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Charlotte Amalie
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@Work: Suite Birds of Paradise

April 15, 2005 – Sitting on the front porch of Margarita Hutchison and Dan Odell's bed and breakfast, overlooking the valley leading down to the South Shore, is like going on a guided bird-hike without having to do the hike.
The owners of Suite Birds of Paradise in Hermon Hill both know a lot about birds, and if they don't know it, there are always one or two bird books within easy consulting distance. And the birds know the couple.
Margarita said, "If I am late with feed, the bananaquits start flying in and out and around the porch as I am hanging up a feeder. It is like they are saying 'OK, lady, let's get moving here. You are behind schedule.'"
Yes, the two are nature lovers, but that has not been their main vocation. Even now as they run Suite Birds of Paradise, which they bill as an eco-lodge, it is just one of the many things they do.
Dan Odell, who taught marine science at Central High for 20 years before retiring, is now writing a book on how to teach science.
Margarita, who had a bed and breakfast on Puerto Rico before moving to St. Croix about a year ago with her new husband, teaches psychology at the University of Virgin Islands.
Dan, when he is not diving, conducts nature tours along the shores of St. Croix. Margarita will take out groups for snorkeling adventures.
But their first interest now seems to be Suite Birds of Paradise. It is small. There is only one two-room suite. It can accommodate a family or two couples who, in Dan's words, "like each other."
Their selling point is not luxury. Although there is a pool and an area for cookouts, their selling point is tranquility.
Suite Birds of Paradise is a half-mile off Route 83 from the Catherine's Rest Shanty, and it is peaceful and quiet. Except, that is, for the call of the birds. And Margarita can usually identify for the visitor just what bird is making the call.
She says, "I grew up with Audubon parents. They were always playing those thirty-three-and-a-third records with bird-calls on them. They played them every day."
However, if the conversation strays from birds and flora, the couple can have some interesting things to talk about. The fact that Dan spent 20 years teaching on St. Croix, and fourteen years teaching elsewhere, and is writing a book about teaching should alert you to the fact he has some opinions on education.
The couple counts among their friends Senator-at-Large Craig Barshinger, so they can talk politics too.
However, arriving at Suite Birds of Paradise one immediately encounters Margarita's first passion – plants. Just about every native tropical fruit tree and flower can be found on the grounds. And, if there is a native plant missing that you might be looking for, that will be made up for by viewing an exotic plant that Margarita has gotten to thrive on St. Croix. It would be hard to say at a given time whether there are more types of flowers or birds in her front yard.
She brought over many of the plants she raised at her bed and breakfast in the rain forest of Puerto Rico.
Suite Birds of Paradise is a relatively new addition to the accommodations on St. Croix. It opened in September 2004. There are special reduced rates for local residents, and discounts can be earned with referrals For more information call 340-773-1364 or visit the Web site suitebirdsofparadise.com.

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