Chunky Donkeys Pose a Problem

Stop feeding the donkeys … please.
Stop feeding the donkeys … please.

We read a story in the Tradewinds the other day about our beloved island donkeys. It was pretty interesting so we’d thought we’d share it with all of you. Apparently some of these fellas have gotten a bit too fat due to a diet that often includes pastries and a variety of foods fed to them by people. (I admit that I’m guilty too. I used to feed the donkeys years ago, but I have since stopped, and I ask that all of you do too.)

Here’s the story:

“Jenny” Craig Would Probably Cut Pastries from Donkey’s Diet

By St. John Tradewinds News

The good life is getting to at least one of the island’s signature donkey herds.

Living icons of the island’s agricultural past, several small groups of donkeys populate different areas of St. John, and a handful of animals in the most visible small herd which ranges from the Caneel Bay Resort have developed noticeable bulges under the skin of their hind quarters and sides.

The pronounced swelling has extended to the necks of several animals in the herd, which travels between Cruz Bay and Caneel Bay along the North Shore Road, creating large masses along the animals’ spines under their sparse “mane.”

“Fat on Well Fed Donkeys”
The bulges are “fat on well fed donkeys — especially breads and fruits,” according to Virgin Island’s veterinarian Dr. Laura Palminteri of Canines, Cats and Critters. who works on animals large and small in both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

From the Tradewinds: The bulges on the necks and bodies of several of the gelded males are fat deposits, according to the island vet Dr. Laura Palminteri and Caneel’s donkey “caretaker” Oriel smith acknowledges some of the donkeys have a weight problem and he is researching an appropriate diet to deal with the problem.
From the Tradewinds: The bulges on the necks and bodies of several of the gelded males are fat deposits, according to the island vet Dr. Laura Palminteri and Caneel’s donkey “caretaker” Oriel smith acknowledges some of the donkeys have a weight problem and he is researching an appropriate diet to deal with the problem.

Oriel Smith, who works for Caneel Bay Resort and cares for the small herd of donkeys which have been habituated to the resort, admits he may be partially responsible.

“The over-weight donkeys that you see are males that have been castrated,” Smith emailed St. John Tradewinds. “While the donkeys are roaming the eastern part of the island they are abused, not fed and lots them are injured, so that is why I try to keep them at Caneel.”

“Not doing a good job at that!” Smith admitted.

It’s not that Smith doesn’t try to entice the donkeys to stay on the resort property.

“On occasion, I give them pastries”
“I feed them grain, hay and, on occasion, I give them pastries from the bake shop,” Smith explained.

“They are probably fed too rich a diet,” admitted Smith, who keeps close tabs on the herd. “Because they do not work, they store the fat.”

“Once they have that fat it is very difficult to get it off,” Smith said. “I am researching ways to get the fat off.”

Fitness and diet diva “Jenny” Craig might recommend Smith cut down on the Caneel Bay pastries in their diet.

Meanwhile, the Bordeaux Mountain and Coral Bay area herds do not appear to have the “fat” problem of the Caneel Bay and North Shore herd.

Of course they don’t.

They aren’t invited to Caneel Bay often…

…and they don’t like the resort’s parking policies for locals.


Cruising Over Caneel Bay

Happy Saturday everyone!

We have another amazing video for all of you this weekend. It’s another cool one from IrixGuy – this time’s he’s flying high above Caneel Bay and Honeymoon Beach. Check it out:


Throwback Thursday.

Island Resources Photo
Image credit: St. John Historical Society

Last Thursday we shared a pretty cool picture over on our Facebook page. The picture (above) showed the North Shore Road in 1948.

According to the St. John Historical Society, “the picture was taken by Ronald Morrisette, and the women on horseback are his wife, Sarah Morrisette, left, and Helen Auble (Ms. Auble, a St Thomas resident for many years, gave the picture to [Island Resources Foundation] before her death in the late 1990s). The road is near the bottom of Hawksnest hill, in the distance is the Oppenheimer end of Gibney beach, then called Hawksnest beach. They were passing through the eastern side of the Caneel Bay property, which then stretched from the Creek in Cruz Bay to include the present National Park Hawksnest Beach.”

We found the picture to be so interesting that we sought out to find a few more that we could share all of you. We’d like to extend our thanks to David Whitney Knight, Sr. and Eleanor Gibney for sharing the following pictures with us.

Courtesy of David Whitney Knight, Sr.: 

How many of you recognize the pristine beach shown in this picture? According to David Whitney Knight, Sr., it was taken c1949-1950. “The lady in the picture is my mother, Anna, with her dog Spooky; the photographer is my father, Dr. George H H Knight.”

Photograph taken by Dr. George H H Knight
Photograph taken by Dr. George H H Knight

The following images are courtesy of Eleanor Gibney. The descriptions are courtesy of the St. John Historical Society. 

“A locally-built cargo sloop lowers sail and prepares to come alongside the Cruz Bay dock, c 1959. Up until the 1970s Caribbean-built cargo vessels such as the “Baby Mac,” “Pride of Tortola” and “Miranda Stout,” were St. John’s primary link to the outside world, carrying everything from fuel oil and livestock to mail and passengers.”

Sloop 1959

“Caneel Bay, 1959.
One of the original cottages from the late1930s on what is still called “Cottage Point” They were replaced in the early 1960s.”

Caneel Bay Cottage

“The impact of modern development on St. John’s landscape becomes staggeringly apparent when you compare Chocolate Hole today with how it looked in the late 1950s (photographer unknown).”

Chocolate Hole 1950s

“The iconic Trunk Bay view–here in a slide by an unknown tourist in 1963. The main building of the former Boulon guesthouse is still very visible on the hill, where it was a popular lunch spot, run by Caneel Bay.”

Trunk Bay 1963

Interested in learning about more of St. John’s history? Click here to visit the St. John Historical Society’s website.


Islands Magazine Highlights Caneel Bay

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

So I have to admit, I’ve always wanted to spend a few nights over at Caneel Bay but the accompanying price tag has always scared me off a bit. So instead, I’ve opted for day visits here and there where I’ve schlepped my cooler down to Honeymoon and Soloman before heading back up to the beach bar for a bite to eat and a delicious Bushwacker before making my way back home.

Well after reading the following article by Islands Magazine, I just may have to start saving a bit more. Here are their top 15 reasons to visit Caneel Bay.

15 Reasons to Vacation at Caneel Bay in the USVI

Caneel Bay is one-part luxury, one-part nature, one-part culinary heaven and all parts immersive. Here, life is simple, accented by to-die-for meals and the occasional roaming donkey. (Yes, donkeys.) Here are 15 more reasons to start packing your bags.

15. Nature Rules
As the yacht approached Caneel Bay Resort, I wasn’t sure we’d arrived at the right place. I squinted: No flashy entrance sign? Where are the rooms? Oh, there they are. Here, the natural beauty of the island takes precedence over pomp.

14. My Backyard
It’s no wonder nature takes top billing here … this is my “backyard” for the next few days.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

13. Underwater Havens
Snorkeling gear is complimentary — and you’re going to need it. All seven (!!!) beaches of Caneel Bay boast their own underwater world, from sea-turtle meccas to fish-filled reefs. I even hovered over a spotted eagle ray. My advice? Book for a week to spend a day at each one.

12. Surprising Dinners
Here, sugar-mill ruins are as prolific as palm trees, so I wasn’t surprised to find one on site at Caneel Bay. What surprised me was what lurked inside: ZoZo’s at the Sugar Mill, the flagship fine-dining go-to on St. John. And I can fully attest to its reputation — ruins or not, there was nothing ruined about the pistachio-crusted mahimahi with grilled polenta and sweet bell-pepper chutney that had me almost licking my plate.

11. The Freshest Ingredients
I had to ask: Why does everything taste so fresh? Turns out the secret to Caneel’s distinctive dinners at all the restaurants — ZoZo’s, Caneel Beach Bar & Grill and Turtle Bay Estate House (chef Anthony has perfected the art of simple yet creative pairings) — gets delivered every morning. Locally owned Josphine’s Greens has been the prime source for farm-fresh, organic greens for nearly 20 years.

10. Days Spent Like This
Those hearty meals every night meant I had to paddle board every day (rough life, I know).

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

9. Discovering History
A hike on the Reef Bay Trail burns calories too — once I made it to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins, my mind had already drifted back to lunch at the resort. (The food really is that good, OK?)

8. Fuel for Foodies
Finally! Lunch time. Chef Kim’s killer sushi at the Beach Bar & Grill made me pause and question whether I was at a swanky sushi restaurant in Manhattan. The beach view in front of me quickly squashed that theory.

7. Empty Beaches
Stuffed with sushi, I was glad to have this private bay (my backyard) all to myself. Which I did — until I spotted a baby deer gingerly manuevering across the shifting sand. I suppose I can share this piece of paradise today.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

6. The Cutest Neighbors Ever
I mean, how could I say no to this Disney-worthy face?

deer caneel
Image credit: Islands Magazine

5. Darling Donkeys
Or this face, for that matter. After some time in the sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a long-eared shadow pass by my beach chair. But turns out, the famous donkeys of Caneel Bay are a common sight, along with the deer. They roam freely througout the resort and often pose alongside wedding ceremonies — or for selfies. (Might be guilty of that one.)

caneelbay_donkey 1_high-res
Image credit: Islands Magazine

4. Impeccable Service … And Rum
Deer, donkeys and now pina coladas? Caneel Bay Resort specializes in beach days that I’ll never forget — albeit they may be hard to remember after a few of these.

3. Killer Views
Most of the time, rain has me reaching for an umbrella. Here, I was just reaching for my camera.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

2. Unique Touches
One of my favorite details was the hand-delivered breakfast … in a picnic basket. Being here is “glamping” at its finest.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

1. Snorkeling
Not wanting to miss any time underwater, I forgo an extra hour of sleep in my beach bungalow for a before-breakfast swim with the sea turtles (a sighting is pretty much guaranteed). Even better? They’re not shy at all — I even scored an accidental high-five. Breakfast — picnic basket or not — can wait.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

Meet Oriel Smith: One of Our Island Favorites

Oriel Smith
Oriel Smith

There are some people you meet on St. John that you simply want to hug. You want to invite them over for dinner and you want to become lifelong friends. Oriel Smith is one of those people.

If Oriel’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because we mentioned him briefly last month in our story about Scotty the donkey. As you may recall, we received an email about an injured donkey over at Cinnamon. We reached out to a few folks who in turn reached out to Oriel. Once Oriel got involved, we knew Scotty would be well taken care of.

So who exactly is Oriel Smith? Well he is, in our opinion, Caneel Bay’s most valued employee. As the director of grounds and landscaping, Oriel’s job is to make Caneel’s grounds look beautiful. It’s also his responsibility to care for the animals who live on the property including the donkeys and deer. And to say he treats these animals with love and compassion is simply an understatement.

I had the privilege of spending some time with Oriel a few weeks back. Together we strolled the grounds of Caneel while he spoke about his 17 years working at the resort. (Oriel’s 17th anniversary was last Friday, so we like to extend a big congrats to him for that.) What struck me during that conversation was just how knowledgable Oriel was about the animals living on Caneel’s property and how much he truly cared for each and every one of them.

For example, Oriel told me a tale of a young donkey named April who was born back in 2008. When Little April, as Oriel called her, was about eight or nine months old, she disappeared from the property. Now it’s not uncommon for the donkeys to wander throughout the island but they always return to where they were born, according to Oriel. So after not seeing Little April for years, Oriel was convinced something had happened to her.

Several years has passed when a new donkey appeared on the property. Oriel knew she looked familiar and soon realized it was April. Oriel was overjoyed that came home. And for those of you who follow Caneel over on Facebook, you may recall see pictures of a little donkey born in early March. That donkey, named Precious, happens to be April’s offspring. (I love stories that have a happy ending.)

Precious - Image credit: Caneel Bay
Precious – Image credit: Caneel Bay

But it’s not just April and Precious that Oriel knows the backstories of. It’s all of the donkeys on property. As we strolled the grounds, he pointed out Buckelfoot who was in a car accident once, Darry, Daniel and more. In total, there are 14 donkeys who currently call Caneel Bay home.

What I found to be the most interesting is that the donkeys we see at Honeymoon Beach one day may be the same ones we see over near Coral Bay a few days later. They simple wander, Oriel said.

“They take North Shore Road just like we do,” Oriel added.

So as Oriel and I walked over to feed the donkeys some hay in their pen that’s tucked away behind the hut at Honeymoon Beach, I asked Oriel one last question: What’s the best part of your job?

“To me its not a job,” Oriel said. “It’s just – I love what I do. And I tell everybody and I might as well tell you all that I have the best job in the world, the most gratifying and the most satisfying.”

Well said Oriel and thank you for all you do.

Donkeys at Caneel

Reason #3,429 Why St. John is So Special (according to Jenn)

Donkeys at Caneel. We're not sure of any of these guys or gals are Scotty, but I'll venture to guess they may be related. :)
Donkeys at Caneel: We’re not sure of any of these guys or gals are Scotty, but I’ll venture to guess they may be related. 🙂

People often ask me what makes St. John so special. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words just how special this place is. For me, it’s a combination of the people and the sheer beauty of the island. Yesterday, however, the inner beauty and actions of several island residents overtook the island’s charm in a big way. Here’s what happened:

I received an email around 1:30 p.m. yesterday from a woman named Shannon. Shannon has lived in the Virgin Islands for more than 20 years. After a brief time off island, Shannon recently returned to St. John. (That in itself makes us happy.)

Here’s what she wrote:

“We were out at Cinnamon on Saturday and noticed (along with some other concerned folk) that a donkey was limping really bad and then retreated to the trees behind the sailboats there by the beach rentals and just laid down for most of the afternoon. Apparently these tourists had noticed this some days prior and called the National Park Ranger who then came in that afternoon to look at the donkey. The tourists told us that he had planned to have ‘someone’ from St. Thomas come on Monday to sedate him and take a look, it appeared to him that the donkey simply had something stuck in his hoof.”

Shannon continued, “Well, we went to Cinnamon again yesterday and much to our dismay the poor donkey was still laying in the trees behind the sailboats. Another donkey has taken up residence to soothe him or her. It’s so sad.”

Shannon then mentioned how she notified the National Park Service and asked if we could help. Naturally we said we would.

We first reached out to Thomas Kelly, the Natural Resources Manager at the National Park Service. Within an hour, we heard back from Thomas who confirmed that the NPS was aware of the donkey’s injury. He stated that they had hoped the injury would have taken care of itself as these types of injuries typically do. Thomas thanked us for reaching out to him, and we knew that NPS would follow up.

In the meantime, we contacted Leslie McKibben. Leslie is the newest board member of the Animal Care Center. I explained the issue to Leslie and asked her to reach out to fellow board member Oriel Smith. Oriel works at Caneel Bay Resort and takes care of the property’s many animals, including a number of donkeys.

As luck would have it, the ACC was having a board meeting last night. About an hour later, Leslie informed me that the donkey “will be taken care of.” I was ecstatic.

Leslie spoke with Oriel who stated the donkey’s name was Scotty. Scotty the donkey used to live over at Caneel, according to Oriel, before moving over to Cinnamon. Fortunately Oriel knows this particular donkey well and is planning on checking in on him today, Thursday. Oriel also plans to contact a local vet to assist in treatment, Leslie said.

So in a matter of hours, several people worked together to help an injured donkey. Acts of kindness like this don’t happen everywhere. But they happen on St. John and they happen often. It doesn’t matter if it is a person in need or an animal in need, you can guarantee that the people of St. John will work together to help. And that, my friends, is what makes this place so special.

Update: Thursday at 1:15 p.m.

We just got off the phone with Thomas Kelly from NPS. He told us that a biologist from NPS checked in on the donkey after our conversation yesterday. The biologist reported that the donkey was up and walking around and that he appeared to be suffering from old age more so than anything else. He used binoculars to inspect all four hooves and did not see any external injuries. So perhaps Scotty the donkey was simply looking for some quiet time…

Update: Thursday evening

Oriel Smith paid a visit to Scotty today also. Oriel helped Scotty out a bit and expects him to be back to his old self again really soon. 🙂

A picture of Scotty taken on Thursday afternoon - Image courtesy of Oriel Smith
A picture of Scotty taken on Thursday afternoon – Image courtesy of Oriel Smith

St. John Hits the Airwaves in the States

caneel commercial

Which island destination was just featured in a mainstream television commercial in the States? We’ll give you a hint: It’s a pretty swanky place.

We received an email yesterday from Stacy and Terry Armstrong of Smyrna, Tennessee. They mentioned how Caneel Bay had just appeared in a Target commercial in their home state of Tennessee. Pretty cool, huh.

So we reached out to Caneel and it turns out that they were part of an ad campaign back in November. So we’re a bit late to the party, but hey, better late than never.

Update: March 8, 2014 – We also just learned that the beautiful, sparkling pool seen in the commercial is Mare Blu villa. Mare Blu is an incredible, six-bedroom South Shore villa with panoramic, unobstructed views. (See it for yourself here: www.marebluvilla.com)

Here’s the commercial:

From what we found on ispot.tv, it seems that the ad is running on TBS and VH1 among other channels. Keep a look out for it in your area.

Big thanks to Stacy and Terry for the heads up!

How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John