Tag Archives: Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park: Thoughts on the Plants and Animals

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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

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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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Virgin Islands National Park: Annaberg

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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

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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

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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.

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Southern Stingray. Image: Adam Geffen

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