As I told you on Thursday, I am interrupting our adventures to share with you an article I wrote several months ago for some magazines. Given the damage the two catagory 5 hurricanes have done to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite spots in paradise. I do this because I know the islands will be back up and running better than ever. With that said here is the rest of my article. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
LIFE OUTSIDE THE BVI
By: Shane McClellan
If you want to partake in beach bars and a very cool and fun party scene then the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a great place to visit. Almost every island has a nice anchorage with a beach bar/restaurant and mooring balls for your convenience. It is the “charter capital of the world” for good reason, but with that said if you want to have solitude and quite anchorages to enjoy nature this is not necessarily the best choice.
I have come up with several alternative Virgin Island locations for different things people look for and will be way less crowded than in the BVI.
BEACHES – In thursday’s blog
SNORKELING – In thursday’s blog
ADVENTURE – Ok I will admit that the Baths are the #1 site in the entire Virgin Islands. They are amazing as you explore the nooks and crannies between the rocks (more so if you have me lead you on my own trail, but that is another story J ). The problem is that when the cruise ships start ferrying guests over there, you get to play follow the leader through the maze. How about these alternatives for the adventure you seek?
Caravel Rock – Off of Lovango Island between St Thomas and St John there is a rock that, on top of good snorkeling, you can literally swim through the island via a underwater hole. You can only come here when the seas are calm, but if they are you can climb up the cliff and do a heart thumping 40 foot jump back to the water. The scariest thing is that the water is so clear the elkhorn coral you saw 20 feet below the surface looks like it is at the top of the water when you look down from up there.
Annelly Pool – This site is similar to the Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke and the Jacuzzi on Culebrita in the Spanish VI, and is on the north coast of St Croix. You want to visit when you have a good north swell running, because the waves will come crashing in and hit the rocks protecting a small pool of water. The water will spray up and cascade down the natural rock wall in several small waterfalls. In order to get here you must do a two mile walk of moderate difficulty and that amount of effort makes sure this is a rarely visited place by the everyday tourist.
Monkey Island – Way over in the Spanish VI a couple miles from the east coast of Puerto Rico you will find tiny Santiago Cay. Of course, it is better known as Monkey Island because of the 700+ monkeys living on the islands. You are not allowed to step on the island, but you can watch them from a dinghy 30 feet offshore. The best place I have found to watch is the north side on the east end of the causeway. It seems like I spend at least an hour just watching the monkeys…..well monkeying around.
Bio Bay – This is one of the best locations to see bioluminescence in the world and it is on Vieques in the SVI. Here you can kayak or ride a pontoon boat around the almost closed off bay and see the microorganisms light up from almost any agitation in the water at night. When I was there a small thunderstorm blew in and the crest of each wave was illuminated in a breathtaking display.
HISTORY – A large number of my guests love to hear historically based stories of the different islands we pass by. The BVI has a lot of fun stories, but nothing compared to the USVI in my opinion. Some of my favorite spots are:
Reef Bay – Most people know about the Annaberg sugar factory on St John, which features the largest windmill on the island, but on the south side of St John you will find the Reef Bay Sugar Factory. This one did not have a windmill, but it was the only one to bring in steam equipment and was the last to shut down on the island. While there how about walking a mile inland and seeing the Petroglyphs left by the Taino Indians 500-1000 years ago?
Downtown Christiansted – The capital of St Croix has such a remarkable collection of traditional Danish West Indian architecture that part of the downtown area is now part of the Nation Parks Service. I am fascinated with the 2-3 story buildings and love the way the first floor is indented in order to have a covered walkway to protect you from the sun and rain. Plus, there are NPS run historic buildings showing you how crops were processed, taxed, and shipped overseas.
Hassel Island – Helping form Charlotte Amalie harbor on St Thomas is the western island of Hassel Island. This small unassuming location has a fantastic array of historic sites and a well-maintained hiking trail connecting them. From the battery built in 1790 to help with harbor protection to the British military sites (they conquered this Danish island from 1801-1815) to the steam powered ship yard. It seems each site was repurposed and the history is seeping from this island.
ANCHORAGES – While most of the anchorages in the BVI are overcrowded with boats and dinghies flying around. My favorite anchorages when I am not on charter are in the USVI and SVI.
Salt Pond Bay –Is on the south side of St John. In this part of the NPS land there is no anchoring allowed so you must acquire a mooring ball, meaning you will never have more than 5 other neighbors. What I love about this anchorage is that there is a delightful beach that you can play on, a rugged hike out to Ram’s Head you can take, or a wonderful snorkel you can do around the point. All this without moving the boat, or you could just stay aboard and relax in the tranquility of nature.
Dakity – This anchorage is on the left as you enter the large Ensenada Honda harbor on Culebra in the SVI. You have to go around the reef that is right at water level and anchor behind it. With nothing but the reef in front, you will find a very calm anchorage with an amazingly cooling breeze. When you need to get out you can swim to the reef and walk on it over to the cut where you jump in and swim back while looking for buried sting rays. Do you need provisions? Well the town of Dewey is about a mile-long dinghy ride away.
The above are just a sampling of the many great places outside of the BVI, so those of you that want to get away from the crowds and bars should check out the quieter US and Spanish Virgin Islands.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article many months before it will be published. Now it is time to get back to the travel adventures by starting our time in southern Spain!