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mangrove snorkeling st thomas virgin islands

Have you been snorkeling in the mangroves yet? Exploring this protected ecosystem is a rare treat. Most visitors (and even residents!) to the Virgin Islands do their snorkeling around some of our islands’ stunning coral reefs, completely missing out on the mangrove habitat, which is a special experience and quite different than a reef snorkel.

Here are a couple of things that are unique to snorkeling in the Mangrove Lagoon:


You’ll likely see lots of baby (juvenile) sea life.

Mangroves are often referred to as “the nursery.” Because of all the protected space in the underwater root system, juvenile creatures take cover here. The mangroves give them a place to feed and grow, with less risk of being openly exposed to larger predators like other fish. Some baby animals you may see include: seahorses, shrimp, arrow crabs, lobsters, fish, and maybe even little sharks, depending on the season.


You won’t be wearing fins.

We don’t wear fins in the Mangrove Lagoon for a couple of different reasons. For one, it’s a shallow space and fins here tend to stir up sediment, which greatly reduces the clarity of the water. You want good visibility to see all the sea creatures! And two, skipping the fins better protects the marine life in these limited depths. One swift kick could do years worth of damage to the fragile ecosystem, so respect and care are what we’re all about.


upside down jellyfish mangrove snorkeling


Swimming is more like floating.

The waters in the mangrove lagoon are calm and shallow. This protected space keeps the waves and currents out. Here, you’ll be able to slowly float along the surface while viewing the sea life below. (Bonus: Our life jackets are like rafts, so you don’t have to put much effort into swimming to stay afloat! We use the life jackets to help you keep your body parallel with the surface so your feet don’t damage the seafloor.)


You get to see things you don’t see often elsewhere

Because of the different environment, certain creatures tend to prefer the Mangrove Lagoon over the open reefs. One in particular is the upside down jellyfish, aka Cassiopeia (don’t worry – they’re completely harmless and very cool looking!). Our guides will help you spot them, as they blend in quite well to their habitat. They use sunshine as their energy source, which is why they’re upside down. They’re also “farmers” who grow and eat algae on their tentacles. In the Lagoon, the tree roots are also covered in corals and sponges and unique anemones – just be careful not to touch them, as they’re easily damaged.


If you have yet to explore the Mangrove Lagoon, it’s time you came for a visit! We’ve linked our best tours below, as well as the info if you’d prefer to rent a kayak or SUP board with snorkel gear to explore on your own.

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