Somewhere at Sea
After two and a half days at sea we were excited to see some land. Now we know how the sailors on the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria must have felt, although they probably didn’t sit by the pool during their voyage). Early in the morning of our third full day of the cruise we entered the harbor of St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
A small boat pulled alongside and a harbor pilot boarded our ship to guide us safely to the dock.
The pilot skillfully (we didn’t seem to hit anything) guided us to the dock in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas.
After about an hour, our captain (Ronnie Borg, no relation to Bjorn) announced permission to go ashore. Our excursion met in the ship’s theater, then proceeded off the ship to a waiting vehicle. We didn’t get a picture of our transport, but it was similar to the one pictured below, just not as nice.
After a bit of a wild ride up and over the hills to the other side of the island, we arrive at Virgin Islands Ecotours, the site of our excursion. After a brief introduction, the group boarded kayaks and headed out through a mangrove lagoon.
We paddled for about a half hour before we beached the kayaks on Cas Cay, a deserted fifteen acre island in the Virgin Islands Park System. While hiking the island, if you look down it appears the small stones at your feet are moving. Turns out the island is covered with hermit Crabs!
At the end of the island we came upon a tidal pool complete with a rare geologic blow hole where water shot up into the air with each wave.
Our final activity was the main reason we came on this tour. We were provided with a mask and snorkel and swam out a short distance to a coral reef. While John grew up swimming in a nearby creek during the summer, Pam was raised swimming in a pond lined with concrete, a diving board at one end, and a person sitting on a chair keeping an eye on her, so she had never experienced “swimming with the fishies” before. She is also a bit claustrophobic, so the idea of putting a mask over her face and breathing into a tube caused a bit of anxiety. But she took her time and, with the calming help of Dr.
Phil John, she was able to overcome her fears and enter the water!
Once she saw the beauty of the sea life below us, it was difficult to get her back to the kayak. But we knew there was more snorkeling in our future, so after a bit we returned our snorkel gear and paddled the kayak back to the dock. After hanging on during the amusement ride that was the return trip across the island, we returned to our ship.
The second port of call for us was to the Commonwealth of Dominica, an island nation of 290 square miles (pop. 71,300). It is a mountainous island with the the highest point in the country, Morne Diablotins, at an elevation of 4,747 feet. We docked in the harbor of the capital, Roseau, which is located on the leeward side of the island.
Just off the dock our tour guide led us to a van for the ride to our excursion – snorkeling at Champagne Reef. The guide, a native of the island, rode with us and provided a great deal of information about life on this beautiful island. We soon arrived at our destination and, after a brief introduction, headed down some steps to the edge of the water.
Champagne Reef is one of Dominica’s best known dive sites. Underwater geothermal springs vent gases in the form of thousands of warm bubbles giving the visitor a feeling of swimming through a giant glass of Champagne. The local who led our snorkel experience floated next to us on a ring buoy describing much of what we were seeing below us along the reef. Occasionally, he dove down to the bottom to point out things of particular interest.
Howard, Linda, and many of the rest of our group were not with our tour, but the tour they were on stopped to snorkel at the same spot (and entered the water just ahead of us). Howard recently purchased a new, waterproof camera and took some great under water pictures of the reef. The picture below was borrowed (OK, stolen – the check’s in the mail, Howard) from his blog.
Below is a picture “borrowed” from somewhere in the cloud. It shows yellow sponges growing along Champagne Reef.
After a great snorkel experience we returned to the building where we stored our gear during the swim and enjoyed a local beer (Kubuli) on their deck before returning to the ship.
After a quick shower to wash off the salt water, we enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the town.
In the picture above you can see some tents along the water front. These are stands where the locals sell trinkets and jewelry to the tourists. We walked among the vendors and Pam bought a shirt, although her money manager escort prevented further damage to her wallet. We then stopped at a local watering hole and enjoyed another Kubuli beer.
We returned to the ship and sat on our balcony watching the dark clouds cover the nearby rain forest in the mountains. Occasionally you could clearly see that it was pouring rain up there, while we were experiencing sunshine. The combination of sun and rain created a number of beautiful rainbows, and at one point a double rainbow appeared.
Everyone was instructed to be back aboard ship by 4:30 (a requirement at every port) and we departed Dominica around 5:00.
Looking back on our trip, we think Dominica was the nicest of the stops. The snorkeling was beautiful, there were rain forests to hike, and the people were very friendly. But now it’s on to the next island.
More on that later . . .
By the way, if you would like a more detailed description of the cruise and island stops, Howard has done a great job in his blog, RV-Dreams. Check it out, as he also has more great pictures (and videos) taken underwater with his new camera.