Mad about Manta Rays

Manta Rays, those winged fish, have become almost 'common' around the island. Photograohers at booth Maho Bay and Caneel Bay have posted video of the gorgeous creatures appearing too fly through the crystal clear waters.

There are two types of Mantas, Reef and Ocean. The former fare typically 10-feet in wingspan, while the Ocean type can grow to 25 feet and weigh 5,000 pounds. last year, Mantas qualified as a threatened sp[iecy to be protected by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals .

This video was posted on the Blog of Maho (see the full item here).

Several rays have been seen coursing along the Bay. They nicknamed one of them, "Manny".

"The National Park has even come out here (and other beaches) to post signs about not touching them," the Blog reported. "Manta Rays have a protective mucus membrane on their skin, and may develop infections or lesions if touched by snorkelers."

At Caneel, Guest Relations manager Chad was able to video a Ray swimming near the ferry dock, right off the main Caneel Beach … and almost close enough to use one of the beach chaise lounges.

"We also have had several confirmed sightings of a Manta Ray at Francis Bay recently, which is an unusual visitor in our shallower waters," Caneel reported on its Facebook page. "And right off Caneel Beach last week, a mother Dolphin with two babies paid us a visit."

Grande Bay’s boat

There's a cruiser in Cruz Bay, anchored off the waterfront in front of the Grande Bay Resort and Residence Club.

John Alvarado, the director of sales, says the 35-foot power boat is available for full and half-day charters. "It will go wherever the guests want to go," he said.

The craft, manufactured by Scout Boats of South Carolina, boasts two 350 horsepower outboard engines and a speed range in the mid-60s.

Grabdebay3Named the ResidenSea, its captain is Michael Luzon. Committing to a full-time captain "ensures that our guest experience will be unparalleled," Alvarado said.

He added that the availability of ResidenSea for diving, snorkeling, swimming or island hopping "completes our vision of providing our members the opportunity to enjoy the ideal St. John lifestyle – a residence, a four-door Jeep Wrangler, and a 35-foot power boat."

Does St. John need a dog park?


Chris Angel with Zja-Zja and Phineas Credit: Elsa Angel

Chris Angel thought it does. It was his dying wish that there be a public space for dogs and owners to gather.

The longtime island resident and businessman asked the Trust for Public Land to get involved.  The Trust's John Garrison has spent a lot of his time working too protect Maho Bay land, and is now also working on the dog park.

“The whole community is behind us on this,” he said. “The Community Foundation, Animal Care Center, and individual pet owners are all supportive. The people of St. John want a dog park.”

He’s looking for a two-acre parcel that’s relatively flat, near a public road, and with access to utilities so the dog park can have fresh water, lights and a lockable fence. “The park has had an outpouring of support, so we’re hoping the search won’t take long,” Garrison says.

VI National Park – there’s a fragrance for that


The makers of Air Wick have gone into business with the National Park Foundation.

 St. John may benefit. 

"Our national parks provide us with the purest scents of nature," said Jerome Lemaire, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of the air freshener product.  "We are thrilled to be partnering with the National Park Foundation to help our customers bring the outdoors in."

Air Wick has released  a line of sprays, aerosols, oils and scented candles inspired by four parks including the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Yellowstone and Glacier Bay.  

The VI aroma is described as … "Paradise flowers evoke delightful notes of native Mimosa, Jasmine and White Rose, transporting you to the idyllic tranquility of the Park."

A portion of sales from the products will be donated to the foundation to "directly aid, support and enrich America's nearly 400 national parks and their programs."

Go on vacation, walk a St. John dog


Photo courtesy of Carrie Dow

Here's a way to get some exercise and help the Animal Care Center at the same time.

ACC staff and volunteers walk their dogs twice each weekday, at 8:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. The walks around Cruz Bay are good for everybody.  On weekends, the walks become 90-minute hikes along the Lind Point Trail.  And anybody can help – local or visitor.  The more people who show up for the walks, the more dogs get exercised.

The International Pet Examiner published a story about the dog walks and how you can help.  "Dog walkers benefit by burning off those rum punch calories and meeting other people, both travelers and locals," the Examiner said.

Photographer Yelena Rogers went along a recent hike and posted pictures on her Facebook page. 

So did Carrie Dow, the freelance travel writer who wrote the story.  "We have to admit a selfish reason for going," she said. "We were missing our two dogs at home."  Taking the hike with the ACC dogs "was our way of staying connected with our own furry babies thousands of miles away."  (See her slide show of pictures here.)

If you'd like to walk a dog, or hike with a husky and help the Animal Care Center, get information here.

St. John couple offers healthy cosmetics

MassagersEvery once in a while, the Inquiring Iguana askes what new business would do well on the island.  What unmet need  could bring prosperity to its founder?  No one has ever said the island needs its own massage oils.

Kate Reed and Dave Borrow thinks it does.

They have opened Island Massage CompanyDave’s a massage therapist and Kate had been blending oils for his clients.

“I soon found I could do much more using the therapeutic qualities of essential oils and other natural ingredients,” she said. “And the more research I did, the more I realized … commercial cosmetics are bad for us.”

So, Dave and Kate have gone into business marketing their own line of bug spray, itch medicine, oils and lotions,  You can learn a little more about it on their Web site.

Now, back to the Iguana’s question.  What business, if it were to open on St. John, would be a hit?  Offer your idea by making a comment here.

Packing List: Swimsuits and Twizzlers

To judge from comments on some of the St. John travel forums, a lot of people have more then flip flops, t-shirts, and magazines in their luggage.

Many also have food. Which results in folks trading tips about what to bring, and how.

Tinkerbelldee says granola bars, coffee, Splenda, and Crystal Light are among her must-packs. Besides several cans of Pringles, "In our small backpack cooler, I have chicken, hamburger, bacon, and cheese. ( I am picky about certain things, meat being one of them)."

It's not the high cost of groceries on St. John that prompts people to bring their own food. Convenience is a big factor, as well as being sure you've got what you like. "Because I'm a little bit of a foodie and just want to have certain things. And this foodie likes to have her Twizzlers and Gummisavers poolside!," said Mari6625.

Bluewater43 has this strategy: "Vacuum pack & freeze anything … at least a week ahead. Morning of the trip, throw everything in the cooler, packing lunchmeat & cheese in-between the frozen meat. Don't use ice packs at all (can't in carry-on) and everything is still frozen 8 hours later when we arrive." In that cooler – steaks, pork tenderloin, chicken breasts, burgers and Italian sausages.

The whole concept was news to Cfbbnell." I didn't know you could bring meat as a carry on! We are serious about our meat – 3 freezers in the garage. We buy whole cows, hogs and lambs. Being able to pack it into a cooler for the trip is awesome."

Iraq veteran’s 8 Tuff Miles

“My legs felt like corner posts with barbed wire attached,” said Brian Bresnahan, remembering how he neared the end of this year’s 8 Tuff Miles race.  And the guy is a Marine and Iraq war veteran!  Imagine what it would feel like for you!

Bresnahan is now safely back home in York, Nebraska where he writes for a weekly newspaper.  He focused a recent column on his St. John experience.

It began when he asked his wife she’d like to do something crazy with him: run ups nd down a mountain on a. 8.3 mile course.  The adventure sucked him in, the lure of the warm Caribbean waters and white beaches grabbed her – and off they went.

“Surprisingly, we passed lots of people at the start,” he wrote. “But then the reality of the mountain kicked in. It kicked for the next 5 miles. I've ridden bulls that kicked less.”

Bresnahan said his “Wonder Woman wife” finished in the top 25% women, he finished in the top half of men.

“But it was a half hour faster than the goal, and there were Pina Coladas, crystal blue water, and white sand waiting.”

Souvenirs of St. John

On a St. John forum this week, Bluestarek12 asked “What’s the one tHing that yopu must bring back home with you?”

Some of the answers might help you plan your next trip.

  • Jen M: "Bones Rum. Yum."
  • Tim W: “Coffee and spices from St. John Spice!”
  • Ms411: “I like to bring a local art or craft piece. Check Bamboula store in Mongoose Junction.”
  • GottoGetway: “I've gotten something from Elaine Estern's, and this year it was blown glass from the Maho studio. I find art is something that I look at everyday in my house as opposed to a T-shirt that you might wear once in a while.”
  • GoodCatawabal’s island: “We always have Christmas in February @ Sloop Jones-some of the coolest clothing I have ever owned.”
  • Colinm85: “I like to see if I can get some rock salt from Salt Pond and put it in a salt grinder for the rest of the year. Cant always get it though”
  • Babylon2r: “Great memories and a strong yearning to return!"

St. John: Second best in the WORLD!!

, one of the world's largest travel sites announced the winners of its 2013 Travelers' Choice awards.  St. John was ranked the second best island in the world, trailing Ambergris Caye in Belize.

TripAdvisor chose its winners "based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions covering more than 650,000 hotels and collected in a single year from travelers around the world."

There are more than 121 things to do on the island, according to the travel Web site.  The top three are Trunk Bay, Waterlemon Cay, and the Ram Head Trail.

TripAdvisor's list of the Top 25 Beaches around the world, surprisingly, included none from St. John.  The closest the VI's got was the Baths on Virgin Gorda.