British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

The beautiful reefs are home to some underwater shipwrecks in the British Virgin Islands, offering some amazing dives in clear blue water.

The British Virgin Islands or Virgin islands as they are also called were a pirate haunt in the 17th Century. This caused conflict between many European countries before Britain took control of the area. They are one of the last remaining territories for Britain overseas. They are over 50 islands in total with just four principal islands located east of Puerto Rico. Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Josh Van Dyk make up the main destinations.

The British Virgin Islands offer some beautiful scenery both on land and underwater. With excellent visibility, the dives provide large schooling fish, reefs and some exciting and famous wrecks. Shark diving is of course an activity here with many nurse sharks as well as goliath groupers, turtles and morays present.

The islands are also home to the BVI Spring Regatta as sailing is a big part of the culture along with snorkelling, diving and fantastic beaches. All Star Cuan Law is a custom designed 32m trimaran and is the only liveaboard operating in the British Virgin Islands at this time.

Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.

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Diving in the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands have some famous dive sites most notably the RMS Rhone which is classed as one of the best wreck dives in the world.

Although they are best known for sailing the BVI does have over 100 dive sites which include coral gardens, canyons, tunnels and wrecks that are all teeming with life.

Most of the islands and cays are located in the Sir Frances Drake Channel and are shallow in the 2 to 15m depth range, only a few are between 18 and 25m. The dives do not have currents and are completed as a back to boat navigation in most cases, meaning plenty of time for underwater photographers and newer divers alike.

Best Places to Dive in the British Virgin Islands

Apart from the Virgin Gorda area, the BVI dive sites are suitable for all levels of divers.

In Tortola, the RMS Rhone shipwreck of Salt Island is the most famous.

Norman Island, Pelican Island and Deadchest Island are ideal for beginners, and Blonde Rock is a seamount with plenty of action.

Virgin Gorda and Dog Island have archways and canyons with some larger pelagic life.

The Chikuzen wreck is for experienced divers as is Invisibles which are submerged pinnacles with currents present.

Best Dive Sites in the British Virgin Islands

RMS Rhone Wreck

Generally considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the world, the Rhone is a steamship commissioned by the Royal Mail that sank in 1876 after encountering a hurricane. Now split into two parts as the boiler exploded, the stern is at 10m while the bow sits at 24m. Located off Salt Island, she is impressive and surprisingly well preserved, with the propellor at 5m she is an impressively large vessel at 95m in length. Coral covered, she has several areas that can be penetrated and fish swarm her structure.

The Aquarium

South West of Virgin Gorda this is also known as Fischer’s Rock and is a haven for some of the largest schools of fish found in the BVI. One of the prettiest dives in the area, this shallow water site has pillar coral formations with sponges that coat the rocky substrate. The small caves and nooks that were formed by the volcanic action provide the ideal habitat for the many macro species that reside there. Stingrays, nurse sharks along with snappers, tangs, angelfish and many more make up the fish species seen here.

Chikuzen Wreck

She was a Korean Refrigerator vessel base in St Maarten that serviced the Japanese fishing fleets. On hearing of a hurricane warning in 1981, the owners decided it was the ideal way to ‘get rid’ of the unwanted vessel that lay abandoned for the previous two years in the harbour. She was set alight and put adrift, but did not sink immediately, after drifting into BVI Marina Cay she was towed out to sea and eventually sunk off Tortola’s Northwest coast.

Now sitting in 75m of water she is an artificial reef only surrounded by sand, so attracts plenty of marine life. A challenging dive due to the isolated area and swells this is for advanced divers. Schooling barracuda, jacks and snappers are regularly seen with stingrays, eagle rays, nurse and reef sharks. She is encrusted with sponges and also attracts turtles and Atlantic spadefish, there is also a huge resident goliath grouper.

Kodiak Queen - Dive with a Kraken

The newset wreck in the BVI is one of 5 vessels to survive the attack on Pearl Harbour and was sunk in 2016 with the assistance of Richard Branson. The former Navy Fuel barge was rusting in a junkyard before being rescued and turned into an artificial reef now sitting at 18m off long Bay in Virgin Gorda.

The British Virgin Islands have colourful corals, great marine life along with warm air and water temperature year around, making them an ideal place for a scuba diving liveaboard. For more information about British Virgin Islands Dive Sites, please click on the photo.

British Virgin Islands Diving Destination Sites

British Virgin Islands Scuba Diving Highlights

  • Common sightings - Barracuda, snappers, stingrays
  • Special sightings - Reef sharks, nurse sharks
  • Topography - Reefs, wrecks, canyons and caves
  • Visibility - 20 to 30m
  • Certification recommendations - Suitable for beginner divers with a few exceptions

Best Time to Go

This is a year-round destination with seasonal variations.

September to November offer excellent value with fewer crowds and the end of the hurricane season.

December to February is sunny with little rain, but the costs also rise for room rates in hotels.

March to August offers good weather and is regatta season. For divers this is a good time to visit as visibility is at its best. July there can be rain, and it indicates the start of the hurricane season until the end of summer.

Air temperatures vary during the year as do water temperatures so the wetsuit choice can change between a 3mm shorty to a 5mm long suit.

How to Get There

The liveaboard cruises depart from Tortola, and the international airport is Terrence B Lettsome. Flights are generally via San Juan Puerto Rico, and there are many international flights to that airport. An alternative is to go to St Thomas and then take a ferry to Tortola. Connecting local flights are available from many of the other Caribbean islands.

Country Information

Currency

Visa

Local time vs GMT

Language

Airports

Religion

What to pack

Average temperature

Food and drink

US Dollars (USD)

Varies depending on nationality

- 4 hrs

Language

Lettsome International Airport (EIS)

Christian

Beachwear, cover up, suncream, light fleece for the evenings

18 - 31 C daytime, 21 - 24 C evenings

Seafood, chowder, flatbread, pâté and fruits