Extra-Virgin Island Sport, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14402A, Lodge

Highlights

  • Snorkel in warm Caribbean waters
  • Kayak and take a boat trip off St. John
  • Hike tropical forests

Includes

  • Kayak rental and gear, and ocean trawler rental
  • All homemade meals included, except one meal out
  • All lodging and transportation on St. John

Details

DatesJan 26–Feb 1, 2014
Price$1,595
Deposit$200
Capacity14
StaffJenny Roberts

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Trip Overview

The Trip

This trip is to show off and gain a respect for this mountainous island through snorkeling, hiking, and paddling. Find out why St. John is so pristine. Who and what prevented this island from being similar to St. Thomas, where hotels claim the best beaches and private homes dominate the views?

Credit philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller for the bulk of what is right about St. John today. Virgin Islands National Park is mostly on and around St. John. Three-fourths of St. John is in the national park, making it one of the most non-commercialized of all the Caribbean islands.

We will be staying on the secluded and undeveloped south side of St. John, which is what is giving this trip its Extra-Virgin title!

Itinerary

Day 1: All participants will be picked up at the Cruz Bay Dock by 3 p.m. for a leisurely trip to our remote and rustic eco-camp, Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) at Little Lameshur Bay on the southeastern side of the island. The nearest airport is St. Thomas. Ferries from two locations on St. Thomas run frequently to Cruz Bay. Early in the evening, we will have a get-acquainted party and evening meal at VIERS.

Day 2: After an early breakfast, we will hike Reef Bay Trail through moist and then dry forest that incorporate a variety of plant life. We will go off trail and view an old Danish plantation home. From there, we will pick up Petroglyph Trail and search for the rock carvings attributed to pre-Columbian Taino people. If it has abundantly rained recently, we may get an extra treat in seeing the waterfall by the pools. After returning to VIERS, grab your swimsuit and head off to Little Lameshur Bay for sunning, swimming, and snorkeling.

Day 3: We'll catch an early breakfast and drive to Cruz Bay for day of kayaking on the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We will take breaks on beaches for snorkeling and swimming, and have a picnic lunch on a deserted cay. 

Day 4: Since we know the drill on early breakfasts, we will do it again! We will drive to the north shore and hike Leinster Bay Trail by water's edge with a National Park Service Ranger. The trail meanders through a mangrove forest. It follows along brackish water, which provides good bird habitat. Later we will visit the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins. Here we will see cultural demonstrations and learn the history of producing raw cane sugar and its two valuable byproducts, rum and molasses. There will be an option to walk along the nearby beach for a mile to a prime snorkeling spot at Waterlemon Bay or alternatively just relax under the shady trees at the ruins and  enjoy the wonderful views.

Day 5: We will hike to Ram Head to a cliff 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea for magnificent windswept scenery. Along the way, we will pass by a unique blue cobble beach, then switchback up the hillside. We will hike Drunk Bay Trail to Salt Pond Bay Beach. Iguanas have been known to frequent this area. The trail skirts the north side of Salt Pond, an area good for viewing wading birds. Turtles are commonly seen here. Then we go up and over the hill and down to the water's edge to gaze in wonder at the natural outdoor art on the shore. Then it is back to Salt Pond Bay Beach for sunning, swimming, and snorkeling.

Day 6: We will have a half-day private boat trip on a 40-foot trawler and will sail around St. John, making various stops to snorkel the wondrous reefs around the island. We will hear local history and sea stories, and learn about Tektite. Be prepared to see anything from pipefish to stingrays, and lots of coral. Afternoon will be spent at VIERS, with a farewell swim and snorkel at Little Lameshur Bay.

Day 7: Today is our last meal together and it will be the customary fine VIERS breakfast. We will pack up and clean our cabins as we prepare to leave VIERS by late morning for Cruz Bay. Departing flights from St. Thomas should be scheduled for late afternoon.

Please note: Most evenings after dinner, we will have discussions regarding present and past island life, animal and human. These will be casual open discussions with time for questions and answers. The staff at VIERS will lend a hand during these sessions. The majority of the staff is comprised of volunteers who have been volunteering at VIERS over the years. The staff is a wealth of information. Just wait and see!

The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the group. We have Plan B ready to go just in case!

This is definitely a shorts/cutoffs/swimsuit trip. Pack accordingly. Transportation from Cruz Bay to VIERS has little room for luggage. Do not worry about wrinkled clothing. This trip is not a fashion show. If you pack more than you need, you may have to park it on your lap. This will become cumbersome during the 45-minute trip to VIERS over narrow hairpin-curve roads. You may bring your personal snorkel gear; however, you could save some space and rent this gear at VIERS.

So come along with us on this island adventure. Get up close and personal with nature. See how the Virgin Islands National Park and United Nations (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve protect St. John's various and fascinating habitats.

Photos

Details

Getting There

There are numerous daily flights to St. Thomas. From St. Thomas air terminal, you need to take a taxi to a ferry dock. There are two ferry docks in St. Thomas, called Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook. Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook both provide ferry service to Cruz Bay, St. John. You need to take a ferry that will get you into Cruz Bay no later than 3 p.m. on day one of the trip. On day one, we will meet you at the dock in Cruz Bay no later than 3 p.m. for the ride to VIERS.

Accommodations and Food

VIERS is situated at the base of Bordeaux Mountain on the southeast shore of St. John. VIERS' remote location provides many opportunities for visitors to easily discover the local environment. At VIERS you are "in nature" -- you are part of the eco-system. You are just minutes from being able to hike to a mountaintop or swim in the Caribbean.

We will have single-bed dormitory-style accommodations and non-dormitory-style cabins for couples at VIERS, a rustic eco-camp consisting of 18 buildings, including cabins, classroom, library, office, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a dining hall with kitchen. The kitchen staff provides three meals a day in the dining hall. Oh, and yes, the master menu has a vegetarian option! We will help in the dishwashing and housekeeping responsibilities. We will have dinner at a local restaurant one night (not included in trip cost). Our first meal will be dinner on day one and our last meal will be breakfast on day seven.

Trip Difficulty

Ocean kayaking is physically challenging and participants should be in good shape to enjoy the half-day of sea kayaking. The majority of the week will be spent snorkeling and hiking, in that order. Snorkeling is also challenging, especially swimming off the trawler almost 60 feet to the mangroves, then in the opposite direction to our undersea-guided tour. Being aerobically fit will increase your chances of a pleasant trip! Most hiking trails are hilly and exposed to the sun.

Equipment and Clothing

Bring quality raingear, a water bottle, insect repellent, a day pack, snorkeling gear (or you may rent it on the island), and a personal first-aid kit. Expect warm days and cooler nights, with rain in the late afternoon. Sun protection is critical. You will need a long-sleeved "travel" shirt, sandals, light fleece top, shorts, swimsuit, and support walking shoes. Cotton or cotton blend is more comfortable than polyester in the tropical weather. Please bring a camping mug or cup marked with your name. We plan to do a full day trip around St. John on a trawler; if you are susceptible to sea or motion sickness, please bring preventative medication or wrist band in case the seas are choppy on our boat trip.

References

Maps:

  • ITMB Publishing Ltd., U. S. Virgin Islands: An International Travel Map.

Books:

  • Sullivan, Lynne, Adventure Guide to the Virgin Islands.
  • Nellis, David W., Seashore Plants of the South Florida and the Caribbean.
  • Raffaele, Herbert, A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Kaplan, Eugene H., Peterson Field Guides' Coral Reefs: Caribbean and Florida.
  • Kalplan, Eugene H., Peterson Field Guides' Seashores: Southeastern and Caribbean.
  • Singer, Gerald, St. John Off the Beaten Path.
  • Muilenburg, Peter, A Drift on a Sea of Blue Light.

Conservation

VIERS is operated by Clean Islands International, a U. S. non-profit, non-governmental environmental organization that provides educational and technical assistance to Caribbean island communities for the preservation of their environment. Among other projects, they run special experimental studies on water conservation and solar energy.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Staff

Leader:

Jenny Roberts is originally from Australia and has lived in the US over 20 years. Her love of travel started when she was 11 years old and spent 6 months travelling around the world with her family; Jenny has traveled to over 50 countries. She began leading Sierra trips 9 years ago and feels it is a wonderful privilege to be able to show others special places that they will always remember. Jenny is actively involved in Sierra Club and is currently serving on the Excomm of the Grand Canyon Chapter in Arizona.

Assistant Leader:

Don Steuter has been assisting on Sierra Club trips for six years. He has been actively involved in Sierra Club for twenty years and is currently on both the Palo Verde Group Excomm and on the Excomm of Grand Canyon Chapter in Arizona; serving as Conservation Chair. Don is originally from Nebraska.

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