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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 18, 2024


U.S. Virgin Islands – Visitors to the United States Virgin Islands will be pleased to find ecologically minded accommodations, numerous eco-friendly activities and grass-roots organizations dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. A world leader in the development of "sustainable tourism," the members of the United States Virgin Islands tourism community are dedicated to protecting the beauty of the islands' natural environment while allowing visitors to enjoy the territory's pristine wonder. The environmentally conscious traveler can participate in and be excited to know about the following ecotourism-focused developments that are present on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas:
Vacationers on St. Thomas can participate in the Virgin Islands Ecotours, a two-and-a-half-hour guided kayak and snorkel tour through St. Thomas' Marine Sanctuary and Mangrove Lagoon. Led by experienced naturalists who are knowledgeable about the island's natural history, the kayak tours are a first-hand, fun and educational experience for visitors. Participants can view snowy egrets, great barracudas, dwarf herrings, spotted eagle rays, jellyfish, mangrove crabs and even breeding nurse sharks in their natural environment. Kayakers can also explore the lagoon's underwater life by snorkeling in designated areas without fins, so as not to disturb the delicate marine environment. While V.I. Ecotours helps travelers to be more environmentally conscious, they also allow visitors to see that St. Thomas offers more than duty-free shopping and beautiful beaches. Starting fall 2000, Virgin Islands Ecotours will offer its eco-friendly tour at St. Thomas' Magens Bay.
The Virgin Islands National Park protects St. John from industrial development, while preserving the natural, unspoiled beauty indigenous to the territory. Laurance Rockefeller donated 5,000 acres on the island to the federal government to establish the National Park in 1956, which has since maintained the vast stretches of green hillsides, exotic foliage and pristine white-sand beaches that have made St. John the popular vacation destination that it is today. Located on the smallest of the three major U.S. Virgin Islands, the V.I. National Park covers two-thirds of the island's 19 square miles. More than one-third of the 11,560 acres that comprise the National Park land is underwater, offering unparalleled diving and snorkeling. The park boasts some of the most beautiful coral reefs, flora, tropical fish and beaches in the Caribbean, as well as 22 hiking trails within the park's boundaries. The Virgin Islands National Park's visitor center is scheduled to open to the public in July 2000. Located on Cruz Bay, the new $3.4 million facility is located in the same place as the previous center.
Buck Island National Reef Monument is one of the USVI's most beautiful underwater paradises. Visitors will not want to miss this St. Croix attraction. The fantasy of the underworld becomes a picturesque reality in this American paradise. No matter which snorkeling trails visitors choose to explore, they will encounter some of the most beautiful tropical fish and colorful coral in the Caribbean.
Take a trip through St. Croix's majestic mountains and rolling green hills on horseback riding and donkey tours. These guided tours explore the island's lush green foliage and tropical surroundings.
Knowledgeable guides provide private lessons of the island's history and ecology on these guided bike tours of St. Croix's west end. Enjoy the scenery of the island's historic greathouses, dramatic shorelines and lush, green rainforest. Bike tours are available for both experienced and less-experienced bikers. Bike rental and safety equipment are all included in the tour. Full- and half-day equipment rentals are also available from St. Croix Bike & Tours for those who want to explore the island on their own.
Discover the beauty and wonder of the USVI's underwater world by exploring some of the best dive spots in the Caribbean. Divers can view beautiful coral, colorful fish, and solve the mystery of sunken ships, while swimming along coral reefs and through coves. The USVI has numerous dive operators that provide equipment and instruction for the less experienced. Call 800-372-USVI (8784) for a USVI Department of Tourism dive guide.
Join scientists at St. John's Cinnamon Bay archaeological dig to help uncover 500 years of ceremonial activity of the Taino Indians, as well as historic remains of Danish plantation ruins. The industrial history can reveal how the people lived and the working conditions of the sugar factory. SoVisitoVacationers are encouraged to visit the site and join the excavation.
Stanley Selengut, a civil engineer, carpenter and ecologist based in New York, pioneered the vision of balancing "creature comfort and environmental sensitivity" in a resort that tourists can enjoy while visiting the USVI. Since starting Maho Bay Camps in 1976, Selengut has built three additional ecotourism resorts on St. John – Harmony, Estate Concordia and Concordia Ecotents – that allow for intimate encounters with the natural beauty of the Caribbean outdoors as well as comfort and convenience at an affordable cost.
Travelers can volunteer at Maho Bay Camps and earn free lodging or Estate Concordia on St. Croix through the summer and off-season, intern work-program guests at Maho Bay Camps will receive free lodging in exchange for four hours of work per day. Guests save the normal $70 per night lodging fee by working as housekeepers, registration clerks, cooks, maintenance persons or gardeners. The "4-hour workers" will also receive a 40 percent discount at the Maho Restaurant & General Store. The program is effective now through November 15, 2000. A minimum stay of one month is required. In addition, Maho Bay Camps is offering vacation values for families. Now through November 15, 2000, children 16 years of age and under stay free at Maho Bay Camps when accompanied by adults.
Hotel Caravelle offers a family vacation package allowing guests the opportunity to participate in an environmental study program and earn a degree from the University of St. Croix, a non-accredited entity that educates visitors about marine ecology. Diploma requirements include a three-night minimum stay at the hotel and the choice between two St. Croix tours. St. Croix Safari Tours will lead degree seekers to several places, including a rainforest and the site where Christopher Columbus landed. Visitors may opt to sail to nearby Buck Island Reef National Monument for a snorkeling excursion with Big Beard's Adventure Tours. Upon completion of either tour, an Island Ecologist diploma will be issued. Packages are valid through December 14, 2000. Rates start at $529 for three nights (double occupancy), with breakfast and tour included. Children under 12 years of age stay in the room for free, not including tour and breakfast.
Every Wednesday, The Buccaneer on St. Croix offers guests a one-hour nature walk and tour led by the hotel's general manager. Guests learn about the flora and fauna found on the 300-acre property. The history of St. Croix and the resort are also highlighted as guests take a
leisurely stroll on the grounds of the historic sugar plantation.
Vacationers will experience the comfort and serenity of natural surroundings when staying at Cinnamon Bay Campground. A two-minute walk from Cinnamon Bay Beach, the longest beach on St. John, the campground offers many of the world's conveniences while preserving the island's unspoiled beauty. Equipped cottages and tents are available, along with baresites.
The St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) is an organization committed to the conservation and preservation of St. Croix's many natural wonders. One of the organization's greatest successes has been the preservation and protection of the Salt River Bay National Historical Pa
rk and Ecological Preserve, a historically significant site to St. Croix and the U.S. because Christopher Columbus landed there in 1493. The SEA continues to educate the public about the importance of this area through articles, lectures, workshops and field trips. An anonymous benefactor with a love of birds made it possible for the SEA to purchase 60 acres of land at Southgate on the island's east end. The $822,697 donation means a prime nesting habitat for birds and endangered sea turtles will be protected forever from commercial development. The property encompasses the eastern third of the salt pond east to Chenay Bay Beach Resort and the land between Green Cay Beach and East End Road. Along with the key sea turtle nesting beach, the dominant feature of the property is the salt pond, which is owned by the United States Virgin Islands' government. Southgate pond is one of the most important ponds in the USVI for local and migrating birds. Some 96 species have been recorded at the site, including 26 that are considered threatened or endangered in the territory.
The preservation of all species of life is an essential part of every ecosystem. The Buck Island Reef Hawksbill Sea Turtle Research Program on St. Croix studies the biology of these endangered turtles in the United States Virgin Islands. The research conducted by this organization has significantly contributed to both the survival of the hawksbill sea turtle and the study of environmental sciences in St. Croix's local communities. Several other projects have been initiated since this research program began in 1988, to study the migration of sea turtles after nesting season and to develop non-lethal ways for determining the gender of sea turtle hatchlings. Volunteer assistance from the community has been essential to the success of this program, helping the National Park Service to ensure that these turtles remain a vital part of St. Croix's ecosystem for years to come.
In an effort to reverse the effects of compounding damage to the United States Virgin Islands' coral reef environment, island residents have launched a program called the Reef Ranger Project. This community pilot program is aimed at involving island youth in the restoration and protection of the reefs and the fish, grasses and turtles inhabiting the area. Witnessing the slow but sure deterioration of the reefs from natural and environmental causes and human neglect, the program's founders vowed to instill an appreciation for the reefs' fragility in this group of 13 young people by educating them about reef ecology, marine biology and environmental preservation. Dubbed "Reef Rangers," the project's young participants have become role models and mentors with a mission to promote reef preservation amongst their peers and in the global community. In the years after its inception in 1995, the Reef Ranger project has brought island youth together with scientists from around the world to develop a working plan to protect and ultimately save the coral reefs surrounding the territory.
For additional information about the United States Virgin Islands and its ecotourism efforts, call 800-372-USVI (8784) or contact the nearest USVI Department of Tourism regional office in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. or Toronto.

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