‘What an incredible experience’, ‘That was cool’, ‘We got to see so much’, and ‘Our guide was so funny!’ – these were just a few of the comments heard during my latest adventure, a kayak tour of Salt River National Park and Ecological Preserve. There are currently two kayak companies which launch in Salt River and offer tours which last a little less than three hours. The daytime tours consist of the historical and ecological background of the area, while the last tour of the day is a moonlight tour in which you paddle in bioluminescent bays, beneath starlit skies while sharing ghosts stories, legends and lore.
Salt River holds both historical and ecological importance. It is at this location that Christopher Columbus encountered the native Taino Indians, and the battle that ensued is the first documented conflict between Europeans and Native Americans. Even though it has been over 250 years since the fresh water flowed, Salt River remains a beautiful harbor and marina with mangrove filled inlets and calm, protected waters.
Never been kayaking before? No worries. Our local kayak tour companies use ocean kayaks, which sit on top of the water and are virtually impossible to tip over. Your guide provides you with a quick lesson, a life jacket, bottled water and snacks. This tour is geared for adults and kids of all ages. Throughout the entire trip, we stayed in shallow water, close to shore. As we paddled out of the calm harbor, Mike, our guide, told fascinating stories about the wrecked and abandoned boats, which, like their owners, have a colorful history.
Salt River is home to an abundance of wildlife, which we also got to witness on this trip. Snowy egrets feeding their young, an iguana sun-bathing in the branches of the mangroves, pelicans looking on, and osprey eyeing their prey. Below our kayaks it was a whole different story. There are oysters growing on the roots on the mangroves, bright orange feather dusters swaying in the current, and vivid green jelly fish pulsating through the water. Our guide picked up a jellyfish to describe their unusual way of processing chlorophyll, which gives them their green color, and how they push water in and out of their body to glide through the water.
A little less than halfway through the trip, we made a stop to go ashore and stretch our legs. As we walked inland a few feet, a quick rain shower passed over us as Mike described the different types of mangrove trees in the area. He pointed out varieties of flora and fauna and let us touch, smell, and even taste some. When we returned to our kayaks, we paddled in front of beautiful beachfront villas, all the while our guide recounting tantalizing history, facts and anecdotes about St. Croix.
Our last stop ashore gave us the chance to beach-comb and explore. Before we headed back to the marina, Mike gathered the group to tell us the history of Columbus’ visit in 1493, only to find out he never set foot on dry land!
The Salt River National Park holds so much of St. Croix’s history and natural beauty. Experiencing the historical and ecological aspects of Salt River by kayak was an adventurous, fun way to learn more about St. Croix and something that adults and kids enjoy equally.
Here are a few helpful hints:
- Most people wear bathing suits under their clothes
- Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, for the daytime tours (unless doing the bioluminescent tour, then do NOT wear sunscreen, bug spray or lotion)
- Wear water type sandals or booties (they are available to rent at the dive center)
- You will get wet. If you bring that new expensive digital camera, chances are it will get wet, too. If you don’t want to take your chances, purchase a waterproof disposable camera (available at most dive centers)
- Best of all – NO KAYAK EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!
A big thank you to Virgin Kayak Tours and Sea Thru Kayaks VI for preserving and presenting the natural beauty St. Croix holds in hard to get to places!