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Photo by Holly Henkel
At Salomon and Honeymoon Bays gently sloping, soft sand eases your way to the sea. The water is calm and shallow. These are excellent beaches for beginning snorkelers to experience the wonders of our undersea environment.

On the edges of the bays, along the rocky shorelines and around the point between the beaches are a type of coral reef known as fringing reef. A fringing reef is a relatively young reef which grows outward from the shoreline. In the center of the bays the sand beach extends into the water and the bottom gradually changes to coral rubble with some coral heads in deeper water.

Most of the reef is in calm shallow water with some sections even rising above the water line at times of extreme low tides. The condition of the reef is good, although there has been some damage to the coral caused by irresponsible boating and careless snorkelers and by natural phenomena such as heavy ground seas and hurricanes.

The best snorkeling is along the reef that lies between Salomon and Honeymoon Bays. This area is just as easily accessed from either beach. Because much of the reef lies in shallow water, you must be very careful not to touch the coral with your body or your fins. Less experienced snorkelers should make an extra effort to avoid situations where the water is too shallow for them. The coral may be damaged by even light touch. Standing on live coral or kicking it with your fins is even more destructive. Coral is extremely slow growing so the results of such damage can be very long lasting. Moreover, contact with the coral's stinging cells, called nematocysts, can cause painful cuts and scrapes to the snorkeler.

The coral reef community here is very colorful, very alive and very diverse. The fish are friendly and.cgientiful, and there is a great deal to see. This is the best protected and easily accessible shallow water snorkel in St. John, and it can be thoroughly enjoyed by snorkelers of all experience levels.

Snorkeling over the sandy bottom found off the beach, between the fringing reefs, can also be a worthwhile experience. Try and snorkel in areas protected by swim buoys to minimize danger from dinghy traffic in the area.

The sea bottom between the reefs is sand and coral rubble. You will have to look more carefully to find interesting activity, but there really is a great deal of life here. The hills and holes on the sea floor are formed by eels, worms, shrimp, clams and crabs that make their homes on this underwater beach. Meanwhile, you will notice several different varieties of fish swimming about who are constantly on the lookout for these tasty seafood dinners.

Snorkeling over the sandy bottom is also a good way for beginners to get practice before attempting to snorkel over reef where there is a possibility of danger to both the snorkeler and to the reef from accidental contact.

© 1996 by Gerald Singer

St. John, US Virgin Islands

A Great Place to Visit.....again & again