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Traveler’s Guide to Scuba Diving in the BVI

November 29, 2023 | Britnie Turner

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced scuba diver who feels comfortable on a dive boat, there are plenty of dive sites throughout the BVI to appeal to divers of every level. Thanks to its crystal clear waters, soft corals, and diverse and colorful marine life, the British Virgin Islands is a must-see destination for underwater exploration. 

Some popular scuba dive sites include The Wreck of the RMS Rhone near Salt Island and The Aquarium near Virgin Gorda. There are, however, more remote scuba diving spots where you can discover the magic of the BVI’s colorful coral reefs and see reef sharks and diverse fish species. No matter where you decide to dive, you’ll be greeted with warm waters and spectacular views.

Why Are the British Virgin Islands Ideal for Scuba Diving?

The abundance of dive sites, enormous growth of coral and sponges, calm waters, gentle currents, and excellent visibility make the British Virgin Islands an ideal destination for scuba divers. The BVI also has some of the most enchanting ecosystems in the world. The islands span a total land area of about 58 square miles (150 square kilometers) and comprise more than 60 islands, cays, and rocks. These islands offer a variety of dive sites, including coral reefs, shipwrecks, and underwater caves, providing a unique and action-packed experience.

In the BVI, the warmest sea temperature is around 84 °F in the summer, while the temperature can drop to 79 °F in the winter. So, while the British Virgin Islands’ water temperature fluctuates slightly throughout the year, these comfortable year-round temperatures are ideal for diving, snorkeling, swimming, and watersports in general.

Best Places for Scuba Diving in the BVI

Best Places for Scuba Diving in the BVI

There are a multitude of potential dive sites in the BVI. However, depending on your experience level, some diving spots will be more appropriate than others. It’s always best to follow the advice of a certified and experienced scuba diving instructor when identifying the best places to dive.

The majority of dive operators in the British Virgin Islands are on Tortola. However, you can find reputable smaller-scale dive operators on Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Scrub Island, and Cooper Island. If you are looking for dive gear, you can find fully-stocked retail shops on Scrub Island and Virgin Gorda.

The Wreck of the RMS Rhone, Salt Island

Divers of all skill levels can enjoy the overhangs and hiding places filled with vibrant marine life at the Wreck of the RMS Rhone. Suitable for all diving levels, novice to advanced, the Wreck of the RMS Rhone is consistently rated as one of the must-visit scuba diving spots in the BVI. This wreck is located near Salt Island but can also be accessed by boat from Virgin Gorda and Scrub Island.

A hurricane in 1867 caused the Royal Mail Ship RMS Rhone to capsize, killing 123 people. It is now one of the most fascinating scuba diving sites in the entire island chain. During your dive, you may be accompanied by swimming companions such as sea turtles, eels, and barracudas. Don’t worry; a diving instructor will be at your side to ensure a fun and safe trip.

The Aerial, BVI

The Aerial, BVI’s natural beauty is ideal for BVI visitors looking for a remote scuba diving experience. Accessible only by people staying at our health and wellness resort, The Aerial, BVI is located just off the southeast coast of Tortola, along the Sir Francis Drake Channel. It is flourishing with around 43 acres of lush island vegetation.

The Aerial, BVI is a sanctuary for all types of marine life and water-goers can enjoy many eco-friendly tourism activities during their stay. Reef snorkeling, scuba diving, and freediving can all be arranged if you would like to witness some of the most lively but secluded dive spots around the island. 

The Aquarium, Southwest of Virgin Gorda 

The Aquarium is a picturesque dive site southwest of Virgin Gorda, between The Baths and Spanish Town. This popular dive site, also known as “Fischer’s Rocks,” features a shallow reef of pillar coral formations, tiny caverns, and boulders, forming a web of fish-filled caves and dens. Divers can expect to see various marine creatures, such as blue tang, nurse sharks, moray eels, eagle rays, French grunts, and sergeant majors. 

The Aquarium is a beginner-friendly diving site with a maximum depth of approximately 35 feet. Regarded as one of the most exquisite dive spots in the BVI, it attracts some of the most beautiful populations of fish and aquatic life varieties in the island chain.

The Dog Islands

The Dog Islands are small islands known for their diverse marine ecosystems and underwater landscapes. They sit in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, six miles northeast of Tortola and roughly 2.5 miles northwest of Virgin Gorda. 

The Dogs consist of five islets, all well-known for their magnificent display of underwater life. The five uninhabited islands—Great Dog, West Dog, George Dog, and the pair of smaller islands known as the Seal Dogs—all offer different experiences depending on the scuba diver’s experience level. Here’s a closer look at some of the best scuba spots around the Dog Islands:

The Chimney and the Fish Bowl

The Chimney is located on Great Dog’s western side in the northern corner of the bay. It is so named because it has two rocky formations that come together and look like a chimney. This popular scuba-diving spot is very close to another popular scuba-diving spot: the Fish Bowl. Here, divers can take in the colors of vibrant species such as shrimp, damselfish, parrotfish, California scorpionfish, yellowtails, sergeant majors, stars, and spotted rock lobster. Moving past the Fish Bowl, divers can swim into The Chimney by navigating through a narrow canyon with walls covered in vibrant coral and sponge life. Both dive spots are considered suitable for all diving levels. 

Airplane Wreck (Coral Gardens)

Known for its stunning coral formations, scuba divers will find lobsters, spotted drums, and assorted grunts and snappers hiding in the nooks and crannies of this site’s extensive coral reef. This site also features the wreckage of Atlantic Air BVI’s Shorts 360 airplane, which landed in the water after an abortive takeoff in 1993. While no one was hurt, the plane was later intentionally sunk near the Dog Islands as part of the BVI’s artificial reef program. It remains without wings or a tail, providing the perfect backdrop for a dazzling underwater photo op. It is also considered a dive site that is suitable for all levels.

The Visibles

This thrilling dive site sits off the west coast of Cockroach Island. It is only recommended for experienced divers due to its strong currents, fire coral cover, and occasional swarm of stingrays. Sharks, tarpon, mackerel, and barracuda also frequent the area. Due to variable and changing current strengths, it’s best to visit this site with an experienced dive instructor and pay close attention to their guidance. 

Bronco Billy

Bronco Billy, situated on the northwest tip of George Dog, offers an intriguing underwater maze of tunnels, archways, and other rocky crevices to explore. Here you can discover a thriving marine ecosystem with various reef fish and species such as snappers, corrals, spotted drums, and sea breams, as well as brightly-colored orange cup coral. It makes sense that this scuba dive site is said to have been the favorite diving location of Jacques Cousteau, a French naval officer and ocean explorer.

Virgin Gorda: Kodiak Queen

This popular dive site off the coast of Virgin Gorda attracts snorkelers and divers from all over the world. It has a depth of 60 feet and is only suitable for intermediate divers. A former Navy fuel barge called Kodiak Queen is thought to be one of only five ships to survive the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was then used as a fishing boat before it was placed as an artificial reef in the island’s underwater art installation. 

The Kodiak Queen is located just offshore of Long Bay and is accessible to the public. Visitors are encouraged to book their dive in advance to ensure good water conditions and access to a tour guide who can provide an accurate description of the Kodiak Queen’s history.

Quick Tips for Scuba Diving in the British Virgin Islands

Quick Tips for Scuba Diving in the British Virgin Islands 

The British Virgin Islands offer an incredible chance to discover the mystery and magic of sea life and underwater formations. Keep the following in mind before visiting the islands for a safe and enjoyable scuba diving experience:

  • Check the current water temperature: Sea temperatures in the BVI fluctuate slightly depending on the location and time of year. It is always a good idea to check the current water temperature before planning any water activities.
  • Opt for small-group diving: Look for dive operators that offer small-group diving experiences to maximize safety and personal attention from the dive guide.
  • Look for tailored dive packages: Consider dive operators that provide packages, such as night dives, wreck dives, or advanced diving courses to suit your preferences and skill level.
  • Book a with a certified and experienced diving operator: Before going on a diving expedition, ensure the dive operator is reputable, licensed, and experienced.

Dive into the beauty of the British Virgin Islands

Shipwrecks, stunning coral reefs, and turquoise waters filled with brilliant marine life are just a few reasons why the British Virgin Islands are a paradise for scuba divers. Whatever your diving level experience, scuba diving is an excellent way to be introduced to the stunning underwater landscape. 

This picturesque chain of islands is also a great place to go swimming, snorkeling, or unwind and enjoy ocean views. So, whether you decide to go scuba diving or spend the day relaxing on the beach, you’re sure to have a wonderful time.