After hiking back to the visitor center from Honeymoon Beach, we hopped in our rented Jeep Cherokee and decided to drive around and explore the island some. Our first stop was the overlook that gave a great view of Trunk Bay, which was recognized by National Geographic and Islands Magazine as one of the top ten best beaches in the world! It is recognizable by the small double-island just off the beach, and is an excellent snorkle location. We will check that beach out in more detail another day! While we were at the overlook, a tour-taxi stopped there, and the driver began a talk about the bay. If you are visiting St John for the day, you can take one of these island-taxi tours, which travels around the island, and they narrate the history of the different tourist stops and historical locations.
The lizard that Tyler kept trying to catch
I took one these tours the first time I visited the island a few years ago, and I found it to be both interesting and informative. Now, we had our own vehicle, and I could take Tyler around to see all the places I learned about then!
Our next stop was back at Cinnamon Bay, so we could stop and make some lunch at the campground. Tyler kept trying to catch one of the small lizards that lived in a small hole in the tree on our site. After we ate, we waited out a brief rainstorm in the tent, then we got back in the Jeep to continue our exploration. We headed towards the western part of the island, past Maho Bay and onward, stopping at the various overlooks and viewpoints along the way.
Looking for a handout!
Everywhere we go seems to have a wonderful view!
We continued on past the Anaberg Sugar Plantation ruins ( We would explore those in detail another day) and went down towards the small town of Coral Bay. Somewhere around there, we ran into a small group of wild donkeys by the side of the road. We stopped to take some pictures, and I guess they must have thought we were going to feed them, because they came right up to the car and tried to stick their heads in the window! Tyler and I were in kind of a silly mood as we filmed the donkeys, saying things like "Hey, Jackass! Get out of the road!" we made a short tape, included here, which is kind of lame, but I think funny at the very end.
We encountered some wild donkeys along the road in St John, USVI. Watch til the end, as one seems to speak to us!
.. one of the donkeys turns to the camera and appears to say "What Up, Dawg?" as we drive past. It was Tyler, of course, but the donkey moves his lips at the opportune time to create the perfect "Mr Ed" moment! We also saw several domesticated animals in this area, such as goats and chickens. As we headed on, we passed through town and came to some steep hills and narrow roads....this is why four wheel drive vehicles are recommended for St John! We left the National Park area, and drove along another populated part of the island. When we got to the very end and could go no further, Tyler spotted a sign that he had seen a picture of, in an article in Islands magazine that we read on the plane on the way down here! OK, that rates a picture! We then turned back, and took a left turn at Coral Bay, to go looking for a good snorkeling spot.
Beginning of the Salt Pond Bay Trail, off Rt 107. There is a nice beach at the end
We turned down Rt 107 in Coral Bay, and followed it along the coast, all the way to Lameshur, where we ran out of road again. We admired the scenic coastline all along the way, then we turned back and went to a trailhead we had passed by earlier. The Salt Pond Bay trail led to, where else, Salt Pond Bay. It was a rocky but easy downhill trail that led to a small beach with one picnic table. Because it was late afternoon by this time, we saw a few people heading up the trail returning from the beach, but the beach itself was deserted when we got there. There was one sailboat anchored out in the bay, but other than the picnic table, there were no other signs of civilization! Tyler and I quickly put on our snorkeling gear and headed into the water.
Salt Pond Bay, where we saw the giant stingray
The center of the bay had a sandy bottom, gradually sloping downwards into deeper water as you got farther out. When it was about 30 feet deep or so, we saw a few large gray stingrays swimming along the bottom. We swam straight out at first, and when it started to get too deep to see the bottom clearly, we turned left towards the reef. It quickly became shallow again, until it wasn't long before were were in only about 3 feet of water and had to be careful not to brush against the bottom coral. Looking forward, I noticed something large swimming about 20 feet in front of us.... in this shallow water, we had no where to escape if we came face-to-face with whatever it was that was swimming ahead, so I motioned to Tyler to turn left and head out to deeper water.
I found this picture online of a Spotted Eagle Stingray. The one we saw was bigger!
Shortly after, this creature decided that the water was too shallow for it as well, and as I turned back to look, I saw an enormous stingray turn and head right towards us! Now, I have swam with, and actually held and petted, large stingrays before in the Cayman Islands. I know these are relatively docile creatures, as long as unprovoked. However, thoughts of how Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed when one of these fish stabbed him in the heart, were fresh in the minds of both Tyler and I as this giant fish passed underneath us, in only about 6 feet of water! As he swam below us, we saw the spotted leopard-like markings on it that identified it as a fairly rare Spotted Black Eagle Stingray. How cool to see one so close! Tyler and I follwed him as far as we could into deeper water, and I really regretted not purchasing an underwater camera! I'm glad I had noticed it ahead of time, which allowed us to get into deep enough water for it to pass below us.
Boat at anchor in Salt Pond Bay
.. If we had swam straight ahead without noticing it, we would have had an up close encounter, with no room to escape, for us or the stingray! We stayed out in the deeper water after that, and saw a few more rays near the boat that was at anchor. We headed back to shore, where Tyler got out to look for shells and coral along the rocks, while I continued to snorkle closer to the shore. It was dusk by the time we got out. We dried off and made the easy walk up the trail back to the car, then drove back to Cinnamon Bay. Darkness had fallen by the time we got back to our camp...good thing we had the sense to pack flashlights in our packs!
We were hungry after our long day of hiking and snorkeling, and fired up the camp stove to cook some steaks we had in the cooler.
Great views all along the coastline!
I cooked them in the frying pan, since we had forgotten to pack a grill grate! I did start a charcoal fire in the grill, however...it was perfect to cook baked potatoes wrapped in tinfoil! We had our ribeye and potato dinner as a perfect ending to a great day, and, exhausted from the days activities, (and with nothing much else to do once it got dark!) we quickly settled into our cots for a deep, blissful sleep.
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