Wednesday, December 1, 2010

U.S Virgin Islands - St. John

" I am sorry. You flight is closed for boarding"

I could not believe my ears. This is a scenario I had NEVER faced in my life. I am a very planned person and always show up for flights well ahead of time. We started for the airport many hours ahead, but took a long lunch where we lost track of time. Before we knew it, we were zooming to the airport, but could not make it. The flight to paradise had to wait another day!!

Virgin Islands was never on my list of places simply because we lived in California. If we wanted to go to beautiful Islands, Hawaii was a 6 hour flight away. Caribbean Islands were just too far. Luckily for me, I had a conference in Florida and a bunch of us over-worked colleagues decided to take a quick 3 day trip to the US Virgin Islands. American Airlines has cheap flights to St. Thomas. A ferry ride brings you from St. Thomas to St.John
When people rate best beaches in the World, Caribbean islands always show up and for good reason. The white sand beaches with turquoise waters are a sight for the sore eye. If you want instant relaxation, all you have to do is stare at this picture below. Countless shades of blue waters surrounded by green rain forests make for breathtaking vistas.

We went to St. John which has the Virgin Islands National Park. We stayed at Maho Bay Camps, an award winning eco-tourist resort. They built the camps in 1976 when eco-tourism was not as fashionable as it is now. The tent cottages stand on stilts in the high forests and are connected through elevated wooden walkways to preserve the ground cover. They use wind and solar energy and harvest rain water. Camps were very basic but were perfect for us because we used it only for sleeping. Rest of the time we were sitting in the water, standing in the water, swimming in the water, floating in the water, drinking in the get the idea:)

Snorkeling is my most favourite water sport. Floating on the water while watching the underwater world go about its business is simply fascinating. Trunk Bay and Water Lemon Cay are the popular spots and we went to both the places. Water Lemon Cay was a good 1 mile hike from our camps. Weather was hot and humid and I was very uncomfortable. To me, that is the biggest drawback of the Caribbean Islands. Hawaii has no humidity, so if I ever have to choose, Hawaii will win hands down. I wore a ridiculous looking life vest ( 'Be Safe and have fun" is what Saru said before I left) and jumped into the water. The little cay with sandy beaches has incredibly beautiful marine life. The water was crystal clear and had lots of beautiful sponges and corals - elk and brain corals being the highlight. Hundreds of types of multi-coloured fish reside in the reefs there. Parrotfish, Angelfish, goatfish and butterflyfish were most common. As we were floating in the water, there was a point when the famous Caribbean clear water became sandy. The culprit, we realized was a hungry EAGLE RAY!! It was my first sighting of this species and I was thrilled. Just when I thought the day could not get any better, we saw a huge turtle!! Back in the camp, it was cool among the trees, but the only way to remain comfortable with the humidity was to be in the water!! Instead of hanging out near our camp, we took our stuff and literally sat in the shallow water for hours and hours until our hands and feet wilted like an old granny's. The next day, we kayaked to another snorkel spot and spent an afternoon there. We then rented a car for a few hours and drove around the tiny island to get an idea of how the rest of the place looked.

After soaking in the sun and the sand for 2 days back, we headed back to the airport where I heard the second bombshell in the trip. " I am sorry, I don't see your reservation"!! I pulled out my printouts and gave it to the lady who looked at it and said " This reservation was for yesterday"!! I paid a $100 penalty to change the ticket.
Just when I was thinking that this could not get any worse, the guard asked me " Passport Please". I had no idea that we needed a passport to visit the Virgin Islands!! They never checked on my way there. " Why do I need a passport. I am still in the US. I never took my passport to Hawaii, I said. " Hawaii is a state, USVI is a US territory" He replied while showing me to a special room. I gave them all my information and sat there for the longest 1/2 hour of my life. The guard came back and said that my information checked out and I was free to board the flight.
" Next time bring your passport"!! He said.
Given all the trouble getting in and out of here, I told myself I would never go back. But these pictures are tempting me to change my mind. Maybe......some day in the distant future!!

This is my World today. For more stories around the world, please click here.


  1. Maaan....I have always always wanted to make a trip to VI considering how short of a distance it is from Florida but have been too scared to plan out the details somehow having the impression that it is this secluded territory requiring jet planes, helicopters and boats to get there..and chickened out every time...don't know y I never remembered that this world traveller wld know all the details..shd have chked with u!:-) ur blog is only making my resolve stronger to go there sometime....the pics are breathtaking and ur writing is so people-friendly that it encourages timid travelers even to venture out:-)
    On another note..ur story bat missing the flight is one i didn't hear before..but funnily enuf is the second such story I am hearing within a matter of 15 BIL and SIL planned this honeymoon trip to Lakshadweep for 3 days but like u went to get coffee, gt delayed and they refused to let them board the flight, cutting their trp short! I know there is a lesson in here somewhere for me as i tend to cut it close all the time!:-)
    cant believe u had so many misadventures on this trip but if inspire of all that u think back fondly on it is definitely an ode to the beauty of Virgin Islands!:-)

  2. How exquisitely beautiful this place is. Your wonderful pictures show that by day it is a fairyland and by night it is golden with gorgeous sunsets. Despite the hassles it is probably worth while going back. I’ve had my own troubles with airlines and misunderstandings during my first trip to Europe from BC. There is no amount of preparation that prepares one for the hassles when they do happen. I think armed with more knowledge it would be easier the second time around. :)

  3. 'Breathtaking vistas'is right!! How right!!! And what breathtaking photographs!! The sunset shots are brilllllliant, Vamsee!! And I can just picture you lazing in the water, snorkelling, driving around.... wow!! I want to go there right now!!

  4. What a breathtaking view. I really like the place a lot.

  5. breathtaking views and breathstopping encounters - haha - thanks for sharing! its a good checklist before one plans a trip anywhere!

  6. Why aren't you in the water in the first picture but taking pictures far away from it?

  7. What a beautiful world we live in! I am not one bit suprised these pictures are tempting you to change your mind. The last two are absolutely stunning.

  8. Lovely Seascapes and sunset images. The second last image is the best.

    Your interesting experiences at the airports is surely food for thought...Thomas

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  10.'s too beautiful.. one of my friends had been there and was telling me how beautiful it was.. but after seeing the pics you put up, I have to agree that it is one must see place to visit :)

  11. Hi Vamsee, I haven't been to the Caribbean yet but I'm hoping to someday soon. The pictures are tempting, and very pleasant to see especially since I've been trapped in the city and the snow for a while now. Never say never, you might end up here on some conference thingie! :-)