July 13, 2005 — Gliding quietly in his kayak on the waters of the Salt River Bay, Derek Martin is close to the red mangrove roots, where he's looking for social fanworms just below the surface. At this point in his life, the 21-year-old is exactly where he wants to be: leading guided tours of Salt River for Caribbean Adventure Tours.
A Crucian native, Martin did leave the island for a couple of years when he attended Jamestown College in North Dakota. It was his first time seeing snow, and he said he and a friend from California were tempted to chase the eight-year-olds off the sledding hill so they could use it.
When Martin left the island for college in the Northwest, he left with a real love for history, which has only continued to grow.
A sense of history plays a big part in his job. Salt River is a national park and ecological preserve, but it is perhaps best known for being the site of a Columbus landing and probably the first combat between native Indians and Europeans.
During a break from the kayaking, Martin does not mind giving the details of that encounter. Standing on the beach under the hot sun, Martin points out beyond the reef to where Columbus' fourteen boats were anchored and back to the hills where the Tainos had a fishing village.
On a recent tour, after telling the story, he was peppered with questions from tourists who wanted to know more about the history of the island's native peoples. He was more than up to the task. He then segued that conversation into tales about island culture and beliefs concerning jumbies and mocko jumbies.
Martin's plans are to continue studying history at the University of the Virgin Islands this fall, specifically V.I. history, while continuing to work part time as a Salt River guide.
Part of his job is also explaining the ecology of Salt River. Along with pointing out the social fanworm, he pointed out birds, jellyfish and did some searching for lemon sharks, which failed to materialize on this particular trip.
"Growing up on the island, I have been always interested in the ocean," Martin says. In addition, he is an experienced diver.
Martin says his favorite part of his job is meeting people. He says, "I meet people from all walks of life from all over the world. Every day I go to work is different."
He says that during the winter season he can do three or four tours every day of the week, but during the off-season, it's generally just one or two per day.
The tours are advertised to be about two-and-a-half-hours long, but if everyone is enjoying it, they might just go on a little longer.
The kayaking in the bay is relatively calm compared to going into the ocean off Cane Bay. The kayaks are not the more advanced pedal kayaks that have advantages in the open ocean. These kayaks have nice back rests, which are easy for amateurs to handle.
Martin handles his kayak expertly and has no difficulty keeping all the paddlers in the group together as he points out areas of interests.
To find out more about the kayak tours and rentals, call Caribbean Adventure tours at 778-1522.
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