Disembarking the cruise ship in Old San Juan, movement through customs was a slow process, but an hour later we met up with the driver we had arranged for our trip to the far eastern end of the island. With plans to visit Vieques and Culebra, small islands accessible by ferry from Fajardo, we went directly to the ferry office on our arrival in town, in order to purchase tickets for the morning. Tickets frequently sell out, and we didn't want to take a chance on not being able to get on the boat for the first leg of our trip. Planes also travel out to the islands, but at $2 pp ($1 for seniors) the ferry is more than reasonable, and only takes about 90 minutes.
Beaches, snorkeling and fishing are also popular on the island but the luminescence in the bay is
|Alan with 300-year old Ceiba tree|
With a woefully inadequate staging area at the port, chaos reins temporarily along the waterfront as each ferry arrives. Despite this, we quickly found a taxi and were whisked away to our car rental facility a few miles away. After checking into our room in Esperanza, we grabbed a bite to eat and then started exploring.
For 60 years, the US Navy used a sizable portion of the island as a
training ground and bombing range. But following demonstrations in the late 90's, increased pressures resulted in the Navy withdrawing from the island in May 2003. Much of the land formally held by the Navy became the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Numerous small beach areas are available within the refuge, and on a weekday, we were able to secure a private beach with palm trees and sea grapes providing shade. Luckily, we had rented a jeep from a company that provided a vehicle covered with scratches. On the surface this may sound strange, but after driving into many of the off road spots to find the best beach in the NWR, we were happy we didn't need to give any thought to the condition of the jeep.
A number of snorkeling spots are available on the island, but the owner of our accommodations recommended Rompeolas Mosquito Pier, on the opposite side of the island, so we headed over there the following day. Built by the Navy in the early 40's, the pier extends 1 mile out into Vieques Sound. The calm, clear water revealed a great variety of sea life. Starfish and turtles are frequently spotted there. We didn't see any turtles but had a unique experience with an octopus. We watched in fascination as the multi-tentacled creature transitioned into a rock like shape, which totally hid it from view. By the time my camera was lifted into position to start snapping pictures, the legs were all tucked away, and the only visible portion was the eye, which also quickly disappeared. Amazing!
|Pier in Esperanza|
Our third day in town, we returned our vehicle and boarded the ferry back to Fajardo, where we caught the afternoon ferry to Culebra, our next stop.
|Rompeolas Mosquito Pier|
|Octopus transitioning- at this point, the only remaining visible part is its head and one eye- click on picture to enlarge|
|Octopus transition complete|