Reef and marine hazards: Visitors should always be cautious around the reef. Shallows and reefs near shore contain sharp corals, stingrays, spiny sea urchins, fire coral, fire worms and barbed snails. Use caution in the water and avoid contact with any unknown marine life. Cuts from marine organisms infect quickly, so clean and medicate them. Portuguese man-o-war and sea wasps, both stinging jellyfish, are rare here. Barracuda and sharks, if encountered, should be treated with caution but are not usually aggressive toward snorkelers. Treat all underwater creatures with respect. It is recommended that visitors practice snorkeling in shallow water at the beach before going to the underwater trail and reef.
Hazards ashore: Stay on the beach or designated paths to avoid hazardous vegetation. Contact with poisonous manchineel trees (sap, leaves, bark, and fruit resembling small green apples) causes chemical burning. To touch your eyes after such contact causes swelling or blindness. Christmas bush looks like holly, but it causes contact dermatitis, and stinging nettle is painful. There are several other trees, cactuses, and other plants bearing thorns or barbed hairs to avoid. Beware of centipedes, scorpions, biting spiders and ants.
Did You Know?
Buck Island Reef National Monument is a critical nesting habitat for the hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles. The monument also serves as a feeding and developmental habitat for young turtles that settle into the reef and sea grass environment after their open sea-phase.