Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 130
December 1, 2002

Last Update December 3 2002

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PRESS RELEASES AND OTHER NEWS

STOP THE CAPTURE OF ANTIGUAN WILD DOLPHINS SUBMITTED BY MARTHA WATKINS-GILKES

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."

THE IGUANAS IN CUBA - JANUARY 3RD - 11TH, 2003 BY PAMELA BRACKEN

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:  ^Mezcla  is the  cleanest,
freshest water I have ever  tasted^.  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^s  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

PETER ISLAND OFFERS "EXTEND THE HOLIDAYS" PACKAGE BY AYLA TEZEL

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.

JOURNEYS FOR DECEMBER 2002

ANTIGUA/HAWKSBILL BEACH RESORT BY TOM SMYTH

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.

BE A PART OF THE WILD LIFE: DOMINICA BY MS. P.J. OTT

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)

PROVIDENCIALES - TURKS AND CAICOS - OCT 18 TO 25, 2002 BY BILL SMITH

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.

ST. JOHN BY JOHN CURRAN

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!

ST. JOHN - 2002 TRIP REPORT BY SANDY & DAVE DUDICH

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 ½ 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 ¼ 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  ½ 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  ½ 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/ ¼ mile walk
to the  beach at  Francis Bay,  which had become  one of  our favorite
beaches - it is large (about  ½ 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 - dwdudic@yahoo.com

Cloud Nine www.cloud9villas.com Linda & Allen 340-693-8495

Villa Serenity -  www.carribbeanvilla.com/villaserenity Terry Witham -
 (340) 777-6867 e-mail terryr@attglobal.net

Wayward  Sailor -  www.waywardsailor.net Captain  Phil  (340) 776-6922
(Connections Cruz Bay)

Long Distance  - Robin &  Rick Gallup 340-779-4994  (Connections Coral
Bay) sailboatlongdistance@hotmail.com

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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of, or an endorsement by, The Caribbean Travel Roundup.  Contact: Gert
van Dijken, e-mail: editor@caribtravelnews.com

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