Why The Virgin Islands?
St. John is abound with hiking trails through its gorgeous and expansive National Park. The Reef Bay trail is one of our favorites as it taks you through an expansive valley or “gut.” While we reference this amazing trail often, we rarely get the opportunity to talk aobut the history of the Reef Bay Valley. This month we are talking about history of the Virgin Islands and Reef Bay is a great spot to start!
One of our favorite resources for St. John history is from Gerald Singer and his incredible book, St. John Off the Beaten Track. It is a fun read with a plethora of knowledge about the history of St. John, the best beaches, trails and more. In his book, Gerald also tells us about the history of Reef Bay Valley:
“The first human inhabitants of Reef Bay were hunter-gatherers who arrived in St. John almost 3,000 years ago. These primitive peoples were conquered or replaced by a farming-oriented society who were the biological ancestors of the Tainos, the people who Columbus encountered on his voyage across the Atlantic. The farmers, like the hunter-gatherers, migrated from the South American mainland and up the island chain of the Lesser Antilles arriving in St. John about 2,000 years ago.
When Columbus sailed past St. John in 1493, he reported the island to be uninhabited. The Tainos that lived on St. John may have already fled the island in the wake of Carib raids or they may have gone into hiding at the approach of Columbus’ fleet, later to fall victim to the depredations visited upon them by the Spanish colonizers.
In the early sixteenth century, St. John was reported to be re-inhabited by Amerindians feeling Spanish persecution in St. Croix and Puerto Rico. By 1550, the island appeared to have been totally uninhabited, and it remained that way for about 100 years.
Between 1671 and 1717, St. John was intermittently occupied by small groups of woodcutters, sailors, fisherman and farmers.
St. John was officially colonized and settled by the Danes in 1718. By 1726, all of the land in the Reef Bay Valley had been parceled out to form 12 plantations. At first, these estates were devoted to a variety of agricultural provisions such as cotton, cocoa, coffee, ground provisions (yams, yucca, sweet potato, taro, corn, etc.) and the raising of stock animals as well as to to the productions of sugarcane.
By the later part of the eighteenth century, the 12 plantations were consolidated into five, and sugar became the dominant crop in the valley. Only Little Reef Bay never switched to sugar, growing some cotton but primarily concentrating on ground provisions and animals that were sold to the neighboring plantations.
By the end of the eighteenth century, when sugar productions was at its peak, and the population of the valley was at its greatest (300), about half of Reef Bay Valley was classified as woodland.
In the nineteenth century, agriculture in the Reef Bay Valley began to decline. By 1915, only Par Force and Little Reef Bay in the lower valley were still active, but with only ten acres planted in sugar. Otherwise the plantations were devoted to cattle and other livestock, coconuts, fruit trees and ground provisions.” (excerpt from St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer, Copyright 2006).
When hiking the Reef Bay Trail, one can take the quick trail to the Petroglyphs to stop and see carvings that were likely created by the Tainos prior to Columbus’ arrival. (look closely, you may see the familiar Caneel Bay logo carved in stone).
You will also see the remains of the Par Force plantation, the ruins of Josie Gut Sugar Estate, the Reef Bay Sugar Mill (which is still in great condition) and more. It’s a stunning hike through some of St. John’s rich history as well as an opportunity to learn more about the trees and plants of St. John.
We highly suggest picking up a copy of this book prior to a trip to St. John, or even as a resident, as there is so much rich history and so many incredible stories about St. John that even locals may not know! You can also learn a bit here as well!
Welcome to our theme of the month– The History of the Virgin Islands! With transfer day occurring just last month we felt it appropriate to delve into the details of the history of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island. We hope to provide you with some new information and fun facts about our tropical paradise! Stay tuned for a new post each week from our agents and staff at Sea Glass.
Click the infographic below to expand and read about the History of St. Thomas!
Information in this infographic is credited to www.vinow.com
I hope you enjoy learning all things history of the Virgin Islands this month! Stay tuned for a new post each week!
We’ve talked a lot this month about the Virgin Islands National Parks – after all, it’s part of what makes our islands so special! The VI National Park not only protects and preserves our beautiful islands, beaches and coastal waters, but it also serves as a platform for learning! There are some fun ways to experience the VI National Parks!
The Friends of the VI National Park (which we talk more about, here), offers a slew of seminars, hikes, coastal cleanups and events where you can get involved and learn more about the history, ecology, archaeology and more of our islands. Whether it’s a snorkel tour, a guided hike or a tropical ecology lecture and tour, there is something interesting and exciting for everyone. Through the Friends of the VI National Park seminar series, you can even learn how to make hot pepper sauce or shoot underwater photography! A few of our favorite upcoming activities can be found below, or check here for the full schedule of events.
The Beach to Beach Power Swim is also coming up in May, so sign up and find more information on the Friends website here. Get involved, learn something new and experience more of the VI!
Welcome to the last post of the month following our “Why VI?” theme! We at Sea Glass love island life and everything that it entails. We hope some of our blog captures that, but if we haven’t got you yet–read below for some of our top reasons to move to the Virgin Islands. (scroll down, and make sure to read the plug below the pictures!).
Great Friends & New Experiences:
World Class Villa Rentals and Properties on the Market:
Sea Glass VI is proud to be your all-in-one Virgin Islands Resource.
Concierge: If you are looking for the best activities on Island, we are able to give our expert recommendations, and even set up your excursions for you! Click for more information on concierge.
Management: Many people who live off island love to take advantage of our management services. We have the ability to pay vendors on your behalf and take care of all of the bookkeeping as well as do weekly walk-throughs to make sure everything at your home away from home is being taken care of! We also manage many villas and condos on St. Thomas and St. John as villa rentals. For our villa rentals, we treat the home as our very own, taking pristine care and consideration into every detail whether it is: scheduling cleaners, using our innovative marketing techniques to attract more bookings, respond and book inquires, provide guests with superior service including 9-5 concierge! If you would like information on our tailor-made villa marketing, vacation and management services please email Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vacations: With a selection of 32 villas, we are able to accommodate you for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience! Whether you are looking to take a helicopter ride into you ultra-luxe and private villa or you are looking for a quaint ocean-front cottage we can fit anyones needs.
For a visual sampling of some of our divine properties, please click the links below and watch our videos!
Properties & Rentals: Our real estate agents have over 100 years of on-island experience. You can trust that they will be ready to meet all of your needs and questions!
Read our Island Living Magazine by clicking this link, you can also send an email to email@example.com to request a free hardcopy.
St. Thomas Properties & Management 340.774.5277 | St. John Properties 340.776.6666 | Vacation Villa Management or Bookings 1.800.727.6610
Why Choose Sea Glass? At Sea Glass Vacations, the number one priority is to make your vacation enjoyable, fun and a wonderful experience. That comes with impeccable planning and attention to detail on our part. As you may know, we have been busy shooting a number of videos for our villas (you can view a few here, such as Marea, Rivendell or Capri). Recently, a few of our staff got together to talk about what goes into making your vacation a memorable experience! Take a look here:
With a knowledgeable staff that has either grown up in the Virgin Islands or lived here for years, Sea Glass offers a local knowledge and approach to your vacation. We also pay attention to all the details, ensuring that nothing is overlooked during your stay! OR if you are a villa owner and want to effectively market your home, our team has the knowledge and expertise to put together great campaigns, stunning videos and other collateral to showcase your home in an eye-catching, professional way!
Why should you move to the VI? The Virgin Islands is rich with unique Caribbean culture and is one of the many reasons we moved to the Virgin Islands in the first place! Read below to learn about some of the food, music and customs.
Recipes of some of the island’s favorite plates—sure to satisfy any palate!
You can find these scrumptious pates on side street vendors and restaurants alike! Here’s a recipe:
Step I. Pastry
4 cups flour
4 level tablespoons unsalted vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in shortening with knives or pastry blender. Add water gradually to form a soft dough. Knead gently on a floured board for a few minutes. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Shape into small balls, roll out and cut into size circles desired for turnovers.
Step II. Filling
1/2 lb. lean ground pork AND
1/2 lb. ground beef OR
1 lb. ground beef (omitting pork)
1 large sweet pepper
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 tablespoons margarine
1 clove garlic, crushed
Hot pepper to taste (optional)
1/4 cut tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon Oregano
1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs
Sauté pork in margarine until brown, usually about 10 minutes, add beef and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cook for a few minutes longer (make sure beef is cooked, no longer pink) If filling seems very dry add a little water.
Step III. Prepare and Cook
Place filling on each circle of dough, leaving edge bare, moisten edge with water, turn over and seal meat inside dough by pressing moist edge together with fork. Fry in hot deep fat, until dough in golden brown.
1oz. dried sorrel
3 slices of fresh ginger (1 inch thick)
1 tablespoon cloves
1 piece dried orange peel
10 cups boiling water
A few grains of rice
Optional Ingredient – 1/4 cup white or dark rum
Put water and ginger slices in a large saucepan. Cover and boil well for 3 minutes. Place sorrel, cloves and orange peel in a jar with boiling ginger-water mixture. Allow mixture to sit for 24 hours. Strain the mixture and sweeten to taste (Sorrel is quite tart, so a couple cups of sugar may be necessary.) Add rum. Pour liquid into glass bottle adding a few grains of rice to each bottle. The grains of rice are said to help quicken fermentation. Leave bottles of sorrel un-chilled for a minimum of 24 hours before serving.
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
To rapidly boiling water add salt and sprinkle cornmeal in slowly, stirring the mixture. Allow water to boil with cornmeal a few minutes. Stir briskly to prevent lumping. When well combined add shortening. Cover and allow to steam for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Okras may be added. Cut the okra into small pieces and allow to boil for a few minutes before adding to the cornmeal. Suggestion: It is difficult to cook a fungi that is lump free. To prevent lumps and get a smooth fungi – mix 1/4 cup of cornmeal with 3/4 water. Add to boiling water, stirring constantly while adding. Let this cook to consistency of a thick cereal, add remaining cornmeal and stir, mashing lumps as you stir.
Local fruits |
Kenips, Star Fruit,Plantains,Mango,Soursop,Passion Fruit, Breadfruit, avocado, pomegranate tamarind, sea grape, coconuts and banana figs
Historically, calypso music can be traced to the days of slavery. It was a means of communication and a vent to the strains of oppression. Calypso has it’s roots on the island of Trinidad. Present in Trinidad during French and Spanish occupation, calypso did not take root until English occupation. With English as the common language Calypso could now be understood by the entire population. Calypsonians are respected as news carriers and what they sing is considered to be truthful interpretations. Calypso is most famously known for expressing political commentary through satire and sarcasm. Today Calypso has evolved into two types, the traditional informative Calypso and a new dance hall type of calypso music.
Soca Music |
Add some soul to Calypso and you have Soca. The origin of the music is Trinidad and Tobago. The lyrics are used to express political and social commentary.
Reggae music is an offshoot of ska music. The order of creation is ska then rock-steady then reggae. Famous reggae artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer began their careers as ska musicians. Ska music started as dance music. Audiences wanted a more steady beat, and the music evolved into the more mellow reggae of today. Reggae lyrics usually have an emphasis on redemption. Reggae music has traveled and become popular across the world.
Is a musical form native to the British Virgin Islands. It is characterized by a variety of instruments and is sometimes called a scratch band.
Is a high energy music characteristic of islands such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Rock Steady |
Is the precursor of reggae. It is slower, heavier and more vocal.
Is a Latin dance music developed in Puerto Rican and Cuban communities in New York.
Is a dance music from the French Antilles and is played in both slow and fast beats.
The word Carnival brings to mind an assortment of images; for music lovers it might mean heated Calypso shows and for children it brings to mind amusement park rides and cotton candy. To those who enjoy Caribbean delicacies Carnival may mean food fair and food/drink booths at the village. And to anyone who has experienced the Carnival parades, the word certainly brings to mind steel drums, bands, colorful costumes, people of all ages dancing in the streets, mocko-jumbies and fireworks. And if none of these images came to mind, perhaps you have never experienced Carnival in the U.S.V.I.
There is no denying that Virgin Islanders love Carnival! It is the most anticipated cultural event of the year! Carnival is a festival celebrating freedom through dancing, singing, parades, pageantry, music, drinks, food, friends and fun. It includes nightly displays of talented bands and individual musicians, pageants for Carnival royalty and fairs showcasing local crafts, food and drinks. Carnival however is much more than a large party. It is an exposition of culture and a treasured tradition that is passed down year after year. It draws on African and European customs including music, dancing and masquerades. Carnival can be found throughout the Caribbean and is celebrated on various islands at different times of the year. In the United States Virgin Islands Carnival events take place on St. Thomas in April/May, St. Croix in December/January and St. John in June/July.
Mocko Jumbies |
Colorfully costumed stilt dancers, like the one in the picture above. They can be seen at carnival parades and other local events. The word jumbie refers to ghost-like spirits of West African belief.
Facts and information taken from: www.VINow.com
The Reef Bay Trail
Hiking in St. John is a wonderful experience you will surely want to include on your list of stuff to do on your trip! One of the most unique attributes of St. John is the Virgin Islands National Park, which covers approximately 60% of the Island. Each year, about 500,00 people visit the park. The park is spread out on 14,737 acres and has 22 unique hiking trails to choose from. One of the most popular trail is the Reef Bay Trail.
The Reef Bay Trail is the toughest of them all. It’s a 2.6 mile hike from the starting point on Centerline Road to the beach at Reef Bay. Hiking down to the beach is not too bad, but the hike back up is a little challenging! It is one of the most popular trails on the island. As you are hiking you’ll enjoy the lush vegetation, historic sugar cane plantation ruins and the beautiful Reef Bay Beach.
Bring plenty of water
Pack a couple snacks like granola bars
Bring a small first aid kit with you
Check the weather forecast the day of your hike
Have a compass & map of the area with you
Learn what plants will be in the region that you need avoid
Always let someone know where you’re going & when you plan to return
To learn more about the Reef Bay Trail and other trails on St. John check out the National Park Service.