Trip Number: 13405A
Staff: Francy Rubin
- Snorkel in warm Caribbean waters
- Hike in the Virgin Islands National Park
- Help with trail, historic site, and eco-camp maintenance
- All on-trip meals, shared accommodations in a rustic eco-camp, and transportation
while on St. John
- Four mornings of meaningful work with afternoons to explore the trails
and waters near our eco-camp
- A half-day boat trip to special snorkel sites
Photo: John Doidge
The Virgin Islands National Park encompasses over 50% of the island of St.
John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus its surrounding waters,
making St. John one of the most non-commercialized of all the Caribbean islands.
This mountainous island boasts a vast and diverse ecology, with more than 800
species of plants, 144 species of birds, and interesting critters like mongoose
and hermit crabs. Here, tropical forests are ringed by white-sand beaches and
coral reefs filled with colorful fish and exotic fans.
The Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) is situated at the
base of Bordeaux Mountain on the southeast shore of St. John within walking
distance of the beautiful beaches at Lameshur Bay. It lies within the boundaries
of the Virgin Islands National Park and United Nations (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve,
both of which offer protection for the various pristine habitats. We will focus
our time in this area, exploring its treasures.
A remote and rustic eco-camp, VIERS is committed to providing environmental
education to the islands of the Caribbean through many different programs and
seminars. A series of trails leading to historic sugar estates, bay rum distilleries,
petroglyphs, geologically significant rock formations, and idyllic beaches are
maintained by the park and can be accessed from VIERS. At VIERS, you are "in
nature." Here you are part of the ecosystem, just minutes from a mountaintop
hike or a swim in the Caribbean Sea.
Our projects may include trail maintenance, clearing vegetation, gardening,
developing walking and hiking paths, beach clearing for turtle nesting, or uncovering
historic sugar plantations and mill ruins. We will work on projects during four
mornings with our fifth morning spent snorkeling from a boat. After lunch, we
will have time to explore the area around VIERS on this gorgeous island.
Photo: Marti Greason
Day 1: Meet the group at the Cruz Bay, St. John, dock by 3
p.m. for the trip to the VIERS at Lameshur Bay on the southeastern side of the
island. The nearest major airport is on St. Thomas. Ferries from Charlotte Amalie,
St Thomas, (nearest to the airport, but limited service) and from Red Hook,
St Thomas, (a 30-minute taxi ride from the airport, but more frequent service
to St. John) go to Cruz Bay on St. John. There are many restaurants and small
shops within walking distance of the ferry terminal in Cruz Bay. Transportation
to and from the ferry dock to VIERS will be provided using island taxis or open
backed safari trucks. We'll have a "get acquainted" get-together and
evening meal once we are settled at VIERS.
Days 2-6: We will work on projects with the National Park
Service or with VIERS each morning. After lunch, the afternoons are free for
hiking, swimming, snorkeling, or relaxing. Our meals will be provided by the
staff at VIERS. Evening activities are low key; beach walks, stargazing, reading,
games, and conversation are a few examples. The Tektite museum and the book
and film library at VIERS will delight historians and conservationists. We will
have a private half-day snorkel trip departing from the VIERS dock one morning.
Our snorkel trip will be on a private boat to interesting areas that would not
otherwise be accessible. An evening conservation talk is a possibility.
Day 7: Today we'll pack up and tidy our cabins as we prepare
to leave VIERS by mid morning for Cruz Bay. Departing flights from St. Thomas
should be scheduled for 3 p.m. or later. The leaders will make every reasonable
effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that
weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary
in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the group.
Photo: Sarah Stout
Flights from the United States will go to St Thomas (STT). The most direct
way to get from St Thomas to St. John is via ferry from either Charlotte Amalie
(closest to airport) or from Red Hook (most frequent service and shortest ferry
ride). Most participants will want to arrive in the islands at least one day
early and overnight in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The leader will provide
further information about the ferries and lodging options in St. Thomas to all
Accommodations and Food
We will have mostly single-bed, dormitory-style accommodations at VIERS, a
remote and rustic eco-camp consisting of 18 buildings -- cabins, classroom,
museum, library, office, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a dining hall with
kitchen. VIERS will try to provide us with two-person rooms (sometimes with
double beds for couples), but this is not guaranteed. Single travelers will
be matched with others of the same sex. The kitchen staff of VIERS (also volunteers)
will provide three meals a day. We will share in the dishwashing and housekeeping
responsibilities. Our first meal will be dinner on day one and our last meal
will be breakfast on our day of departure.
Photo: Marti Greason
Our work projects range from moderate to fairly strenuous, and the heat and
sun can be taxing, but rest breaks are at each person’s discretion, and
no one is expected to do more than he/she is comfortable with. The tropical
environment, while beautiful, can be hot, humid, and contain biting insects
and thorn scrub. Our hikes will normally be 2-3 miles, but with the possibility
of up to five miles. Snorkelers should be competent swimmers and we will always
use the buddy system when snorkeling.
Equipment and Clothing
Lightweight hiking boots, shorts, and a T-shirt should be suitable for most
work projects and for hiking the trails in the afternoons, but some projects
may require a long-sleeved cotton shirt and long cotton pants for protection
from sun, bugs, or thorns. Nylon clothing tends to rip in the thorn bushes.
Also, bring a hat with a brim and heavy work gloves.
Each participant must bring his or her own day pack and bottles or hydration
system to carry two liters of water. A more detailed packing list will be sent
to confirmed participants.
- ITMB Publishing Ltd. " U.S. Virgin Islands: An International Travel
- Anderson, John Lorenzo, Night of the Silent Drums.
- Sullivan, Lynne, Adventure Guide to the Virgin Islands.
- Nellis, David W, Seashore Plants of the South Florida and the Caribbean.
- Raffaele, Herbert, A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin
- Kaplan, Eugene H. Peterson, Field Guides' Coral Reefs: Caribbean and
- Kaplan, Eugene H. Peterson, Field Guides' Seashores: Southeastern and
Photo: Sarah Stout
VIERS is operated by Clean Islands International, a U.S. non-profit, non-governmental
environmental organization dedicated to providing educational and technical
assistance to Caribbean island communities for the preservation of their environment.
Among other projects, they run special experimental studies on water conservation,
run off, and solar energy. Our trip to St. John will allow us to see the benefits
of an island that is over 50% national park, and we will see close up the issues
caused by donkeys, goats, and chickens running wild. Waters around St. John are
threatened by Lion Fish invaders, and we will be on the lookout for this predatory
fish during our snorkeling expeditions.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Francy Rubin is an early retired physical therapist/athletic trainer who loves having time to spend outdoors. She is a strong believer in the concept of "giving back," and has lived this motto through activities ranging from weekly trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail to five years spent volunteering in Mexico. She now serves as a volunteer Sierra Club leader for trips across the United States and in the Caribbean. Come join her in nature!
Tom Brown has a lifetime of outdoor experience. He's a bicyclist, hiker, fisherman, and skier. Tom is a certified snow-skiing instructor, certified in Wilderness First Aid, active as a trail maintainer on the Appalachian Trail in his home state of Virginia, and an Ambassador for the World Fishing Network. He has a passion for sharing the outdoors with others and believes that the best way to instill a spirit of conservation is simply to spend time with nature.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips