking along the road to town, and hanging out on the beaches.
Zigzagging fisher bats dipping in front of my car headlights as I drove along North Shore Road.
Large grey-green iguanas sunning themselves on the beach and falling out of trees, sometimes chasing after me if they saw my orange camera (looks like food to them since they eat red hibiscus flowers.)
Small island deer chasing each other around my tent. My nephew had his first meeting with a deer by coming literally face to face with it as he was walking out the door of the bathhouse in the C-Section!
Maho’s cadre of adopted island cats enjoying their good life.
Anoles (tropical lizards) working feverishly to keep the mosquito population in check in my tent, doing push-ups to attract a mate, dodging hundreds of feet walking up the boardwalks and steps, or watching me take a shower (that was always weird!)
The endearingly tiny, black and yellow banaquits looking to be fed some sugar, and the opportunistic pearly-eyed thrashers trying to steal food from an unoccupied table at the Dining Pavilion. Hummingbirds were always around if they had a feeder nearby.
Trigger-happy tree frogs jumping from trees onto people near the store, hiding in the roll-down in my tent or hanging out in showers and toilets!!
A tiny grey mouse sitting on his haunches watching me cook spaghetti from a safe distance. Smallest I’ve ever seen, his fur was all standing out stick-straight, as if he had some electrical current running through him. He was a living, breathing cartoon character.
Pie-sized land crabs crossing the road near Big Maho Bay in the evenings, their white shell reflecting my oncoming headlights.
Herds of island goats with cute baby goats in tow, roaming the roads near Coral Bay.
A huge wall-sized beige-colored cow that wanders the west end of Centerline Road. (just yesterday he spent the entire afternoon eating grass in front of the health clinic.)
A chicken that would not leave the air conditioning of First Bank! After the security guard spent 10 hilarious minutes chasing it around and finally putting it out, it turned around and came in with the next customer who opened the door!
Roosters in the trees in Cruz Bay (it must be cooler up there?)
A white lamb that found its way to Maho looking for a home. He or she was later adopted by a neighbor to Maho Bay Camp.
A cute baby donkey rescued from an old well near the beach shop, who later lingered for days in the parking lots. I think he’d lost his parents.
Quarter-sized acid spiders hanging out on the ceiling of my tent or on counters. My first tent as a 4Hr Workers had them everywhere and at one point I killed one. That night I was bitten on my neck while sleeping and woke to a quarter-size blister. Our security guy, Bobby Ray, said that every acid spider has a mate and I was bitten in retribution. Who knows? But I never even bothered another, and I was never bitten again…
A scorpion falling onto my bed as I pulled a pair of shorts off the shelf to wear.
Fredericka the Iguana who generally hung out at the Activities Desk to be fed lettuce and hibiscus flowers.
Hordes of termites flying everywhere after their papery nest was destroyed in a heavy rain, invading any tent that had a light on or a candle burning. My roommate and I turned out the lights and jumped in our beds. I pulled the sheet completely over my head only to find it covered in termite wings the next morning. Termites at Maho can be an unpleasant and overwhelming experience.
Large (3 inches wide) nearly black Luna moths around camp at night, usually in the store (probably because of the bright lights) and once in my tent.
Coming home to my tent and seeing my screen door covered with a couple hundred small green roaches!
Small biting ants, which kept returning to my bed for weeks before I found a decent ant killer. Not fun.
One season (2001/2002) the mosquitoes were so thick that I wore shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeve shirt, a hat on my head and put the mosquito repellant on my face and hands while working at the Activities Desk. I had had dengue fever the year before and was probably more afraid of mosquitoes than anything else on this island!
Little pink bugs called “Love Bugs” piling up in heaps along my hike out to Waterlemon Cay.
Migrating solider crabs under my tent in the fall. More often I would see lone soldier crabs and hear the groups migrating. They would create a constant rustling sound in the dry leaves and brush under my tent. It took me a couple of days before I registered the sound against all the others I was hearing and remembered what it was!
In memory of the much loved eco-resort Maho Bay Camp on St. John, US Virgin Islands.