Virgin Islands Travel Forum

snorkeling & dangerous marine life

Mikem
May 11, 2005 12:46PM

Hi,

This may seem silly, I know.

My wife and I are staying at Secret Harbor 7/9-7/15 for our first anniversary. I am excited to go snorkeling, but my wife is scared of sharks. I have never been to the area and wonder what the chance of even seeing shark is, and what types are common.

I know attacks are an extremely rare occurance in the usvi, but was just wondering what are the chances of us seeing a shark and her freaking out.

Thanks,

Mike



karrieb
May 11, 2005 01:05PM

I've snorkled several times around STJ and saw nothing but fish and turtles but there are occasional nurse shark sitings (who are harmless I believe). Just stay close to shore as the sharks can't swim in 2 feet of water. Its a glorious, unforgettable experience and your wife is robbing herself of this if she chickens out.

May 11, 2005 01:37PM
Registered:
01/20/2005

94 Posts

We saw a number of nurse sharks when on STT/STJ a few weeks ago. Nurse sharks are nothing to be afraid of though. They are pretty timid. You would probably have to stick your foot in their mouth or majorly harrass them for them to be any threat. Look up some pictures of them before you go so that you will recognize them when you see them. 2 of them we say were laying on the bottom with their heads stuck under the coral.

Barracudas are another intimidating looking fish that you might see but again, they will leave you alone. Just don't wear any shiny jewlery.

The most dangerous thing you will do while on STT is drive the roads!



MikeM
May 11, 2005 01:53PM

I've seen nurse sharks before, I dont think she would be scared of them, or even necessarily recognize it at a shark.

I don't know how deep the water is for the best snorkeling, but I have seen several sharks in Florida in shallow water < 4 ft., no large tiger sharks or anything though. I just didn't know if sharks are as common in the usvi as they are on the Gulf coast of florida.

Also, has anyone snorkeled off of Secret Harbour? Are there actually coral formations nearby or will I need to go somewhere else? What types of corals would I expect to see? My hobby is saltwater reefkeeping, so I am very knowledgeable about the differnt species and even grow many in my home. I would really like to see some large acropora formations.

May 11, 2005 02:37PM
Registered:
01/20/2005

117 Posts

Here is an underwater shot from Secret Harbour I took on April 1

[flickr.com]

Also a couple of great underwater Secret Harbour photos of a turtle and the squid that frequent those waters just posted here under the post heading of “Just a couple of things to see while.....” at this location:

[www.usvi-on-line.com]

Your wife should be more concerned about sea urchins and sunburn. Wear a surfers shirt AKA rash guard for no worries sun protection in the water.


Mikem
May 11, 2005 02:50PM

nice pictures, thanks.

I hope Secret Harbour is as good as all the reviews I have seen. Not only is the wife scared of sea-monsters, she is a bit -prissy-. If there are bugs or anything in the room I am going to have a situation on my hands.



lynn s
May 11, 2005 04:52PM

The only things likely to hurt you are sunburn and sea urchins. Just wear sunscreen and don't touch black prickly balls underwater and you will be fine. It's a fabulous place.

Jo-Ann
May 11, 2005 05:01PM

Watch out for the picky things on Salt Pond Beach, and watch those bugs at night. They'll eat you up! Bug Dope all the way.

denise w
May 12, 2005 10:37AM

Warning: Stay out of currents / stay away from sea urchins.
If you get stung or get the black spikes in your hand, feet or whereever. Urinate on or soak in bleach immediately. Urinating on, is the island way. Or soak in full strength bleach for 10 to 20 mins, within 10 of your sting. I'm an expert at this. I had it happen to me. Urchins hide around rocks, so they will be there. If you do not respond quickly, plan to go to the hospital or Dr. If you wait too long, your vacation will be ruined. You will be very sick for a week or 2. I never got this far.
As for the currents. You will be swept away somewhere. I could not swim the current so ended up in the rocks where my buds, sea urchins lived. Was recued in 2 mins. Thank God for the locals and their kindness. Fisherman. They know everything. Trust them.
Stay where they recommend to snorkel.
This is twice I got in a current. I will grow up and not be an aggressive manic. So, I say. Note: I am 51 yrs. old too.

Bonnie
May 12, 2005 02:01PM

Hope she doesn't mind lizards. They had their convention on our patio at Sapphire every morning!

Parrotfish
May 16, 2005 12:41AM

You will most likely NOT see a shark in your VI snorkel adventure. You'd be far more likely to see one in Florida. If you see one , it will likely be a Nurse shark- a docile variety. These tend to hang out on the bottom and will likely swim off if watched for long. Not really a worry. You will likely see Baraccuda, which may be attracted to shiny jewelry-don't wear any while snorkeling. They do have poor eyesight and may want to swim close to you to check you out. A good rule of thumb is simply do not touch-ANYTHING! A moray eel may bite at a hand stuck into a crevice for example. See urchins are ubiquitous and are to be avoided. Urchins are relatively stationary-they take hours to move even short distances-so you really have to go out of your way to touch one. You could get pushed into urchin covered rocks by wave action however.If you get stuck by an urchin barb, soak with ammonia based liquid immediately. It's not poisonous but is very painful. Don't attempt to remove the barb, because you won't be able to. Some posters have mentioned ocean currents as hazards, and this is true to an extent. Yes you're in the Ocean, and there are currents. The key is knowing what to do. I snorkel all over, not just in the typical areas. You'll find the snorkeling may get better as you get further from people. You'll know you're "in" a current when you attempt to swim back toward shore and are not moving. Do not keep swimming, as you'll tire yourself out. Simply float for a moment, then swim paralell to the shore. Gradually angle yourself toward the shore. Eventually you'll feel yourself break out of the current and can head to shore more directly. It's quite easy to recognize when you're in a current and easy to get out of. Knowledge of the sea leads to better snorkeling. Enjoy your trip

May 16, 2005 11:45AM
Registered:
02/15/2005

167 Posts

I affirm most everthing said above. I would add take some Skin so Soft (an avon product available at Wal Mart) for the bugs and noseeums. The lizards refered to above are Iguanas and are quite prehistoric in their appearance. They are harmless but first encounter may give your sweetie a fright. Defuse this by hand feeding them. The particularly like the blossom of the Hibiscus.The spiny black sea urchins are plainly visible and you sholdn't have any problems avoiding them. The snokleing in the USVI is pretty awesome, remember rock/coral=fish.

don poko
March 19, 2006 07:36PM

thanks so much for the advice on the snorkeling. going to st. thomas and st.marteen in a few weeks and plan to do some snorkeling. only have done this once (belize) and loved it. i think i would freek out if i seen a shark. anyone see any in theese waters?

John From Puyallup
March 19, 2006 09:15PM


I agree with all of the advice people have given. It's unlikely you'll see a shark, and if you're FORTUNATE enough to see one, it's very, very, very unlikely it will attack you if you don't provoke it. Almost all marine life has a natural fear of man and will avoid contact if possible, and frankly that impossing barracuda doesn't see you as food. So go have fun and use common sense.

Like everybody else said, it's more likely that you'll be the source of your own injuries while in the water. Don't brush up against coral, it'll give you a nasty scrape that will probably infect. Stay away from fire coral and urchins.

One of the most likely tragedies is death by drowning. Worldwide, many more people drown than ever have a bad experience with a shark. You can minimize the chance of drowning by wearing a snorkle vest.

Current is pretty weak in the USVI, because it's close to equator. Here in the Puget Sound area we can get some places that have 5 - 8 knots of current, because the tide change is greater the farther you are from the equater. So in the USVI's, most of the current is just localized around geographic features. If you get caught in current don't panic and don't fight it, just float with it and the current will eventually weaken. Of course, if you have snorkle vest, it's even easier to stay afloat and will minimize the panic feelings.

JFP

March 20, 2006 03:53AM
Registered:
09/26/2005

101 Posts

I have stayed at Secret harbour two times now & loved it. I will let you know that both of the rooms I stayed in had ants not many but some. It is common in the Caribbean but just be warned that there could be ants in the rooms. I think SH will have spray or you can ask them to spray the room to get rid of them for a day lol. They are pesty little things. Just don't leave anything out in the kitchen area & wash your dishes & put away. The first time I stayed I left a water glass out full of water as I need to get up early to take a pill & when I started to get the glass it was covered in ants.So from then on I put everything away.You will have fun there & the management are super nice. Barb

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