The best diving on the British Virgin Islands are found around the southern islands. The warm, clear water is home to dozens upon dozens of amazing sites that will dazzle even the most experienced diver. You could spend months exploring these islands, so we'll make it easy for you and tell you about the best ones. If we've missed one be sure to let us know; your comments and suggestions are highly valued.
Most of the diving is done from the islands of Tortola or Virgin Gorda, they're close so it's perfect for a day trip. If you're on a sailing boat, and still wish to dive then never fear, tank delivery is here! Contact a dive centre and they will deliver tanks directly to your boat. Alternatively, you can organise a 'rendez-vous' dive where the centre will pick you up, take you diving, and drop you back to your boat. How's that for service.
Other small dive centres can be found on Peter Island and Cooper Island. If you're a certified diver then you can rent tanks and explore the reef yourself. There's so much to see! Caves, caverns, chimneys, wrecks, coral gardens, huge schools of fish, sharks, rays, turtles, great macro live, loads of tropical fish and if you're very lucky, the haunting tune of a migrating whale passing by.
Most of the dives are shallow and calm but some can be subjected to current and surge in bad weather conditions. The dive centre will know what the conditions are like for any given day so if you're diving without a guide, be sure to check with the locals about the weather. April until October the weather can be unpredictable and the region is succeptable to storms, even hurricanes, although one hasn't hit since 1999.
Are you ready for wreck diving heaven? The Rhone is one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean. This 94m/310ft Royal Mail Steamer needs 2 dives to really appreciate it. Coral Gardens has an aeroplane wreck that's shallow and interesting, Wreck Alley off Cooper Island has a few scattered wrecks with lots of sea life and close to this site, also near Cooper Island is the Inganess Bay, which is a deeper dive. Fearless is an old wooden vessel off Peter Island.
Around Norman Island you'll find nice, shallow diving around the pinnacles and corals heads at Santa Monica Rock, Ring Dove Rock and the Indians where you can hunt for cool critters lurking in the cracks. Look out for rays and turtles in the canyons of Brown Pants; there's a small cave here too. Angelfish reef is where you'll see the big stuff and Carrot Shoal for a fabulous night dive. Peter Island has a few good sites including Blond Rock where you can look for sharks, Shark Point which doesn't usually have sharks but lots of pelagic fish or Black Forest, a small reef wall and black coral.
There's loads to see around Cooper Island: sandy, shallow sites great for photography such as Blue Chromis Reef and Cistern Point. Pinnacles, boulders and rocky outcrops decorate the sites of Carvel Rock, Devil's Kichen and Thumb Rock or scan the open water for big fish at Dry Rocks East. Joe's Cave is a famous site at West Dog, The Chimney at Great Dog is also some nice diving or the ridge, canyons and abundance of sea life at Bronco Billy's and the Visibles on George Dog.
Other sites including Rainbow Canyons at Pelican Island, Painted Walls at Deadchest Island for its colourful corals, or the coral gardens around Ginger Island at Alice's Wonderland and Ginger Steps. Time Square at Guana Island isn't dived much but the cave is worth a look if you get out there. Deep divers will enjoy Twin Towers at Great Tobago, one of the deepest dives available in the area.
So as you can see, there's enough here to keep you busy for a good few weeks, even longer if you're lucky enough to be able to spend some time here. How many of these great sites have you dived? We'd love to hear about them and share in your experiences. The wonders of the Southern Islands awaits you.
(By Kelly Luckman)
Other than the 4 main islands of the British Virgin Islands, you can set of on an adventure to explore the other 60 or so smaller islands in the south. Whether you decide to jump on a sailing boat or do a day trip, the wonders and beauty these islands hold, not only above but below the water too, means you're in for a magical experience.
Many visitor choose to do a liveaboard sailing trip to really get the most out of the many islands available. Imagine sipping a rum cocktail on a yacht as the sun sets over the water; now that's a way to spend your vacation! You can organise a trip from one of the main islands, with sail boats and motorboats available to hire with a crew from most of the major harbours. This can be an expensive way to travel so if your budget is tight then day trips are a better option.
Unfortunately most of the accommodation options on the islands are quite expensive. There's are various options on Cooper Island, a hotel on Marina Cay, and resorts on Peter Island and Saba Rock. Or perhaps you would like to hire your own private island for the night for a small sum of $12,000-$40,000! I think we'll leave that for the rich and famous.
Peter Island has some gorgeous beaches, picturesque picnic spots, great hiking and bike trails and also a small local shop to get yourself an ice cream. Escape to Cooper Island for some snorkelling or relaxing on the beach. There are no roads here or much happening so it really is getting away from it all. Pelican Island is a popular place for boats to moor and offers some excellent snorkelling. You can walk around the island but there's not much to see.
Norman Island is rumoured to hold tales of pirates and treasure, and is thought to be the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson's book 'Treasure Island'. The island is privately owned but the protected harbour called The Bight is frequented by boats and there is a small bar and restaurant, which is a lovely place to enjoy a meal. On the western edge of The Bight there are 3 caves that you can snorkel inside, but you might want to take a torch as it's rather dark.
If you're sailing around at your own leisure then you'll probably find some more hidden treasures, secluded beaches, great snorkelling spots and nice walks. You may even get a whole island to yourself! It's a place you'll want to come back time and time again and when you're there, you'll never want to leave.
(By Kelly Luckman)