The British Virgin Islands whose main islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke are known as “Nature’s Little Secrets.” With little desire for mass tourism, The BVI has remained an escape from the bustling souvenir shops and glittery nightlife associated with so many Caribbean islands. The pure waters also provide a perfect setting for unparalleled diving and snorkeling adventures. Over the last 400 years, many boats have sunk in this area. The combination of reefs and wrecks makes for excellent diving, whether you are an experienced diver or a beginner.
Best Diving Destinations in British Virgin Islands
Most of the diving is done off the islands and the rocks in the Sir Francis Drake Channel – with Anegada being a notable exception; some 300 wrecks adorn its shores. Sites are numerous and undisturbed ensuring high visibility and lush coral reef formations. Diving is personalised, flexible and quite lengthy – most dives are between 20-80ft (7-27m) allowing greater submerge times.
Arguably the Piéce de la Resistance of diving in the BVIs is the wreck of the RMS Rhone. One of the most famous wrecks in the whole of the Caribbean this 310ft (103m) iron hulled steam/sailor was destroyed by a ferocious hurricane between Salt Island and Peter Island in 1867. She weighed in at 2,738 tons and had a beam of only 40ft (13.3m). In her day she was considered fast and could average a speed of 12 knots. She had a complete sailing rig for auxiliary power and had a large propeller instead of a set of paddles. She was sleek but strong and was expected to serve around 50-75 years. In her day, she was state-of-the-art. Her design and compartmentalised hull was a basic forerunner of the RMS Titanic’s.
On the 29th October, 1867, she was driven on to the rocks off Salt Island by a sudden, late-season hurricane; she was ripped open like a giant tin can and water gushed in, causing her massive boilers to explode. This blew the ship in two and she sank immediately. Of the 171 aboard, 150 died. Diving on the wreck of the Rhone is both a fascinating and humbling experience, with much of the larger sections of the ship still intact including anchor, mast, hull – even the Crow’s Nest. Her bow section lies in about 75ft (25m) of water and her propeller at about 30ft (10m). It is an immense testament to the brutal power of Nature, and a sobering reminder of man’s vulnerability.
One would be very much remiss however to forget about the diversity and quality of other dive sites in the BVIs – they are all magnificent in a different way and should be visited. Big tarpon, barracudas and sharks are particularly impressive, especially around the wreck of the Chikusen Blond Rock, Santa Monica Rock and the Invisibles are teeming with smaller fish including seas of fry that swim like sheets of ice above you.
When to Visit British Virgin Islands
Visibility is normally in the 60 to 100ft range, with occasional days of 120ft at some dive sites. The water temperature stays between 80 and 84°F most of the year, dropping to around 77°F in the winter. Dive skins are the favorite apparel here but a shorty wetsuit will probably keep you comfortable any time of the year.