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Tektite

Tektite Snorkel

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer

The Tektite snorkel is one of the absolute best snorkeling spots on the island of St. John, and, contrary to popular belief, it can be accessed by land with relative ease. The name, Tektite, refers to a research project conducted at Beehive Bay a small cove on the southeastern tip of Great Lameshur Bay.

Getting There
Getting there is part of the fun. The first step is to get to Great Lameshur Bay on St. John's south coast. Take Salt Pond Road (Route 107) past Salt Pond Bay. The road heads west and goes up and then down a the steep hill. Great Lameshur Bay lies at the bottom of the hill. Park near the big tamarind tree at the entrance to this large cobblestone beach.

Walk to the eastern end of the beach. A quarter-mile hike and rock scramble along the western shore of Cabritte Horn Point will take you to a remote and isolated coral rubble and sand beach called Donkey Bight. This bay, an inner bay of Great Lameshur, lies just to the north of Beehive Cove, the bay where the Tektite project took place.

There are no particularly difficult areas to negotiate. The hike, even carrying snorkel gear or light packs, is relatively easy, scenic, and just challenging enough to add a little excitement to the journey, without putting yourself in too much danger. Nevertheless, be careful and watch your footing at all times!

The beach at Donkey Bight can be a destination in itself. It is an idyllic little cove hardly ever frequented by anyone other than yachtsmen who may tie up to the single mooring located about thirty yards offshore.

Snorkeling
Put on your gear and enter the water from the sand on the southern end of the beach. Beehive Cove lies on the other side of the small rocky point to the south.

You will be snorkeling in a location that is somewhat far away from a convenient place to get out of the water, and there may be areas of rough seas. For these reasons, this snorkel is recommended for experienced snorkelers only. For a full appreciation of this area, one should also have the ability to free dive in order to investigate the environments under ledges, beneath coral heads and within caves and tunnels. The snorkeling is best on calm days, when there is good visibility underwater.

Between Donkey Bight and Beehive Cove, you will find only scattered coral heads and small reefs, but there is usually an abundance of other interesting sea life such as tarpon, small reef fish, squid and sea cucumbers in this area.

As you approach Beehive Cove, the snorkeling becomes more exciting and more colorful. On the north side of the point, there is a small cave with an exit to the surface. The walls and ceiling of the cave are covered with beautiful cup corals and sponges. As you snorkel around the point, or headland, which defines Beehive Bay, you will see a line of large rocks, which seems to attract a good share of fish.

On the Beehive Cove side of the point, the water gets deeper. There are two rooms or chambers with rock walls on three sides. The second room is the most interesting, although both are beautiful. The eastern wall of the second room is encrusted with sponges and cup coral. Because there is low light within the room, some of the coral animals may have their tentacles extended as if it were night on the reef. The thin yellow tentacles protruding from the small bright orange cups make the corals look like flowers.

Further along, there is a narrow channel in the rocks. On the eastern side is a cave with an outlet to the other side. There is at least one large dog snapper that likes to frequent this cave, and he is quite an impressive fellow. At the far end of the narrow channel is an exit to the other side over shallow coral. It is possible to snorkel over it, but great care must be taken, as there is usually a surge, which complicates things. Depending on the roughness of the sea, it may be better to explore the channel and then turn around and go back the way you came.

Around the next set of rocks is a wall encrusted with fire coral, sponges, and cup corals that descends to a depth of about twenty feet. Many small colorful fish can be seen along this wall, so take the time to look closely. On top of this rock, above the surface of the water, are concrete footings, which are all that remains of the Tektite project.

Further from shore, you will see many beautiful coral heads, which are the basis of fascinating marine communities.

There is a wide diversity of fish in the general area, which include some of the fast swimming silvery fish such as mackerel, jack, tarpon and barracuda.

Although you may want to continue along the coast to explore the rocks around the next point called Cabritte Horn Point, remember that you are getting quite far from your starting point. A good time to return is after you pass the fire coral encrusted wall, where you can utilize the passage on the other side of the wall between the rocks and the shore as a loop for your U-turn.