Tag Archives: Blackbeard’s Castle

U.S. Virgin Islands: ‘Freezing’ on St. Thomas; Night Kayaking

Megan's Bay.  Photo by Richard Varr

Megan’s Bay. Photo by Richard Varr

It’s been 14 years since my last visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and during my July visit, I again found the USVI to be a wonderful destination. I stayed on St. Thomas, took a day trip by ferry to St. John and flew in a seaplane to St. Croix. From St. Croix I embarked on a morning excursion to Buck Island, which has one of the most pristine beaches I have ever encountered anywhere – and I’ve seen a lot of beaches. Of all the Caribbean islands I have visited (maybe two thirds or three fourths of them at this point), I found the USVI to have a true Caribbean feel with its food, history and heritage, but at the same time I must admit, to be so comfortably American.

View from the Mountain Top, St. Thomas. Photo by Richard Varr

View from the Mountain Top, St. Thomas. Photo by Richard Varr

During my trip, I participated in some great excursions and activities that I would recommend.

Night Kayaking with LED Lights

LED night kayaking. Photo by Richard Varr

LED night kayaking. Photo by Richard Varr

What do fish do at night? Well, swim – what else. But you can see them at night while kayaking in a clear-bottom vessel ghostly illuminated with LED lights. The tour operator is Night Kayak at the foot of Frenchman’s Reef in Charlotte Amalie, just below the colossal Marriott resort with the same name.

“To be out on the water, to have everything glowing all around you and the kayaks are clear so you can see the fish below you,” says Mark McKellar with Night Kayak/Adventure Center. “The stingrays and tarpon are more active at night as they’re nocturnal.”

LED night kayaking. Photo by Richard Varr

LED night kayaking. Photo by Richard Varr

The lights create a five foot halo around each kayak, with tours lasting an hour and a half. Along the way, green turtles cling around so-called turtle grass, you’ll hear frogs, see a fruit bat or two and even have a ballyhoo fish jump out of the water into your kayak. “If a fish jumps into your kayak, don’t jump out of it,” jokes McKellar.

The trip brings kayakers to what’s called Pirates Point. “There’s a lot of Danish folklore about how the Danish used to stop the pirates at that point,” says McKellar. “Also, a private homeowner has built a pirate ship to resemble the Black Pearl, and he has lights underneath that pirate ship.”

“To be able to see the fish right below you in a clear bottom kayak is the thrill,” he adds. “The LED lights illuminating everything around you really provide a surreal experience.”

Night Kayak/Adventure Center, Phone: 340.774.2992,  Toll Free: 866.868.7784, http://www.nightkayak.com, http://www.adventurecenters.net/adventures/kayak-trips/clear-kayak, adventuretours@gmail.com, Located on property at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort & Cove

Blackbeard's Castle. Photo by Richard Varr

Blackbeard’s Castle. Photo by Richard Varr

‘Freezing’ in the Caribbean?

I never thought I could actually get cold and shiver on St. Thomas, until I stepped inside the Magic Ice Bar. There are a handful such ice bars around the world, like the one I once visited in Stockholm. Located along Charlotte Amalie’s bustling waterfront, the Magic Ice Bar is the only one in the Caribbean.

Magic Ice Bar. Photo by Richard Varr

Magic Ice Bar. Photo by Richard Varr

Walking into this giant freezer of sorts was a wonderful experience. The first several minutes are welcomed relief from the Caribbean heat. They give you an overcoat of sorts that protects you from the 23 degree (F) cold, and even offer you leg warmers, gloves and hats. Gloves are a must so your fingers don’t melt the ice.

Ice sculptures in the Magic Ice Bar, St. Thomas.  Photo by Richard Varr

Ice sculptures in the Magic Ice Bar, St. Thomas. Photo by Richard Varr


Bob Marley ice sculpture. Photo by Richard Varr

Inside are solid ice sculptures bathed in shifting colored lights – no dripping, as one might suspect in the Caribbean. Many have aquatic themes – a seahorse, octopus, sharks, turtles, crabs, lobsters, fish and even a mermaid. Other sculptures include Bob Marley, the king and queen of Denmark (the USVI was formerly Danish), iguanas, a walk in “chapel” and a giant bottle of Cruzan rum. There are pirates, including ice figures of Blackbeard and Captain Hook. “It’s a pirate bar,” says bartender James Samuel who’s probably the coldest man in the Caribbean. And yes, there’s an actual frozen bar serving rum spirits.

Before entering the Ice Bar, I shook James’ hand and found it to be cold. “I love it because it’s very different,” he tells me. “It’s very hot outside, but cold inside here.”

“So, how do you stand it, working in the frigid Ice Bar all day long?” I ask him. “I have on six shirts, three pants and four pairs of socks,” he admits. “And two hats.”

At the ice bar. Photo by Richard Varr

At the ice bar. Photo by Richard Varr

St. Thomas Taxi Service 

LLEW Taxi Service, llewtaxi@yahoo.com,  340-690-2352