Monday, February 8, 2010

Trekking to Trunk Bay

St. John's Trunk Bay in the US Virgin Islands(USVI) is a beautiful stretch of beach that offers fantastic snorkeling in amazing surroundings with a few pleasant surprises. It's very easy to reach from St. Thomas, a 20 minute ferry ride followed by an adventurous 10 minute taxi ride. This is complete paradise, a setting resembling a dream wedding ... or a corona commercial. Yeah that's right, you gaze at that hot girl in the bikini walking by and I'm going to squirt this lime in your eye! The calm and pristine water is filled with a diverse group of colorful sea creatures. The bay's famous underwater snorkeling guide gives swimmers a little bit of information about the various sea life they are looking at. Make sure you are a good swimmer, as it gets deep quickly as you follow the guided path below. For a small charge flotation devices are available, and are a good idea even for active swimmers who want to tread and take a quick rest for a minute. To ease peace of mind, active lifeguards are on duty - something that isn't standard at many USVI beaches.

While snorkeling we saw the typical array of Virgin Island fish. There were Parrot Fish, Yellow Tails, Sergeant Majors and Sturgeon Fish among others. I didn't have to search far at all to find fish, there were plenty to go around, and some were very brave and not shy to braise my sunburned body. During our second trip out into the water to swim with our new friends we encountered something very cool, wild stingrays! The stingrays came very close to shore, and all of the tourists (including me of course) ran back to get their cameras and take pictures. Certain geniuses (a nice way to put it) thought it would be a good idea to chase after them tail first, and they scurried back further into the ocean.

I wanted to swim out and follow one of the stingrays from a comfortable distance, close enough so that I would see it clearly while leaving it a enough distance to make it feel comfortable. It was just me and the stingray, watching him and his little cleaner fish pal slowly mingle around the sand. It was very peaceful watching its wings flap elegantly as it calmly went about its business. After some negative media spotlight, it was clear to me that stingrays are naturally friendly creatures, but should be left undisturbed.

Trunk Bay is one of St. John's biggest tourist attractions. It was obvious that the crowd was primarily made up of vacationers staying on St. Thomas, St. John or in town just for the day from a cruise ship. I don't mind this because it makes for decent people watching, but the beauty of Trunk Bay is that you have the option to be secluded. It is a relatively long strip of sand, and most of the people camp out around the snorkeling trail (where conveniently, bathrooms and food are as well). It makes sense, all of the amenities are close and it's a short walk back to the taxi. So if crowds aren't your idea of a fun day in the center of paradise, simply walk a few minutes down the shoreline and find a nice spot away from everybody else and enjoy the laid back Caribbean atmosphere alone.

Here are some of my tips to get the most out of your Trunk Bay experience:
  • Bring your own lunch. The food is not good and is expensive, but if you do opt to eat at the bay, remember that Caribbean attitude is very laid back so your food will not arrive instantly.
  • If you choose to snorkel, invest the couple of dollars and purchase a flotation device. I am an above average swimmer, but it gets tiring after a while. The flotation device allows swimmers to use less energy and take quick breaks when they please.
  • Get there early for a prime spot. There are limited spots that offer shade, and those are usually the first to go. I would suggest sitting in the middle of the beach, as the area closest to the concessions and taxi stand get crowded.
  • Don't be afraid to snorkel away from the underwater trail. That's where the wild stingrays were hanging out.
  • On the way to the bay, ask your taxi driver to stop at the scenic overlook for a minute. It will block traffic, but the view is breathtaking!

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