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Insider Guide to Eco-Tourism on St Croix

by jennifer 30. October 2014 11:40

At Sugar Beach Resort St Croix - we're committed to making your Eco-Tourism visit to St. Croix amazing - so don't hesitate to ask everyone on our staff for help. We're there to make sure your stay on our beautiful island is the best ever.

The U.S. Virgin Islands tourism community is a world leader in the development of "sustainable tourism", dedicated to protecting the beauty of the islands' natural environment while allowing visitors to enjoy the territory's pristine wonder.

St Croix is not over-run with tourists and you can still find quiet, out of the way places, just like the Caribbean should be! St. Croix has some of the best eco-tourism opportunities in the Caribbean, where you are free to explore an island environment from mountain peak to coral reef. 

Spend a day on the waters surrounding the island, or ride into the hills on horseback, there are many tours tourist can take to see the whole of St. Croix and its breathtaking beauty. River kayaking, taking a safari or noted eco hiking tours can fill your days with endless wonder. 

There are also eco-friendly events though-out the year to attend that are in sync with preserving our fragile ecology and focus on the natural world and its resources. Some of these events include Mango Melee, the Agricultural Fair, turtle nesting watches, beach clean-ups, coastal and organic walks, Buck Island, Scuba Diving and snorkeling charters. 

But first you will need a car - and we're arrange with Judi of Croix to organize a car for you, meet you by name at the airport, and give you maps and instructions for visiting our island. Plus - if you say you're staying at Sugar Beach between now and December 15, 2014 - they'll give you 10% off their already great rates. 

The environmentally conscious traveler can participate in and be excited to know about the following ecotourism-focused adventures that await on St. Croix: 

Buck Island Snorkeling

Buck Island Reef is a National Monument 1.5 miles off the northeast coast of St. Croix consisting of 880 acres of land and 704 acres of water and coral reef. If you are someone who snorkels, or are thinking of taking up the pastime, Buck Island Reef will be paradise. Scuba divers also enjoy the deep grottoes and labyrinths. 

Turtle Watching - several beaches on St. Croix are turtle nesting beaches. The St. Croix Environmental Association and other environmental groups monitor these beaches and turtle activity to protect and preserve these beautiful and fascinating marine animals. Environmental groups offer turtle watches and educational trips at various times during the year; some of these trips are limited to members.

Click Here for some really fun turtle facts - brought together for you by the fun loving folks at Sugar Beach Resort.

Leatherback turtles, the largest of all turtles and endangered throughout the United States range (federal register, June 2, 1970), have a nesting place in St. Croix. Nesting can be found at the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is only open to the public from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays and is closed at all other times.  The refuge beach is a popular recreation site for visitors, but the refuge and beach are closed April 1 - September 1 during turtle nesting season in order to protect turtle nests and hatchlings.

Turtle Hatchings

Hiking and bike tours, as well as horseback tours, can all be found and are each led by knowledgeable guides who can provide lessons of the island's history and ecology of St. Croix's west end. Enjoy the scenery of the island's historic great houses, dramatic shorelines and lush, green rainforest. Bike tours are available for both experienced and less-experienced bikers, making this an excellent activity for those on a family vacation in the USVI.

Just some of our trails include:

The east end beaches beyond Cramer Park Beach or the rainforest and hills surrounding Blue Mountains, which at 1,096 feet is the islands second highest point (Mt. Eagle is the highest, with 1165 feet).

Maroon Ridge or Maroonberg is located high on the scenic ridge northeast of Ham's Bluff. There was a Maroon community established in St. Croix in the 17th century.

Annaly Bay is an exceptional area of St. Croix is the Northwest where the natural and cultural history of the island comes alive. Hiking down the mountainside to Annaly Bay is fairly steep in some areas. The environment encompasses a moist forest, valleys, slopes, rocky shoreline, and small and large tidal pools or saltwater baths.

Estate Hermitage & Parasol Mill - located in the fertile valley of St. Croix's tallest mountains, Blue Mountain to the East and Mount Eagle to the north, this area was heavily forested with giant tropical trees which were cleared to make way for sugar production. See the remaining herds of locally-bred Senopol Cattle grazing in the old sugar plantation and see examples of tropical trees such as Saman, Tibit and Tamarind, The hike meanders along the fertile lush valley to one of the largest man made ponds on the island. 

St Croix Hertitage Trail

Other eco-activities on the island include

St Croix Heritage Trail - This 72-mile driving tour connects our Caribbean island's historic sites and attractions and includes many significant natural areas.  Historic marker road signs with the trail's brown and white sugar mill symbol guide visitors along the route which runs between Frederiksted and Christiansted, primarily along Centerline Road, extending north to Hamm's Bay in the west and Point Udall in the East.

Rainforest around St. Croix Leap - a 15 acre natural wonder that is privately-owned but open to the public.

St. George Botanical Gardens - a 16-acre complex that has the ruins of a 19th century sugar cane village and rum factory. There are more than 1,500 varieties of plants here.

Eco-Tourism Partners

The St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) offers guided hikes into the Caledonia rainforest and in the Salt River National Park on a request basis. 340- 773-1989.

St. George Botanical Gardens http://www.sgvbg.org

Bushtribe Eco Adventure Tours - 340-277-2503 http://www.bushtribe.com

Olasee Davis conducts group hikes (30-person maximum) on Sundays and holidays at a charge of US$15 per person. The itinerary changes regularly. Contact him at 778-9491 or 772-0325.

St. Croix Heritage Tours (guided) - 340-778-6997, 719-9079 - Custom tours through plantation ruins, lush tropical forest, quaint historic towns, sugar mills and massive forts.

St. Croix Safari Tours (Safari Van) – 340-773-6700, Email: sjtouss@gmail.com

Gecko’s Island Adventures - On this tour you’ll go off-road on a Polaris Sportsman 500 EFI ATV to visit spots around the island not usually seen by visitors. http://www.geckosislandadventures.com ; 340-713-8820

Caribbean Adventure Tours Kayak - a guided kayak tour through Salt River National Historic Park & Ecological Preserve. Toll-Free 1-800-532-3483 · St. Croix 340-778-1522
info@stcroixkayak.com; www.stcroixkayak.com

CHANT Eco Hikes and Tours - http://www.chantvi.org/tours/ayayEcoHike.cfm;  Phone: 340-719-5455; Toll Free:1-877-CHANTVI or 1-877-242-6884

Buck Island Charters - This company offers trips on two Trimarans named Tenaro II and Dragonfly. Both leave from Green Cay Marina for a half or full day trip. You will need to bring your own packed lunch. Phone: (340) 773-3161; teroro@msn.com

Virgin Kayak Tours -  Phone: (340) 514-0062; www.virginkayaktours.com 

Paul and Jillies Equestrian Centre - Phone: (340) 772-2627; www.paulandjills.com

Big Beards Adventure Tours -  Here you will be taken by Catamaran from the Christiansted water front. The tour goes to Buck Island where the anchor is dropped. Here you can swim or so some snorkelling, followed by a barbecue lunch on a private beach. Phone: (340) 773-4482; www.bigbeards.com

Sweeney St. Croix Safari Tours - They will teach you all about St. Croix’s history, cultural traditions, politics, botany, and much more. Phone: (340) 773-6700; stcroixsafaritours@gmail.com

Tan Tan Tours - See parts of St Croix that are only accessible by a four wheeled drive vehicle, in an open top Jeeps. This company offers year round tours, either group or individual. Phone: (340) 473-6446; www.StxTanTanTours.com

Sea Turtle Hatchling Watches

by jennifer 8. July 2013 16:11

A MUST-DO if you are visiting St. Croix during turtle nesting season: April to August – is to participate in a “turtle watch”.   Nightly volunteers “watch” the nests,

collecting data and helping with any protection or relocation (due to erosion) needs.  There are scheduled times when the public is invited to come on the “watch”, though you must be a member of the St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) to participate.  At $50/year its a bargain that really helps the cause too!  SEA also has other environmental centered events throughout the year, so no matter what time of year you are traveling to St. Croix you can take advantage of these learning expeditions. This year, the SEA has organized hatchling watches on July 9th and July 18th starting at 5:15 pm.  A great activity for the whole family.

Vacationers and locals alike visit Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge on St Croix. It is located on the southwest side of the island, just south of Frederiksted.  Sandy Point is a habitat area for many endangered species, but was particularly set aside as a nesting area for the leatherback sea turtles.  In fact, it boasts the largest nesting population of leatherbacks in the United States on its 2 miles of white sandy beach.

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest sea turtle; females nesting on St. Croix average 6-800 lbs and the largest male ever recorded was more than 2000 lbs! After nesting in the tropics, leatherbacks migrate to the North Atlantic; a satellite transmitter was attached to a St. Croix nester and she was documented traveling all the way to Nova Scotia! Scientists have estimated that leatherbacks could be extinct within 10 to 15 years based on current levels of population decline.

The nocturnal trek of hatchling Sea Turtles is one of the most interesting and exciting spectacles in nature.  It takes between 50 and 65 days after the mother turtle deposits her eggs in a beachside nest that the hatchlings will emerge by breaking out of their thin eggs buried below the sand and make their struggle to the surface and then onward to the water. This is an especially perilous point in their survival because in addition to the natural predators such as Gulls and Raccoons, man has made it increasingly difficult for the newly hatched turtles to find their way to the ocean. The baby turtles emerge under cover of darkness and are naturally attracted to lights, as it is their instinct to move towards the lighter horizon of the ocean and away from the darkness of the beach and sand dunes. Their ability to get from their nest to the relative safety of the ocean is critical for their survival.

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Island Events | Things to Do

Dive St. Croix, USVI! Sugar Beach Resort offers the best of both worlds, part 2

by jennifer 12. March 2013 15:16

 

Certified divers enjoy the freedom to dive with a buddy anywhere and anytime it is permissible.  It’s fun and safe as long as you continue to follow the rules and guidelines and dive within the limits of your training and abilities.  Accrediting organizations have done extensive studies and established strict guidelines for dive instructors to follow as the instructor, sales consultant or dive master on the boat.

Statistically scuba diving is one of the safest activities you can engage in.  Generally dive related incidents are caused by a failing health co

ndition or divers that choose to dive beyond the established limits, engage in diving they are not trained or simply by practicing careless diving practices.  All of these are focused on in the early portion of any dive-training program.

There are several accrediting agencies such as PADI, NAUI, and BSAC that are affiliated with dive centers and instructors.  These agencies establish operational criteria and standards for dive operations and it’s instructional staff.  Dive certifications accomplished with any accredited agency allow you to dive regardless of the operator’s affiliation, and once certified you are certified for life.

All dive certification courses begin in a classroom environment or online study program.  It’s not difficult learn since the lessons are taught to students as young as 10 years old becoming Junior Scuba Divers until they reach the age of 15 at which time they no longer need to dive with a parent or guardian.

The PADI online classroom is available to dive students 13 years of age and older offering flexibility in participation as well as the ability to do this from home.   The classroom is of benefit to those living near a dive shop or resort operation that can spend about 6 hours of study and testing with an instructor. 

Pool classes give you all the practical and functional training in an underwater environment.  You start in the shallow end learning breathing techniques, mask clearing and other essential elements before moving towards the deep end of the pool.  Here you learn buoyancy and control to achieve the weightless effect.  Once you’ve mastered the pool you are proficient with the dive and emergency skills that prepare you for the open water.

Open water classes are essentially the displaying of proficiency of skills already conducted in the swimming pool.  Your first dive is a fun dive where you will cruise the reef in underwater fashion with your instructor allowing you to fully experience your first dive as a real diver.  The following dives you will spend some time proving your proficiency of the skills and still have some time to take in the scenery.

Once you are certified you are good to go on your own, however it is always recommende

d to continue with training at least through the advanced level where you will get training in underwater navigation, peak buoyancy control, deep diving and a few other programs that your instructor feels would suit your individual dive program.

You have the ability to dive comfortably and safely with confidence and will rapidly discover new places to dive and friends to dive with.  The advantage of participating in a scuba vacation program with the Sugar Beach Resort is the combining the resort vacation experience with the underwater world, and there are several dive operators nearby so scheduling your training and diving is never an issue and equipment is readily available.

Sugar Beach Resort is a great place to host your scuba diving event whether you visit as an individual, family or group.  Here you can enjoy the full condo experience and vacation like you are in your own home. 

Stay tuned for the next story about the incredible marine life you will find on the reefs of St. Croix!  And visit Sugar Beach Website for details on scuba diving packages available from the resort. 

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Fun Turtle Facts - Totally cute, Totally adorable, Totally St. Croix

by Leslie Eiser 18. September 2012 15:26

When Christopher Columbus first arrived on St. Croix - one of the things that he found most amazing were our sea turtles. There were so many that historical accounts quote sailors as saying: "the sea was (so) thick with them so that it seemed that the ships would run aground on them"

Well - we don't quite have so many anymore - that's a fact that can be said about many of the different animal populations of the ocean - but what we do have - we protect. We post 'turtle' watches over nests to keep predators (mongooses are a problem as are cats and dogs. seconded only by humans), and if we spot a gaggle of tiny turtle hatchlings making their mad dash for open water - it's a cause for celebration.

The peak of Green Sea Turtle season on St. Croix is September, with the Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles picking up the slack a bit earlier or a bit later in the year. Popular beaches with the Green Sea turtles (they are very discriminating - and very picky too.) are rocky ones like Jacks, Isaacs, and East End Bay. Hawksbill's prefer Buck Island - which doesn't surprise me - it's my favorite too. For the Leatherback's - it's wide open sandy beaches - like Sandy Point - which is also a National Wildlife Refuge.

There's lot of well written information on the web about Green Sea Turtles - so rather than repeat the obvious (yes - they get large, yes - they live 80 years, yes - they are 150 million years old) - here's some fun turtle facts to share at your next dinner party (hopefully spent relaxing on a balcony at Sugar Beach enjoying the ocean breezes, white sand, and blue, blue, blue ocean).

1. Green turtles can hold their breathe for up to 5 hours... That's clocked. So don't try to compete!

2. The shells of Green Sea Turtles aren't green. Sorry. They are brown or at best olive. Green Sea Turtles are called green because their fat is green.

3. Turtles get ahead by sticking their necks out. But Green Turtles can't pull their heads in! They are out all the time. (which makes them the most likely to succeed in the turtle world I guess)

4. Baby Green turtles eat anything they can get their mouths around - crabs, jellyfish and delicious sponges

5. But... Adult Green turtles are herbivorous - like cows  - they only eat grasses! Sea grasses of course. They also chow down on algae. (Imagine - they get up to 500 pounds by just eating grass. How do they do that?)

6. This you won't find hard to believe - Green Sea Turtles prefer just one kind of grass - Turtle Grass. (clearly, picking a name was simple)

7. Like other turtles, Green Sea Turtles take long long trips (also known as migrations). They only 'do it' every 2 to 4 years - the rest of the time they are roaming around the ocean. Scientists, who are basically very nosey people, have tracked turtles from St. Croix - all the way up to Nova Scotia. Wonder if he had his passport?

8. Here's a really surprising fact - Green Sea turtles only nest every other year - but - Even numbered years are most popular! Clearly - they keep day books. Sorry honey - not tonight - it's not an even year. 2012 promises to be a good year for Green Sea Turtles too - which means your odds of seeing turtle babies is going to go up.

 9. One female - many nests - large families! Leatherback ladies will nest 5 to 7 times - with a record of 11 times for one very anxious female. She must have been a school teacher - keep trying until you get it right. Green Sea Turtles only nest about 5 times a season - but each nest will have an average of 135 eggs. Hawksbills make the fewest nests in a mating season - 3 to 5, and have slightly fewer eggs on average per nest - around 130.

10. There are lots of great sites for information about turtles - but this is my favorite: http://www.deepseawaters.com/sea-turtles.htm.  I like it best because it not only has good facts - it's easy to read, and the pictures are fun. So it's a real winner. And you can find out about more than just sea turtles!

So next time you are coming to our beautiful island - be sure to cozy up to some of our most attractive residents - the Turtles!

 

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St Croix | Things to Do