The more we travel, sometimes we find that there are fewer excursions that meet our needs. We are always looking for excursions that satisfy our need for history, information, and education as well as our love of the water, animals, and the outdoors. When we do find those excursions, we are elated! On our recent trip to the Caribbean on the Norwegian Epic, one of our ports of call was St. Thomas. Having been there a few times already, we were looking for something different than a day at the beach or shopping. My husband loves sea turtles probably more than the average person and when I came across a turtle encounter in St. Thomas, I booked it immediately.
When we arrived in St. Thomas, it was a stark contrast to the beautiful weather we had only the day before in St. Maarten. It was overcast and raining on and off, but we refused to allow a little rain stop us from our excursion. We met our driver who was prearranged for us and off we went on a half hour trip to Coral World. By prearranging everything, we didn’t have to worry about looking for a taxi to take us and then arrange to have one pick us up afterwards so it definitely made our lives easier. It was a scenic trip in an open jitney to Coral World and once we arrived, we were escorted to the area where we would begin our turtle encounter. The white building at the left of the picture is where the excursions like the turtle encounter, sea lion encounter, snuba, and others commence.
Once inside the white building, we met our guide for the excursion, Rhiannon. We were given water shoes in our size and directed to a table to go over some basic information prior to entering the water. The people that work here, like Rhiannon, are trained and educated and hold degrees such as marine biology so they know what they are doing and make the experience an educational one. We learned about the different types of sea turtles throughout the world as well as the ones that are at Coral World, why they are there, and we also had the opportunity to ask lots of questions.
Rhiannon then escorted us across the bridge to the seaside turtle lagoon. Even if you don’t do a turtle encounter, you can visit the turtles in one of the two lagoons near the bridge. The stone stairs are quite steep and it’s not the easiest access so you might want to keep that in mind if you have mobility issues or children. The height requirement is 4’8″ tall to participate in this excursion. The sky was still overcast, but we were graced with a break from the rain while we were in the water, which by the way was so cold! Looking away from Coral World, this is the view that we had and even with cloudy skies, it was an amazing view.
We were given instructions on how to behave once in the water including keeping our hands by our sides and not to make any sudden movements. Although the turtles have been exposed to humans, we still have to respect that these are animals. Joining us in the water was Tortuga, a female sea turtle weighing in at over 200 lbs. and a young male sea turtle, Duncan, weighing in at around 180 lbs. I was surprised that they weighed that much because to me they seemed like they weighed around 50 lbs. They like to be touched on their fins, their shells, and their bellies and they would gently swim by and bump into you and with the assistance of Rhiannon, they were encouraged to turn around and swim by us again. They were so large and yet so docile. Coral World has a great video on their web site about the turtle encounter that is worth watching.
Coral World serves as a rehabilitation center for injured or sick turtles and educates guests about the turtles and the many threats to their existence. We learned that artificial lighting from streetlights and buildings disorients the hatchlings who try to make their way to the water by the light reflected off the ocean. Garbage in the ocean can be mistaken for food and ingested, ultimately killing the turtles. Probably the most disturbing information was learning that sea turtles are still consumed (their meat and their eggs) in some areas of the world. Through education they are hoping people will stop eating sea turtles and make an effort to assist in helping the sea turtle population grow back to healthy numbers throughout the world.
After we exited the turtle lagoon area, we walked around Coral World to see the other exhibits that were great for adults and children. We got to see quite a variety of fish, sharks, and stingrays as well as birds in the Lorikeet Aviary! You could feed the little lorikeets, which are small to medium-sized arboreal brightly colored parrots. They have bathrooms equipped with showers and a changing area as well as souvenir stores and restaurants.
Adjacent to Coral World is Coki Beach, which we walked by, but didn’t go to because of the bad weather. I’m glad we didn’t because it started to rain heavily and there was lightning and thunder although we did see people staying in the water. On a better day you could either bring your own snorkeling equipment or rent it on the beach. It looks like you can go to Coki Beach without having to go to Coral World so if you want to avoid the crowds at Magen’s Bay, this might be a good alternative. General park admission to Coral World is $19 per person and the cost for the Turtle Encounter including admission to Coral World is $51 for adults and $42 for children. I highly recommend a visit to Coral World and their exhibits including the Marine Gardens, the Touch Pool, the Caribbean Reef Encounter, the Shark Shallows – home to juvenile sharks, the Stingray Lagoon, Critter Corners, and of course the Turtle Pool. For more information on Coral World please visit their web site. For a great day in St. Thomas, you should definitely do the Turtle Encounter at Coral World!