Good Morning everyone! I’m really happy to be sharing some very exciting news with you right now. We have been hunting for other St. John residents to contribute in order to add to the voice and perspective of News of St. John. And, I’m glad to say, we have a few fresh voices working on articles as I type this. One of which, I am very happy share with you today!
Max Koestenblatt has lived on St. John for eight years and has been diving since he was fifteen years old! For the past fifteen years he has been a PADI certified instructor and,in 2016, he developed a passion for photography. Those worlds merged. And now Max is an underwater photographer with an eye for encapsulating the grace and beauty of the majestic world “Under the Sea!”
Max will be regularly contributing knowledge and images in this new series. He will also be writing some informative posts on different dive and snorkel sites and ways to play in the deep blue sea.
When many of us think about St. John or see photos of the island, what first comes to mind is the stunningly soft, white sand beaches. And the fact that our eyes are attracted to the contrast of the lush, green landscape of the National Park meeting the crystal clear blue waters that surround this little rock in the sea.
Some of us, myself especially, go as far to think about the creatures that live in the beautiful turquoise water because we have had personal experiences with them. But, whether snorkeling, scuba diving or spotting one from a boat; if there’s one animal that everyone that comes to St. John wants to get close to, it’s the sea turtle! And how lucky are we to have a beach where you can pretty much be guaranteed to see at least one turtle any day of the week?
Like many of you, I love photographing the turtles. Because, let’s be honest, nothing beats looking back and remembering those moments you got to spend so close to such a peaceful animal.
Many of you who frequent St. John know that you can go to Maho Bay and see many resident sea turtles thriving in their natural habitat! Not only do you get to see them, but you have the opportunity to get VERY close to them. They love hanging out and snacking on the sea grass beds that are just steps off the shoreline. And, a lot of the time, when you locate one, chances are you will see many more.
The turtles here are so used to all of the snorkelers that they don’t get spooked at all. This means we can get very close to them. Close enough to gain the opportunity to take photos of and with them! But, even though they don’t mind us getting close…So close that we could touch them. It doesn’t give us the RIGHT to touch them. Sea turtles actually have a thin layer of a protective mucus membrane on their shell. And if we touch them, we are ultimately wiping it off…Making the turtles susceptible to getting sick.
Some of the sea turtles are actually growing tumors from the many stressors that they are dealing with every day, as you can see in some of my photos. Through my photography I find it is possible to give a voice to these animals that don’t have one…Helping to educate people so we can all do our part to protect them.
I hope you enjoy the photos of these beautiful green beings that pop their cute faces above the surface every few minutes to take a breath. But remember, no touching! And, while you’re feeling good about protecting the turtles, make sure you are using reef safe sunscreen when you enter the waters of the Virgin Islands.
The next time you think about St. John, think about these magical creatures of Maho Bay!
All of the photos in this post were taken by Max Koestenblatt AKA Scuba Maxsta. Check out some more of his amazing underwater and wedding photography on his website and follow along for (hopefully!) many more under the sea views from Max!