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Kayaking in the St. Thomas, Mangrove Lagoon

Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve, St. Thomas

The Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the south side of St. Thomas. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty, where mangrove trees provide homes for an assortment of animal life both above and beneath the waterline.

It had been more than a few years since I had explored the lagoon. Now here I was at the V.I. Ecotours office listening to one of their guides, Frank, give a pre-tour talk on what to expect. I was getting ready to do their Kayak, Hike & Snorkel Adventure Tour. A few weeks earlier I had been driving by their office when a gorgeous snowy egret in the mangroves caught my eye. I questioned myself on why I had let so much time pass since I had done a tour of the lagoon. By the end of the day I had contacted V.I. Ecotours, the only outfit that takes visitors into the reserve, and booked a trip!

The Mangrove Lagoon Tour Begins

As soon as the intro-talk was over everyone heads down to the waters edge, climbs into a kayak and off we go. Paddling along through the calm, clear water my eyes move from scanning for critters swimming below to searching the tree tops for feathered friends. We stop to admire a magnificent frigate bird soaring above us while Frank provides information about bird life in the lagoon and on other animals.

Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve, St. Thomas
Ecotours
“Can anyone tell me why mangroves are so important?” asked Frank. A gal in the group answered that they provide homes for wildlife. “Yes,” replied Frank before enthusiastically adding that they also serve as natural barriers for sediment and as land formers.

Diverse Tour Options with V.I. Ecotours

V.I. Ecotours offers a few different tour options for the lagoon. The tours include a hiking stop at Cas Cay. It’s a 15-acre island; home to a variety of plant and animal life. On the small, pristine island, we hike along dirt trails and a coral-rubble shoreline to a tidal pool. There are snails and small fish in the pool, which has interesting volcanic cliffs surrounding it. It is here that many of my fellow tour-mates appear to be most intrigued by the animal and plant life they had seen so far. They ask a variety of questions and busily snap photos of the rocks, the water, the view, and themselves.

Snorkeling Adventures in the Lagoon

We head back to the shore where we left our kayaks. It was time to put on our snorkel gear! While I had visited the lagoon before, I had never snorkeled there, so I was really looking forward to this part of the tour. I headed into the water and wasn’t disappointed. The long prop-roots of the mangroves are like support beams for the tree. Each tree puts down dozens of these roots and they form a cavernous tangle; the perfect place for small fish to hide from big fish! Looking and peering through the roots I am able to view cute little butterfly fish, young snappers, small pufferfish and other juvenile fish. Mangrove roots serve as a fish nursery!

When we arrived at Cas Cay the guide of the previous tour had mentioned to Frank that there was a lionfish in the area. Frank asked us all to keep an eye out while snorkeling so they could mark the lionfish’s current location. Lionfish are a non-native, invasive species and a serious threat to our local reefs.

Guided Marine Exploration

Everyone on the tour was listening to Frank while he pointed out various marine animals. I could hear him in the distance but I had slightly lagged behind the group, temporarily sidetracked. I was looking for a lionfish! Moments later, I spot it hanging out next to a rock. I show it to Frank and then return to the regular scheduled program of leisurely snorkeling. Another V.I. Ecotours guide, named Sean, later catches the lionfish. Great job Sean!

After snorkeling, we board our kayaks and set off for an enjoyable paddle back. At the V.I. Ecotours office Frank gives a post-tour talk. He reminds us of the importance of mangroves, encourages us to spread the word on protecting them and other natural resources, and sends us on our way.

Exploring the Cas Cay/Mangrove Lagoon Reserve

The Cas Cay/Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary is a valuable and interesting area of St. Thomas. It is worth exploring if you have any interest in nature, birds, marine life, eco-tourism, kayaking or just want to do a fun recreational/educational activity.

Thank you to Frank and everyone at V.I. Ecotours. I had a terrific time and definitely will be back to do another tour of the lagoon!

Recommended Kayak Tours

VI Ecotours: Mangrove Kayak & Snorkel Tour

FareHarbor

Get your kayaking and snorkeling in on this fun and educational tour in St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve. Paddle out in the mangrove, past mangrove-ridged cays and coastlines, and through serene waterways. Enjoy the peacefulness while keeping a watch for sea birds above and tarpon and stingrays below. Beach your kayak on the shore of Cas Cay, then jump in the water to enjoy a 45-minute snorkel. Tour includes mask and snorkel, kayak & paddle, life jacket, beverages, and a guide. Costs: Adults (13+): $99. Children (7-12) $69. Youths (2-6) Free.

Length: 2.5 Hours - Guided Tour

VI Ecotours: Mangrove Kayak, Hike & Snorkel Tour

FareHarbor

This award-winning tour takes you through St. Thomas’ beautiful Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve. Paddle the sanctuary’s peaceful waterways. Keep an eye out for sea birds and marine life. Visit Cas Cay where you will take a shoreline walk along a coral beach to impressive volcanic cliffs, tidal pools, and the famous Red Cliffs Blow Hole. Enjoy a swim, and a 45-minute snorkel in shallow mangrove habitat. Tour includes mask & snorkel, kayak & paddle, life jacket, beverages, picnic, and guide. Costs: Adults: $169. Children (7-12) $109. Youths (2-6) $35.

Length: 5 Hours - Small Groups

VI Ecotours: Night Kayak in the Mangrove Lagoon

FareHarbor

Looking for a unique adventure? Paddle through the shallow waters of St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve. Wind your way through the beautiful and serene waterways while the sun dips toward the horizon. Your guide will point out wildlife, including birds flocking to their nests. As the sun continues to set, look up and see the star-filled skies. This night kayak tour is an enchanting experience not to be missed. Includes kayak & paddle, life jacket, and a guide. Costs: Adults (13+): $59. Children (7-12) $39.

Length: 1.5 Hours - Night Tour

VI Ecotours: Mangrove Lagoon Self-Guided Kayak Tour

FareHarbor

Explore St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary & Marine Reserve on your own, by kayak. Paddle at your own pace, on a self-guided tour through the serene and narrow waterways and enjoy the beauty of the area. Discover secluded cays and visit a geological blowhole. Bring a picnic lunch, and sense of exploration. Safety briefing and a map of the mangrove lagoon are provided. Half Day (4 hours) and Full Day (8 hours) options available. Costs: Full Day Adults (13+) $59. Children (7-12) $29. Half Day Adults (13+) $49. Children (7-12) $20.

VI Ecotours: Cas Cay Kayak, Hike & Snorkel Tour

FareHarbor

On this tour, you will kayak through St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve, out to Cas Cay, a 50-acre island inhabited solely by nature. Beach your kayak, then walk along a shoreline trail out to tidal pools, volcanic cliffs, and a geological blowhole. After the short hike, cool off with a swim and a guided snorkel tour. You’ll enjoy viewing marine life in the clear, protected waters of the lagoon. The tour includes a mask and snorkel, kayak & paddle, life jacket, beverages, and a guide. Costs: Adults (13+): $109. Children (7-12) $79. Youths (2-6) Free.

Length: 3 Hours

GUIDED TOUR

VI Ecotours: Mangrove Lagoon Self-Guided SUP Tour

FareHarbor

Explore St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary & Marine Reserve on your own, on a stand-up paddle board. Paddle at your own pace, on a self-guided tour through the serene and narrow waterways and enjoy the beauty of the area. Discover secluded cays and visit a geological blowhole. Bring a picnic lunch, and sense of exploration. Safety briefing and a map of the mangrove lagoon are provided. Half Day (4 hours) and Full Day (8 hours) options available. Costs: Full Day Adults (13+) $59. Half Day Adults (13+) $40.

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