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Travel discussion for St. John
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Hi, everyone! I am sorry for the delay here. Re-entry has not been kind. I came back last Monday to starting school and work at the same time- yikes! Can you say butt kicker?
We also have an ill family member that needs help this weekend so the time is limited. Thanks for understanding.
Anyway, I will stop whining. I am still in that "This time last week I was still on St. John" mood. All is good.
A little background: Last May was my first “real” trip to STJ. I stayed for 10 days and had the time of my life. In that time, I met so many wonderful, helpful, kind, fun people it would take pages and pages of trip report just to tell you about them. Obviously, that combined with, well duh, the ISLAND, I had to come back.
About six months ago I mentioned to one of those friends, Pia, that I was thinking of coming down in January. I’d hiked with her, Les and their dogs, Coqui and Tiki, on my last trip and it was great. Well, as it turned out, Pia and Les had a trip planned for January—for the exact week I’d been planning. Theirs was a few days over a week, and they asked did I mind adding a few days on. I don’t think I have to tell you how quickly I was able to answer that one. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This is the view I woke up to each morning:
Along with this:
These dogs made my trip. Honestly. Walking them in the mornings (also known as Mongoose Hunt or Donkey Chase) and hanging out with them in the evenings made the days so perfect. And, they are so much fun!
This trip, I tried four new beaches (along with several others, of course). What a shock, I loved them all. As we all know, they're perfect for their own reasons.
Jumbie was the first day, and no one was around the entire time I was there. It was PERFECT.
Where the "Cool Kids" (round II) hung out for the day.
And, on my last day, post- shark encounter (I will talk about that later), Gibney Beach.
Gibney is where three Speedo-clad men offered to take my picture for me (I guess because they saw me taking pictures?). I politely declined.
And, some of the previously visited beaches in between:
(Name that beach?)
5 - I think this is my favorite beach.
6- Well, duh.
We arrived early and left here by 10:00 a.m. I don't think I want to be there after 10:00 a.m. ever again. Yikes.
I had a friend join me for a week of this trip. Having gone it alone last time (though alone, thanks to new friends, is a relative term) it was great to share St. John with my friend. We've talked a billion times over how important it is to have the right people traveling with you and my friend, Jessica, was awesome. You all will be happy to know she "got it."
I recommend getting all the right friends to ditch their husbands for a week and come down for some girl time. We really had a lot of fun. And food. And drink.
It was only later I'd really appreciate having someone to snorkel with.
Forgive me, but this was my first time with any sort of "real" underwater camera and, well, it's pretty obvious.
We snorkeled the most when we were out on our sailing day, on Breath. Captain Peter isn't sailing full-time these days, but the crew was fun, laid back and helpful if you needed it.
Breath leaves out of Coral Bay, so our first stop (after some rough motoring and some VERY rough sailing) was Newfound Bay.
Like I said, rough water.
Like I also said, first time with the UW camera. So, um, here's this.
We then had lunch in the bay, which was much more calm, and headed over to Hurricane Hole. Normally, the boat tries to stop at Flannigan Island for good snorkeling, but it was just too rough that day. Also, we had some pretty inexperienced people on the boat with us, which, I'm sure, made the crew hesitant.
Speaking of, here's a list of Newbie Questions and/or statements (like really newbie, like did you do any reasearch at all before you got on the plane?)
1. Why are some of the trees on the mountains darker than the others?
"Um, they're not. Those are shadows from clouds."
"What? Are you sure?"
"Uh, yeah, look THEY'RE MOVING."
2. "Weird, I've never had a Painkiller with nutmeg on it."
3. "I used to think, if you swam deep enough, you could swim under an island."
There were more, but I'm trying to block it out.
Snorkeling the mangroves here was really cool. It sort of creeped me out, because I felt like something could just pop out at you any second. But the water was calm and clear, and there were some huge conch shells. Do I have a picture? Why, no, I don't. I'm awesome.
Overall, the day on Breath was great. The history of Peter's boat and the craftsmanship is obvious. The crew was entertaining enough, and even though there were two other parties on the boat, we never felt crowded.
Anyway, back to snorkeling. We also snorkeled Trunk Bay early one day. This was great, because then the whole world shows up and you (and hopefully all the sealife) run/swim away.
We did manage to follow a turtle around for quite some time. I just love these guys. In my next life, I want to come back with the disposition of a sea turtle.
There were some random snorkels at other beaches, but I have to say, the water was cold some days. It was strange, coming from 10 degrees (F) to call anything down there "cold" but it was.
My last full day on island, though, I did decide to go out to Waterlemon. This, as we all know, is generally a promising snorkel and I knew I'd be disappointed if I skipped it. My friend had departed the day before, so I was at it on my own.
It was a beautiful morning, about 9:00 when I headed out.
I was encouraged by the warm walk out past Leinester Bay, and by the calm water.
I started on the left side, facing the cay.
I saw a jellyfish, which didn't scare me.
I saw lots of urchins. Lots and lots of urchins, which didn't scare me.
I saw a ray, which didn't scare me.
There were fish and bright coral everywhere. It was a great day for a snorkel.
It was bright and sunny, everything was so visible.
Just as I was about 3/4 of the way around the cay, I saw a dark figure to my right. I knew what it was right away, nurse shark. I had seen them before, and I'm always so careful to keep my distance, and just swim away. I have never heard of even on instance where the shark didn't stay to the bottom of the sea floor and swim away, either. I was not worried.
But, I kept my eye on him, because, hello, STILL A SHARK. And I'm not kidding here, and I know some people won't believe me, but I looked over at it, it looked at me and not three seconds and it was charging me.
I turned my feet toward it and started kicking, flippers flailing. The shark butted against my fin and ankle and then circled around behind me and came back at my other side. I didn't feel it touch me that time, but he swam past and then sat about 10 feet away and watched me swim away, like some kind of stalker, until I couldn't see him anymore.
Needless to say, I was freaked out. I kept telling myself how unusual this was, but that was between gasps and gulps of salt water. Until I got back to shore and calmed down, I had resigned myself from snorkeling forever. I was set to leave my gear in Pia and Les' closet and never put it on again.
Like I said, I know how unbelieveable this must sound. In fact, I had talked myself out of it being a shark, especially a Nurse Shark. But when I got home, I did a google image search for Nurse Shark and, sure enough, I know what I saw. I know it will likely never happen again, but it did that day. I don't know if I was just out there too early, or if it was because I was alone, or maybe there were babies or eggs around- who knows! I do not have a degree in marine biology. But, if there's anything that's true about wild animals it's that they are wild, and therefore unpredictable like any other creature.
Okay, there, I am off that now. Still burping up salt water, I took myself into Cruz Bay, stopped and told my story to Ruth, and then went to the Beach Bar for some Tuna Down Now and A LOT OF RUM.
Speaking of food, there was some good stuff on this trip. I know, how surprising.
I'll just get this out of the way now, but Cafe Roma was the worst experience we had. The service was rude and irritated, the food was sub par and, FYI, they will treat you like you're a stupid tourist the minute you say you won't be ordering a bottle of wine. I know others have had good Cafe Roma, so I'm trying not to sound mean here. But it was bad, and they were rude. I hear they're under the process of being sold (also shocking, I'm sure) so maybe that made for some unhappy employees.
Aqua Bistro crab cake
We ate at Aqua Bistro three times. It was great all three.
There was also dessert and drinks at Shipwreck Landing:
All very good!
A Skinny's Burger
And, conch fritters at Vie's:
There was also garlic chicken, johnny cakes and pineapple (?) tarts. I must have inhaled it too fast to take a picture.
This brings me to the best part(s) of the entire trip: the people.
Honestly, I don't know how I got so lucky to know such wonderful people over the past several months. Running around that island, seeing friends everywhere, has just become one of my favorite things in life. It is a huge blessing that I don't take lightly. The new people I met, the people I've been friends with since last time and those that are sure to come have become an important part of my life.
(Excuse me while I wax poetic- haha)
The day at Vie's Beach with R&R, their friends from home, Tracy & Juice and my friend, Jessica, was great. All days hanging with friends should be so laid-back and fun.
The other friends I've been so fortunate to get to know are the Master and Mistress of this little site ( http://www.reefmadnessvilla.com/Madness-10.htm ) and, of course, the owners of the beaufiful home featured on the site. If I may, and I'm not just saying this, Reef Madness is a remarkably beautiful home. It is the kind of house where you can feel you're in luxury, all the while kicking around in your flip flops and old t-shirt. It has the perfect balance of island getaway and upscale home. And, even on cloudy days, the view will not kill you either.
But more than a beautiful home, are beautiful people. And I was so happy to have been welcomed into their home for drinks and dinner. After we enjoyed the view and our now-tradition of crackers, celery, cream cheese and Blind Betty's jelly, they just whipped something up.
Thanks, R&M and RM. And, of course, a special thanks to Rumsfeld.
There's so much I'm leaving out here, I know. There are fun times and details I wish I had more time to share. Sunday playoff football at the Quiet Mon, Sunday Jazz at the Beach Bar, playing hide-and-seek with the dogs... oh, so much.
But the good news is, there will always be more. As if I hadn't made it obvious already, I will be back.
And a special, special thanks to my friends, Pia and Les, for their hospitality and for letting me adopt their dogs for eleven days. This was SO MUCH FUN. Next time, though, I want to visit when you're going to stay on island so we can have more time together.
And, you never know, one day I just might show up...
Thanks, everyone. And thanks, St. John.
Fantastic! Great report! Sounds like you had a wonderful time!
Regarding your shark encounter - we also saw a shark at Waterlemon. It was a large shark, at least 5' in length, and swimming, not resting on the bottom, as you described. He did not make physical contact with me (thankfully), but he did startle me pretty well, as I was not expecting to see something so large swimming in such shallow water (2'-3') so close to me (only about 4 ' away!) Mr. Jaws, as he came to be known, was swimming the opposite direction and didn't seem to notice me (again, thankfully). After the sighting, I kept my eyes peeled for my large friend, and as a result the snorkle wasn't nearly as relaxed and enjoyable as it might have been. I can't imagine what I would have done if it had touched me
Again, thanks so much for sharing your awesome adventure with us.
Splendid, it was great to see things through your eyes. I liked the horizontal organization, by subject, too! I'm so linear date focused that its fun to see things differently.
Sailing the Virgins July 15-31 2017
Ksea- Thanks. There are just nice people all over this world, and it's no surprise some of them are right here.
Patr- Thanks. I was pretty disappointed by the photos from this trip. Either I need to drink less or drink more, maybe? And yes, one bad meal is nothin'.
CCasebolt- You know, since I've told this story a few times, I've heard from several others of seeing a shark out at Waterlemon. None that were "approached" per se, but still, scary enough.
Oh, and on your 1 month and 4 day ticker... take me with you! hehe
Waterguy- Good advice.
Rick- I know what you mean. It was not my preferred, long-winded play by play, but it'll do.
Looks like another great trip for you. I am glad you enjoyed yourself so much. So sorry to hear abut the shark encounter, that would have had me hanging up my flippers and hitting the Beach Bar too! Best thing is that you know how blessed you (and the rest of us) are for finding this special place in the world. I wish you many more wonderful and shark free trips HOME.
Great trip report! It warmed me up on a cold day.
Love the pictures, too! All of them, even though you make fun of your underwater camera prowess.
As for the numbered beach pictures, I was hoping to see someone's responses of which picture was which beach. I've only been once but I'm going to take a lame guess at them. Clearly, I need to go back many more times and do some research!
1 - no idea
2 - Maho?
3 - Blue Cobblestone?
4 - Salt Pond?
5 - no idea
6 - Trunk
Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
PS - About the shark...
I'm the type that went looking for the sharks when another snorkeler at Salt Pond said he saw 4 of them. I told my kids that the sharks would be more scared of us than we are of them. (Bad mom!) I was really excited to see one, but it stayed on the bottom and ignored us. If I had been alone with one smacking into my fins, I think I'd set some new speed records getting to shore!
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