top of page

Kayaking to Cas Cay & Mangroves

So what were we doing today? We were going on an excursion with Virgin Island Ecotours and we are kayaking the mangroves, snorkeling and taking a hike. Woo hoo! Something different than a beach day so we were excited. 

When we arrived at our location, just past Red Hook and right on the main road, we would discover that the parking there is absolutely ridiculous. It has very little parking and there's an area you can't park in because they are taking boats in/out of there. 

The place was an area area with a roof over it. It really reminded me of our visit to Belize when we went cave tubing for some reason. 

IMG_4492 copy.jpg
IMG_4494 copy.jpg

A guy named "Swish" came and introduced himself as our tour guide. He ask us a few questions here and there and said we were (not) a lively bunch. He would say things about how quiet we were and we were going to have fun no worries. Did we really look that down? The hubby made the comment "She's just hot"...which I have no idea where he came up with that at because I never said that but ok, I'll play along. Whew as I fanned myself yet looking back at him with a puzzled look as I rolled my eyes. Swish suggested we go out on the deck and wait. He said there was a breeze out there. So, out we went. 

IMG_4496 copy.jpg
IMG_4499 copy.jpg
P4211104 copy.jpg

Sitting out by the dock. This area had tables and chairs under a roof and one of the tour guides that had just came back was eating lunch. Whatever he was eating, it looked good. This place does have food and they offer you the menu (if you want) and you can order food and they will have it ready when you return from your trip. 

P4211102 copy.jpg

We were given our lifejackets. Another family of a mother and daughter was waiting with us. Swish told us that we were waiting on one other family to arrive. He said they were trying to call them and they would give them another 5 minutes. Well, we waited more like 10 minutes and they didn't show. Good! Less on the tour works for me! Little did Swish know, our family alone could present to be a handful. :) Swish did let us know that he would be taking pictures of our trip. I was glad and I always buy pictures when an excursion offers them because I never get in any pictures with me in them and I have no proof that I'm there with the family most of the time. Of course if any of my family tries to take a picture of me, I hide and complain about how fat I look in the picture these days and tell them to stop or cut me out of it. haha  They just can't win. But anyhow, Swish would be taking pictures and he also had an Olympus Tough camera but had a housing on it. See, there MUST be a way to get these camera's somewhere on this island!

It was time to get in the kayak and let our journey begin. The girls went first. 

P4211106 copy.jpg
P4211108 copy.jpg

The girls took off and was doing circles while we were getting in our kayak. We managed to catch up with them. 

P4211110 copy.jpg

Ok, here's my proof. I took it of myself and the hubby

P4211113 copy.jpg
P4211114 copy.jpg

Then we were ready to take off. 

P4211116 copy.jpg

We headed out to an open area and there were several ways to go. Thank goodness we had Swish with us to guide us. I guess I should mention that you can rent the kayaks and explore on your own but without the tour guide, I'm not sure you would make it to where we went. Just saying...

P4211118 copy.jpg

We were about to head through the mangroves. I was excited. I remembered the time we went through them on a tour in Puerto Rico to the bio bay. They are so neat. 

P4211120 copy.jpg

Swish would stop and wait for us to go by to get pictures of us. Well, we had a different idea and ours was to have an uncontrollable kayak that would run head on into Swish. Oops! You'd think we've never done this before. No worries, he made it out alive.

P4211123 copy.jpg

We were coming to an area where they had jellyfish. Swish had told us about these jellyfish before we made it there and these were jellyfish that we were going to be able to HOLD. 

Once we entered the area, we could see whiteish star looking items in the water. Swish said those were the jellyfish. They reminded me of snowflakes with each looking different. I tried to put my camera under the water to get  pictures but wasn't as successful as I had hoped. Maybe it was because I had been taking pictures above water and I forgot to put the camera on the underwater setting. 

P4211130 copy.jpg
P4211131 copy.jpg

Are they not the prettiest things you've ever seen? I didn't even know these existed like this. They do come in various shapes, but I was unable to capture more. Swish said he was going to get one and we were going to get the chance to "hold" one. I think Swish was trying to set us up!  He was upset with us because we plowed into him with our kayak and this was his revenge. 

He managed to bring one up and he explained to us that we could hold it in our hands and .....they do sting (see I told you that it was a set up) and that normally people will feel it on the top of their hands, not on the palm where you would be holding it. He told us that some feel it more intensely than others and it could leave you with a little redness. YEP! WE ARE TOUCHING IT! LOL He did say it would not hurt.

P4211133 copy.jpg

Of course Sakari is the first to hold it. She's always been up for just about anything risky and that would not change this time around either. Well if she's doing it, so am I. As you can tell, Kiera's answer was a definite NO. 

P4211138 copy.jpg

Next up was my turn. It was a big blob and gooey and neato! No, I did not feel any sting at all. None of us received any reaction. The hubby said it felt like a buzzing on his hand. Maybe they just didn't like him. ;) Swish made sure to tell us to wash our hands in the water after holding it.

P4211139 copy.jpg
P4211141 copy.jpg

Kiera was feeling left out and she seen that we weren't screaming in pain or passing out so she changed her mind and decided to give it a go. 

P4211143 copy.jpg

Ok, we were on our way again. Swish told us we were going to come to an area with a "stream" like water. We needed to really paddle our way through it. It might be hard so what ever you do, don't stop paddling. 

P4211149 copy.jpg

Honestly it wasn't bad at all. Swish said it was a good day and the water wasn't as rapid. We were crossing across a wide area and coming up to an island with a small beach. I could see someone on the beach and we would find that a family had came there, by boat somehow, and was spending the day on the uninhibited island. They were swimming, having a drink and having a cookout. Oh how cool! Well, we are now invading their least for a little while. 

P4211150 copy.jpg

We pulled our kayaks onto the beach.

P4211151 copy.jpg

Now we were told that motorized boats were not allowed in the mangroves. This little island was not IN the mangroves but it made me wonder how they got there. As you can see in the distance, the waves are breaking over a bunch of rocks. There was no way in that way for sure. 

P4211153 copy.jpg

So now we were off to explore the island. We started following a trail and before long, we came across an area that had this really weird sound. Almost like a clicking sound. Swish tells us to look around and we noticed the ground was moving. Wait, that's not the ground, that's the ground covered in hermit crabs! Whoa! There were so many of them. Swish would tell us that the are all over the island. He would later give us facts about them. They are scavengers and will eat anything. He said they dropped a 250+ pound pig on the island and the hermit crabs ate it all within 2 weeks or something like that. That included the bones and all. There was no evidence that the pig was ever there. 

P4211160 copy.jpg
P4211165 copy.jpg

Swish had a cooler that had water and bite sized candy bars. Swish had brought some with him and he threw one down and they all piled on it like a sumo wrestler.  All the clicking and clacking was insane. Each one of them fighting for that little morsel to savor their taste buds. Hey, it wasn't a pig but it would have to do. 

P4211160 copy.jpg
P4211178 copy.jpg

We continued on our tour down the pathway.

P4211180 copy.jpg

We came across an area and Swish had us step over to the side. He showed us a tree...a poisonous tree he said. It was a Manchineel tree, which means "little apple of death". It is one of the most poisonous trees in the world and there were (I believe) 16 was planted on this island. He told us the history of them and how they were used to torture people years ago. The sap from the trees are poison and if you were ever caught in a rain storm, the last place you'd want to seek shelter would be under one of these trees. Never eat the small apple on them, it would bring a for sure death. However, he did say that hermit crabs can eat them with no issues or signs of toxicity. 

P4211183 copy.jpg
P4211183 copy.jpg

One cool thing about the tree is that the leaves all point down instead of like most trees in the area that pointed up.

P4211181 copy.jpg

We continued our hike that led us along the water again.

P4211184 copy.jpg
P4211185 copy.jpg

Swish told us to look to the side of us and tell us what that hill looked like. We all decided it looked like a gorilla face turned up except for Kiera, she came up with something totally off the wall and we just stared at her. 

P4211188 copy.jpg
P4211190 copy.jpg

Continuing on, we were no longer on a dirt path. It had become rocky and hard to walk on for someone like me. 

P4211192 copy.jpg
P4211194 copy.jpg
P4211196 copy.jpg

We were coming up to an area that looked like the water was getting shallow.  In previous pictures you could see an area that extended across to the gorilla island and waves were running up over the rocks. 

P4211199 copy.jpg
P4211200 copy.jpg

Swish did mention it was a little more dried up than normal today. I wasn't sure at that time if that was a good sign or not. 

We came across a blob in the tree. I knew this blob was a termite colony. I asked Swish if he had ever ate termites before. He gave me a look and laughed and said "No have you?"....well yes, yes we have. I told him about eating them in Belize and he had to know what they tasted like. I told him they were minty for me. He had said he heard that a lot of people will say either minty or like peanut butter. He also knew they were a good source of protein to keep you alive if it was all you had to eat for a few days. 

He broke open a small part of the colony and said it would feed the lizards for awhile. He mentioned they could build the hole back really quickly.

P4211201 copy.jpg

So we made it to the rocky area and Sakari and Kiera were immediately on a hunt for critters. Swish said we'd find all kinds of things here and this!!! This is what the girls live for! They immediately went into search mode and started finding all kinds of critters. (They do this at home in the streams at the parks). 

P4211202 copy.jpg

There was a piece of something laying on the rocks. Swish told us it was from back "in the day" (I can't remember from where or when...maybe the Christopher Columbus days) and had been left behind. Either way it was known to be really old. 

P4211204 copy.jpg

Sakari found a small baby crab. It was so cute. She showed it around to everyone. 

P4211205 copy.jpg
P4211207 copy.jpg

Then Swish brings us a black spiny sea urchin. Wait, these are the do not touch ones. But, I guess since it was a baby it was easier to hold? We told him how Sakari ended up with one in her hand once and by one I mean the needles and it was more like 4 or 5 of them. It was very painful and we wasn't able to get all of them out that was embedded in her skin that time. She learned quickly not to get near them in the water. 

P4211210 copy.jpg

Then I found this thing. I wasn't really sure what it was. Looked like a worm. Swish was unsure as well. But if it looks like a worm, I'm NOT touching it. We've had experiences with fire worms and they are not pleasant (even though this did not look like a fire worm, I was not taking any chances). 

P4211211 copy.jpg

I have to give mention to the starfish here. There were SO MANY brittle stars in this area!! They were everywhere. Each rock you over turned you would find several under them. I had never seen so many before. It was amazing. Kiera was having the time of her life. You kept hearing "They're so cute!" in her high pitched voice with every rock she turned over. Of course she says that a lot with things because she is such an animal lover.

P4211212 copy.jpg

Then Kiera says "Here's an eel" and everywhere ran over. She had found a baby moray eel hiding under the rocks. Kiera squeals "It's so cute!" and it was. It blended in nicely with the sea grass. 

P4211218 copy.jpg
P4211221 copy.jpg
P4211224 copy.jpg

At this point Swish was ready to throw in the towel and give up on us. We are pro's at this. We were showing him up. LOL He ask Sakari "Are you looking for a job? You are finding more than I am and know what everything is" LOL Hey, we've been around the block a few times with all of these creatures. 

The other family pretty much looked on in amazement with everything that was being found. They were pretty much scared to hold most of the critters that were found but took a chance every once in awhile. You could tell they were newbies. 

P4211226 copy.jpg

We seen this sticking up from the ground and told Swish it looks like it was empty. He said what is it? I told him we see these all the time when snorkeling and they were clams. He pulled it up out of the ground and it had a pointed tip. He said he had never seen them before or knew what they were and he was going to look it up. When I got home, I found the perfect picture of it online, but can't find the exact one now. 

P4211229 copy.jpg

They are a type of fan clam (I believe). They are usually seen along the shores and near seagrass. Most of the shell is buried under the ground with only a small portion sticking up to be spotted. The shell is usually thin but very strong. The animal buries itself with the pointed end down, and attaches itself to buried rocks and stones. Of course it's possible it is a Mussel as well because they have the pointed tips. So, who knows. I just know it was once an animal.

We found a baby West Indian Sea Urchin. Oh my gosh so small. I have never seen one this small. Sakari would show it around to everyone telling them "These are the friendly urchins. They won't hurt you." Then she would continue

on with her tour and was now the new tour guide of the day. LOL

P4211230 copy.jpg

Of course Kiera squealed "It's so cute!"

P4211231 copy.jpg
P4211233 copy.jpg

Next up on the find list would be a pencil urchin I found. See Sakari, I'm good at this too! Kiera: "It's so cute."

P4211235 copy.jpg
P4211237 copy.jpg

A whole lotta Periwinkle Snails grouped together. You would think they are after the chocolate like the hermit crabs.

P4211238 copy.jpg

Several red and black spiny Rock Boring Urchins lurking underneath

P4211240 copy.jpg
P4211242 copy.jpg

We spent quite some time in this area and it was time to move on. They really didn't want to go. They could have spent all day in this one location and been perfectly happy with it. They just talked and talked about it. If we ever come back, I will get a private tour to that island and just spend all day exploring that area. They would have a blast!

Up next was going to the "blow hole". It was getting rocky in the area. 

P4211244 copy.jpg

This is what we are now dealing with...I was scared. I was actually trembling. I was holding on to dear life. Even the hubby was worried for me. 

P4211246 copy.jpg
P4211248 copy.jpg
P4211249 copy.jpg
P4211250 copy.jpg
P4211253 copy.jpg

We were making our way to the "blow hole"

P4211252 copy.jpg
P4211256 copy.jpg
P4211258 copy.jpg

oh em gee wee!

P4211261 copy.jpg
P4211266 copy.jpg

Hey, the GoPro takes pictures too! (We never use this function but somehow Sakari took this one picture with it)

GOPR0367 copy.jpg
P4211263 copy.jpg

On the way back Sakari was exploring.

P4211273 copy.jpg
P4211274 copy.jpg
P4211276 copy.jpg

Time to climb back to the trail. I was not looking forward to this.

P4211279 copy.jpg
P4211265 copy.jpg

Well, leave it to me and I will find that one rock that the minute my bad foot steps on it, it would over turn. Ouch! That really hurt and now it was going to be a difficult walk back. I just knew I couldn't get away without some type of "hurt".  I also had a new pair of shoes (that I bought specifically for THIS excursion because I knew I needed actual shoes and not sandals and I knew they needed to have a grip and ones that I didn't mind getting wet or in the water with) and they had now rubbed a blister on the back of my foot from the walk. 

The kids were doing the Titanic and it was funny. ♪ ♫ ♪ Once more you open the door, and you're here in my heart, and my heart will go on and on ♪ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫


P4211289 copy.jpg

                                                                                                         On that's a pretty rock! Sakari knew just what the                                                                                                                   name of it was but I forgot. It was the rainbow rock.

P4211291 copy.jpg

The rock climbing was over and we were headed back to the kayaks. It was a fun trip and we really enjoyed the area with all the sea critters. We stayed in that area a little longer than I think we were supposed to but Swish was patient with his "we need to move on". LOL

Once we made it back to the kayaks, Swish said it was time for some snorkeling. Hmmm, and here I thought the trip was over with. Let the fun begin...although I wasn't really sure what fun it was going to be because we were in a very grassy area. But, you know my saying, there's always something to see no matter where you are at. The only thing I didn't like about this was there were no fins to use. If I would have known that, I would have brought mine.

P4211294 copy.jpg

There were a bunch of Blue Striped Grunts and Yellow Tailed Snappers in the area.

P4211297 copy.jpg

A bunch of Juvenile French Grunts

P4211299 copy.jpg

Schoolmaster Snapper

P4211300 copy.jpg

Four-Eyed Butterfly Fish

P4211302 copy.jpg

It was definitely turning out to be an interesting area to snorkel for sure. 

We came across a rock and Sakari discovered a Banded Coral Shrimp (but we always call them Candycane Shrimp). They are so pretty. It was hiding under a rock and I took so many pictures of it trying to make sure I got the shot. 

P4211305 copy.jpg

We couldn't even tell at the time and once I got back home and looked at the pictures, there were actually two of them under there. 

P4211309 copy.jpg
P4211310 copy.jpg
P4211311-2 copy.jpg

Squirrel Fish

P4211316 copy.jpg

Juvenile French Angelfish

P4211320 copy.jpg
P4211322 copy.jpg

Now Swish had told us there were a lot of Barracuda's in the area. I do not like Barracuda's. I do not want to see Barracuda's. They freak me out. He said "Aww, they won't hurt you and they only feed at night" They still look intimidating to me and could rip your hand off. I had shiny objects on my fingers and I've always heard they like shiny objects. He told us there was one "This big" as he spread out his arms at least 10' wide. Well, at least it looked that big to me when he did it. Swish, you gotta big arm spand dude! He said it hangs out around here and we always see it. Dude, I DO NOT want to see it. I did see this little guy however. I snapped the picture and swam away rather quickly. 

P4211327 copy.jpg
P4211332 copy.jpg

Slippery Dick Wrasse

P4211337 copy.jpg
P4211339 copy.jpg
P4211351 copy.jpg

Juvenile Blue Angelfish, it was so beautiful! When they get older

they turn almost all yellow.

P4211343 copy.jpg

Blue headed Wrasse and some Slippery Dicks

P4211352 copy.jpg

Juvenile Beaugregory Damsel

P4211354 copy.jpg

While we were swimming toward the area that broke over the rocks, it was pretty shallow and you had to be really careful. Swish had said he was seeing the big 10' this big (joking) Barracuda. I completely turned and swam the other way. Absolutely not! It was "no" back when we started and it was "no" now!

He also told us that they see sharks in the area a lot as well. Mostly nurse sharks. That would be awesome to see one of those!

We decided to turn around and head back. He said it was getting late. As we turned Sakari yells "SHARK! I just seen a shark" We all swam over fast to where she was at and didn't see anything. She says "it went that way". Well, the area we were in had this hill that went up and over. We were having to try to get down in the water and look over this hill that dipped down on the other side. 

We continued on and she yells "There it is!!!" I'm looking all over and can hardly see anything because of the hill and you couldn't get down in the water far enough. Errrrrrr! I'm missing it. Then she says it's out of sight again. 

P4211355 copy.jpg
P4211360 copy.jpg

You see the small goby in the picture below?

P4211357 copy.jpg
P4211361 copy.jpg
P4211359 copy.jpg
P4211367 copy.jpg
P4211383 copy.jpg

Corkscrew Anemone

P4211362 copy.jpg

Then Sakari yells "There's the shark again!" I ducked down and I SEEN IT! It was super fast swimming and I wasn't even able to get situated enough to take a picture. It was just too fast! It was definitely NOT a nurse shark. OMG, we seen a shark! It was a Reef Shark according to Swish and the way it looked. He had told us they could possibly be in the area before we started to snorkel and I remember saying "Nope, don't want to run across one of those either!" "No Barracuda, no Reef Shark!" But don't you know I was the first to try to get over there to see it? Of course I had no idea that's what it was but should have know by how fast it was swimming and going back and forth. 

P4211363 copy.jpg

A Juvenile French Angelfish. It was a pretty nice size too. It's hard to tell from the pictures but we did get a video of it. 

P4211373 copy.jpg
P4211378 copy.jpg

Spiny Lobster

P4211380 copy.jpg

Bearded Fire Worm=The Devil. They really hurt when they sting. Yes, Sakari and I have both been stung by them.

P4211382 copy.jpg

I spotted a Peacock Flounder. They are just so weird with both of their eyes on the top of them.

P4211386 copy.jpg
P4211387 copy.jpg
P4211390 copy.jpg
P4211401 copy.jpg

Sun Anemone

P4211395 copy.jpg

Giant Anemone

P4211406 copy.jpg

Ok, tell me if you see this little guy. The minute I showed this picture to Sakari she yells "Hey it's Sid the Sloth from Ice Age" and wow he's so fricken little and cute! <---Said in Kiara's high pitched voice. I don't know what it was...maybe a baby shrimp?

P4211409 copy.jpg

 A close up. Tell me he don't look like Sid! He even has his arm up waving!

P4211409 copy.jpg
P4211412 copy.jpg

Blue Tang

P4211402 copy.jpg

We were almost back and in pretty shallow water. We found a Sea Cucumber (or Donkey Dung). Swish was yelling to come on, it was late and we were already late getting back. 

P4211415 copy.jpg

Then Swish found a huge crab. We tried for awhile to get him to come out. Although he kept saying "We need to go" he was patient in letting me get a shot of the crab. 

P4211422 copy.jpg
P4211423 copy.jpg
P4211424 copy.jpg
P4211428 copy.jpg

Ok, it was definitely very late and Swish was getting nervous. He said "I'm so going to get fired when I get back for being out so late." We got in our kayaks and took off. Then we stopped because he hadn't even got in his yet. He told us to go on and go off we went. We were racing with the girls. Then had to stop. Whew! 

P4211429 copy.jpg

We started to head around the corner but still didn't see him so we stopped again. Finally he was coming and coming up strong. He was taking the inside corners and passing us up. Not fair. 

P4211431 copy.jpg
P4211436 copy.jpg
P4211439 copy.jpg

Whew, we made it back. Everyone was tired and saying their arms hurt. But for some reason mine didn't and I felt fine. I guess all those months and months of me using my arms to wheel myself around in my wheelchair must have built them up. lol  They kept saying they would be sore in the morning, but they weren't.

P4211440 copy.jpg

Our tour was to end at 4:30pm and we were now 1 hour late getting back. I mean he does wear a shirt that promotes "I'm on Island time" . The lady at the front desk was loading our pictures and getting ready to show them to us. I told her "I'm going to buy them. I don't really need to see all of them". I had faith in Swish. I knew he got some good pictures and from seeing them on the screen, I was satisfied enough with just looking at a few. I mean he has an Olympus Tough camera...what could go wrong right? The amount they charged was $35! I thought that was an excellent deal and what other places should be charging as well (unlike SeaTrek's outrageous amount for hardly any pictures). They end up texting the pictures to you, which I thought was weird and I never had anyone do that before. But, eventually I figured it out once I got home to download them. Also included in this package of pictures, they send you a "bonus" file that has different folders (Aquatic Creatures: Fish, Invertebrates, land, plants, reptiles, scenic view.) It has 1148 total pictures in the bonus package. We ended up with 158 photos of JUST US! That's after I went and deleted the pictures of the other family that was with us. Swish is like me...a happy snapper! I like that.

We were all sitting around chitchatting and having a good time. We praised the great job Swish had done with us. He was the best! If you ever go to St Thomas and do this tour...make sure you get SWISH!

He would be the one with his name on his crocs :D

IMG_4498 copy.jpg
IMG_4497 copy.jpg
P4211442 copy.jpg
P4211443 copy.jpg

Sakari wanted a picture by herself. She said today was the best day of the vacation!

P4211445 copy.jpg
P4211449 copy.jpg
P4211450 copy.jpg
P4211448 copy.jpg

Ok, I'm going to share some of his pictures he took of us that day.

The girls wanted to do the Limbo under this branch...that's when Swish probably realized we were going to be the goofy ones on this trip.