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BVI Dive Sites & Best Rendezvous Points

(Sites are listed alphabetically.)


ALICE'S WONDERLAND

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 30-70 FEET (10-18 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED
 

Just off the dramatic rocky ledges of Ginger Island is a lush garden of Star Corals and Brain Corals. Huge mushroom-shaped coral heads adorn the long fingers of reef that protrude out from the shoreline. The coral here is healthy and happy and offers shelter to many unusual inhabitants. Extremely large pufferfish have been spotted here as well as Barracuda, colorful Parrotfish, Squirrelfish, Angel Fish, Rock Beauties and schools of snappers that hover in formation.

Known for its clear, blue water, visibility here often exceeds 100 feet. Spotted Eagle Rays, Southern Stingrays, Hawksbill Turtles and Crevalle Jacks are not uncommon.

The sandy bottom starts at about 80 feet and divers can swim up into the many rocky ridges and sandy canyons that will surprise with every turn. The reef is beautiful at all depths...you'll want to wind your way up the canyons so you don't miss a thing. Check under the ridges for huge lobster and sleeping Nurse Sharks.

 

ANGELFISH REEF

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 15-70 FEET (5-21 M) LEVEL: NOVICE-ADVANCED

 

On the lee side of Norman Island is a spectacular rocky maze of canyons and ridges that finger off into the sandy bottom. It will be a tough decision to set your camera up for wide angle or macro because there is so much opportunity for both. Large sharks have been spotted here, as have sleeping Nurse Sharks, and large green eels. There are lobster here that are so big, you'll be reluctant to get too close! On the smaller side, tiny crabs, baby eels and stealth shrimp can be found living in the many anemones.

At night this reef comes alive with vibrant color. The delicate orange ball anemone can be found under protected ridges near the sandy bottom.

Don't miss out on the tiny critters that lurk on the sandy bottom and in the grassy area. The stingrays are easy to spot, but you'll need to look close to see the many beautiful species of shrimps, anemones, and crustacean.

 

THE BLINDERS

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 50 FEET (15 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

The Blinders, just around the corner from the famous Baths, is like diving the Baths' gigantic boulders in 35 feet of water. Huge boulders are heaped everywhere, covered on the tops with soft corals and Fire Coral and on the bottom with sponges and Orange Cup Corals. There are lots of swim-throughs and interesting overhangs harboring snappers and squirrelfish. Several of us enjoyed another Nurse Shark encounter but we were most fascinated by a Hawksbill Turtle that nonchalantly munched sponges right in front of us.

 

BLONDE ROCK

Rendezvous: Cooper Island, Peter Island

DEPTH: 10-65 FEET (3-1 8 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Located between Dead Chest and Salt Islands, Blonde Rock offers good visibility, lots of big fishes, fascinating topography, a taste of adventure, and photo opportunities galore. Blonde Rock is a set of two pinnacles, out in the middle of nowhere, that rise from 60 feet to within 15 feet of the surface. Occasionally current-swept and the only topographic feature of any significance in the Salt Island Passage, Blonde Rock is a natural magnet attracting all kinds of marine life including turtles, schools of jacks, cobia, barracuda and even the occasional shark. The twin fire coral-encrusted peaks (hence the "blonde" designation) rise from a gorgonian-covered plateau at 35 to 40 feet. All the way around this sheer-walled plateau is an amazing system of undercuts, ledges, canyons, tunnels and companion rocks. With a flashlight, the brilliant colors of the sponges, coralline algae and cup coral will leap out at you. The craggy upper lip of the wall is adorned with sea fans, deep-water gorgonians and a strange green-stalked colonial hydroid. After fully exploring the extensive undercut and the bowl itself, with its school of brilliant yellow French grunts, climb out of the back of the bowl and stop at the pit right at the edge. A small cave in the back of the pit hosts a perpetually spiraling school of glassy sweepers.


Seen here: blackbar soldierfish, schools of chub, horse-eye and bar jacks, creole wrasse, tomtates, coneys, parrotfishes, angelfishes, triggerfishes, pelagics, glasseye snapper, graysby, large crabs.

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

BREWERS BAY PINNACLES

Rendezvous: Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 25-110 FEET (8-33 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

An enjoyable summer dive when there's no north swell, Brewers Bay Pinnacles is located just off the western tip of the bay. It's too far from the beach to be dived as a shore dive. The massive pinnacles are of varying height and bulk. They rise steeply from the ocean floor, some of them come within 30 feet of the surface. The gaps between the sheer granite structures comprise a confusing maze of alleyways, dead ends and narrow passages. The rocks are covered with deep-water gorgonians, sea fans and fire coral. Large jacks, eagle rays and turtles are often spotted by the observant diver. Amid the rocks and reef look for lobsters, skittish queen angelfish and white spotted filefish.

 

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BRONCO BILLY'S

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 15-50 FEET (5-15 M) LEVEL: NOVICE TO ADVANCED

 

Situated at the northwestern tip of George Dog, Bronco Billy offers a meandering course of coral ridges and corresponding canyons. Two coral archways lead into the canyons. Follow the canyons and the bottom topography around the tip of George Dog into a large steep-walled box canyon and boulder field. Swing a little wider around the tip of the island on your return trip, and you should find the other coral canyon that will lead you back to the second archway. Large pillar coral formations grace the site, but the highlight is the arches. When lit with a diver's flashlight or a photographer's strobe the colors just explode. The brilliant reds of the encrusting sponges and the oranges of the cup corals, combining with the lavender of other sponges and the lacy frill of hydroids, makes for a Technicolor extravaganza. However, without a light or strobe there is nothing there but shadow and muted colors.

 

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BROWN PANTS

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 10-40 FEET (3-12 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

The south shore of Norman Island is compelling in its primitive beauty: rugged cliffs descend into the breaking surf, long tortured fingers of rock reach out just beneath the surface of the sea, and nowhere can the hand of man been seen. It's a world away from the yachting lifestyle found on the other side of the island.

 

Many years ago, when Annie and Duncan Muirhead were running Misty Law, the first live-aboard in the BVI, they were exploring this point as a possible dive site. Several large bull sharks rounded a corner and chased them back to their boat, and the site was named.

 

The point rises abruptly from the flat, almost barren sea floor. The water is usually clear here. When you first descend, look out into the blue for turtles and eagle rays. Then move up shallower, toward the underwater cliffs. Small gangs of curious barracuda loiter outside the rocks. The dive consists of exploring the numerous canyons and grottoes that are defined by the network of ridges extending from shore. There is a large open cave in one of the canyons. A dive light will reveal all the glorious brilliant colors of the encrusting sponges that grow in the shadows.

 

Seen here: large white spotted filefish, Black durgeon, schools of palmetto, queen angelfish, turtles, eagle rays, barracuda

 

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CARROT SHOAL

Rendezvous: Norman Island, Peter Island

DEPTH: 15-60 FEET (5-21 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

 

Carrot Shoal, off the southwest tip of Peter Island, is another open water site with all the adventure, superior visibility and big fish encounters this promises. Carrot Shoal is shaped like a railroad train parked on an underwater platform. The platform rises abruptly from a 60 to 70-foot bottom and levels off at 40 feet; then the shoal itself rises straight up to scratch at the surface. It's quite narrow and extends for several hundred feet. It is cut through in several places, which gives it the appearance of separate railway cars. Spend the time to fully investigate the abundance of creatures living under the ledge on the edge of the platform: large green moray eels, tiny fairy basslets and reclusive lobsters. Toward the far end of the formation a large overhang rears up. Beneath it look for the uncommon long snout butterflyfish, as well as colorful Spanish and spotted lobsters. Past the end of the "train" there is a lovely low archway worthy of the side trip.

 

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CARVAL ROCK

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 15-90 FEET (5-27 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Sitting outside the gap between Cooper and Ginger Islands, Carval Rock looks a little like a Caravel sailing ship of days past. Look for green morays and lobsters along the ledges that fall away from the rock. Closer to Carval is a jumble of huge boulders. Schools of fishes loiter in the shadows. Large white spotted filefish, groupers, queen triggerfish and durgeon move about the openings to the recesses between the boulders. Lots of fire coral and attendant jewelfish, redlip gobies and damselfishes cover the tops of the boulders. Barracudas and occasional mackerels and kingfish are in mid-water. Sponge-covered boulders, schools of French grunts and blue tang, as well as large trumpetfish hiding in the waving gorgonians, are to be found. Spotted drums and highhats lurk in the shadows beneath the boulders.

 

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THE CHIMNEY

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 15-45 FEET (5-14 M) LEVEL: NOVICE (WITH GUIDE)

 

Tucked into the northern corner of the bay on the western side of Great Dog, the Chimney is really two sites in one. Directly below the moorings, in 30 to 40 feet of calm protected water, are several massive coral heads rising up from a sand and rubble bottom. This is the Fish Bowl, so named because of the many friendly fishes abiding here. The yellowtails, sergeant majors, parrotfishes and other fishes have been fed by so many divers that, just like Pavlov's dogs, they are conditioned to the sound of Velcro. Open a BC pocket, and zoom, you'll be surrounded by a mass of finny mouths all looking for a handout.

 

To find the Chimney pass through the Fish Bowl heading towards the northern shore of the bay. Take the time to explore the several canyons and ridges that run parallel to shore. Work your way around the point. At a depth of around 45 feet or so, cut back and follow a canyon back towards shore. This should lead you under a large beautifully encrusted archway encrusted with cup corals and brightly colored sponges. Once through the arch you'll enter a steep-walled narrow corridor which ends with two huge rocks almost touching. The narrow slot between these two boulders is the Chimney, so named because of its resemblance to a rock-climbing formation of the same name. Before exiting through the slot take the time to look around at all the marine life on the walls. A dive light will reveal all the brilliant hues and hidden creatures-little shrimp, spotted rock lobster, anemones and a rainbow of sponges. The unusual white sponges adorning the walls resemble wads of chewing gum. If the Chimney slot looks too narrow for you, it is possible to swim out over the top of it. Once through the Chimney there are a couple of canyons along the cliff face worth exploring as you work your way back through the Fish Bowl to your mooring.

 

There are lots of less visited canyons and rock formations hidden here. You can also explore the base of the cliff further back into the bay. The bottom is covered with stones rubbed round and smooth from years of rolling in the winter surge. Among these stones is a wealth of tiny marine creatures such as brittle stars, baby flame scallops and an occasional scorpionfish. This is also an excellent place to snorkel.

 

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CORAL GARDENS (AIRPLANE WRECK)

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 20-50 FEET (6-15 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

Coral Gardens is a nice quiet dive site tucked into the eastern tip of the south side of Great Dog. As the name suggests, Coral Gardens boasts large beautiful coral formations. These consist primarily of mounds of boulder star coral and great star coral, well embellished with brain corals, tube sponges, sea fans and gorgonians. Under the overhangs look for lobsters, spotted drums and assorted grunts and snappers. Out on the sand stingrays, schools of sennet, occasional turtles and blacktip sharks, as well as the very unusual flying gurnard have been seen. Otherwise, count on goatfish, lizardfishes and sand filefish.

 

A recent addition to the dive site is the remains of Atlantic Air BVI's Shorts 360 airplane. In 1993, after making an abortive take off, their one and only aircraft landed in the water about 200 feet off the end of the runway. No one was hurt, but after the airplane was refloated from 30 feet of water it languished hidden in a hangar for many months before being used as a movie prop in a BBC film. It eventually found its way out to Great Dog where it was sunk as part of the BVI's continual artificial reef program. The plane, without wings or tail, sits in the sand patch in about 50 feet of water.

 

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DEADCHEST NORTH (CORAL GARDENS)

Rendezvous: Cooper island, Peter Island

DEPTH: 15-35 FEET (5-1 1 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

Coral Gardens is a friendly site on the northeast side of Dead Chest Island. There are scores of large coral mounds capped with beautiful and healthy formations of brain, star and sheet corals. Filefishes, chub, large snappers and barracuda patrol the mid-water realm, while goatfishes, grunts, damselfishes and squirrelfishes inhabit the reef structure along with large sea fans and beautiful gorgonians. Numerous overhangs host brightly colored encrusting sponges and jawfish live in burrows in the sand. Closer to shore there is a long overhang.

 

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DIAMOND REEF

Rendezvous: Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 10-35 FEET (3-11 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

Diamond Reef is a friendly little reef just right for brand new divers or snorkelers, and perfect for a quiet afternoon spent puttering around underwater. It is an exquisite night dive. Out in the sand, adjacent to the reef, is a colony of garden eels. These often over looked residents of the sand flats look like a field of sea grass waving in the breeze. Just the head and upper body of these pencil-thin eels protrudes from a permanent burrow. Approach too closely and they will, almost imperceptibly, slip back into their burrows and disappear. Stretch out on the sand and crawl right up to the coral for an intimate and prolonged observation of all the tiny creatures inhabiting a single coral head. You can get within inches of the coral without touching or damaging it by coming in slowly on the sand. After you've ambled down the reef for a while return to your boat along the top of the reef, looking for blue chromis, tiny wrasses and parrotfishes.

 

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DRY ROCKS EAST

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 25-85 FEET (8-27 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

A barely breaking ridge just east of Cooper Island, Dry Rocks East juts out into the channel between Cooper and Ginger Islands, and acts as a natural focal point for piscine activity. It is an open water site with generally good visibility and the promise of large pelagic fish. The trade off is rougher conditions and occasionally strong currents. Looking out into deep blue water watching schools of large jacks or permit sweep by, you'll know that you're at a major underwater crossroads.

 

At the bottom of the mooring line there is a car-sized boulder and under it a large collection of highhats. Looking up the craggy rock face to the breaking surf on the surface you'll spot barracuda, schools of jacks, whitespotted filefish, pufferfishes and black durgeons. In the scattered rock debris on the bottom, look for various small groupers such as hinds and coneys, and parrotfishes and trunkfishes. There are a few huge boulders scattered around as if they rolled down off the ridge. Under the first one, in addition to beautiful encrusting sponges and fans, a mixed school of goatfishes and grunts resides. The sea floor slopes down away from the ridge and if you follow the schools of Atlantic spadefish or the big French angelfish, you'll be in 80-90 feet of water before you know it.

 

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GINGER STEPS

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 35-100 FEET (11-30 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

 

Ginger Steps is composed of a series of huge ledges cascading down from the shallows to 100 feet. The visibility here is normally very good. Beautiful tube sponges and sea fans grace the leading edges of the tops of the ledges. Below, look for squirrelfishes, small grunts and damselfishes. The sand between the drop-offs is so brilliantly white that the whole site seems to glow. Down deeper, schools of pale snapper and grunts congregate in the hollows between the corals. Barracudas and juvenile angelfishes loiter around the tiny coral heads scattered in the sand beneath the mooring.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

THE INDIANS

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 20-65 FEET (6-18 M) LEVEL: NOVICE-ADVANCED

 

Near Norman Island four rocky peaks jet up from the ocean floor to break the water's surface. These pinnacles are called the Indians.

 

These rocky formations are quite spectacular when viewed from the 50 foot sandy bottom. The beautiful colors of the lavish corals and sponges contrast with the rocky ledges and steep walls that rise to the surface. The bright sun streaks its rays across the swell and creates some spectacular photo opportunities. This entire dive can be done in one tank, however you'll be wishing you had more time to investigate the many passageways. On the east side of the rocks you'll find a large cave filled with Glassy Sweepers.

 

A saddle at about seven feet between two of the rock pinnacles gives access to a broad, shallow pool. Follow the arched swim-throughs and you'll find yourself right back where you started. Keep an eye out for Hawksbill Turtles on the deeper sections and nudibranchs in the pond.

 

 

MARKOE POINT

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 30-60 FEET (9-18 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Markoe Point lies on the lonely southeastern tip of Cooper Island, jutting out into the open Caribbean. A delightful gully runs along the point, with a sheer cliff on one side and an exquisitely undercut coral ridge on the other. Look for lobsters deep in the crevices, and schools of black durgeon and snapper out in the open. Swim around the point and cruise along the base of the cliff. It bottoms out abruptly on a sand and rock-strewn plain. Looking up the precipitous rock face you'll see thick clouds of swirling white foam as the waves break against the cliff. Along the bottom of the cliff, big solitary snappers and groupers patrol. A good turnaround point is the tall fissure that cleaves vertically through the wall. Inside lots of smaller grunts, snappers and blackbar soldierfish hide from predators. On the way back there is a shallow saddle that cuts through the tip of the point.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

MOUNTAIN POINT

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 20-70 FEET (6-21 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

Large coral heads, overhangs and sand patches are the basic reef structure here. Grunts, parrotfishes and butterflyfishes are common. Look for lizardfishes in and around the sand patches. In the summertime large tarpon can be seen sweeping through the huge schools of tiny fry. There are some caves and large bowls or grottos in the bedrock. Be careful of surge in the shallows. Experienced divers can venture through the "cow's mouth," exploring the narrow cut between the rock formations. Once on the other side, head down the steep slope. There is generally more action here. Large jacks, barracudas and maybe a ray are possible passersby. There is a colony of garden eels in the sand here.

 

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PLAYGROUND

Rendezvous: Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 15-70 FEET (5-21 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

 

From the calm sandy anchorages on the south side of Green Cay and nearby tranquil Sandy Spit, the sea floor is completely covered with hard corals and gorgonians. Parrotfishes, squirrelfishes and occasional reef squid enjoy the calm here. Look for a large formation of pillar coral and a series of huge boulder/pinnacles on the exposed north side. They are covered with marine growth: hard and soft corals, delicate branching hydroid fans, and brightly colored sponges. Overhangs are filled with fishes - sweepers, juvenile angelfishes, glassy minnows and fairy basslets. Lots of marine life live in the protected areas at the base of some of the boulders are little hollows and depressions formed between the boulder and the bedrock.

 

Schools of barracudas patrol the outskirts. Black margates and other grunts and snappers occupy the spaces between the rocks and skittishly slink away upon your bubbling approach. Turtles are often seen paddling between the pinnacles. Large dog snapper and individual jacks scour the reef searching for unwary prey. A school of horse-eye jacks hovers in the water column along with a stately eagle ray. Creole wrasse and bright porkfish add a splash of color.

 

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RED BLUFF POINT (Thumb Rock)

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 20-60 FEET (8-18 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

 

Thumb Rock is named for the large rock that stands out from Red Bluff Point, jutting from the water like a giant thumb, and the corresponding "thumb" that rises from the sea floor to just below the surface. There are ledges that undercut the shoreline as it drops away from the surface, and coral-encrusted boulders and patch reefs separated by sand areas. Large whitespotted filefish and parrotfishes cruise this area. Scrawled filefish can be found nibbling on the delicate tips of fire coral. Shy queen angelfish and more brazen French angelfish swim about in pairs, sometimes in trios.

 

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RINGDOVE ROCK

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 15-70 FEET (5-21 M) LEVEL: NOVICE TO INTERMEDIATE

 

Ring Dove Rock is a fertile garden of a sea mount hidden in a sandy area in 55 feet of water. Spiraling up and around the formation you'll swim over a sloping bottom well covered by gorgonians and healthy sea fans. There are many rocky coral heads that stand up off the bottom, whose bases and sides are undercut and honeycombed. Lurking in these coral condos are lobsters, shy juvenile angelfishes, and small moray eels.

 

Coming around the far side of the pinnacle you'll see the thick cloud of sergeant majors always feeding in the current over the top of the rock. Two sand canyons cut through the summit. Crinoids, beautiful encrusting sponges, and lacy gorgonians line their walls. The sandy bottom is pockmarked by the dens of yellowhead jawfish, as well as furrowed by the slow meandering paths of burrowing red heart urchins, upon whose bellies can be found the tiny white heart urchin crab.

 

Overall this is a very busy reef, with clouds of plankton-eaters foraging in the water column above the rock, parrotfishes and trumpetfish roaming through the velvety gorgonians, and the bottom lit with splashes of color from iridescent purple tunicates and bright golden zoanthids on red rope sponge. Gangs of butterflyfishes often follow divers around, waiting for them to inadvertently chase sergeant majors away from the purple egg patches they were guarding. The butterflyfishes then charge in as a group and feast on sergeant major caviar. The butterflyfishes are so fearless while they gorge that photographers can place the extension tube framers of their Nikonos cameras right into the melee and get great close-up shots of the fish. Rock beauties, slender filefishes and well-fed lizardfishes round out the population.

 

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SANTA MONICA ROCK

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 20-70 FEET (6-21 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE TO ADVANCED

 

Located in open water, Santa Monica Rock is an underwater pinnacle rising from the depths to within 20 feet of the surface. It is named after the Santa Monica, a 19th century wooden schooner whose belly was torn open by the submerged rock, but which managed to extricate itself, only to sink in shallow water near St. John.

 

From the south of the summit of the pinnacle a slow circumnavigation of the rock formation will reveal many different habitats: protected crevices, current-caressed points and long rocky ridges. The top is craggy and covered with delicate fire coral. There is a fascinating round "sink hole" that drops down 25 feet to a sandy bottom and is great fun to explore. The southern side of the pinnacle is a gorgonian and sea fan-covered wall. The clarity of the water, the intriguing topography, and plentiful marine life encounters make this a great dive and a photographer's dream.

 

Seen here: pelagics, Atlantic spadefish, horse-eye jacks, mackerels, kingfish, barracuda, queen angelfish, black durgeons, filefishes, fairy basslets, groupers, turtle, nurse shark.

 

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SEAL DOG ISLANDS

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 20-8O FEET (6-18 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

The bottom beneath the mooring is around 25 feet, and slopes down to about 70 feet. Pause here to look around for large pelagic fish passing through from the open Atlantic. Jacks, mackerel, kingfish and perhaps an eagle ray or two might promenade by. Along the bottom of the cliff off the northwest side of the island are fantastic rock formations made up of monster boulders and the convoluted bedrock of the island itself. Take the time to explore the myriad of canyons, swim-throughs, ledges and tiny caves.

 

There is a breaking rock just to the northeast of the two Seal Dog Islands, called Seal Dog Rock. The dive is a circumnavigation of the rock exploring the steep walls and looking out into the blue for passing pelagics. It is an exciting place to be, perched on a pinnacle situated on the edge of the Virgin Islands.

 

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SHARK POINT

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 25-8O FEET (8-24 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

The rocky southern tip of Peter Island continues underwater as a ridge rising above a fairly nondescript bottom. The area is an undersea crossroads with schools of pelagics sweeping through, mingling with the schools of residents, and then zooming off again. Visibility can be exception at over 100 feet due to the site's location in the open ocean.

 

The mooring places the boat over a shallow, fire coral-blanketed saddle on the ridge. There is a small cave just to your left as you come over the saddle. As you turn right and follow the ridge away from shore, a condo-sized rock abuts a matching-sized dog leg dent in the ridge. Here you can find shelter from the current and if it is particularly strong, this is a great vantage point to watch the schools of black durgeon, horse-eye jacks and the occasional marauding barracuda cavorting above the current-swept craggy edge of the ridge. Continuing out along the base of the ridge there is a small tunnel that cuts through it and into a canyon formed by a second parallel ridge. Queen angelfish, white spotted filefish, groupers and all the different species of butterflyfishes frequent this area.

 

Deeper, there is a series of mini-ridges. We once spotted a large jewfish and a sizable nurse shark resting on top of one another in a low archway here. This is an exciting place to scan the blue water horizon as you never know what may pass by; turtles, large jacks and even the odd shark have been sighted here. Head back to the boat, hugging the lee side of the ridge to avoid any current.

 

Virtually a second separate dive site is the maze-like system of alleyways and caves that pockmark the shoreline in less than 20 feet (6 m) of water. There is one cave with five separate entrances. But diving here requires flat calm conditions and advanced buoyancy skills.

 

Caution. This is an advanced dive because it is exposed to the prevailing swells and sometimes has strong current. Snorkeling should only be attempted in the shallows on calm days by experienced snorkelers.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

SPYGLASS WALL

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 10-60 FEET (6-18 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

This is a friendly mini-wall on the north shore of Norman that parallels the shoreline and drops steeply from 20 feet on the top to a fine sand bottom at 60 feet. It is named after Spy Glass Hill on Norman Island where pirates once kept lookout for laden merchant ships. The wall is festooned with large sea fans and beautiful purple tube sponges. Many little fishes, such as damselfishes, wrasses, and tobaccofish can be found along the bottom of the wall and tucked into little holes in the reef. Don't forget to look out into the blue water on your left where you might catch a glimpse of an eagle ray, turtle, tarpon, spadefishes or at least a stingray foraging in the soft bottom. Returning to the mooring along the top of the wall where there is good snorkeling, you're likely to see schools of blue tang converging on the bottom to graze on algae, as well as squid in mid-water and houndfish near the surface. In the shallows are colossal coral heads capped by magnificent sea fans.

 

Seen here: schools of small grunts, gobie cleaning stations, houndfish, damselfishes, wrasses, tobaccofish, eagle ray, turtle, tarpon, spadefishes, stingray, schools of blue tang.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

THE RMS RHONE

Rendezvous: Cooper Island, Salt Island

DEPTH: 15-85 FEET (5-25 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE- ADVANCED

 

The Royal Mail Steam ship was commissioned for the Royal Mail Packet Company in 1865 to carry mail and passengers from England to the Caribbean. More than 300 passenger cabins were included within her 310 foot length. Its design was unique, for it had both sail and steam power with one of the first steam-driven cast propellors. Captain Woolley, the Captain on the day, decided to anchor in Peter Island's Great Harbor due to an outbreak of yellow fever in St. Thomas.

 

On the morning of October 29th, 1867 he awoke to barometers falling fast and dark black clouds over Tortola. As it was October and hurricane season was thought to be over, he assumed it was just an early winter storm. Captain Woolley told the crew to fire up the boilers just in case and when the storm hit he needed full ahead even at anchor to hold position. The fearful roar of the hurricane blew howling winds from the North Northwest. A lull came - or as we know it today "the eye of the hurricane". Captain Wolley tried to make a break for open water away from the rocks and land. He headed out between Peter and Salt Islands. Most people onboard couldn't swim so crew were ordered to tie in all the passengers (sealing their fate). The second part of the hurricane hit with black skies and huge seas. Captain Wolley like all good English Captains had a cup of tea with a dash of rum, stirring it with his silver spoon as he navigated his ship through the channel past Salt Island. The rain was blinding so he tried to get a better look outside when a big wave washed him overboard off the bridge. He was never to be seen again.

 

Rhone was slowly pushed toward the rocks and finally hit Black Rock Point. The cold water hit the hot boiler causing a big explosion splitting the Rhone in half. The stern sank in 35' while the bow drifted slightly deeper into 80'. The vessel now rests in two main sections off Salt Island, near Black Rock.

 

Today the Rhone is considered to be one of the world's best wreck dives. It is rated number one in the Caribbean.

 

At least two dives are needed to cover both the bow and the stern sections of the Rhone, but you'll want to do more. The entire bow section, including the sharp prow, mast and lifeboat davits, can be seen from the surface. At 80' the deeper bow section is dived first. As you descend down toward the ghostly image you'll be greeted by huge schools of Sennets and a large barracuda. Still mostly intact the cavernous interior can be entered from several points near the forward mast. Inside, the hull is coated with Orange Cup Corals and school of grunts, accompanied at times by a variety of jacks and the resident Barracuda fondly known as "Fang". Scenes from the movie "The Deep" were filmed here.

 

The second dive of the day is on the shallower middle and stern sections. The stern section is more broken up, but the structure of the ship can be easily traced by following the drive train from the massive shallow propeller. Scattered across the bottom are boilers, deck supports and other pieces, many holding fascinating relics of the ship such as tools or silverware, including the silver spoon Captain Wolley used to stir his tea. The holds are lined with Orange Cup Corals and filled with schools of snappers and jacks. Nearly every solid surface of the wreck is covered with a kaleidoscope of corals and sponges. At night the cup corals and sponges turn the main compartment into a kaleidoscope of orange and yellow.

 

RAINBOW CANYONS

Rendezvous: Peter Island, Norman Island

DEPTH: 15-60 FEET (5-9 M) LEVEL: NOVICE

 

This is an ideal dive site for beginner and advanced scuba divers and has a spectacular array of coral formations. Rainbow Canyons ranges in depth from 20 to 60 feet and is home to several colonies of garden eels, a huge variety of reef fish and several nurse sharks as well! Don't miss the Rainbow Canyons when you dive the BVI!!!

 

VANISHING ROCK

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 15-45 FEET (5-14 M) LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

 

Vanishing Rocks is a very healthy shallow reef due to the currents that sweep through the passage between Cooper and Salt Islands. These currents, which when strong can make the site undivable, nurture its many species of corals and support a large population of reef fishes. The underwater ridge extends off to either side of the breaking pinnacle and is surrounded by lesser formations pockmarked with overhangs, ledges and undercuts. Descending from the boat will place you on a slope covered with gorgonians and small barrel sponges. Closer to the pinnacle there is a sandy area, surrounded by rocks and ledges. This is a great place to lie down on your belly, get your face in close and leisurely observe the inhabitants such as anemones and shrimp, jawfishes, and blennies. Thick delicate coral growth, lobsters, and occasional sleeping nurse sharks can be found here. Along the deeper water a little further out and you'll reach Sergeant Major City, a large multi-spired formation of pillar coral that is positively overflowing with fish life. Sergeant majors of course, but also squirrelfishes, grunts and bigeye snappers reside here. A little further along is an outlying pillar coral formation called, you guessed it, Sergeant Major Suburbs. Hugging the edge of the rock will bring you to a series of overhangs where a large green moray eel is often spotted.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

VISIBLES

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 10-80 FEET (3-24 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Off the southwestern tip of Cockroach Island a pinnacle comes within a dozen feet of the surface. A large barracuda has staked out the top of the pinnacle. This slope down is thick with huge deep-water gorgonians, luxuriant -sea fans and lots of fish life. Look out into open water for eagle rays, turtles, sharks and large pelagic fishes. At about 80 feet, there is a series of ledges and then large overhangs and little caves as you come around the corner and head shallower. This area is just overflowing with fish life. There is a huge school of ghostlike bigeyes that drifts out among the boulders (similar to the glasseye snappers that hide under ledges). Highhats, angelfishes and large snappers loiter in this area. Up in the shallows next to the island, there is a fantastic maze of alleyways, tunnels, arches and monster boulders all covered with encrusting sponges, corals, hydroids and lots of fire coral.

 

Text extracted from Diving British Virgin Islands

 

WALL TO WALL

Rendezvous: Spanish Town-VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 5-65 FEET (15-20 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Wall to Wall, on the southwest corner of West Dog, was so named because the marine life there can be so abundant that sometimes it's just "wall to wall" with fish. Underneath the mooring is a sand patch surrounded by ledges and overhangs. Take the time at the beginning or end of the dive to thoroughly examine this area. Stretch out on the sand and peer deeply back into the coral and rock recesses looking for spotted rock lobster, juvenile angelfishes and lacy crinoids. There may even be a sleeping nurse shark tucked in, with just its tail sticking out or perhaps an octopus changing colors as it scurries along the reef. The corals here are healthy because they are spared the onslaught of the wintertime north swell. To find the schools of fish, head out southwest, descending down the slope. There's a canyon that cuts through the slope, and a I little deeper at 45 feet (14 m) or so, there are some boulders and more undercut ledges. This is where the "tons o' fish" are. Porkfish, blue striped grunts, squirrelfishes, bigeyes and even sergeant majors mill about this area. At times though, the schools aren't so plentiful and it's not quite "wall to wall," but only "wall ......

 

WRECK ALLEY - MARIE L & PAT, BEATA & JOEY D

Rendezvous: Cooper Island

DEPTH: 45-85 FEET (15-25 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Wreck diving enthusiasts will be thrilled to explore four wrecks in a row lying in 50 to 80 feet of water, on a sandy bottom and right next to a mini wall! Plenty of stingrays and a great opportunity for spectacular, underwater photography! You'll ask to do this dive twice, there is so much to see!

 

THE WRECK OF THE CHIKUZEN

Rendezvous: Spanish Town- VG, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay

DEPTH: 50-80 FEET (25-25 M) LEVEL: ADVANCED

 

Chikuzen was a 246 foot Korean refrigerator vessel based in St. Maarten to service big Japanese fishing fleets. It was early in 1981 when a hurricane was approaching St. Maarten. The government told the owners to move the decrepit ship so it wouldn't sink in the harbor or damage the docks. The owners thought this would be a good chance to get rid of the ship once and for all. So they set it on fire and sent it adrift, hoping it would sink just offshore. The plan went wrong and Chikuzen kept floating towards the Marina Cay area. Yacht and diving companies feared for Marina Cay's anchorage so local operators tried to fend off the ship with dive boats. This was unsuccessful. Finally, ocean going tugs were called from St. Croix and Antigua. When they arrived they were able to attach a line to pull the ship away from the islands. The line broke, badly injuring a crew member who had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. They decided to call it a day and let nature take its course.

 

The smoldering Chikuzen sunk about 7 1/2 miles northwest off Tortola. The wreck is too far out for most local shore based operators to get to. Cuan Law is the only dive boat who regularly visits this site. Diving the Chikuzen is not always possible because of its exposed location but this is a wonderful dive if the conditions are right.

 

She now serves her new purpose attracting an assortment of both pelagic and reef fish and is an excellent wreck for almost any level diver. The wreck of the Chikuzen rests in 75 feet of water far from any reef, attracting marine life like an oasis in the desert. The ship is on its port side with the starboard rail reaching up to about 50 feet. Except for the pilothouse, most of the ship is intact, with three large cargo holds that can be entered through open hatches.

 

The hull is well covered with coral and sponge growth. The possibility of encountering big pelagics such as sharks and rays is always high. In fact, one of the few Whale Shark encounters in the British Virgin Islands occurred here during a Cuan Law dive.

 

DIVING BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

 

With over 50 islands and islets, the British Virgin Islands in the eastern Caribbean offers extraordinary vacation opportunities. Uninhabited islands, sunken shipwrecks, bountiful marine life, secluded coves, treasure caves, exquisite beaches, and thickly wooded slopes await the laid-back and adventurous alike. Pristine and undeveloped, with not a single traffic light or fast food restaurant, the BVI has long been a haven for discerning divers and yachtsmen.

 

There is always a new and exciting dive site to explore, from the sunken island of Anegada, with over 300 shipwrecks, to the Dogs off Virgin Gorda; from the popular dive at The Indians to the remote sites off Jost Van Dyke. This book includes a separate chapter on the wreck of the RMS Rhone, the most famous dive in the BVI. The terrain and marine life of over 50 of the best dive sites are described in detail, and nine maps pinpoint the dive sites or the best routes for divers to follow.

 

In addition to the superb diving, an island-by-island description of the topside attractions, including beaches, parks, restaurants and hotels is given. There are also listings of dive centers, live-aboards and useful travel information.

 

Whether you are a serious diver, holiday snorkeler or an admirer of the undersea world, Diving British Virgin Islands will prove a valuable reference.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

 

Jim and Odile Scheiner have lived in the British Virgin Islands since 1979. Jim, a well-known photojournalist, has been a scuba instructor for over 20 years. Odile, originally from Ireland, made her first trip to the Caribbean by crossing the Atlantic in a 40-foot sailboat. Together they owned and operated the Rainbow Visions Photo Center & Gallery on Tortola. They taught photo/video seminars in the BVI and on their worldwide dive expeditions. Their work appears regularly in books and magazines. Jointly, they have over 10,000 dives in these waters.

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