from St. John Beach Guide ©
2006 Gerald Singer
From the small and tranquil sand beach at the east end of Leinster
Bay, you can access Waterlemon Cay (not Watermelon) for what
most visitors describe as the "best snorkeling on St. John." This
beach also makes an excellent cooling-off stop after a hike on
the Leinster Bay, Johnny
Horn or Brown Bay Trails.
There are pit toilets and a trash bin near the parking lot.
Because dueling was illegal in the Danish West Indies, those convinced
of the necessity of settling disputes or defending their honor
in this manner would travel to Tortola where the practice was
legal. In 1800, however, the British Virgin Islands also prohibited
dueling. Consequently, the remote and uninhabited island of Waterlemon
Cay, far from the eyes of Danish or British authorities, became
the new "field of honor."
From the beach, you can access the fine snorkeling around Waterlemon
Cay, the small island just offshore. (Many visitors name this as
their favorite snorkel.)
Enter the water from the beach and snorkel to the island. The
shoreline water is shallow, and the bottom is a mixture of sand
and coral rubble. It is about a 0.2-mile snorkel to the fringing
reef off Waterlemon Cay. Between the beach and the island you will
snorkel over an environment of seagrass in about twenty feet of
water where you can often see starfish,
sea cucumbers, green turtles and stingrays.
To decrease the snorkeling distance to the island, follow the
trail at the far end of the beach. Bear left at the first fork
in the trail, which runs along the coastline. At the end of this
trail, walk along the shore and choose a convenient place close
to Waterlemon Cay to enter the water. The distance across the channel
to the island is only about 0.1 mile. This entry is from the rocky
shoreline to a rocky bottom. Be careful not to step on live coral
or sea urchins.
From this entry point to the eastern part of Waterlemon Cay, you
will snorkel over an area of seagrass and scattered reef. Closer
to the island, the water becomes quite shallow. Here you will see
schools of blue tang and some very large parrotfish. You can sometimes
hear the parrotfish crunching their beak-like teeth along the surface
of the rocks and dead coral. They do this to scrape off algae.
Chunks of coral and algae pass through the parrotfish's unique
digestive system and are excreted as fine coral sand. Much of the
sand on our beautiful beaches is produced in this manner.
The south and east sides of Waterlemon Cay are bordered by a shallow-water
fringing reef. The reef on the west and north sides of the cay
is deeper, descending to a depth of about twenty feet. The reef
is teeming with fish and other sea creatures. There are several
varieties of coral to be found here, all healthy and colorful and
the sea fans and sea plumes found in the deeper parts of the reef
will give you the impression of swimming about in an underwater
Look for eels in holes in the reef and for octopus where you find
opened seashells piled together.
There is often an offshore current around Waterlemon Cay, especially
on the western side of the island, which will be stronger during
new and full moons. If you are not a strong swimmer, keep this
in mind. If you get into trouble, follow the current; go around
the island and return on the other side.