Caneel Bay, USVI

Caneel Bay Resort.  St. John,  USVI, 00831-0720

Coordinates in degrees decimal:  N 18.343018, E -64.786591

Visited in  November, 2015.   Photographer: Nigel Thomas.    Cameras:  Pentax WG-II and Sea & Sea 1G with DX1G housing


Caneel Bay Resort is located on the northwest point of St. John, in the US Virgin Islands.  It is made up of five large sandy embayments with rocky headlands between them.  Each of the bays and associated headlands have their own characteristics and support different biological communities.  All of the headlands between the bays provide easy snorkelling but we would suggest that only the most confident and experienced snorkellers should attempt to swim around Hawksnest Point.  As a result of the variety of habitats the number of species recorded was in excess of 150.

The resort is currently closed due to hurricane damage and is undergoing reconstruction.  Access to sites from shore is restricted with small vessel approach recommended. 

Prepared without the support of the resort

The description of the area is based on numbering the bays as follows; 1) Honeymoon Beach, 2) Caneel Bay, 3) Scott Beach, 4) Turtle Bay and 5) Hawksnest Bay. 

Honeymoon Beach (area 1).  Access to the water is easy along most of the beach.  The reef to the left hand side of the beach has some good examples of large sponge species.  The reef area is relatively flat and gradually slopes into the sand and seagrass beds.

Caneel Bay beach (area 2) is in front of the main hotel facilities.  The centre of the bay is subject to some vessel activity so be aware.  The headland to the right of the beach has a particularly good variety of fish species while the centre of the bay has very healthy seagrass communities.

Scott Beach (area 3), has several areas of shallow rock ledges, so choose your access and exit point carefully.  Once in the water the ledges can be followed to the right, with plenty of fish  choosing the shelter provided under the ledges.  

Swimming towards the headland to the right of Scott Beach numerous examples of Elkhorn coral can be observed.  Be aware of currents in this area.

The small beach at Turtle Bay (area 4) has good reef to both the left and right.  To the left are some good examples of Staghorn Coral.  To the right there are some spectacular rocky outcrops, however this area is subject to stronger currents and heading towards and around Hawksnest Point should only be attempted by the most experienced snorkellers.   Numerous examples of Stingrays were noted in this area.

Hawknest Bay is very wide and is substantially composed of seagrass, hence is popular with turtles.  The reef and shallow boulder strew sands to the left of the bay supports a wide variety of fish species, including large shoals of some of the more open water species.

Resort Sealife Photos

click on image to open and view text

Banded Butterflyfish.  Chaetodontidae.  Chaetodon striatus.  Small fish which tends to be found in pairs.  All rock areas.

Foureye Butterflyfish.  Chaetodontidae.  Chaetodon capistratus.  Small species.  Often found in pairs.  Notably present between areas 2 and 3.

Intermediate phase French Angelfish (left).  Pomacanthidae.  Pomacanthus paru. Intermediate phase Grey Angelfish (right).  Pomacanthidae.  Pomacanthus arcuatus.  Both found between area 2 and 3.

Queen Angelfish.  Pomacanthidae. Holacanthus ciliaris.  Small to medium sized individuals.  In the company of two Foureye Butterflyfish.  Noted between area 2 and 3.

Intermediate phase of Gray Angelfish. Pomacanthidae.  Pomacanthus arcuatus.  Small to medium sized species, often found in pairs over reef features.  All reef areas.

Intermediate stage Blue Tang. Acanthuridae.  Acanthurus coeruleus.  Often solitary but may form shoals with other Acanthurus species.  Around all reef areas.

French Grunt. Haemulidae.  Haemulon flavolineatum.  Generally small fish, found in large shoals near reef features, particularly near hollows and ledges.  All reef areas.

Probably juvenile French Grunt.  Haemulidae.  Haemulon flavolineatum.  Very small, all reef areas.

Bluestriped Grunt.  Haemulidae.  Haemulon sciurus.  Small to medium in size.  Form medium sized shoals. Found near vertical reef face to the right of area 4.

Queen Parrotfish.  Scaridae.  Scarus vetula. Medium sized individual observed on reef area between areas 2 and 3.

?Juvenile Blue Parrotfish. Scaridae.  Scarus ?coeruleus.  Juveniles of this species are small in size, growing to large in adults.  All reef areas.

Terminal phase Stoplight Parrotfish.  Scaridae. Sparisoma viride.  Small to medium sized species.  All rock reef areas.

Initial phase Stoplight Parrotfish.  Scaridae. Sparisoma viride.  Small to medium sized species.  All rock reef areas.

Small group of intermediate stage Stoplight Parrotfish.  Scaridae. Sparisoma viride.  Noted in area 5 near rocky headland.

Juvenile Threespot Damselfish.  Pomacentridae. Stegastes planifrons.  Very small as a juvenile.  Remains well hidden in coral but will protect territory aggressively.

Intermediate phase Yellowtail Damselfish.  Pomacentridae.  Microspathodon chrysurus.   Very small to small individuals.  Around all reef areas.  Juveniles often hide amongst fire coral.

Probably a Dusky Damselfish. Pomacentridae.  Stegastes ?adustus.  One of numerous very similar Damselfish.  Very small to small individuals.  Highly territorial.   All reef areas.

Night Sergeant. Pomacentridae.  Abudefduf  taurus. Small species , solitary, preferring shallow reef edges.  Noted on reef to the left of area 4. 

Sergeant Major. Pomacentridae.  Abudefduf saxatilis.  Small species, often in large but loose shoals around all reef areas and over seagrass. 

Purple colour is an egg patch protected by the dark coloured Sergeant Major. Pomacentridae. Abudefduf saxatilis.  Egg patches noted on clean rock surfaces.  Protection provided by the males. Noted between area 3 and 4.

Probably a Cocoa Damselfish.  Pomacentridae.  Stegastes ?variabilis.  All reef areas.

Brown Chromis. Pomacentridae.  Chromis multilineata.  Very small species.  Often found in large numbers, over and around reef areas.  All reef areas.

Red Hind. Serranidae.  Epinephelus guttatus.  Seeks sheltered spots on reef.  Notably on reef  between area 3 and 4.

Indigo Hamlet.  Serranidae.  Hypoplectrus indigo.  Small species found in the vicinity of rocky reef generally under overhangs.   Noted where rocky reef on left of area 5 projects into the bay. 

Graysby.  Serranidae.  Cephalopholis cruentatus.  Medium sized individuals, preferring caves and hollows over reef area.  Noted to the left of area 4 over reef.

Harlequin Bass. Serranidae.  Serranus tigrinus.  Small species found over reef , coral debris and seagrass.  Noted over reef between areas 3 and 4.

Spotted Trunkfish.  Ostraciidae.  Lactophrys bicaudalis.  Small individuals, found hovering near hollows and under ledges.  Noted between areas 2 and 3.

Smooth Trunkfish.  Ostraciidae.  Lactophrys triqueter.  Small fish found in shallows over reef and sand. Generally solitary.  Found between area 3 and 4.

Juvenile of Scrawled Cowfish.  Ostraciidae.  Acanthostracion quadricornis.  Very small as a juvenile, growing to medium sized as an adult.  Found amongst seagrass in area 2. 

Sharpnosed Puffer.  Tetradontidae.  Canthigaster rostrata. Very small, solitary individuals. Common throughout area, often hide around branching coral.

Bandtail Puffer.   Tetraodontidae.   Sphorroides ?spengleri.  Small species of pufferfish found around seagrass beds in area 2.

Yellow Goatfish.  Mullidae. Mulloidichthys martinicus.  Small to medium sized individuals, frequently in small groups.  Feeds over sand using barbels.  Observed in areas 3, 4 and  5, feeding  in the latter.

Squirrelfish.  Holocentridae.  Holocentrus adscensionis.  Small to medium sized.  Mostly solitary.  Stays close to reef areas during day.  Noted between area 2 and 3.