Posts Tagged With: Virgin Islands National Park

Critter of the Week: Crabs!

It’s a new week here at Tree Limin’ Extreme, and therefore we have a new Critter of the Week. This week we are gonna take a look at some of the Virgin Islands crabs.

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A hermit crab found on a trail in Virgin Islands National Park

Hermit Crabs are a group of crab species found all over the world. There are about 1100 hermit crab species. Most live in marine environments, but the ones most commonly encountered here in the Virgin Islands are of the land loving variety. Hermit are related to other crabs, but they differ in that they carry around their home on their backs. Their abdomen does not have the hard shell of the rest of their body, and so it is vulnerable to injury and predators. They remedy this by finding the discarded shells of other sea creatures (most often sea snails), and crawling inside. Hermit crabs can be found all over the Virgin Islands, although always near to the water, which they need to reproduce. The are also mostly nocturnal.

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Ghost Crab at Salt Pond Bay, Virgin Islands National Park

Ghost crabs, or sand crabs, are common along our beautiful white sand beaches. Called ghost crabs because of their pale color and nocturnal nature, they are mostly seen quickly scurrying down the sand. They are responsible for the holes found dug in the moist areas of the beach. The crab uses these burrows to escape the hottest part of the day, and to spend the cooler winters in some areas. They come out at night to feed on clams, and other smaller crabs. They are also a natural predator of sea turtle hatchlings. You can try to catch them if you see one, but they sure are fast!

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A Land Crab found in Christiansted National Historic Site, St. Croix

Several species of so called “land crabs” are also native in the Virgin Islands. Also called pond crabs, in the British Virgin Islands, they can grow quite large and are a popular food source here. They are the main ingredient in the popular dish called “Crab and Rice.” They can most often be found near muddy holes along the edges of mangrove swamps, salt ponds, or other perpetually damp areas. The crabs mainly live on land, having organs that get oxygen from the air rather than the water, but these crabs still live and feed near the water. Keep a lookout for these large crabs, and be sure to try some crab and rice if you can, it is a rare treat!

Stay Extreme!

-The TLE Carcinology Department

www.ziplinestthomas.com

Categories: Culture, Food, Other Islands, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Critter of the Week: Mongoose

We have a new critter of the week! This week we are taking a look at the mongoose:

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A Mongoose

Mongooses (yes, the proper plural is mongooses) are a group of small weasel like mammals, originally from Asia. Here in the West Indies, including the Virgin Islands, the species of mongoose is called the Small Indian Mongoose. Native to India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the mongoose was introduced to the Virgin Islands in the 1800’s. They were brought here due to their fierce predatory habits, and it was hoped that they would help to eliminate destructive rats on the sugar plantations. It is an often repeated fact here in the Virgin Islands that the tree rats are nocturnal, while mongooses hunt during the day. Mongooses also do not climb trees, so they wer not effective in controlling tree rat populations. The mongooses adapted well, though, and they are now quite common. They can be seen especially easily in the national park on St. John, and at Magens Bay on St. Thomas.

Despite the success of the species, they are still considered a destructive pest. They have no natural predators in the West Indies, and as such their population has exploded. They are especially adept at hunting snakes and lizards, and within the Caribbean, they have been responsible for no less than 7 extinctions. While dangerous to snakes, they pose virtually no threat to humans. They are quite curious though, and will often follow hikers down the trail for a bit.

Even with it’s status as a pest here, the mongoose is still a big part of local pop culture. You can find many things named after them including shopping centers, and even an anti-litter campaign mascot. The mongoose has become a classic part of Virgin Islands culture.

Come visit our islands to see a mongoose, and for a chance to see one while zipping through the trees give us a call here at Tree Limin’ Extreme at 340-777-9477, or visit our website at www.ziplinestthomas.com.

Stay Extreme!

-The TLE Zoology Unit

Categories: Adventure, Hiking, Other Islands, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plant of the Week: Manchineel Tree

While our past plants of the week have been fruits widely consumed in the islands, we are going in a different direction this week.

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A large Manchineel tree on a beach.

This is the Manchineel Tree. It is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. Native to Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, the Manchineel tree is commonly found along sandy beaches. The tree produces small apple like fruit, has oval shaped shiny green leaves and can grow in excess of fifty feet tall.

The tree is notorious in the areas in which it grows. While no deaths have ever been recorded from the tree, it is indeed seriously poisonous. In fact, the fruit of the tree were supposedly named “manzanita de la muerte” or little apple of death, by Christopher Columbus himself. Records indicate that several of his crew were made gravely ill after consuming the fruit. The tree gets it’s nefarious reputation from a caustic form of latex in it’s sap. If touched the tree or leaves can cause dermatitis, swelling, burns, and blisters. The most common injury from the tree comes from taking refuge under one during a rain storm. The sap is so caustic, the rain drops coming from the tree can cause burns. Even the smoke from a burning manchineel can cause injury. The fruit of the tree carries the same dangerous chemicals, and its effects when ingested are similar to its external effects. Compounding the danger of the tree is the fact that some people report that the fruit actually taste pleasant at first. Allowing an unsuspecting creature to take several bites of the dangerous “apple.”

The tree isn’t all bad though. It is classified as an endangered species in Florida due to it’s important role as a wind break. It also plays a crucial role in the prevention of beach erosion. In the caribbean, this is extremely important to protecting vulnerable coastlines during tropical storms and hurricanes.

Luckily, injuries from the manchineel are rare. In areas where the tree is common they are well marked, and public education about its dangers makes people aware. Signs are often posted, and their warnings should be heeded. Any tree with a red band, or a skull and crossbones (the poison symbol) painted on it should be avoided. If contact occurs, seek medical treatment.

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A warning sign found in Virgin Islands national Park, the fruit of the tree can be seen laying on top of the sign.

Here at Tree Limin’ Extreme, we offer samples of local fruits, but the fruit of the manchineel isn’t on the menu. Because we are not located near beaches, we have no manchineel trees on our property, and most of these trees in the Virgin Islands are well marked.

To see many other types of plants and animals from high in the rainforest canopy, come have the ultimate caribbean experience on our ziplines. See us at Tree Limin’ Extreme. Call for reservations at 340-777-9477 or visit our website at www.ziplinestthomas.com

Stay Extreme!

-The TLE Botanical Crew

Categories: Adventure, Other Islands, Plants, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Island History: The Taino Petroglyphs

The Virgin Islands have a storied and fascinating history, and it goes back further than one may think. A team from TLE recently ventured to the Island of St. John, and it’s Virgin Islands National Park to experience this history first hand.

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One of the Natural Pools at the Petroglyphs

Deep within the Virgin Islands National Park, miles down one of the parks longest trails, lies one of the few natural water sources (other than rain) on any of the Virgin Islands. It is a small trickle of water coming out of rocks some twenty feet up a small cliff. Below, small pools are in an idyllic setting of lush jungle filled with palms and ferns. Dragon flies dart about trying to capture their next meal. A mongoose scurries up some rocks off to the side. No where is there a more perfect representation of the Virgin Islands of the past.

If you were to look closer though, just above the highest pool, an odd shape can be seen on the rock face. Next to it, even more shapes can be seen. These are the famous Petroglyphs of St. John. Carved by the Taino people beginning around 200 A.D. and ending with the collapse of Taino settlements in the area after European arrival in the late 1400’s. The small water fall and pools were sacred to the Taino as they were one of the only reliable water sources on the Island; the trickle of water is unaffected by lack of rainfall. Around the pools the Taino carved depictions of local animals and plants, ones that they relied on for sustenance and medicinal uses. Other carvings seem to represent people or gods. Relatively little is known about the glyphs themselves however, with many theories concerning their origin and meaning. Other carvings have been found throughout the park, even as recently as last year. Other collections of ancient petroglyphs ca be found throughout the caribbean.

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Some of the well known glyphs above the pool.

The petroglyphs in St. John are protected by the National Park Service within Virgin Islands National Park. To see the glyphs for yourself, find the park’s Reef Bay Trail off Centerline Road. Follow the trail downhill for just over two miles, then turn right at the marker for the Petroglyphs Trail. The waterfall, pools, and glyphs are only a further three tenths of a mile down the trail. Be prepared for the steadily uphill two mile climb back to the trail head. Always bring water, proper clothing and shoes, and use sun protection. Never hike alone, and always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Free maps, basic trail guides, and park specific safety information are available from the Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay.

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One of the largest glyphs in the park.

For more information on the Petroglyphs and the National Park, visit the official NPS website at: http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm

For information on visiting St. John or the other U.S. Virgin Islands please visit U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism at: http://www.visitusvi.com/

If you are feeling even more adventurous after your hike you should try our ziplines! Visit Tree Limin’ Extreme at our website www.ziplinestthomas.com, or call us at 340-777-9477. Reservations are required.

Stay Historically Extreme!

-The TLE Historians

Categories: Adventure, Culture, Hiking, Other Islands, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virgin Islands National Park

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Trunk Bay

While most people that visit the Virgin Islands rarely make it off St. Thomas, there are many amazing things to do on the other islands of the territory.

A favorite of the TLE crew (and many others) is St. John, and it’s Virgin Islands National Park. With it’s miles of hiking trails, historic ruins, and world class beaches, the park is a do not miss activity for visitors and locals alike.

The park takes up almost 60% of the land of St. John, with the land donated to the Park Service by Lawrence Rockefeller in 1956 (becoming the 29th national park). The most popular activities by far are visiting the beautiful beaches, and snorkeling. In fact, famous Trunk Bay has a unique underwater snorkeling trail with plaques describing the underwater features. However, do not think that the beaches are all this park has to offer. There are over 20 miles of hiking trail within the park. The trails wind up and down the mountains, through dry and rain forest, and past the impressive ruins of historic sugar plantations. A highlight is the petroglyphs. They are ancient rock carvings left by the Taino people before european colonization.

A visit to Virgin islands national park is a great experience, and the TLE crew highly recommends it. It is an excellent way to get a feel for the Virgin Islands of the past, as well as supporting our national parks.

If you are feeling even more adventurous after your hike, and want to cool off by flying through the rain forrest, take a ferry over and see us here at Tree Limin’ Extreme. Our zipline adventure will not disappoint.

For information on Virgin Islands National Park, including fees, and regulations, visit the National Park Service page at:   http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm

To book a zipline adventure with Tree Limin’ Extreme call for reservations at 340-777-9477.

Stay extreme, and keep adventuring!

-The TLE Crew

Categories: Adventure, Hiking, Other Islands, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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