Hey Mon, Welcum to de island and watch out for de mongoose crossin de road!
Thanks to our friends Phil & Cindy, we were able to enjoy their St. Croix time share at Carambola Beach Resort for a week of diving and exploring the island.
It was an easy flight on U.S. Airways from Pittsburgh to Charlotte on a 747, not a commuter, yeah! But from Charlotte to St. Croix it was like the TV show "Airplane"; we almost had to make a detour to Miami as an unruly, drunken passenger ignored pleas and threats of arrest from flight attendants, fellow passengers and the pilot. Luckily, he passed out before we were in range of the Miami airport. He was still mouthing off when he was met by the St. Croix police.
Since Christopher Columbus landed at Salt River in 1493, St. Croix has been claimed by 7 countries--England, France, Spain, Holland, the Knights of Malta, and Denmark; the United States purchased St. Croix from Denmark in 1917. The Dutch influence is prevalent in many of the buildings, especially in Christiansted, some standing since the 1700's.
Carambola Beach Resort is about 25 minutes from the airport, set on 28 lush acres along the northern shore of the island. The 151 units include six time share units; the rest are individual units with six units in each two story building. Some are right along the beach, others set back amongst the foliage. There is a large pool, a long white sandy beach, two restaurants, golf, and tennis. We picked up our rental car at the airport and began practicing driving on the left on the way to the resort. A car is pretty much a necessity for exploring and driving to the dive spots. A four-wheel drive vehicle is perfect for driving the rutted "scenic drive" that traverses much of the island.
The island was very green when we were there due to an abundance of rain. Water is collected in cisterns and when they overflow it's time to wash the curtains, cars, etc., otherwise water is very expensive. Unfortunately it was also windy so the north shore diving was very rough and the visibility was not good. We were doing the "Dive the Island Passport", which meant we dove with different dive operator each day. All were friendly and professional, but after the first 2 days we found diving operators on the west side of the island where the water was flat and calm. We dove the wall, the barge, and two spur & groove reefs on the north; on the west side we explored a freighter, tugboat, habitat, the wreck of the old Fredricksted Pier, and some coral reefs. We also did a long day dive around the new Fredricksted Pier and the “dolphins” still standing from the original pier. Night dives on the pier are supposed to be very good. The water temperature was 81 degrees; last summer it rose as high as 87 degrees, causing a lot of coral bleaching. We were able to see the color changes that the coral goes through while it recovers. For some reason the west end corals looked more recovered from the bleaching than on the north shore. After diving each day we found a different beach cafe to eat lunch at and relax. In fact, we never ate at the same restaurant twice the entire week. Some were better than others, but some of the little cafes served extremely good food.
Late afternoons and evening were spent exploring the island--roaming the streets of Christiansted, driving through the "tropical rainforest", visiting the Cruzan Rum Distillary, and standing at Point Udall, the eastern-most point of the U.S. Other activities are the botanical gardens, horse back riding, a snorkel trip to Buck Island, exploring the old Christiansted Fort, and of course lying on the beach.
The diving is not as good as Dominica or St. Lucia, but on St. Croix diving is only part of the vacation; the overall atmosphere of the island is a combination of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean with an interesting mix of people. It's pretty laid back for a tourist island, not as built up as we expected, easy to get to, and still part of the United States.
Oh, and about the mongoose. At some point in the past, there was a rat problem, so some smart government person decided the best thing to do would be to import some mongooses to kill the rats. The only problem was that rats are nocturnal and mongooses hunt during the day, so guess what, now they have a mongoose problem!