“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau
The Virgin Islands are a rich paradise full of a diverse things to do from hiking, to bar hopping, to photography, to sailing. These are a few of my past times. I find it impossible to get bored here. But my absolute favorite thing to do here is dive. I love diving so much it arguably changed my life. Whether you’re certified or not, let’s go a little deeper together… Maybe 60 feet deep? Or 80 feet?
How can I properly articulate my love for the sea? I find myself at a loss for words to convey this passion and the feeling the ocean gives me. Awhile ago I watched a video, just a short youtube, posing the question – what would you do if money was no object?
I knew the answer without question – go diving every single day. I love being around the ocean in any capacity, but diving is the pinnacle of it all. Diving is my calm, my yoga, my center. When you are able to see a world which you were not meant to ever witness, never meant to exist in – it’s amazing.
Snorkeling is also cool, but when you dive, you are actually a PART of the underwater world rather than observing from above. There is also a certain urgency to it – your time is counting down. Your visit is limited by the absorption of nitrogen and the breathable air in your tank.
When a diver achieves neutral buoyancy this means they are weighted perfectly and suspended in the water; able to control their depth with their breath, using their lungs as flotation.
Using my breath to control my depth is so peaceful and so invigorating, it makes me feel like….a mermaid!
I love how everything underwater is second nature to me now. I see lobster antennas sticking out below me and exhale slowly to descend rather than kicking down. The lobster antennas mean it’s time for me to hunt.
This world is also one of the only places I let myself actually feel many of my emotions. The ocean is always there for me, the ocean always accepts me, the ocean is where I feel at home. So many things have happened for me underwater as well. I’ve had epic lobster wars underwater (emerging the victor and loser). It’s where my fiancé and I began to fall in love. It’s where I seek both solace and celebration and where I would bond with my father.
Dancing with an Eagle Ray
Let me tell you about Eli the Eagle Ray. Colin my fiancé and I like to name sea creatures that reappear to us. We were doing a really deep dive on the south of St. John, about 80 feet. We were slowly ascending. Colin was running out of air faster than me (he chews through his air so quickly!) so he was ascending a little faster and was above me. Suddenly, I look to my right and there was a spotted eagle ray, a beautiful creature!
Instead of passing me, he slowed down and turned to me. I held my hand out flat, palm up, and turned in a circle. The eagle ray followed me and swam around me as I spun in a circle. I could not believe my eyes – could it be true? Were we interacting? I did it again. He circled me again. So, I tried something else. I inhaled a big breath and ascended several feet, the eagle ray ascended, then we both descended with together. This dance went on for about 10-15 minutes, as he mimicked my movements.
After we got back on the boat, Colin was just as giddy as I was. He had watched the whole thing. We named him Eli. We went back about 2 weeks later – Eli was there again and we repeated this dance – not quite as long – but still the same dance! Incredible!!!
If I am not a mermaid at heart after that, I don’t know who is.
Diving on St. John
St. John and the surrounding cays have some spectacular diving and lobstering. A true fisherwoman cannot give up her best lobster spots, but I would be more than happy to share some well know great shore diving. North and South Haulover are great shore dives and I have even found bugs (lobsters) there. However, if you are not an experienced diver, meaning that you are not able to shore dive without stepping on and damaging the live coral, please stick to boat dives.
Take advantage of the experienced and awesome companies on island who would love to take you out for a day underwater! On the west side of the island you can go out with Low Key, they have been in business for 36 years!
Lesser known (they are just getting started with their dive operation) is Busy Bee Charters out of Coral Bay. They can take out up to 4 divers for some great diving on the east side of the island. I know the owner personally and highly recommend him.
See the Sea with Me
However, if you are not a diver but want to experience these fine waters with me and Colin, don’t forget we own a charter business ourselves! We just don’t do scuba charters. We can take you out on our comfortable Glacier Bay power catamaran for some of the best snorkeling you’ve ever seen and island hopping around the VI’s.
Mermaid at Heart
I am a mermaid at heart. The ocean is my second home. I feel such love for this underwater paradise that I must mention one more thing. The rise of trash in our waters is nothing short of a tragedy. I have the opportunity to see places out of sight – underwater and coastlines only accessible by boat. Trash is bad and it’s getting worse but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.
I look forward to using our charter company, Flyaway Charters, to start cleanups on shorelines only accessible by boats and also dive cleanups. This may take a short bit to organize – but stay tuned! We have already done one small clean up with our friends Crystal and Sean of Mermaid Swim VI. We picked up 14 bags of trash in just a few hours! Please do what you can to keep trash out of the waters.
Thank you in advance friends!
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About Leah Randall
I have been going back and forth to this beloved rock since 2004. When my Dad bought a scuba diving charter business in 2005, I made my move from off-island-local to for-real-local. Just as everyone does down here, I dabble in many things.