US Virgin Islands-Buck Island National Monument
My parents recently moved to the island of St. Croix. Scott and I wanted to explore the island while we were there and possibly do some snorkeling.
Hurricane Maria had ravaged the island in September 2017, only five months prior to our visit. We weren’t sure if the reef survived or even if snorkeling would be an option for us.
Luckily, while we enjoyed lunch at the boardwalk at Christiansted we saw an outfitter who could arrange a snorkel trip for us.
They take groups on daily excursions to Buck Island, only 1.5 miles off the island of St. Croix.
We booked our trip for the next morning, excited to snorkel and explore the reef.
History of Buck Island
Buck Island is an uninhabited island, 6000 feet long and 2,500 feet wide. It’s 176 acres of tropical dry forest.
John F. Kennedy proclaimed it a national monument in 1961, which set up many safeguards of protection.
Snorkel Buck Island Reef, St Croix
Scott and I joined the small group down at the dock. Everyone boarded the boat and we were given our safety instructions. The ride took about 45 minutes and it was fun to see the homes along the side of St Croix from the water’s perspective. Speaking of water, it has the most beautiful colors of turquoise and light blue, you can imagine.
Our first stop was to be the lagoon, just off of Buck Island. There is an underwater trail for snorkeling. Our crew gave us the rules, there are many reef hazards, including; sharp coral, barbed snails, sea urchins, fire coral, and fire worms. He explained how delicate the coral is and not to touch anything, in order to protect the reef. Our boat was moored at one of the set moorings so as not to disrupt the fragile environment.
One of the crew members guided our group around the reef. The water was about 12 feet deep in sections, while in others it was quite shallow.
I felt nervous with the big ocean swell bobbing us around and the waves crashing over the reef. It freaks me out when water gets into my snorkel. I didn’t want to choke on sea water. After he guided us around and showed us our boundary, we went off to explore on our own.
We saw huge Brain Coral, they must have been the size of a small car. Also, Elkhorn Coral grew very well in the reef. All of the plant life and reef looked vibrant. It was one of the healthiest snorkeling spots we had seen. Schools of Blue Tang fish came and went. To our surprise, we even saw a huge barracuda.
After we exhausted ourselves snorkeling, our boat delivered us to the beach.
Buck Island is pretty small, but there are trails to hike. We were limited on time, so Scott and I walked the beach in search of shells and hoped to spot a turtle. There are four kinds of turtles who nest there, but we weren’t lucky enough to see any.
If you have time to hike on the island, there is a trail which leads to a viewpoint. Be aware of the Manchineel Tree as it has poisonous sap, leave, bark and fruit which looks like a small green apple. A small green poisonous apple!
We did see the trees above the beach and were warned to avoid them.
We highly recommend if you have the time to try and snorkel Buck Island Reef, St. Croix. Our trip to the island was wonderful and we were happy it survived the hurricane.
If you plan to visit St. Croix be sure to check out the regulations with the National Park Service. The island closes to visitors at sunset and is closed in certain weather situations.
For more information, please click here.
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