Sunday, May 13, 2012

St. John (Day 5, Part 1) - Little Lameshur Bay

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This day was the highlight of the much happened! So the document of it all has to be split into two parts.

That morning, I was able to convince Jim we should drive beyond the end of the road at Salt Pond Bay and head for the Lameshur bays. He was worried because the map specifically says "no rental vehicles beyond this point". Since most rental vehicles are 4-wheel drive jeeps, he was probably right to have doubts. But I checked the Internet for other people's experiences and thought the map was making a big deal over nothing. When we visited Salt Pond Bay, we walked part of the road. Lots of major potholes and stretches that were unpaved, but that's why we have a 4-wheel drive jeep right? We made the drive today, and I'm sooooo glad we did!

Little Lameshur Bay is beautiful! I lifted the picture here, as I'm becoming less interested in photographing things...I'm there why not just experience it?  Anyway, it has a nice sandy beach and loads of shallows both among the rocks/coral and in the middle of the bay where there is a sandy bottom and sea grass. This was great, because Jim got to see plenty of stuff close in while snorkeling, while I was able to explore way out into the bay. As a result, while we still love Salt Pond Bay, Little Lameshur Bay is our new favorite beach on St. John.

There's fewer people who get out this way, as the cruise ship people usually stick to the other side of the island and buses can't do the road beyond Salt Pond Bay. While there were about twenty people on the beach, it is so wide a beach that we were not at all crowded. When we arrived - around 9 or 10 - there were only four other people there! Close in, Jim and I both saw sea turtles and we could get quite close to them as long as we just floated along. They kept an eye on us, but didn't seem that bothered by us. Awesome!

I didn't explore the west side of the bay, but the east side has loads of rocky outcrops (which you can see in the picture above). This is a fantasyland of snorkeling: reefs, sea plants, rocky 'canyons', grottoes... It just beckoned me on and on, and I was at least two-thirds of the way to the point by the time I thought to come back in. I stink at estimating depth, but I think the water was about 20 feet deep as I got further out (by the rocks that is), but I also found inlets where I could stand in two feet of water if needed. Visibility was fantastic!

Of course there was plenty of coral, but some of it had its arms out despite the daylight. Looked like these were under rocks or in crevices where perhaps they don't realize it was daytime. So this was something interesting to see. Brain coral, finger coral, and circular corals that looked like unglazed pottery. With the latter, each one was occupied by a single darkish fish about five inches long that would chase away other fish.

The sea life was just as varied. Aside from the usual panoply of colorful fish, I saw 11 reef squid hovering in a line, shifting colors as I approached. Several sea turtles. Bigger game fish. A huge, angry red sea cucumber. A school of about 20-30 needle fish stretching off as far as I could see. These predators are thin, silvery, and have needle like teeth. They hang right near the surface, so sometimes you don't see them until you are right on top of them. The thing is I have never seen so many all together.  Then I saw why: massive schools of fry were hanging out near the rocks and in the grottoes. One school of well over a thousand were a cloud all around me, and each one had a bright neon blue stripe inside its body. Another smaller school had about 100 tiny muddy-colored fish in a round shape the size of a medicine ball. I reached out towards them and, instead of scattering, the 'ball' shifted shape as if the motion of my hand were shaping it! Really neat! And then there were two firsts!  I saw a bright red sea spider (see picture) which seemed to be harassing a sea urchin. And the best of all...drum roll please! octopus!!!! At last!

Since I have to run on about the octopus sighting for at least a few paragraphs, I'll save the story for the next posting.

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