Things to do in the USVI: Scuba with the St Thomas Dive Club

Chris reports from the beautiful Bolongo Bay Resort. Among the many enjoyable activities available to vacationers are scuba diving and snorkeling. In this interview, Chris talks with Lauren from the St. Thomas Diving Club.There are lots of options available depending on ability level. Her group is able to work with divers who range from novice to certified. If you are a beginner who wishes to become certified, it takes 2 full days. There are three steps to certification: 1) knowledge development; 2) confined water–pool work; and 3) four open water dives. Lauren recommends that you go on line to do some of the background training and be “e” certified before you arrive in St. Thomas. The club also offers a free scuba lesson to guests of the Bolongo Bay Resort. You get some classroom training and some practice in the pool. In addition, you get to go on 2 dives–a shipwreck and along a reef. Snorkeling gives you a wonderful view from above, but scuba diving brings you up close and personal with the green turtles and other underwater life. If you have some fears bout diving, Lauren says that most people just need time with the equipment to overcome any nervousness that they may have.
The wreck of the Senora Cartanza (Shown above) is one of the sites that you can explore. This 190 foot freighter has a checkered history. There are many larger wrecks, some dating back to World War II, on the western side of the island. However, those ships are at a greater depth and should only be explored by experienced divers. When she was asked what are the biggest misconceptions or fears that people have about scuba diving, Lauren believes that people are most afraid of encountering sharks. She claims that sharks are actually “gentle” creatures who are more afraid of you than you should be of them. She added that there are NO aggressive sharks in St. Thomas. The other sea creatures are also rather timid and not to be feared

Amazing Island People: Bolongo Bay Ambassador Viola Albert

Chris Ryan spends some time with Viola Albert to find out about the people whose hospitality make the Virgin Islands a special place. She moved to the Virgin Islands as a young girl and has accepted the culture and people. Viola is very religious and considers being hospitable to the guests as part of her service to God. She truly loves her job and loves life. Her goal is to make the guests feel like they are her best friend. She tries to get to know their needs and how they are doing. At Bolongo Bay, Viola is the first person that you will see in the morning. She also discussed the different native foods and music. Ms. Albert’s mantra is very simple, “Tourism is Viola and Viola is tourism.” Making sure that guests are happy and feel welcome is job #1.

Coral World: Virgin Island Sea Lion Encounter


Chris Ryan and his four year old son, Liam, left the Bolongo Bay Resort to visit Coral World in St. Thomas. This is an interview with Scotty, the head trainer at Coral World. There are seven different types of encounters available. You can go under water to view the coral reefs. There is Sea Trek where you can experience being a diver and Snuba which is like scuba diving but without the tanks and lengthy training requirements. You can even go under water and stay completely dry by going in their Nautilus Semi Submarine. There are three encounters which involve entering the environments of three different sea animals–sea lions, turtles and sharks. Chris and Liam had an out of water session with Remo, the Sea Lion. Coral World is proud of the diverse experiences that it offers to its guests and of course their animals. The encounter is tailored to the size and interests of the visitors and this helps to give a varied experience for the animals. So, intelligent animals like the sea lions don’t become nervous or bored. For instance, Liam wanted to know why sea lions had such small ears. So they looked at the ears and Liam could see how the small ears allow the sea lion to swim very fast. Sea lions have a level of intelligence similar to dogs. For that reason, there is some routine, but the trainers vary the activities, feeding, and training to challenge the animals. During their encounter, Remo did a number of tricks. He showed his swimming prowess, joined them on the deck to do the hokie pokie, and Chris held a bar 12 feet in the air that Remo easily jumped over. Next they checked in on the sea turtles and sharks at Coral World.



Carnival Night at the Bolongo Bay Resort


It’s Carnival Night at the Bolongo Bay Resort! There is lots of Caribbean food at the buffet; delicious rum drinks at the bar; live music; and colorful, local entertainment acts. Starting with a Moko Jumbie or stilt dancer, Chris goes behind the scenes to interview the performers at Carnival. Stilt dancers perform 18 feet in the air to lively Calypso music. A Moko Jumbie named Israel tells Chris about the history of these dancers which can be traced back to Africa. He also explains how he became a performer, how the stilts are made, and how to prepare and train to perform. Israel’s goal is to perform at over 50 feet.

King Heron is another Carnival performer who specializes in dancing on broken glass, eats fire, and does a flaming limbo dance. He tells Chris how he became a performer and how he uses nervous energy to prepare. When he was asked why he does what he does, King Heron gave an amazing answer that says it all,”I just love dancing.”

Every Wednesday night is Carnival Night with vacationers flocking to Iggy’s Beach Bar and Grill from all over the US Virgin Islands in crowds that swell to 500 or 600 party goers.


It’s Always a Beautiful Day at The Bolongo Bay Beach Resort


Chris Ryan had to leave New Hampshire and travel all the way to the Virgin Islands to interview the Paul Doumeng, the General Manager of the Bolongo Bay Resort. That’s the view of the resort where this interview took place. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. The resort is an all inclusive resort with two restaurants, a beautiful pool and beach, lots of water sports, and beach activities. Chris and Paul discussed how the hotel business has been changed with the advent of Trip Adviser, Facebook, and various types of social media. During the 40 years that the Doumeng Family has been operating the Bolongo Bay Resort, they have prided themselves about being very responsive to guest comments and suggestions. So they have transitioned easily into current situation where every guest has the power of being a hotel reviewer.

The Bolongo Bay Resort is known for providing a Caribbean experience. The types of experiences which a guest may desire can vary considerably. Some guests want to enjoy the beach by sitting in a chair with an umbrella drink and counting the waves. Others might want a more active experience involving a variety of aquatic activities and toys. There are excursions and attractions in the St. Thomas area which are also available. Excursions to nearby sites and activities can also be part of your Caribbean experience. On Wednesdays, Bolongo Bay hosts Carnival Night with a Caribbean buffet, stilt walkers, and fire and broken glass walkers. Those activities will be featured in another show. A big part of the Caribbean experience is found in the Bolongo Bay’s dining opportunities. There is Iggie’s Beach Bar and Grill with a casual atmosphere and menu and with live entertainment. The menu features excellent burgers and seafood. The second restaurant also has a casual atmosphere. It is The Lobster Grille; and, in addition to the obvious, its menu also includes steaks and pastas.

After a four hour flight from New Hampshire to the Virgin Islands, you are still in the United States. No passport is required, English is the official language, and US currency is what is accepted–no calculator is required to figure out what something is worth. However, the climate and atmosphere is so very different that you can appreciate your escape from winter. Tourism is the primary industry in the Virgin Islands and the cost of living is very high because so many things have to be imported. The workers are very friendly and hospitable. You will find that the pace of life is very different than the rest of the US. Be prepared to slow down and take things at a much slower pace known as Island Time.

In the conclusion of the interview, Paul Doumeng explained how his father and other relatives came from Long Island in the 1970s to develop the Bolongo Bay Resort. Over a forty-two year period, the property has evolved into the beautiful family owned and operated hotel that it is today.