Kayak the incredible mangrove forests that outline Haulover Bay. Listen to tales of piracy in the Virgin Islands at the Cinnamon Bay Archaeology Museum & Lab. Meditate under a full moon at the historic Annaberg sugar plantation ruins. These are just a few of the hands-on activities offered as part of the non-profit Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park’s annual Seminar Series on St. John.
“The Friends’ Seminars Series began over 20 years ago to encourage folks to get outside and to enjoy the park,” says Karen Jarvis, Friends program manager. “In the early years, there were only 4 or 5 seminars from which to choose. Since then, the Series has grown into an extremely successful mini field school of sorts. Each year the schedule boasts approximately 35 activities, workshops, tours and adventures.”
St. John is the natural venue for such a series as the island is home to the Virgin Islands National Park. The park, which covers approximately 60 percent of the of the 20-square-mile island’s land area (about 7,200 acres) and another 5,600 acres of submerged land surrounding the island, became the 29th U.S. national park in 1956. This is when philanthropist Laurence Rockefeller, who founded the Caneel Bay Resort, donated the land to the Federal Government for the public to enjoy.
“Deciding exactly what seminar topics to offer involves a few variables, but the focus is always on providing experiences that serve to connect both locals and visitors alike to the treasure trove of cultural and natural resources found within Virgin Islands National Park. Seminars are meant to be fun and educational, always complimenting the Park’s interpretive programs, while getting people outside to immerse themselves in the magic and beauty of this unique national treasure,” says Jarvis.
New seminars this year include Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, Rum of the Caribbean (aged rum tasting), the Annaberg Full Moon Meditation and the Piracy of the Caribbean archaeology tour at Cinnamon Bay. Seminar veterans will of course find their favorites. One of these is Coastal Ecology led by Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management for the Park, whose great-grandparents bought land at Trunk Bay in 1927 and where Boulon and his artist wife, Kimberly, still live today. Other annually popular Seminars include the Marine Biology Sail hosted by Jeff Miller of the U.S. Geological Survey, Mangrove Snorkelling led by Dr. Caroline Rogers, Archaeology by Sea narrated by Park archaeologist Ken Wild, and the hugely-liked Sea Turtle Sail guided by Park ranger Thomas Kelly.
“There is no one favorite seminar each year. Some folks love to get outside for more active seminars such as kayak tours and hikes and some are more interested in workshop type seminars such as medicinal herbs, bat netting and the St. John orchid tour. Then, of course, all the boat trip seminars are always a hit. Whatever you like, there is s something for everyone,” says Jarvis.
The Friends’ first Seminar kicks-off on Thursday January 12, with the Annaberg Full Moon Meditation, from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Seminars thereafter take place once or twice weekly. Some are held on weekdays and others on weekends, while there is a broad mix of morning, afternoon and evening seminars. The last Seminar is the Mangrove Snorkelling Boat Trip, on Saturday April 1, from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prices range from $35 to $95. There’s a $10 discount on each Seminar for Friends’ members.
“The best way to take part in the Seminars is to first check out our online seminar schedule (www.friendsvinp.org/news-a-events/event-calender/seminar-series). Once you make your selections, just give us a call at (340) 779-4940 to get signed up! First timers are encouraged to get involved in as many Seminars as they like and we at the Friends are happy to answer any questions they may have to assist them in making their selections. It is important to note that Seminars tend to fill up fast, so getting registered as early as possible is best,” invites Jarvis.