The British Virgin Islands are made up of Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada and more than 50 smaller cays and inlets. Neighboring the US Virgin Islands of St Thomas, St Croix and St John, collectively these Virgin Islands are known as the Virgin Islands archipelago. Located to Puerto Rico’s east, the Virgin Islands form the northern part of the Lesser Antilles and separate the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to temperate water and air temperatures, it is possible to dive in the Virgin Islands all throughout the year. Divers will find an abundance of coral species and marine life as well as some deep walls to explore. The largest and main island is that of Tortola, where at least 80% of the British Virgin Islands’ population lives. At only 12 miles in length and 3 miles in width, Tortola hosts a population of 20 000 and is the hub for most scuba diving activities. There is an abundance of scuba diving operators to choose from, so divers should have no trouble finding a dive shop to arrange an excursion.
Although inhabitants of these islands are British by nationality, the currency in the Virgin Islands archipelago is the US dollar. Tourism is a highly significant industry for the British Virgin Islands, accounting for roughly half of the economy.
During the summer months on the British Virgin Islands, visitors can expect to experience highs of 90°F, whilst during the winter months the temperature will drop to 69°F. Divers and beach enthusiasts can take advantage of warm, crystal clear seas and warm trade winds that make the BVI pleasant to visit all through the year. In fact, it’s no wonder why the British Virgin Islands are so popular with scuba divers, considering the abundance of corals and sponges as well as the high visibility.
Diving in the British Virgin Islands
The island of Tortola offers a number of sites for diving and snorkeling. Off the northern shore, Brewer’s Bay is popular with both beginner divers and snorkelers, whereas Brewer’s Bay Pinnacles is suited for advanced divers who can reach depths of around 110 feet. The site is best reached by boat due to strong currents, however it is possible to swim a fair distance from the shore to dive at this site. Divers will discover rock mazes, spirals of pinnacles, fan corals, fire corals and other types of true corals. Visitors to Brewer’s Bay Pinnacles will likely also see green sea turtles, schools of jacks and Caribbean Spiny lobsters.
Other dive-worthy sites along Tortola are located on the northwest of the island, nearby Guana Island. Grand Central is one such dive site which is suitable for technical divers only due to its strong currents and winding, descending tunnels that travels through the island itself.
Virgin Gorda is the BVI’s third biggest island and is hugely popular with tourists and divers thanks to world-renowned resorts, restaurants, dive sites and beaches. A popular dive site off the southern edge of Gorda is Blinders which presents a number of swim throughs, big sponges and vibrant corals. Divers are likely to encounter Hawksbill turtles, jack fish, squirrel fish and possibly even nurse sharks when diving this site.
Other sites off the western shores of Gorda are located around small islands known as The Dogs. Here divers will come across sites known as Bronco Billy’s, Coral Garden, the Chimney and Wall to Wall. The site known as Wall to Wall offers great overhangs to explore and is aptly named because the dense population of fish create the illusion that they are crammed in wall to wall. The site known as Coral Garden presents a myriad of marine life together with pristine reef, corals and even a purposefully sunk aircraft. The plane crashed elsewhere but was submerged in this location in 1993 to promote reef growth.
The site known as Twin Towers close to the northern shore of Little Jost Van Dyke is a very popular site that is well-worth visiting. Although the site is isolated and is only suitable for advanced divers, there are two 90-foot rocks that present some incredible sponge and coral displays.
How to get the the BVI
The main island of Tortola is home to the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, although this is commonly known as Beef Island airport, and is the hub that serves flights coming in from the US, other cities in the Americas, Puerto Rico and Europe. The airport reaches the land by way of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, although many visitors will make use of ferries or even private dive boats to reach islands beyond Tortola. It is also possible to fly from Tortola to Virgin Gorda and Anegada, or to reach the BVI from the nearby US Virgin Islands.
Tortola is the main hub for arranging diving and travel. Visitors can opt to explore the islands on day trips or make use of liveaboards or charter boats to get around. There are quite literally endless opportunities for diving thanks to the crystal clear waters, great visibility and reefs, wrecks, caverns and tunnels to explore. There are diving operators all over the British Virgin Islands where divers can rent gear and arrange day trips, and many of the operators will also offer additional watersports to make the most of your visit.