Snorkeling in the Virgin Islands
I’m a big fan of exploring the shallow reef structure in warm waters. As such, a trip to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands holds a lot of potential for exploration and enjoyment. I’ve never been in this part of the Caribbean, and I was pretty excited to give it a go.
The first place we went was Cane Bay. This is on the North Shore of St. Croix (see map above). There used to be a dive shop here, now it is a ‘mobile’ dive expereince that shows up in the parking lot across the road from the beach. “Island time” is a specific state of mind, which works rather well here.
This site is popular because of the ledge a few hundred meters offshore. This is an abrupt wall that drops to over 2000 feet. This feature makes this a very popular deep diving location. Since we were just snorkeling, I was unable to take advantage of this structure. That being said, the water was a great color and was warm enough for us to play around a bit.
The water was warm and clear. The bottom was mostly strewn with the remnants of previously healthy coral. https://youtu.be/jI-SPHtS2j8 We were able to see some of the normal cast of characters including urchins, tangs, a few parrotfish, etc. https://youtu.be/raf_8pk1C24 Overall, it was a nice, easy site with beach access. It also has a nice lunch spot just up on the bluff called “Off the Wall” which makes some great sandwiches (and has cold beer as well-sometimes they even have Carlsberg Elephant). *
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Buck Island is a National Monument, located just off the north east coast of St. Croix. Off the eastern tip of the island is a location that most of the “snorkeling adventure” boats go and tie up. It is a beautiful location, the color of the water here is so intense and vivid, it makes the blue sky look drab and off-palette. *
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The monetized snorkeling here is both self contained and striking in the destruction that this location has been put through. While this area is one of the most interesting locations for staghorn and elkhorn corals with huge amounts of area available to the casual swimmer, it is all dead.
What they don’t tell the customers is that it is all dead. It is quite depressing. In the late 90’s there was a bleaching event and this area resembles a scene from some Marvel Comic dystopian alien plant more than anything here.
Despite the dead coral, there are several nice examples of tropical fishes (it seems a bit thick with Blue Tangs here). https://youtu.be/gIzOg2Qrtak What I didn’t see were any soft-bodied anenomies, lobster, sargeant majors, … https://youtu.be/zYpSDapoYQ0
Jack & Issac Bay
At the eastern most portion of the island is a Nature Conservancy location named Jack & Issac Bay.
After a short hike down, seeing several cool looking cactii *
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You come to Issac Bay, the first protected cove. There is a barrier reef across the mouth of the bay protecting it from the harsh waves.
Issac Bay from the stairs.
The water is great here, and there was perhaps more life here than at Buck Island and Cane Bay combined. It did have its own set of dead corals…
But compensated in other ways. Some of the highlights include watching Brian get chased around by a barracuda, https://youtu.be/F76sbYCfZ-Y The scallywag barracuda. watching a moderately large sized ray look for lunch in the shallows, https://youtu.be/ldRxfUvt7AM and then my GoPro camera crapped out on me without warning (apparently, it was accidentally turned on in the car and took great footage of the inside of my dive bag during the ride and the hike down to the beach…). *
We did see a few cool things. Here is some footage messing around with the drone. https://youtu.be/Wn5u0SuEmHw I didn’t make it over to Jack’s Bay, have to save this for next time. Great time though. At the top of the hill, at the easternmost point of the island, is Point Udall. This is the eastern most point in the United States (the matching western-most one is in Guam, I’ll have to get there at some point).
Overall, the corals in this part of the Caribbean have been tremendously impacted over the past few decades, leaving me feeling quite sad as I float over the what is left of these previously spectacular structures. Sure, we are close on the heels of two Hurricanes this past season but the devastation here has been going on for a long time.