Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria Update on Snorkeling St. John, USVI?

by John
(Little Rock, AR, USA)

We are considering a snorkeling trip to St. John, USVI in 2018 but wonder how damaged the reefs are after 2017's Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Has anyone been snorkeling since?

Comments for Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria Update on Snorkeling St. John, USVI?

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Jul 19, 2018
Not yet...
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi John, we have not been back to St John, USVI since Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. We have gotten reports back from numerous folks who have used our St John Snorkeling Guide to visit after the storms. The reports we have heard are not promising for the state of the reefs. Then, someone shared with us these videos put out by the Virgin Islands National Park talking about the effects of the storms. These videos lead us to the conclusion that the shallow snorkeling reefs were significantly damaged by these storms.

We have been seeing a lot of degraded reefs in recent years and frankly we find it very depressing. We do not intend to re-visit St John anytime soon to update our snorkeling guide. We have updated our St John snorkeling page to reflect this decision. We can no longer say that St John is the best snorkeling we have seen in the Caribbean.

We hope you get some responses from folks who have visited St John both before and after the storms who can compare and comment on what they have seen.

Jul 20, 2018
St John Snorkeling
by: Linda

We have been snorkeling St John yearly since 2001, and we are headed back for three weeks at the end of January... I have friends who live there and they have given us updates. Yes, the shallow reefs and mangroves have been greatly impacted, but the damage has varied depending on the direction of the reefs with the storms. Some areas are relatively normal. They are seeing more turtles and fish and the water clarity is getting better.

I will have plenty of time to snorkel every bay and will report on the conditions. The island foliage has recovered and the water is still as blue, but sadly I fear the St John water world I have known and loved for 18 years has changed forever... And I am so grateful to have experienced and photographed the splendor, as I am with the tide pools of Kapoho in Hawaii.

Jul 21, 2018
St John July 2018
by: Ivette

We were in St John back in July of 2016 and the beauty of the island and reefs was wonderful. We just returned from there again in July of 2018. The reefs are destroyed but there are plenty of fish and at Maho you can't snorkel without seeing a few turtles. At Jumbie we saw more squids than we ever saw, like 30 or 40 of them. The Elkhorn Corals are in pieces on the sea floor, and there are only a few are soft corals. Waterlemon Cay is so saddening. There are some sea fans at Dennis Bay but the reefs are a disaster.

We went out to Mingo Cay and it was sad too but at Lovango Cay in deeper water there is a surprising amount of sea fans.

On the left side of Honeymoon Bay there is Brain Coral among the rocks.

We are going to wait for at least three years to go back.

Aug 06, 2018
St John- July 2018
by: Susanne

Yes, I experienced the same as stated above. I have been visiting St John since 1989 and lived on the island from 2012-2014. I’m so grateful for spending so much time snorkeling.

This trip in July 2018 was a bit heart breaking for me. Yes, it seems it needs 3 years. Salt Pond held up better than I thought. The Indians in the BVI held up OK too. Whistling Cay was devastated. Leinster Bay was devastated. Compared to what it was, devastated. Yes, I saw a lot of squid at Jumbie too! Lots of turtles at Maho but there seems to be some algae blooming and covering the rocks all along the left side of the bay.

I will continue to go each year to support the island I love but to be honest, I would save up and try one of the snorkel trips showcased on this website to see more fish and reef life.

I felt sadness and concern for St. John underwater world. It needs time.

Aug 06, 2018
Trip in July 2018
by: Julie

Hi John, we just returned from St. John at the end of July, our 5th trip to the island. Our most recent trip prior to the hurricanes was in July 2017. As noted in the newsletter, extent of damage varies across the island. Cruz Bay looks great, both buildings and the surrounding vegetation. Coral Bay had more visible damage to homes and destroyed boats in some of the bays, but most of those boats are planned for removal in the next few months.

Overall, the fish, turtles, rays and sharks were comparable to last year prior to the hurricanes in the areas that we snorkel. Visibility was also similar. Note that we have never snorkeled the mangroves.

Waterlemon Cay has suffered moderate damage per the NPS assessment but it’s still great snorkeling. Many sea fans have survived along with pillar coral and smaller brain coral. Lots of fish, rays, and nurse sharks.

We skipped Trunk and Honeymoon this year because we found the damage from the cruise ship excursions very depressing last year (i.e. prior to the hurricanes). Both beaches had lost a lot of coral and fish even prior to the hurricanes.

East End, including Hansen and Haulover South, was really fun, with sea turtles, lots of fish, garden eels, moray eels, and rays. Some of the coral was not in good shape but a lot of smaller corals looked healthy.

The snorkeling in front of Gallows Point was also excellent. Their small beach suggests that this area was hit fairly hard, but there were still interesting sponges and numerous small healthy looking brain coral along with a good variety of fish and the occasional hawksbill turtle, nurse shark and tarpons.

Overall, we loved coming to the island. We travel with 3 children and the ability to snorkel from such beautiful beaches with minimal waves and currents is priceless.

The larger corals have suffered damage but there are still a lot of smaller healthy coral to see and so much marine life.

I’ll be happy to provide information on other beaches as well.

Aug 07, 2018
We'll be back!
by: Ken Pounders

My family and I were on St. John when Irma hit. After what this island and the people went through, I am surprised there is anything left. Not only did homes and resorts get demolished, the loss of tourism will make it very difficult to re-build.

Snorkeling has always been the main focus for my wife and I in planning our vacations. We fell in love with St. John about 15 years ago and have been coming back nearly every year since. Although we have gone to many of the places listed on this website (using the very helpful eBooks), we still think of St. John as our home away from home.

Because of this, we plan on returning as soon as our resort is rebuilt. Yes, it will be sad to see the damage to the coral and beaches, but it will still be a huge improvement over what we saw when we were evacuated last year. St. John and all the surrounding islands looked like they were hit by an atomic bomb.

Our family and friends all feel the same in our desire to keep visiting this island and in doing so help the island and the people living there to recover from this horrible disaster. I hope others feel the same.

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