Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor
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DEMAND MADE TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA TO WITHDRAW GOVERNMENT PERMISSION TO ALLOW ANNUAL CAPTURE OF 12 WILD DOLPHINS IN ANTIGUAN WATERS BY DOLPHIN FANTASEAS In January 2001, behind closed doors and unknown to the public, the Antigua Cabinet granted a license to one Mr. John Mezzanotte for the annual capture of up 12 wild dolphins in Antiguan waters. An urgent demand has been made to protect the environment of Antigua and Barbuda by rescinding this permission. Environmentalist and prominent Antiguan lawyer John Eli Fuller has accepted the environmental case representing ABITPC (Antigua Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation) and other special interest groups who wish to stop the capture of any wild dolphins in Antiguan waters. Fuller stated, .The people of this country are entitled to have the rights conferred on them as specified in the Rio Convention, which the government has ratified. In that Convention the government of this country, on behalf of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, agreed not to allow the capture of any marine species without an impact assessment and by implication, a population study. These obligations have been ignored in the cabinet decision and it cannot therefore have any lawful validity.. The special interest groups are gravely concerned over the government permission to allow Dolphin Fantaseas, the company operating the swim with the dolphins program at Marina Bay, and holding 3 wild caught Cuban dolphins (Hippo, Zuz and Luna) in captivity, to capture wild dolphins from Antiguan waters. It is felt the captured dolphins will be sold on the international market for profit at the expense of the marine environment. This same permission for the capture of 12 wild dolphins is also being sought by Dolphin Fantaseas from the Government of St Lucia, making a total capture of up to 24 Caribbean dolphins annually. Concerned parties recently sought legal advice through Lawyer Fuller who, on Monday, delivered an official letter to Prime Minister Lester Bird in regard to the permission the government granted to capture 12 wild dolphins annually. Specifically, a demand has been made to rescind the permission for this based on the following reasons. 1. Dolphins are included in the definition of fish in Section 2 of the Fisheries Act Cap 173 and as such cannot be captured .fished. by a non-national in Antiguan waters unless licensed. The principal beneficiaries, Dolphin Fantaseas, are non-nationals. 2. There are populations of several dolphin species in the exclusive economic zone of Antigua and Barbuda. The decision is unspecific as to species and is; in any event, in breach of the Antiguan government.s international and domestic obligations under the Rio Convention (which the Antiguan government has ratified) to ensure that population studies and impact assessments have been finalized before any species are targeted or depleted. No such study or assessment has been done. 3. It is felt that it is reprehensible that in spite of the fact that the Antiguan government led the negotiations leading to the creation and signing of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol (SPAW Protocol) under the Cartagena Convention and was the first nation to sign the said Protocol, that to date, some eight years later, the government has failed to ratify the Protocol. Under the said Protocol all species of cetacea are given full protection from capture, possession and trade. Notwithstanding the above, the government has sanctioned, supported and assisted the creation of a captive dolphin swim facility in Antigua and encouraged the capture of wild dolphins. The letter specifically requests government to rescind the permissions given within 14 days, by November 25 or further legal actions will be forthcoming. This request is especially timely given the tragic death of a dolphin in the newly established Dominica captive dolphin program during last week and the negative international publicity this event has caused. Public Relations Officer for ABITPC and an active Antiguan environmentalist, Martha Watkins Gilkes commented "When this permission was requested from our Government by these foreigners, I do not believe the Government was aware of the ramifications of allowing the capture of wild dolphins from Antiguan waters, especially as there has been no population study done. It is hoped that with these concerns being clearly pointed out in the letter from Lawyer Fuller the government will agree that this permission must be rescinded for the good of the country and the marine environment of the Caribbean."
Although the Cuban Iguana is quite common - it is a rare and ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity to witness the band THE IGUANAS "one of the most irresistible dance bands working the circuit today while they make their way through Cuba's musical culture, meeting up with local musicians, architects, students and whomever will stop to talk and play. Adventures in Rock is pleased to announce this very special musical trip to Havana, Cuba. This trip is a cultural exchange program featuring the popular New Orleans based band the Iguanas http://iguanas.com and Cuban based band MEZCLA http://www.mezcla.org The Iguanas combine Tex-mex, Rock, R&B; their unique sound is driven by twin saxophones, guitar, accordion, bass and drums. The Iguanas tour widely throughout the US and their music has been featured on several movie soundtracks. Mezcla plays an astonishing blend of traditional African rhythms and jazz, blues, rock and reggae. Carlos Santana is a huge fan, and has said: ^ÓMezcla is the cleanest, freshest water I have ever tasted^Ô. Mezcla leader Pablo Menedez was born in California and lived there in his youth^×so he is an expert on the connection between Cuban and American music. Cuba is home to a fusion musical culture composed of African, Spanish and Caribbean elements. Motifs ranging from danzon, son, guaracha, cha-cha-cha, guaguanco, rumba,and mambo that have not only survived since the 19th century, but continue into the present with the sounds becoming even richer as they are combined with the rhythms of salsa and timba. Come along as we travel through Cuba^Òs musical delights in the company of the Iguanas and Mezcla. This authentic musical experience includes walks, dinners with special guests, jam sessions, excursions and more. Be sure to pack your dancing shoes and take along your appetite for excitement. Adventures in Rock is taking you to a whole other world, where the past and present co-exist in the name of music. Trip Date - January 3rd - 11th, 2003 Full itinerary http://adventuresinrock.com
For those looking to “Extend the Holidays,” guests staying at Peter Island between January 4 and February 7, 2003, for a minimum of five nights will receive one free additional night (with all meals included), a savings of approximately 17% on the entire visit. Rates per night are $840 for Ocean View rooms or $990 for the newly renovated Beachfront Junior Suites, based on double occupancy and include: a Full American Meal Plan daily (breakfast, lunch and dinner); unlimited use of island activities including snorkeling, wind surfing, mountain biking, tennis, sailing, kayaking and more. Taxes and service charges are additional. This offer applies to regular room rates only and is not valid for package bookings. The November 2002 issue of Travel + Leisure features Peter Island in a story entitled “Your Own Private Caribbean” and the August 2002 “World’s Best” issue highlighted Peter Island as #2 out of the top 25 resorts in the Caribbean and among both the top 100 hotels and top 25 small hotels worldwide. Located in the region known as the sailing and yachting capital of the Caribbean, Peter Island Resort combines the sophistication and luxury of a private island retreat with the relaxed, understated elegance of the British Virgin Islands. With 52 rooms and suites and two private villas, 1,200 acres of lush, untainted tropical island, five stunning beaches, spa facilities, a private yacht, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails, scuba diving, deep sea fishing and a staff that goes “above and beyond” to satisfy guests, Peter Island has all the makings of a true “Caribbean Classic.” For more information, consult your travel agent or call 1-800-346-4451. Or, visit www.peterisland.com. Feel free to call me or Tammy Peters at 212-696-0660 for more information.
Hi, just back from first visit to Antigua. Stayed at Hawksbill Bay Beach Resort. Overalll impression of Property was Beautiful beaches and view, Property and beach equiptment tired and need updating/replacement. Island is pretty but in my observations very poor. Slum type homes, no running water in most,community toilets on some corners etc. Driving very difficult due to narrrow roads, open drains up to 2 feet deep on both sides, dogs,goats,cows wandering everywhere and locals walk in middle of street. Few if any street lights make night driving with above conditions almost impossible. Never felt unsafe anywhere we went and found the people to be helpfull and friendly.
From the prop plane window I looked out and was mesmerized by the myriad of colours in greens and turquoise below me. Nothing prepared me for the amazing tropical beauty displayed shamelessly below me. It was as though a box of crayolas had melted together by the warmth of the sun. I wanted to reach out and touch it, I could hardly wait to set foot on land and smell it. I caught myself touching the window of the plane expecting to feel the island. As the plane swept low over the palm tips and swooped sharply left I glanced at the other passengers on the plane. They seemed inspired and serene. I realized, they were relieved to be back home. Where was the runway anyway? Followed by a sharp drop of the plane I was hit: like an aroma permeating the very plane itself, seeping through my skin and into my mind. I was overwhelmed with a feeling; a spirit. The very soul of Dominica, the Nature Island of the Caribbean was alive! This authentic Caribbean Island emanates a sense of natural order and a reverence that I found freed me of the stress and pressure of home even before setting foot off the plane! How has this island managed to hide so well from the rest of the world? I found a feeling that scarcely exists on other islands today: not just an undisturbed natural paradise but a proud people with a true innocence to the demands of curt and crusty tourists. An island where people have preserved their natural friendliness and nurture and preserve nature's gifts. Dominica exists for those discriminating, unspoilt discreet travelers seeking her way of life. The perfect destination for the young-at-heart, adventurers, romanticists, nature-lovers. Dominica is a virgin offering secrets and gifts to all that visit yet straying from the impulse of other islands to offer large chain hotels and all-inclusives, casinos, golf courses and shopping malls. Instead she abounds in attractions many other islands have long since lost. In wildlife alone, she offers over 175 species of birds of which 135 species are native with 2 indigenous, 4 species of marine turtles and 1 tortoise species, 55 species of butterflies, 4 species of frogs, 12 species of freshwater fish, 12 species of bats, 20 species of marine mammals (whale and dolphin), 20 species of crab, 5 species of snake (all nonpoisonous), 10 species of lizards. You will never be lonely on Dominica! One true gem offered only on Dominica is the Carib Territory: a reserve of land which belongs to the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands. That's right: the original inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands: the Carib Indians. Imagine meeting and intermingling with the indigenous people of the Caribbean, looking into the eyes of an ancient culture and last remaining descendants in the Caribbean! Visiting this part of the island will leave you in awe! Be a part of the wildlife, while in Dominica, play hide and seek among endless tropical rainforests, enjoy romantic interludes in emerald pools and waterfalls, frolic in any of over 365 rivers and challenge yourself to a hike from an easy stroll to an all-day extreme. If you are into bush remedies, enjoy watching fireflies perform evening ballets, count stars or count on frogs serenading you to sleep at night, you've found heaven! Love taking photographs of hummingbirds and butterflies--this is the place for photography? If you believe in making wishes on rainbows, riding down rapids or walking through Botanical Gardens and old forts, heaven does exist! Get off the beaten path, enjoy the locals, every trek leads to your own adventure. Miles and miles of hiking trails wait to feel your footsteps. Don't worry, trails are designed for all types and ages with simple comfortable clothes! Good hiking shoes are all you need! With over 30 identified nature sites and hiking trails around Dominica, your first visit will be just that. With such steep topography and rugged terrain, new waterfalls, rivers, gorges and nature sites are being discovered daily. In competition, Dominica is a mosaic of scenery below the sea. Warm blue seas and contrasting fiery sunsets with swaying palms are combined with different colored beaches located around the island. Try a swimsuit to match each coloured sand beach, you'll have to take several: white, black, and gold! Unspoiled, secluded small coves and beaches are scattered along the coast and worth finding. Many are sheltered and your footsteps will be the only ones you'll see. Though small and intimate there's a different bay for every day of your visit. Snorkel in bubbles like champagne from submerged volcanic gas vents called fumaroles. A noted divers delight, Dominica offers shore and boat diving, from Novice to Expert with diving walls, pinnacles, coral reefs and deep diving (over 130 feet which is considered the sport diver). Feel free to watch the playful dolphins all year long and whale watching is always a great excuse to get out on the water. You can always drop a line fishing and most likely get a response! With a mere 15 minutes to drop offs, calm waters and balmy temperatures expect that fresh catch of the day on your hook. Bait fish like bonito, jacks and small tuna are great snacks, but don't forget the blue marlin, wahoo, yellowfin tuna or dolphin (not Flipper). The Dominica International Sportfishing Tournament is testimony that prized blue marlin are here for the catching. You can hire boats for half day and full day charters. (I have my personal favorites for fishing charters.) If you're up for surfing, the windy east coast will be your challenge. Visiting the Nature Island of the Caribbean you'll find wonderful gastronomical choices overflowing with red, pink, yellow, orange and green fruits, vegetables, spices, flowers and seafood delights! Organically grown with fresh seasonings and an unpolished style in service lend to the experience you are no longer in Kansas anymore! Imagine a blend of unforgettable cultures: African, Carib Indian, French and Oriental in your dining choices! Beef, chicken and fish servings include mahi-mahi, grouper, kingfish, flying fish, snapper and tuna. Shellfish like Caribbean lobster, river crayfish and conch and don't forget the delicacy "mountain chicken" or "crapaud"-a large frog. Try manicou or wild agouti, served more often in October and November during celebrations. Vegetables and greens are always fresh and include yams, dasheen and tannia. Top off with an endless array of ice creams bearing tropical fruits and flavor names like mango, coconut and guava. Feel the gushing fresh waterfalls, bathe in cool rocky pools of water, wiggle your toes in the Caribbean sand, and watch millions of stars twinkle with distant breaking waves. With such wonderful surroundings, the island also offers unique, memorable accommodations. You might want to split your stay between rainforest and waterfront. The ultimate choice of Caribbean-style cottages, rainforest retreats, bed & breakfasts, guest houses, oceanfront dive hotels and charming seafront inns are available to you. For the adventurous, the Fly-Drive Program on Dominica offers a jeep with hotel vouchers for moving about the island following your adventures. For those a little less restless, a package which includes air, hotel, transfers and perhaps a jeep during their stay is available. From Friday Night's Happy Hour at Fort Young, to Thursday night Jazz night at Symes Zees, the local natives, local rhythm and music combined with the ever popular rum shops will fill your evenings with natural wonders to fill your days. Kubuli is the local beer, but you must try peanut punch on the way to Trafalgar Falls along with the local rum punch at Symes Zees. BEWARE: you haven't had rum punch until you make your way up to Portsmouth to Indian River where you will find rowing up river with Cobra to the Bush Bar and try their local Bush Rum. It's OK if you swim instead of ride back--you aren't the first and you won't be the last! Don't take my word for it, try out your own rum recipes. We offer several rum concoctions at http://www.wildsidedestinations.com/rum.html. Without a doubt, Dominica is one giant greenhouse and one giant guesthouse! Offering visitors a home away from home, close encounters with nature and natives, a range of unforgettable accommodations and a hidden gem in the Caribbean. Words hardly express the pounding of your heart as your plane descends between swaying palms and rainforests to begin your adventure on the island of Dominica. Photo: http://www.wildsidedestinations.com/birds.html (indigenous parrot) Photo: http://www.wildsidedestinations.com/hiking.html (waterfall/emerald pool) Photo: http://www.wildsidedestinations.com/dining.html (fruit) Photo: http://www.wildsidedestinations.com/fishing.html (shoreline/beach)
My wife and I just returned from our 6th trip to Provo. Yes, we like it there, for several reasons. First, it's easy to get to. American Airlines offers 3 daily direct jet flights from Miami, about an hour and 15 minutes flying time. Once you arrive, irregardless of where you're staying, it's no more than a 15 minute ride from the airport. Secondly, the beach at Grace Bay will rival any in the Caribbean. We've traveled to more than 20 different islands and Grace Bay is definitely in the top 2 or 3. They say Grace Bay is 12 miles long, all I know is you can't see from one end of it to the other. There's very good near-beach snorkeling in front of Coral Gardens where we've seen turtles, rays, a wide selection of colorful fish, and an octopus. Lots of islands we've visited don't have a decent grocery store, not so on Provo. My wife and I usually like to eat-in breakfast and lunch and go out for dinner. There's a large IGA grocery store, albeit expensive, that should provision you just fine. Provo offers a good selection of places to stay, from all-inclusives, to upscale condo developments, just about all of which are on some section of Grace Bay. Personally, I wouldn't recommend an all-inclusive because Provo has some really good restaurants. This trip, we stayed at the Alexandra which is located about midway between the Sands and Beaches Resorts, on an ideal section of beach, within walking distance of the snorkeling spot mentioned above. The Alexandra is a new resort , having just opened it's first beachfront building about a year ago. When its completed it will consist of several buildings and will offer timeshares, individually owned condos, and some hotel rooms. The pool was near completion when we were there and I'm sure it is open by the time you read this. The Alexandra is a beach front property with great views of Grace Bay. None of the buildings will be more than 4 stories tall. We stayed in a second level 1 bedroom which had a balcony overlooking Grace Bay. I would not recommend the first floor units because you have no view of the water. The 1 bedroom had a full kitchen to include cooktop, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and cooking utensils. In addition to the kingside bed in the bedroom, there's a sleeper sofa in the living area. We found the staff at the Alexandra to be quite friendly and accomodating. Jonathan Gruber is the director of marketing. See Jonathan if you're interested in a time share or purchasing a condo. Other than the pool area, there was no other construction going on during our visit. Provo offers a wide selection of restaurants. Among our favorites are the Tiki Hut, Hemingways, Lattitudes, and Mango Reef. For 2 people, count of spending $50-75 plus drinks. Most restaurants offer weekly specials which can save you some money. For example, the Tike Hut offers a weekly special of ribs and chicken for about $12 or so. I think it's on Tuesday nite and it can get pretty crowded, even in the off season. Conch is sort of the island specialty and is prepared in a variety of ways, make sure you try it. You will need a rental car. Count on spending about $300 or so for a weekly rental. Provo will not appeal to everyone. If you require a lot of nightlife and shopping, go someplace else. If you're content on relaxing on an incredibly beautiful, uncrowded beach, or doing some good snorkeling or diving, and spending some quality time with your family, you might want to pay it a visit.
11/12/02 Just returned from our third fabulous vacation in St John. Have been staying at Harmony - Maho Bay. Views are spectacular, people at Maho Bay, and all over the Island, are friendly quick to provide info, stories, directions. HIGHLY recommend Shipwreck Landing restaurant at Coral Bay. Great food, wonderful service, friendly cats, great prices!. Nowhere is snorkeling bad, but certainly Watermelon Cay, east side of Francis Bay (many 3-4 ft Tarpon!), Haulover Bay and Cinnamon Cay were the most specacular. Saw a 5' nurse shark at Watermelon Cay last year. Sea Kayaking out to Whistling Cay is highly recommended. Great snorkeling there. Need to be strong swimmer, and kayaker - - pretty strong headwinds returning. Only bad experience was with Conrad Sutton Car Rental. Our jeep was slightly damaged while parked, when backed into by another car (bumped by his spare tire). Despite the fact that the jeep was not being driven, and the police cited the driver of the other car, our treatment by Sutton was rude and abusive. Fortunately there are other good car rental agencies. St John Car Rental has been highly recommended to us and we will try them next year. Planning many more trips to St. John!
INTRODUCTION - This is a trip report of our stay on St. John in October and November 2002. This was our seventh stay on St. John, and we have gleaned lots of useful information from the experiences of others as posted to Internet bulletin boards, so this report is, in part, a payback attempt to share our experiences and recommendations with others, and, in part, a reference for our next visit. Because the experiences we found enjoyable might not be for you, I'll start be telling you a little about us. We're a married couple in our 50s who enjoy sun, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and seclusion. Furthermore, our experience has been staying at a villa, rather than a resort such as Caneel Bay or the Westin. If you're looking for advice on entertainment, nightlife, expensive restaurants, bars, or where to take the kids, read no further cause we can't provide any. We first visited St. John in 1996 to celebrate Sandy's 50th birthday. The reasons we keep returning are that St. John is beautiful, laid-back, uncrowded, and offers beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. Because 2/3 of St. John is National Park, the population is only about 3500 people on 21 square miles, and most of the people and houses are concentrated in the Cruz Bay area. I've seen questions posted to the effect "Please list the five best and five worst places on St. John so that I can maximize my vacation time there." If you want to maximize your vacation time, I suggest you go to go to Orlando and visit Disneyworld instead of St. John. Once you get off the ferry in Cruz Bay, time takes on an entirely different concept, particularly if you are staying in a villa. WHEN TO GO - We've made most of our visits in Mid-October, to celebrate Sandy's birthday. However this year we went the last week in October and first week in November. We found the weather was nicer (less rainy), and also many boat owners have there boats secured for hurricane season until early November. I'd recommend going in November or early December, before the villa rental doubles. WHAT TO PACK - Supplies on St. John tend to be more expensive than at home, so we have learned to pack in most of the stuff we'll need. SUN - The first thing to pack is sun tan lotion and lots of it. (Nothing will ruin a vacation faster than a "Don't Touch Me!" burn.) This year we packed two pints of Walmart NoAd #30 SPF and two pints of #8 SPF, and we used three pints. The sun in St. John is a lot more powerful than at home, and its really easy to overdo it so use lots of lotion whenever you go out. Also, because it is easy to get dehydrated, buy a 6 pack of bottled water on St. John and take a bottle of water with you everywhere. The next thing to pack is a hat - a wide-brimmed hat, preferably one that roles up and that won't get harmed if you wear it in the water. Sandy also wore a roll-up bicycle cap when we went snorkeling. You can't really protect your scalp with suntan lotion, so always wear you hat outdoors, even you're wearing nothing else! BUGS - The first time we sent to St. John, Sandy looked like she had the chicken pox after a week. Bugs are a fact of life on St. John - mosquitoes, sand fleas, and no-see-ums. We brought four pump bottles of Deet 100, from the sporting goods section of Walmart. Sandy has found that taking Allegra will reduce the itching from the bites. The best way to protect yourself at the beach is to stay in the water. PHOTOGRAPHY - We brought three disposable underwater cameras - Walmart about $8 each - as well as our 35 mm camera. We'd previously seen a recommendation for processing of underwater film by Sea and Sea Kodak Sea Processing. They don't do mailers, so I took the cameras to Annapolis Scuba Center for processing on our return. FOOD - Most of our luggage was food, because we ate most of our meals at Villa Serenity or Cloud Nine, and because food on St. John is somewhat more expensive than at home - e.g. a pint of Ben & Jerry's is $6.99! We took a collapsible soft-sided cooler which we filled with frozen food - 5 lb shrimp, 4 filet mignons, scallops, salmon, and frozen vegetables. Do not bring frozen juices - they will melt! We also brought seasonings (Old Bay for steaming the shrimp) small bottles of sesame oil and olive oil, coffee, tea bags, rice and pasta. On St. John we bought eggs, cheese, crackers, baking potatoes, oleo, sour cream, yogurt, bread, orange juice, pina colada mix, and rum. Next year we'll probably bring our own cheese, since we had some room left over in the cooler bag. (BTW, the soft sided cooler bag doubled every day as our beach bag to take food and water to the beach.) CLOTHES - Finally, if you have room left over, bring some clothes. (One year American Airlines was 4 days late delivering our luggage, so we found out how few clothes we actually needed to get by on.) To stay at the villa , you'll need a wide brim hat, suntan lotion and a smile. To go to the beach, you'll need a swimsuit, sandals, a colorful coverup, a hat, suntan lotion, bug repellant, and snorkel gear. (The reason for the colorful coverup is to hang on a tree where you set up on the beach, so that when you have snorkeled a far way off, you have a target to return to. You also may want to wear it snorkeling the first few days for addition sun protection for your back - when you are snorkeling you don't realize how much sun you are absorbing.) Capt. Phil of the Wayward Sailor lent me a 3 lb weight belt to wear when snorkeling with him. (It lets you dive and remain under water with little effort.) Oddly enough I couldn't purchase one on St. John, so I subsequently purchased one in Annapolis. To go to town (or anywhere else on St. John) you'll also need shorts and a tee-shirt, and tennis shoes if you're going hiking. And of course a fanny pack, or back pack, to carry your water bottles, suntan lotion, and bug repellent. Don't leave the villa without them! We've phased out our cotton warm weather clothes in favor of Coolmax shirts, shorts, socks, underwear. Coolmax fabric wicks away sweat, and does not get all heavy and soggy like cotton does, nor does it wrinkle, so one Coolmax garment can replace several cotton ones. If you pack any more clothes than these, you'll probably bring them home unworn. All my clothes fit into a one-gallon zip lock bag! HOW TO PACK - When we packed, we packaged as much as possible into one quart and one gallon sliding top Zip Lock bags, in order to facilitate airport security inspections and repacking. The Zip Lock bags have many other uses once you get to St. John. WHAT TO DO BEACHES - Our favorite beach on St. John is Francis Bay. Francis Bay is long - about Â½ mi crescent, beautiful, and sparsely populated. It is the last beach at the end of the road for the North Shore Road, and most taxis don't go that far. The most people we saw on the beach was one Sunday, when there were about a dozen, and they were mostly clustered at the Maho Point end, near the parking lot, while we were at the other end near Mary Point. We would go there because the best snorkeling - most coral and fish - are out towards Whistling Cay past the end of the sand beach and past the big dead trees. To get there do not drive all the way to Francis Bay, but park at the Francis Bay Trail trailhead, and take the trail to the beach - about Â¼ mi walk. While we were on St. John, the prevailing winds were from the east, and since Francis Bay faces west, the water was very calm and flat, whereas some of the other North Shore Beaches were a bit choppy. We like to swim as well as snorkel, so each morning we would swim the length of Francis Bay, after our morning walk. We also like to walk so most mornings we would walk from Francis Bay along the North Shore Road to the America Point end of Maho Bay and back- a distance of 4 (almost level) miles. This is probably the longest, least hilly stretch on St. John. The first week, when we were in Villa Serenity, we walked to the beach and we would bring beach chairs, lunch (PBJ on pita bread), and books and set up in the shade for the day. The second week, when we drove to Francis Bay from Cloud Nine, we would go for our walk, go for our swim, and then eat our PBJs in the water to avoid the sand fleas that populate the beach. If you want to soak up some sun, I suggest that you will be more comfortable doing that on the deck of your villa. For one thing you will be able to get an all-over (no-tan-lines) tan, and for another you will not be harassed by the sand fleas, and for a third thing you will be able to enjoy a blender (or two) of pina coladas. Another beach we like is Jumbie Beach, which is on the North Shore Road between Trunk Bay and Hawksnest. This is a small, secluded beach, with space for only four cars in its parking lot. The snorkeling is very good with some great coral out towards the point on the left. However it faces north, and both days we went there there, were a lot of sea swells, so snorkeling was somewhat difficult. We also went snorkeling in Caneel Bay several days. The Caneel Bay Resort allows non-guest day use but you can not use the beach chairs or equipment. (You could also eat lunch there, if you did not mind spending $14 for a hamburger!) Drive in, park in the guest parking area, and follow the path to the beach. There is some really great coral reefs out around the point to the right. One day we took the trail to the left to Honeymoon Beach, about a Â½ mi walk. While Honeymoon is a pretty beach, it was populated by four big snorkel boats and there were about 100 or so snorkelers in the water. Consequently we snorkeled around the point to the left to Salomon Beach, which was considerable less populated. Snorkeling was good around the point to the left of Salomon Beach. We also saw one nude couple on the beach (at least Sandy told me they were nude - I've really got to get prescription inserts for my snorkel mask!) You may have noticed that I did not mention going to the more popular beaches such as Hawsksnest, Trunk or Cinnamon Bays. These beaches are closer to town and tend to be infested with "Cruise Ship Cattle , who come into St. Thomas for the day, catch the ferry to Cruz Bay, St John, and are then packed into taxis to be transported to one of these, dropped off for a few hours to snorkel, and are then herded back to their cruise ships. Fortunately the taxi drivers generally do not take them to the beaches I have recommended. SUNNING - As beautiful as the beaches are, I'd recommend that you go to them primarily for swimming or snorkeling. If you want to soak up some sun, I suggest that you will be more comfortable doing that on the deck of your villa. For one thing you will be able to get an all-over (no-tan-lines) tan, and for another you will not be harassed by the sand fleas, and for a third thing you will be able to enjoy a blender (or two) of pina coladas. SAILING - For the most enjoyable boating experience, we recommend going on a small ( 6 passenger) sailboat, rather than a larger power or sailboat. (The reason is that you get to go snorkeling where there are no crowds.) This costs about $160 per couple for a full day (10 am - 4 pm) sail. We've previously boated to the BVI - Foxy's on Jost Van Dike, the Baths on Virgin Gorda, the Caves on Norman Island - but you really waste a lot of time clearing BVI (and now US ) customs, so we prefer sailing in USVI waters. We went with Capt. Phil Chalker on Wayward Sailor out of Cruz Bay, and with Robin and Rick Gallup on Long Distance out of Coral Bay. Capt Phil took us snorkeling to Lovango Cay and to Congo Cay, which are just north of Cruz Bay, and lent me a 3 lb weight belt so that I do some surface dives and stay underwater more easily. Capt Phil is really good at escorting snorkelers through the water and at spotting and retrieving marine life. Robin & Rick took us to snorkel Flanagan Island, just east of Coral Bay, as well as sailing south to Ramshead, and around the Indians and Norman Island. We particularly enjoyed snorkeling the rocks off of Flanagan Island, and the sailing on Long Distance. They told us Long Distance is a 40 ft Pearson sloop, which I guess means something to sailors, but all we know is that it was big and fast and comfortable, so much so that we scrubbed the second snorkel stop to do more sailing. DINING - We understand that there are some very nice restaurants (Asolare, Bordeaux) where you can get dinner for the price of a day sail. We have not eaten at these places - usually we do not spend more than $20 for a meal for two. Most of our meals were eaten on the deck of Villa Serenity or Cloud Nine. However when we are in Cruz Bay, we like JJs TexMex (located at the park by the ferry dock) for breakfast or lunch, the Rolling Pin (located on Rt 104 just past the Texaco station) for pizza or meatball subs, and Uncle Joes (across from the post office) for ribs. When in Coral Bay we like Skinnylegs for hamburgers. (Last time we went to Miss Lucy's for the Full Moon Party, but this year there was no full moon while we were on St. John.) GROCERIES - We found that Starfish Market had the biggest selection, while Marina Market had lower prices. (Both are in Cruz Bay on Rt 104 - the road to the Westin.) On St. John we bought eggs, cheese, crackers, baking potatoes, oleo, sour cream, yogurt, bread, orange juice, pina colada mix, and rum. Next year we'll probably bring our own cheese, since we had some room left over in the cooler bag. GETTING AROUND - Generally to get around St. John you'll need a rental jeep, which will run about $400/week, including gas. The week we stayed at Cloud Nine we rented a jeep from St. John Car Rental, who provide us with excellent service. One morning we returned from our morning walk by Francis Bay to discover the jeep had a flat tire. I jacked it up, removed the tire, but could not get the spare off because it was locked on with a special lug nut. We called SJCR and explained the situation, and they said they'd fix it, so we said ok we're going swimming, and when we came back from our swim about an hour later, the flat tire had been replaced! They lived up to their slogan "No problem, mon" When we stayed at Villa Serenity, we did not need a rental jeep, for two reasons. First we primarily needed the jeep to get from our villa to Francis Bay, and we were already there! Second, Villa Serenity is about Â½ mi from the Maho Bay Campgrounds, and Frett's Maho Bay Shuttle runs to Cruz Bay every two hours for $6 per person. So we basically took the shuttle to Villa Serenity upon our arrival at St. John, took it once more to ride Wayward Sailor, and back to town to pick up the rental car. (From previous visits, we know that Frett will drop you off at any of the North Shore beaches and pick you up at a prearranged time. Also Maho Bay Campground runs special excursions to other spots - Salt Pond, Reef Bay Trail, Miss Lucy's Full Moon Party, etc - that you can catch by making prior arrangements with them.) NIGHTLIFE Generally we'd eat on the deck of our villa about sunset (5:45 pm). Darkness comes quickly after that. While at Cloud Nine we would then watch the brightly lit cruise ships leave St Thomas about 7 pm. WHERE TO STAY VILLA SERENITY - The four outstanding features of Villa Serenity are its location, its location, its location, and Terry Witham. The first location advantage of Villa Serenity is its proximity to the Francis Beach. On our first three visits to St. John, we had stayed in villas on Gifft Hill, overlooking Cruz Bay. This is a nice location for first-timers, since it is close to town, centrally located, and provides a great view of St. Thomas. However, whenever we wanted to go to the beach, we always had a 20 minute jeep ride. (This year during the week we stayed at Cloud Nine on Gifft Hill, most mornings we'd get up, watch the cruise ships come in, eat breakfast, and drive to Francis Bay by 8:00 am.) Prior to our fourth visit we discovered Villa Serenity, which is located at Mary Point which is at the end of the North Shore Road, and is about a 5 minute/ Â¼ mile walk to the beach at Francis Bay, which had become one of our favorite beaches - it is large (about Â½ mile long) , uncrowded (since its the farthest beach on the North Shore - about a 30 minute ride from Cruz Bay) and offers beautiful snorkeling along its northern edge. We often walked to Francis Bay at 8:00 am and would be the only ones there for an hour or two. At most there would be a dozen people there all day. Villa Serenity is also about a 1 mile walk to the Annanberg Ruins and about a 1 1/2 mi walk to Waterlemon Cay, another great snorkeling spot. The second location advantage of Villa Serenity is that it is located in a cluster of three houses on a little driveway above the road to Francis Bay. However, because of the vegetation, you can not see either the road nor the other houses from the deck that extends the full length of Villa Serenity. The nearest houses you can see looking eastward are on Tortola, BVI, looking westward, on St. Thomas, and there are no houses to the north on Mary Point. Since no one can see you, the only things you need wear on the deck at Villa Serenity are a smile, suntan lotion, and a hat (unless you're bald its really tough to rub suntan lotion onto your scalp!) There's a neat hammock on the deck, ideal for sunning yourself, but I suggest you first cover the ropes with a cushion. The third location advantage of Villa Serenity is that it is about a 15 - 20 minute walk to the Maho Bay Campground. The Campground offers its own little store, restaurant, and activities center, and, most importantly, it offers a shuttle into town every two hours from 8 AM to 8 PM for $6. On our first three trips to St. John, we had rented a jeep for about $400 /week including gas. The proximity of Villa Serenity meant that we could do without a rental car. Now if you haven't been to St. John before, a rental car is a definite must, cause it can take you to beaches you might otherwise miss. However, if you use the rental car funds for sailboat rides instead (as we did), you'll go to beaches that are inaccessible by car. The Maho Bay Shuttle will drop you off at any beach on the North Shore, and pick you up on any return trip. In addition, Maho Bay activities has scheduled group taxi rides to other St. John activities, such as Salt Pond beach, the National Park Service Reef Bay Trail hike, and various restaurants. We rented Villa Serenity from Terry Witham. We found renting from Terry (who lives on St. John) to be a big advantage over renting from a realty company. Since we first strayed there in May 2000, Terry has made some very substantial improvements to Villa Serenity, particularly in outfitting the kitchen. Furthermore, Terry must know every resident of St. John, so if you have any questions about snorkeling, or beaches, or what boats to rent, Terry either knows or can find out. Villa Serenity itself is a four bed-room, three bath house, with an enormous deck, from which you can see the sunrise over the BVI and the sunset over St. Thomas. (It is a lot more house than the two of us need, but the rental price depends on the number of occupants.) It has a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a gas-grill on the deck, great for grilling steaks, and a gazebo for dining outdoors. CLOUD NINE - The three outstanding features of Cloud Nine are its location, its location, and its deck. The first location advantage of Cloud Nine is that it is at the summit of Gifft Hill, overlooking Cruz Bay. This is a nice location , since it is close to town, centrally located, and provides a great view of St. Thomas. When we stayed there in 1996, we enjoyed rising just before sunup at 6 am and sitting in the hot tub on the deck watching the lights of the cruise ships entering Charlotte Amalie, and sitting in the hot tub after sundown at 6 pm watching the lights of the cruise ships as they left Charlotte Amalie. (Unfortunately two palm trees have since grown, blocking the view from the hot tub. However the view from the deck is still spectacular!) The second location advantage of Cloud Nine is that there is no place nearby from which you can be seen. Since no one can see you, the only things you need wear on the deck at Cloud Nine are a smile, suntan lotion, and a hat. There's even more privacy here than at Villa Serenity. The third advantage of Cloud Nine is the big beautiful deck, with a gazebo for outdoor eating, a hot tub for cool mornings and evenings, and a small (8' x16' x 3') pool for cooling off when the afternoon sun gets too hot. Most days we'd walk/swim/snorkel in the morning , and spend the afternoon on the deck with a blender of pina coladas. Our favorite place to eat was the deck of Cloud Nine! The kitchen is nicely equipped for preparing meals, The villa has a nice gas grill on the deck which we used to grill steaks. Other nights we had steamed shrimp with pasta, and scallops. The view of the sunset over St. Thomas was better than from any restaurant, and besides we didn't have to dress for dinner (at all!) Cloud Nine itself consists of two buildings connected by a breezeway. One building contains the two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, while the other contains the kitchen, living room, and a loft bedroom. It has a fully equipped kitchen and a gas grill on the deck. RECOMMENDATIONS: A vacation on St. John is not for everyone. Its a bit of a hassle to get to, and there's no night life to speak of, but if you enjoy sun, snorkeling, and uncrowded beaches, then its for you. Similarly, staying in a villa is not for everyone. If you like being waited on, and being entertained then you're probably better off on a cruise ship or staying at Caneel Bay. Which villa to choose - Villa Serenity (or Cloud Nine? I'd choose Villa Serenity for a more adventurous, beach-oriented vacation, while I'd choose Cloud Nine for a more romantic, villa-oriented vacation. I'd recommend going in November or early December. I'd recommend not renting a car if I were staying at Villa Serenity, and applying that savings toward day sails. I'd go with Captain Phil on the Wayward Sailor for the snorkeling experience, and with Rick and Robin Gallup on the Long Distance for the sailing experience. I'd choose a sailboat over a power boat, and I'd choose cruising the USVI over visiting the BVI.. I'd recommend the ferry from Charlotte Amalie over the ferry from Red Hook. If you'd like to see pictures of our trips to St. John, they may be found at: http://groups.msn.com/SanDavesTravels/shoebox.msnw USEFUL REFERENCES: Trails Illustrated Map "Virgin Islands National Park St John USVI" "St John Off the Beaten Track" Gerald Singer "The St. John Beach Guide" Gerald Singer "St. John Feet, Fins & Four Wheel Drive" Pam Gaffin www.seaandsea.com www.caribtravelnews.com www.traveltalkonline.com www.usvi-on-line.com/usviforum.html www.vinow.com/wwwtalk http://new.onepaper.com/stjohnvi/ http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/ http://www.stjohnguidebook.com/ CONTACTS: Sandy & Dave Dudich - email - firstname.lastname@example.org Cloud Nine www.cloud9villas.com Linda & Allen 340-693-8495 Villa Serenity - www.carribbeanvilla.com/villaserenity Terry Witham - (340) 777-6867 e-mail email@example.com Wayward Sailor - www.waywardsailor.net Captain Phil (340) 776-6922 (Connections Cruz Bay) Long Distance - Robin & Rick Gallup 340-779-4994 (Connections Coral Bay) firstname.lastname@example.org Maho Bay Campground 340-776-6226 St. John Car Rental 340-776-6103 St. John Taxi Stand 340-693-7530 Weather - (340) 774-4786
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