|by Carter Wilbur
It is an old piece of advice that everyone who is traveling seems to get from friends and family. "Let me tell you the way to see the islands . . .", or "The REAL way to see the islands is . . . "
Anyone preparing to visit St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands had better brace for a baffling array of different ways to see these islands, and everyone you ask is going to have their own opinions of which is the best way.
From bottom to top, you can see the coral reefs (and all their inhabitants) that surround St. Thomas from a submarine, either the large 60-passenger model at 90 feet or a 1 person underwater "motorbike" with just your head in a Plexiglass bubble at 8 feet. Scuba diving operations abound on all the islands to teach you, guide you, or just point you the best spots if you are already a certified diver. Floating peacefully on the surface, you can snorkel beautiful reefs literally yards off the beaches at many of the resorts and public beaches here.
You can get out on the water to see the Virgin Islands in just about every conveyance known to man. We have everything else from jet skis to runabout power boats, windsurfers, sea kayaks, sail boats of every size and shape, ferries, megayachts and cruise ships, just to name a few! Over the water, you can parasail and look down through the warm, clear blue Caribbean water.
We haven't even begun to scratch the surface - on the islands, taxi tours give you a chance to see the islands in part through the eyes of your local taxi driver. For those who can remember that we drive on the LEFT-hand side of the road, rental cars, jeeps and motor scooters allow you to see the islands through the windscreen (with occasional glances at the map).
Nature walks and hikes can take you eye to eye with rain forests, palm groves, and beach ecosystems. Historical walks and a little imagination, will have you seeing 16th century Danish colonists, African slaves, and even Carib Indians as you walk through sugar mill ruins, restored plantation greathouses, and old Danish towns with names like Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, and Frederiksted.
For those who prefer the birds eye view, you can go up the side of a mountain in a cable car and look out over the harbour and cruise ship dock. Helicopter tours and seaplane flights add to the aerial viewpoint. And . . . but wait, shouldn't the seaplane be in the first section about "things on the water"?
Darn, this is getting too complicated. I think I'm just going to go down to the beach, pop my beach chair open under a swaying palm tree, dig my toes in the sand, enjoy a cool fruity rum drink, and relax. I'll watch the waves below my feet, the sea gulls and pelicans circling above, and realize that I've found yet another way to see the islands.