Sunday, 15 April 2018

Kayak, Hike and Snorkel Adventure in St. Thomas

Mountain top view over Magens Bay in St.Thomas U.S. Virgin Island

The mountainous U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas is incredibly beautiful, best seen from one of the many view points, or on a guided tour through the Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary. Fortunately I had the chance to experience both on my recent trip with Viking Cruises UK and it was so enjoyable I decided to write a separate post all about it.  

Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas
Scenic Mountain Top Tour in St Thomas from Cruise Ship

MOUNTAIN TOP TOUR EXCURSION | ST. THOMAS USVI
My adventure began at the Charlotte Amalie cruise ship terminal where our shuttle picked us up for a guided tour of the island, stopping off at some of the best view points on the way to the Mountain Top.

View over Charlotte Amalie and cruise ship harbour in St. Thomas

The first overlooked the capital city where we could spot the Viking Sea docked in the harbour. We ascended further, taking every twist and turn to reach the 2,100ft summit. The island was badly effected by the Hurricanes of 2017, the winds may have dropped, but the residents spirits remain high, it's humbling to hear stories and see recovery efforts still taking place. 

The Viking Sea docked in Charlotte Amalie, one of the busiest cruise destinations in the Caribbean
Colourful houses on the hillside in Charlotte Amalie

MAGENS BAY 
The second viewpoint was a teaser to the Mountain Top with a stunning view down onto Magens Bay and the surrounding British Virgin Islands

The beautiful Magens Bay in St Thomas is one of the world's best beaches
The view over Magens Bay and British Virgin Islands Home of the world famous Banana Daiquiri, the Mountain Top in St. Thomas

The Mountain Top, to my surprise, is the home of the world famous Banana Daiquiri with a huge gift shop and bar area for a refreshing tipple. Here I sat back on the open balcony and watched the fluffy clouds roll over the hills and cast shadows over the crystal clear aqua sea. 

The Mountain Top Gift Shop in St. Thomas Huge shopping hall at the Mountain Top in St. Thomas
Mountain Top balcony overlooking Magens Bay and British Virgin Islands

The 2 hour tour is an included excursion on a Viking Cruise and offered a good overview of the island's natural beauty.

Further reading: A West Indies Explorer Cruise onboard the Viking Sea

Virigin Islands EcoTours in the Mangrove Lagoon
Watermark-free images supplied by Virgin Islands EcoTours

VIRGIN ISLAND ECOTOURS EXCURSION
My next excursion was an optional extra (£64 per person) and, as before, we boarded our shuttle across the island towards Cas Cay. Our guide Troy briefed us on what to expect on the 3 hour kayak, hike and snorkel adventure - before armouring us with goggles, a life jacket and bottle of water.

Mangrove Lagoon Kayak in St Thomas by EcoTours
Kayaking to Cas Cay in St. Thomas

MANGROVE LAGOON, CAS CAY
We paired up and slid ourselves onto the bobbing kayaks to start a 1.5 mile journey through the Mangrove Lagoon. The lagoon opens up to the tidal sea where the uninhabited Cas Cay island looms in the distance.

Hiking Cas Cay in St. Thomas
The Manchineel, the most poisonous tree, poison apple

THE FORBIDDEN APPLES | ST. THOMAS USVI
Pulling our kayaks onto the beach, we quickly learned the island wasn't quite as empty as we first thought as the scattered sea shells along the shoreline started to twitch. These once vacant shells have a new resident, the hermit crab. The sun kissed fruit trees ('Manchineel') were also a surprise, Troy told us they are actually poisonous and can cause severe vomiting and death if ingested - even the tree sap is lethal!

Little apple of death - Christopher Columbus 

Hermit crabs on Cas Cay Wildlife Sanctuary
Brittle black star fish in Cas Cay St. Thomas

Our hike continued across a rocky beach where we searched for marine life, soon finding a black star fish and fire worm. The rocky headland was the furthest point on our short walk to see another wonder of nature, a blow hole that sends sea water soaring high into the air.

Blow Hole in Cas Cay
Queen Conch in Cas Cay

Just before we made our return journey in the kayak the group put on their snorkels and began exploring the shallows to spot tropical fish and other creatures that thrive in this protected environment. Though we didn't see any sting rays or turtles, other groups have been lucky to spot some swimming along the coral reefs.

tropical fish in Cas Cay

This was such a memorable tour and one I'm sure to retell time and time again. If you ever visit the U.S. Virgin Islands I highly recommend visiting with EcoTours, their photographer (Ali) joined us on the tour (and they kindly allowed me to publish some of them in this blog), so you have the option to purchase a digital copy of images from your adventure to Cas Cay too.

You can book the Mangrove Lagoon Tour on their website, or for more information about my Viking Cruise have a read of my last blog.

Images marked [NP] by Miss Nicklin / Nutty Pear.
Disclosure: My experience was covered by Viking Cruises UK however I was not obliged to write a positive review.
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