Coral World Marine Park and Undersea Observatory (Coki Point, 340/775-1555, fax 340/775-9068, www.coralworldvi.com, $19 adults, $10 children 3–12, family rate $52) puts the wonder of underwater sea life within reach of everyone. An undersea observatory allows you to get eye-level with the coral reef without getting wet; other exhibits showcase specific marine creatures, including green turtles and stingrays.
You can swim with South American sea lions and snorkel with nurse, lemon, and blacktip sharks. There is even an exhibit showing the nighttime reef—including phosphorescent coral. In addition to the marine exhibits, Coral World has an aviary where you can meet tropical birds, including lorikeets, and a short nature trail with tropical plants, endangered tortoises, and lots of iguanas.
At first blush, Coral World may seem like a tourist trap—there are plenty of opportunities to spend money here—but the park is serious about its educational mission. If you are equally serious about learning, Coral World provides a great opportunity for education. Exhibits feature lots of information about animals, oceans, and environmental threats, but you have to stop and read them. Staff members also present information about the animals at the many daily feedings (which are scheduled throughout the day, so you are bound to see something cool while you’re there).
Coral World also offers an activity it calls Sea Trekkin’, similar to what is called Snuba elsewhere. You put on a bathing suit and wear a special helmet that allows you to breathe normally while you’re underwater. The setup allows you to swim around underwater, like a scuba diver, without wearing a tank on your back.
If you are doing a lot of snorkeling or diving on your own, you probably won’t get much out of Coral World. But for people who either don’t have time or are intimidated by the challenge of snorkeling, Coral World is an excellent place to come. It is ideal for families, small children, and older travelers. Coral World tends to be busy, especially when a lot of cruise ships are in port. To avoid the crowds, come early or late. Also look out for ubiquitous coupons, available in many of the free tourist trade magazines you see around, which offer $3 off adult admission and $1 off a child’s. You can also find them on the Coral World website.
Coral World is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily (the ticket booth closes at 4 p.m.) but cuts back hours in the summer. Call ahead to confirm.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition