After what seemed to be an endless Washington DC winter filled with errant snowstorms, sleet, and frigid weather, our family realized that we desperately needed to experience the rejuvenating warmth of a sun, sand, and sea vacation. So began the research to find a relatively uncrowded Caribbean island that would also fulfill our need for eco-adventure. Eventually, we settled on St. Croix and although I was a little apprehensive about the traveler warnings for getting a mosquito-borne disease (Dengue and Chikungunya had been spreading for months), ultimately we were pleasantly surprised with St. Croix’s vistas, quirky history, beautiful beaches, and hospitality – and I haven’t yet even mentioned the great kayaking!
Our first kayaking excursion was a nighttime adventure. We arrived at dusk and were greeted by our friendly guides who started quizzing (and awarding “points” to) our small group about the manmade and quite fragile bioluminescent lagoon inside the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.
The children (we were traveling with another family) loved the competition and were very engaged from the start. After a brief safety lesson, we climbed into our two-person kayaks and set off into the night. Thankfully, we were fortunate to be visiting during a new moon phase when the sky was at its darkest.
It was a smooth, short and serene ride to the lagoon, and while the children marveled at and named as many constellations as they could think of, we learned that the Biobay is one of the brightest (of about 8 left) in the world and we learned about the science behind this phenomenon.
As the conversations fell silent, the children started noticing that as their paddles hit the water, they were seeing “sparkling fairy dust”. The water glowed beneath us, and even though it was just for just a tenth of a second at a time, it was thrilling! Minutes later, a guide from another tour company managed to secure a jellyfish! She quickly put it into a container filled with water for the children (and adults) to see.
Forget Disney World, seeing the jellyfish glow while on the bioluminescent bay was magic!
I asked our guides for their perspective as various studies have indicated that this Biobay is dying out due to overuse (i.e. too many tours like ours for 3 weeks out of the month) and not enough attention being paid to keep the ecosystem in balance (i.e. mangrove restoration projects after Hurricane Hugo and green and leatherback sea turtle hatchery protection projects).
Essentially, they agreed with the studies, which made me wonder how often the various tour companies are working together to bring these issues of sustainability to the forefront. Congress only declared this area as a national landmark to be protected by the National Park Service in 1992 and proper zoning of the surrounding land has been bogged down by bureaucracy ever since.
However, there’s an opportunity for local businesses to band together to press for continued restoration and visitor education all the while protecting their business’ livelihood.
In the meantime though, we tremendously enjoyed our memorable outing. So much so, a few days later, we went on a morning historical tour of the Ecological Preserve. Once again, the children were quizzed about wildlife, pirate history and Columbus’ second transatlantic expedition that led him to St. Croix.
We learned more about the importance of the mangrove restoration project, took photos of a large iguana perched at a perfect lookout and learned about the birds of St. Croix.
All in all, there are great wonders to be found (and preserved) on St. Croix.
Contact us for recommendations for eco-friendly accommodations and villas and if you are interested in kayaking, we’ll connect you with BushTribe Eco Adventures (or you can let Adrian and Travis know that you found out about them through Greenloons).
Photo: Wikipedia Commons