Offering a cocktail of fair winds, sheltered anchorages and an abundance of Caribbean culture, the British Virgin Islands have long been considered an ideal sailing destination. But the wonders of this Caribbean archipelago aren’t limited to sailing. Below the surface, the archipelago’s paradisiacal waters are teeming with a colourful mix of sea life and there are dozens of shipwrecks to discover. A generous spread of mooring balls and anchorages will allow you to experience the underwater world straight from your boat. Here, we pick out the best snorkelling spots in the British Virgin Islands to help you get planning your voyage.
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The Baths on Virgin Gorda
The Baths – a collection of tremendous granite boulders estimated to be 70 million years old – is one of the British Virgin Islands most popular attractions. And it offers some of the best snorkelling in Virgin Gorda. Get ready to explore tidal pools, underwater caves and swimming holes – with lots of photo opportunities as you go. Moorings are available along the coastline for overnight stays which means you’re perfectly primed to visit in the early morning or late in the day – when the Baths are quiet.
Once known as “Man of War Bay”, the Bight on Norman Island is one of the most popular anchorages in the British Virgin Islands. The sheltered bay makes for serene, undisturbed snorkelling – the best of which can be found at the reef on the eastern part of the harbour. When you’ve finished snorkelling, swim up to the bay’s famous floating bar – the Willie T – for a well-deserved rum cocktail.
The Indians Islets
This uninhabited archipelago of islets is easy to spot on the horizon. Four pinnacles rise from the water and beneath them lie a collection of coral gardens, underwater caverns and a 15ft (4.5m) tunnel brimming with colourful marine life – including rare triggerfish and awe-inspiring rock formations. Its status as the second most popular snorkelling site in the British Virgin Islands means there are numerous mooring balls for day use – just be sure to get here early and head off when you’re finished to make room for other yachts.
Monkey Point, South of Guana Island
Snorkelling at Monkey Point is like swimming through an aquarium – with shoals of shimmering fish to keep you entertained. The underwater residents include blue-striped grunts, yellowtail snappers, yellow jacks, cuttlefish and friendly turtles. The area of untouched natural beauty is located at the southern tip of Guana Island – most of which is a wildlife sanctuary. Grab a National Park mooring ball but don’t anchor.
The Wreck of RMS Rhone off Salt Island
The wreck of RMS Rhone – a former luxury British Royal Mail steamer – is a must-visit for both snorkellers and scuba divers. Wrecked by a hurricane between Salt Island and Norman Island in 1867, the ship sank in shallow waters. Now, it makes for a fascinating historical site to navigate and you’ll see lots of marine life as you go – with the sunk vessel serving as a shelter for everything from giant moray eels to turtles.
The Chimney off Great Dog Island
The Chimney was reportedly Jacques Cousteau’s favourite spot to observe the colourful marine life of the Caribbean – therefore, you know it must be good. The site is located off the western shore of Great Dog Island in the north of the British Virgin Islands and has plenty of mooring balls. The colourful underwater world is populated with cup corals and friendly sea life – including shrimps, anemones and parrotfish.
White Bay on Jost Van Dyke
White Bay – located on the southern side of Jost Van Dyke Island – is the perfect spot for a day of underwater exploration. The idyllic beach which backs onto lush jungle is protected by a snorkelling reef abundant with coral gardens. A bonus is the scattering of beach bars along the shore – including the Soggy Dollar Bar, which is famous for creating the original Painkiller cocktail.
The Caves on Norman Island
Rumoured to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the Caves on Norman Island sparkle with sea life. Orange cup corals and red sponges cover the cave walls at the base of the cliffs with schools of fish flitting around them. Keep an eye out for lobster, tarpons and pelicans on the lookout for their lunch, but swim carefully – the tide can be strong.
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