Travel

Foreign Correspondence: Snorkel, Party, Do Nothing Beautifully On St. Thomas

What's it like to live in a far-off place most of us see only on a vacation? Foreign Correspondence is an interview with someone who lives in a spot you may want to visit.

Danny Derima, 38, is resort activities director at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is originally from the neighboring island of St. Croix and has been with the resort (www.sugarbaywyndham.com) six years.

Q. You're from one U.S. Virgin Island and live in another. How different are they?

A. In terms of scenery and what they have to offer naturally — sunshine, great water — they're similar. St. Thomas has a great harbor, is more economically bustling and there's more to do. But you can still have a party on St. Croix.

Q. Where on St. Thomas is the resort, and where do you live on the island?

A. It's on 32 acres on the easternmost part of the island and faces east. It's separated in a sense, with the hotel on a hilltop and the pool and beach on a lower level. It's about 30 to 45 minutes by taxi from Charlotte Amalie, the island's main town; about 3 or 4 miles.

I live on the western side of the island; the commute is about 20 minutes.

Q. People who vacation there — what do they come intending to do?

A. Some want to lay back and do nothing; some want to try everything. Others view the resort as a place to rest, and venture out elsewhere every day.

We have some activities every day on the property, mostly in the afternoon. We gauge people who want to sleep in or get breakfast and lounge around a bit. We do competitions — billiard or Ping Pong tournaments.

Outside activities include pool volleyball. I just put up a beach volleyball net. There are parasailing and Waverunners. We also do catamaran trips to St. John and the British Virgin Islands.

Everybody expects certain things from a visit to the Caribbean, like snorkeling and day trips. We can do a Waverunner tour and on the ride stop at different points and snorkel. That takes about an hour and a half. All our tours are guided.

Q. Where are the best snorkeling spots?

A. Right in front of the resort is great. It's rocky, but that makes for great marine life on the reef. Small fish feed in the area. There is lobster, sea barracuda and other fish maybe 10 or 20 yards from shore.

Coki Beach is also good. So is Sapphire. Both are within minutes of the resort.

Q. Best beach for sitting and doing little?

A.If you want nice, white sand, Magens Bay. It's a mile long. There's an overlook, and when you look down, you see the entire bay takes the shape of a heart. The water is clear, and being an enclosed bay, there are no harsh waves. The area is a private trust, so it's not developed. There are some amenities — showers, bathrooms and restaurants — but no big buildings.

Q. Best place for fishing?

A. People go out to a place called North Drop, on the northern side of St. Thomas. You have to get there by boat. They go for marlin and tuna. Some people keep their catch; some tag and release.

Q. Busy season down there is November through April. Other than fewer visitors, is it different the rest of the year?

A. For visitors, it isn't very different. The weather is consistent through the year. It may rain for five minutes but usually clears. The off-season is a time for us to rest and recoup.

Q. Going into Charlotte Amalie — is there a local scene?

A. If you want entertainment, you don't need to go too far and the cost of a taxi can be prohibitive. Close to the resort, I'd send people to Duffy's. It's a shack in the middle of a parking lot. It's a bar with drinking and dancing into the wee hours of the morning.

Q. Various islands have their own sound. What's it on St. Thomas?

A. It's called quelbe (QUELL-bee) and is a mix of Caribbean influences. It's like string-band music with natural instruments (gourds, washboards) —not Bahamian junkanoo, but similar.

You can hear it on radio stations, but they're more reggae- and soca-driven. Soca (SO-ka) is a combination of soul and Calypso. You hear soca here.

I'm a guitarist and used to play with a group called Jam Band. We did mostly festivals in the U.S., like the Caribbean American Festival in New York on Labor Day weekend. I still play. My band is Jam Tyme and we play Caribbean music — more soca than anything.

Q. Where is this?

A. Two small clubs. There's the Hush Nigh Club downtown, and Jaguars, which is at Mandel Circle, close to the cruiser docks. Both attract a mix of people. I've seen some resort guests there. Not throngs, though. There's a $10 cover if they have a DJ, $20 if I'm playing.

Q. The U.S. Virgin Islands has American cars — the steering wheel is on the left — but you also drive on the left, like in Europe. Is this because the Virgin Islands were a Danish colony until the U.S. bought them in 1917?

A. Back in pre-car days, everything was moved by donkey cart, and people trained them to pull on the left. When American cars were introduced here, they tried to switch the donkeys to move on the other lane — but they wouldn't.

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