Virgin Islands National Park is easily one of the most beautiful Carribbean parks in the world, and has remained so since its creation. In 1956, Rockefeller Interests (the investment group started by wealthy American industrialist J. D. Rockefeller) purchased a large section of land on St. John, one of the smaller of the U.S.-owned Virgin Islands, and transferred it to the U.S. Government for designation of a national park. Six years later, the government enlarged the land plot purchased by Rockefeller Interests, increasing the borders to include the miles of beautiful underwater reefs and caves. It now totals over 5,650 acres.
The park is very accessible, with visitors able to take boat trips around the reefs, as well as ferry a car from St. Thomas to use as transportation on the few roads that cover the island of St. John. The reefs themselves are open for public viewing, and it is not uncommon to see local boats anchored near the shore, its owners enjoying the beautiful splendor of their surroundings.
Home to several endangered species, the park is frequented by both the hawksbill and green turtles, which are very often seen by divers and snorkelers. Many other docile aquatic life is commonplace, as are the more dangerous types, such as barracudas and sharks.
The island itself is a rainbow of beauty. Hundreds of species of birds populate the forests, and it is common to see a wild donkey or two, as well as one of the more interesting inhabitants of the island, the mongoose. Bats, large insects, whitetail deer and plenty of other inhabitants share the park with tourists.
The most welcome sight are the pristine beaches. White sand, soft waves and warm water make spending time in the Virgin Islands National Park seem like heaven. Some beaches are free, others are owned by resorts and cost a small fee to occupy. Generally, the less people on a beach, the more wildlife you will see.
The best activities for visitors are definitely diving and snorkeling. The reefs, caves and coves of the park are breathtaking, and taking an underwater camera is a must. Hundreds of fish and other sealife inhabit just one acre under the warm waves, and it is not uncommon for a swimmer to spend hours in just one spot, enjoying the beautiful underwater sights.
The other popular activity is hiking through the many tropical forests of the Virgin Islands National Park. Many trails have been cut through the brush, allowing for large groups to travel together. Water and refreshments are a necessity, though, as temperatures can reach over 100 degrees.
I had the privilige of spending a full week in the Virgin Islands National Park, and it was probably the best week of my life. I have never seen such incredible beauty in one place, and if you have the opportunity to visit this park, do so immediately. Also, donate some money to the park itself; the money used helps to preserve the beaches and forests, as well as fund new tourist activities.
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