Tag Archives: Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park: Thoughts on the Plants and Animals


Brown Pelicans at Brown Bay. Sage Mountain on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands is behind them.

It is estimated that ninety percent of St. John was clear-cut during the plantation era. But researchers have also learned that because of the uncertain plantation economy on St. John, wherein an estate might lie fallow and abandoned for several generations, only a fraction of the island was clear-cut at any one time. Regardless, there is very little virgin forest in Virgin Islands National Park. Many of the oldest and largest trees date from the plantation era, but these were left standing to provide shade or property demarkation and therefore don’t necessarily follow natural distribution patterns on the landscape. (It is difficult to date the age of trees in the tropics because there are no annual growth rings.)

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Virgin Islands National Park: Maho Bay

Image: Adam Geffen

After Annaberg, we had a decision to make: should we return to Concordia and spend our final afternoon at our home base of Salt Pond Bay or should we go to Maho Bay for a swim and a snorkel? Adam voted for Maho Bay because we hadn’t been there yet. All the rest of us voted for Concordia. Phil said he preferred to swim in the freshwater pool there. I was ready to be done with driving. And so forth. Adam wanted to know if we did snorkel at Salt Pond Bay again, if I’d swim out to some of the farther rocks with him. I agreed.

We climbed into the Jeep and headed out. Between Maho Bay and Annaberg, North Shore Road is divided into two single-lane roads, one in each direction. I accidentally made a wrong turn, and we suddenly found ourselves driving down the single-lane road back toward Maho Bay (see map). The first safe place to turn around was the beach’s parking lot. So since we were already there and there was a great parking spot, we decided to go for a swim. I told Adam, “It’s the story of your life. Everyone votes against you, and you still get your way.”

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Virgin Islands National Park: Annaberg


Annaberg plantation lies on the northern shore of St. John (see map), overlooking the British Virgin Islands.

From the National Park Service guide:

Annaberg stands today in bold testament to a time when “sugar was king.” The ruins represent a colonial-era processing facility known as a “sugar works,” designed and built exclusively for the large-scale production of raw cane-sugar and its two valuable byproducts, rum and molasses. It was constructed between 1797 and 1805, at the pinnacle of the great sugar boom of the turn of the 19th century.

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Virgin Islands National Park: Trunk Bay and After


As far back as Thursday we’d been planning how best to visit Trunk Bay (see map). Regularly listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it can receive upwards of 1,000 visitors a day. Ultimately, we decided to go as early as possible on Monday morning. We were keen to check out the underwater snorkeling trail the National Park Service has installed there.

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Virgin Islands National Park: Sea Turtle and Stingray

Image: Adam Geffen

Sean, Adam, and I arrived back at Concordia with enough daylight left for a swim and snorkel. Phil joined us, and we headed down the path to Salt Pond Bay.

When we got to the beach, Adam and I strapped on our gear and began swimming along the route we’d followed that morning, hoping that good luck would strike a second time along the rocks on the northwestern side of the bay. We spotted fish and plenty of long-spined sea urchins, but no turtles. We moved out into the deeper waters toward the center of the bay. I spotted something far below us and thought maybe it was a stingray, bur really it was a conch.

We decided to move back toward the shore where it was shallower and the sea grass beds thicker, and then head across the bay to the rocky shore on the other side. Sean and Phil were following our progress from near the shore. We were moving slowly along, about halfway across Salt Pond, when I spotted a stingray.

Southern Stingray. Image: Adam Geffen

We were close enough to shore that I was able to call out and tell Sean what we were seeing while Adam was filming.

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Virgin Islands National Park: Taino Petroglyphs


When Sean, Adam, and I reached the valley floor, we turned north onto Reef Bay Trail for a dozen yards until we came to the beginning of Petroglyph Trail, a spur trail leading westward through the forest until it crossed a gut, or semi-regular stream bed, which was currently dry. The trail dead-ended at the site of pre-Columbian petroglyphs carved by the Taino people (see map).

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Virgin Islands National Park: Lameshur Bay Trail


For the first time, we turned the Jeep left out of Concordia’s driveway, continuing down the hill and past the parking area for Salt Pond Bay. We continued west along the southern shore of St. John as the road turned from pavement to dirt and back again several times. After one of the steepest hills we’d encountered on the island, we passed the beach at Little Lameshur Bay, which appeared to be quite popular even on the remote side of the island. We continued a little further on and parked near the big National Park Service sign marking the Lameshur Bay Trailhead (see map).

Just south of the parking area were the ruins of a bay rum still and lime still that were still working in 1915. Sean, Adam, and I explored the ruins before setting off on the trail.

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Virgin Islands National Park: Moving Up the Hill


We tidied the eco-tent, finished packing up, and by 10:30am, had put everything into the Jeep to take it down to the registration desk to be held until we could move into the full-kitchen loft for the final two nights. But when Sean went in and asked, the staff said that they were cleaning the loft already, and that by the time we drove around and up the hill, they’d be done. We could move in immediately.

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