The British Virgin Islands (BVIs) represent the pinnacle of Caribbean yachting. With crystal clear waters, deserted white sand beaches and a year-round hot tropical climate, the BVIs is widely accepted to be one of the most exceptional sailing destinations in the world.
Largely uninhabited and protected by the BVI National Parks Trust, the BVIs is an unspoiled paradise where you will uncover turquoise lagoons, natural baths, shipwrecks and pristine reefs teeming with marine life.
As a result of this commitment to preserving its natural environment, the BVIs is home to some of the best diving sites in the world. Here, we head below the surface and take a look at some of the highlights.
Located to the far South-East of the BVI’s, the Indians are a set of rocky outcrops just off the shores of Pelican Island.
Perched on a bed of brilliant coral, these formations gain their name from their similarity in appearance to Native Indian headdresses. Standing roughly 50ft above the water and 50ft below, the rocks tower over the site and create a unique terrain that is perfect for underwater exploration.
Regarded as one of the best shallow dives in the BVIs, The Indians is suitable for both beginner and experienced divers alike. However, despite being a relatively simple dive, it is nevertheless rewarding. Accompanying the brightly coloured coral you will find tunnels and swim-throughs with a spectacular range of reef fish including: parrotfish, blue tangs and sergeant majors. It is also not uncommon to find rays and small sharks in this area, further adding to the beautiful diversity seen at this site.
Given its popularity however, we would certainly recommend getting there early in the morning, as it is not uncommon to see the site busy throughout the full course of the day.
The Chimneys, Dog Islands
With a depth varying from around 5-15m, The Chimneys is another popular diving spot that caters to all levels of experience. Positioned in calm and protected waters, this dive is easily accessible yet offers a spectacular topography.
Situated just north west of Great Dog Island, this unique site is made up of several canyons, ridges and caves layered in beautiful coral structures.
The Chimneys themselves are two large boulders at the end of the site that get their name from resembling a common rock climbing formation. Throughout this structure, you will find spectacular colours with anemones, sponges and brightly coloured friendly fish that are comfortable in approaching and swimming with visitors.
The shipwreck of RMS Rhone is one of the most famous and impressive dive sites in the BVI’s. Found west of Salt Island, this 150 year old ruin offers an incredible diving experience as the coral-covered wreckage is split into several pieces and scattered along the seabed at varying depths.
The stern of the ship is well suited to beginners as it is situated in shallow, tranquil waters whereas the bow is a more challenging dive and best suited to those with more experience. The whole site is teeming with marine life with turtles, barracuda, jacks, moor ray eels, and grouper all commonly spotted here.
Despite the beauty of this site, the story of former cargo ship RMS Rhone is rather tragic. During an off-season hurricane, Captain Woolley made a series of misjudgments that would ultimately lead to the majority of the passengers losing their lives. From attempting to weather the storm in the open ocean (despite being at port during the first half of the hurricane) to tying the passengers to their beds to avoid injuries, the decisions made led to severe consequences.
However, whilst the circumstances of the sinking are gloomy, the site today is a beautiful and cherished landmark of the BVI’s. Layered with brightly coloured coral, RMS Rhone is certainly worth a visit to all those looking for an exhilarating dive.
Santa Monica Rock
Positioned roughly 1.5nm southeast of Peter Island, Santa Monica Rock is a strong contender for being one of the best dive sites in the BVI’s. Boasting an incredible diversity of big fish, sharks and lobster, this small reef system is an impressive site for even the most tenured divers.
Located in the open sea, this site is only accessible on relatively calm days as the waters can be turbulent with currents and surge. As such, we would recommend that only more experienced divers explore Santa Monica Rock due to its unpredictability and depth . Nevertheless, despite its difficulty, the site is a very rewarding and highly recommended experience for those who are able to rise to the challenge.
The second shipwreck on our list, Chikuzen, is a breathtaking dive situated around 12 miles off the north coast of Virgin Gorda.
This 250ft Korean refrigerator vessel sank over 40 years ago after the government ordered the removal of the vessel due to an approaching hurricane in order to protect the harbour. The owner set her adrift and ablaze and decided to let nature take its course.
Since then, it has become home to a vast amount of diverse marine life. Covered in a thick layer of coral and soft sponges, this site is home to big rays, snapper, goliath grouper and reef sharks. A rare whale shark sighting has also been recently reported exciting the local diving community.
The Kodiak Queen
Once named the Y044, The Kodiak Queen was a former oil tanker based in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii during WWII. Incredibly, she was one of the only vessels left untouched during the Japanese bombardment in 1941. This was rather fortunate as she held up to 100,000 gallons of aviation fuel at the time.
After her service for the US Navy, she was subsequently awarded the Battlestar and retired into a crabbing trawler. Her new role would see her stationed in the harsh oceans of Alaska for over 40 years. Following this, she was moved to the idyllic climate of the British Virgin Islands where she spent her days trawling until hurricane Earl hit in 2010. This hurricane would unfortunately cause the Kodiak Queens demise and she rested on the seabed as an untouched wreck until Richard Branson purchased her and turned her into an artificial reef!
Now sitting at a maximum depth of 57ft the Kodiak Queen is an incredible adventure dive which lets you explore the mysterious interior of a vessel which a rich history. Every day she builds more coral and is slowly creating an incredible biodiverse reef, home to many exciting and wonderful creatures. Certainly not a dive to miss!
The Original Willy T’s
William Thornton bar (also known as Willy T’s) is an iconic bar in the BVI which has a long history as a floating party paradise in The Bight in Norman Island. During hurricane Irma, the original Willy T’s bar was broken off her mooring and subsequently destroyed on the rocks. She was a total write off until a fantastic team of locals had the idea to turn her into an underwater sculpture attraction and eventually a thriving artificial reef.
It is now a fun dive consisting of many steel sculptured pirates getting up to all sorts of mischief! Diving this playground always brings back memories of the enjoyable days spent on the original Willy T’s, before Irma changed the BVIs forever.
Heading to the BVI’s?
Hosting one of the most diverse marine environments in the world, the BVI’s is renowned for its wide range of outstanding dive sites. Diving in this remarkable region becomes easily accessible through a private yacht charter as it provides the flexibility to explore on your terms. Move from site to site and head under the water's surface to uncover the beauty beneath. To find your perfect yacht charter, explore our range of over 3,000+ yachts and book your dream adventure today.