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 water......you 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!!
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