US Virgin Islands

December 25th

Pelican that welcomed us to the mangrove Sleeping was a pain last night. The people next to us were very noisy. They had kids and they banged and screamed until I don't know when. I put in my earplugs and slept, but Joel was bothered. This morning I woke at 5:00am, went back to sleep and was up again at 6:00am. I decided to stay up and type in my journal. I tried the patio, but decided I needed to be on the beach. So this morning I typed away and watched the clouds turn pink and the cruise ships come in. A lovely way to start the day.

Since I started the day without my husband, I had to go back to the room and get him. He was actually up by the time I got back around 7am. We were slightly hungry and didn't really want a sit down meal. We went to the little store by the lobby and . . . found the store was closed. Actually the gal at the counter had to leave for a minute so we waited until she got back. Then finally we bought doughnuts, a bagel and orange juice. Joel thought the bagel would be stale, but lo and behold it was relatively fresh!

Joel was worried again about being late. He just doesn't have this island time thing down. Just relax mon! We got a taxi about 45 min before we needed to be there, we again waited for another family. They were going to Red Hook to get a boat and explore some of the cays. But after we took off, they found out that they had forgotten their snorkel gear so we let them off at the Frenchmans (other Marriott sister hotel), to go back to get them. But we were off. All that we forgot was our suntan lotion for our lips and that we got at the office of the kayak tour we were going on.

The entrance to the lagoon Oh yeah did I forget to mention that we were going kayaking in a marine sanctuary. They have a little 2 1/2 hour tour with a naturalist. They describe the ecology, taking strategic stops as the kayakers get tired, to give their lectures. The whole lagoon is filled with mangroves and the baby fish use it as a nursery. At the mouth to the lagoon we stopped and snorkeled. Since I was wearing my whole stay out of the sun gear, it took me a while to undress to my swimsuit. But I made it. Joel had to wait for me again.

The snorkeling here was different from most places I've been. since it is a nursery for young fish, you get to see them all as babies. I saw the smallest barracuda I have ever seen only 6 inches long (plus a few larger ones). Other highlights were the octopus, the upside down jelly fish, a very cute crab and a lot of grunts.

Then it was back to the dock to leave. The ride back was much easier. We were finally going with the wind and the current.

We came back to our hotel room to eat lunch (Caesar's, and the most yummy grouper sandwiches known to man), and get our snorkel gear (we didn't have our fins from the kayak trip because they don't allow them, it would disturb the bottom of the mangrove sand too much). Then it was off to Sapphire beach.

Can you see the octopus? The taxi cabs in St Thomas are vans and the taxi drivers all try to start conversations and ask you how your trip was and where you are from etc. They are all very nice. They also keep saying "Merry Christmas". Oh yeah it is Christmas. It is hard to remember that fact with the temperature every day in the 80s. No snow and the only time we get cold is after we have been in the water for over an hour. It is just hard to believe in Santa when you're on the beach.

And speaking of beaches, sapphire beach is lovely. A large part of me was wishing I was staying here, because the snorkeling off the beach is quite nice. I made Joel walk all the way to one end of the beach then proceeded to swim across the bay to the other side. Sea grass grew on a very sandy bottom and we chased some schools of fish across the bay. I almost gave up and went back, but then I heard the munching of the parrotfish on the coral. We knew we were close. The coral in this part of the bay is terrible. Not much to look at but the fish were quite nice. We saw a large sandiver, about 18" long, which is about as large as they reach. They are kid of strange fish because they just sit there at the bottom, motionless just blending in. There were lots of different kinds of squirrel fish, some not willing to come out of their holes in the rocks, some actually out with the other fish, but ready to dart back into hiding if we got too close. There was one enormous school of blue tang, though a few other fish were joining them , the strangest being a trumpet fish, which usually hangs around the tree corals blending in, but this one was schooling with the tang. Very weird. There were lots of yellowtail snapper, and different kinds of grunts, the blue-stripped grunt being the most common. There were goatfish and foureye butterflyfish, sergeant majors, damselfish, wrasses and tons of parrot fish, a wonderful balloon fish and the largest trunkfish I've ever seen, an orange spotted filefish, and several scrawled filefish.

Schooling trumpet fish and his friends the blue tangs Then it was back to where most of the people were snorkeling, right in front of sapphire beach. There were less fish, but they did have a nice school of ballyhoo. There were also some redfin needlefish swimming about. One opened his mouth for me and I could see his serrated teeth. They supposedly can grow up to three feet in length but the ones that were here were just under two. The most striking thing about this spot of reef was not the fish, but the coral. It was very beautiful here. If you go out close to the end of the point there are rectangular boulders on the bottom and beautiful coral of all types growing from the rocks. The prettiest I've seen in a while.

On the way back to our hotel we were in the cab with another family that was staying on one of the cruise ships docked in Charlotte Amalie. Though I'm not sure I would like a cruise ship, one of our favorite occupations is watching them leave port. We ate at Caesars (had pizza) and as the cruise ships came around the point, we watched and Joel tried to take photos of them. They are lit up like little cities at night and they always leave around 6pm right around sunset. Very pretty.

Another perfect sunset I seem to have gotten ahead of myself. When we got back we were exhausted, but we had to play in the surf outside our hotel. The waves crash ashore, very loud, but when you are in the waves they seem pretty tame. I was hoping for bigger waves to play in. My arms were exhausted after paddling and snorkeling all day long so we only stayed in about 15 minutes or so. Then we took our showers and got dressed for dinner.

The pizza was good, very garlicky. We split one 12" pizza and it was fine for me. Then we came back to our room and collapsed. Boy are we tired. We wanted to go to bead at 7:30 but thought we ought to stay up at least a little later. At 9:00pm we turned in, or tried to. At 9:30 our next door neighbors showed up. They are a couple of kids and their parents obviously stay in a different room, and I think their parents were out for the night. They screamed, giggled and slammed doors until I knocked on their door at 10:30 and told them to pipe down. The funny thing is that outside their door I couldn't hear them that much, but inside our room we could hear every word they said. We all have tile floor and connecting rooms and the sound goes right under the door. The rooms are lovely but they really needed to insulate the connecting doors more.


Christmas day, or so people keep telling me. It does not look or feel like Christmas.

Gould Home Page | Travel Index

Text and images © Copyright 2000 Joel and Daphne Gould. If there are any problems or questions email Daphne Gould.