Virgin Islands National Park: Maho Bay

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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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We laid our towels out in the shade of some sea grapes, and we all went swimming. Adam and I attempted to snorkel, but the surf was kicking up too much sand to see anything at all.

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Image: Adam Geffen

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Image: Adam Geffen

Soon Bethany, Sean, Adam, and I were playing frisbee. Throwing a frisbee around is something we usually do in Lake Michigan, so I couldn’t help but marvel at the backdrop to our game.

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Image: Adam Geffen

At some point, I was stung by a jellyfish on the big toe of my right foot, but I only really noticed it later on the drive back to Concordia.

We met a fellow in the water from Connecticut. He visited St. John every year or two and always stayed at the Maho Bay eco-tents. He asked if the Concordia tents were hot because they are exposed to the sun. They aren’t. We talked about how the property the Maho Bay tents are on was sold, so this would be the camp’s final season. He was a foodie, so we strongly encouraged him to try Cafe Concordia.

After playing frisbee for a while, I decided to swim out a bit further toward the buoys that marked the “no boats” zone. Suddenly, I noticed a sea turtle surface off to my right. I alerted the others, who swam a little further out.

Soon we were surrounded by sea turtles surfacing. One even surfaced a couple feet in front of Sean. He finally got to swim with a sea turtle.

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Some interesting sea grass that was floating in the water. Image: Adam Geffen

The area around Maho Bay, called Estate Maho Bay, was not historically part of the park. In 2007, the 419-acre parcel came up for sale and was purchased by the non-profit Trust For Public Land (TPL). TPL will hold it in trust, protecting it from development, until the Park Service is able to purchase the property outright and officially add it to the park. Eventually, it will all be part of Virgin Islands National Park.

Since the purchase, TPL has donated the the top of the mountain to the Park Service as an outright gift, and in April of last year, the Park Service purchased the fifty-eight acres that comprise the beach and immediately adjacent land. These acquisitions don’t yet show up on the park’s official maps. So when we were swimming with sea turtles at Maho Bay, we were doing it on some of the very newest National Park Service property in the entire system.

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A Green Iguana, whose tail is missing, hangs out in the shade near the Maho Bay parking lot.

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