When on a sailing holiday to the British Virgin Islands, you can’t fail to notice the luminous blue water. Jump in. The best places in the islands are in the water.
All the waters around the British Virgin Islands, or BVI, are beautiful, but there are five particular spots that are very popular and for good reason. They’re all on different islands, so you’ll need to charter a yacht to the BVI to reach them or you’ll have to join an organized group. Many dive and snorkel operators visit these sites regularly, so you won’t have any trouble booking your own trip if you prefer.
The Caves at Norman Island
On the west side of Norman Island are three large openings in the rock face that lead you into the famous caves. They reach back far enough to be quite dark once you are fully inside. Snorkelers are fascinated with the many colours of coral growth on the cave walls. In the darkness, the coral polyps come out to feed during daylight, offering snorkelers a view normally seen only by divers on night dives. The nearshore waters are well populated by brilliant tropical fish and other sea life. The shallow water speckled with sunlight is perfect for underwater photography.
The Indians at Pelican Island
Offshore of Pelican Island are four wave-washed pinnacles of rock called the Indians. There is beautiful snorkelling all around the rocks. There are so many fish, It’s like being inside an aquarium. Be careful not to get too close if there is any surge so as not to get pushed into the rocks. Scuba diving is also popular as divers can enjoy some fun swim-throughs and a cave filled with glassy sweepers, small fish with big eyes.
Diving the Wreck of the Rhone
The most acclaimed dive site in the BVI is the wreck of the RMS Rhone, which sank during a hurricane in 1867. The wreck is located just offshore of Salt Island. The ship measured 310 feet and split in half when it went down. The bow section is still mostly in one piece, sitting in about 80 feet of water, with a large open space to swim through. The stern section was spread out because, when the ship split up, cold sea water inundated the heated boilers and they exploded.
The remains of the stern are in shallower water. There is a brass porthole lying in the stern area, easily recognizable because it is considered lucky by divers, and thus it remains shiny from divers rubbing the surface of it. The Rhone gained great publicity when it was featured in the 1977 film The Deep. This is not a tough place to dive, but the bay where the wreck lies can be rough in higher winds, so seasickness can happen, especially if you do a surface interval on the boat between dives.
The Baths on Virgin Gorda
One of the most recognizable sites in the BVI is the enormous granite boulders at the “Baths” on Virgin Gorda. These huge rocks sit in this one spot, as if they appeared out of nowhere, possibly the result of volcanic activity. Water gathers under the boulders in shallow pools, cool and shaded by the rocks. There are paths you can follow between the stones and some of them have shapes that people have named for what they imagine they see there.
St. Thomas US Virgin Islands
The paths require a bit of scrambling and your legs will most definitely get wet, so sport sandals or water shoes are a much better choice than closed shoes. The rocks can be slippery for bare feet. If you go on a clear calm day, you will find the bay full of boats moored or anchored. There is also access from the land side, about ten minutes’ walk from the road. Go for a snorkel in the bay after you have explored the formations.
Jost Van Dyke, a Lifestyle on the Beach
Northwest of the main island of Tortola are the relaxed atmosphere and sandy beaches of Jost Van Dyke. This little island has only had electricity for about 15 years. The restaurants and bars in Grand Harbor are right on the beach. Hop off your boat and swim in for a cold drink or some tasty island treats. The bay is calm and sheltered, just right for a peaceful swim. You can also go around to White Bay, known for its pristine beach and picturesque setting.
A Little Corner of Paradise in the BVI
All these locations are perfect for enjoying the Caribbean as people dream it will be: warm ocean water, white sand, and sunshine, and a relaxed feeling that lets you leave your worries behind.