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Top 10 British Virgin Islands Snorkel Sites [GUIDE]

snorkeling

photo by:Deanna Keahey
Sail Caribbean Divers provided information for this article

Snorkelling in the BVI is one of the greatest pleasures that residents and visitors have to enjoy. The sights of the world beneath the water transport snorkellers to a seemingly unexplored universe full of wonder and mystery with strange and exotic creatures.

For newbies, this uncharted territory is a huge allure, granting many expats and tourist from non-tropical climates the opportunity to boast to friends and family back home of their unique and exciting adventure.

If you are an amateur or veteran, these are the top 10 snorkel sites in the British Virgin Islands, exhibiting the grandest of visions to write home about.

Each one has something to offer and since preferences vary, this list is not in a specific order.

SALT ISLAND – Stern section of RMS Rhone – Southern end, near Black Rock

Sunk in a category 5 hurricane on Oct 29th 1867, the stern section of the RMS Rhone is a “wreck of a wreck” and varies in depth from 15ft – 80ft. The area closest to Black Rock is the shallowest part of the RMS Rhone. Two blue dinghy balls are the best for snorkellers.

What you need to know

  • This is a very popular dive site, so snorkel with care
  • Be aware of boats coming and going. Free dive at your own risk
  • The propeller & rudder post are easily visible near Black Rock. You can also recognise the propeller shaft & support, gears & aft mast with rigging
TIP: Look out for large porcupine puffer fish, lobster, schooling grunts, squirrel fish, turtles and occasionally southern sting rays and eagle rays.
RMS Rhone - BVI Snorkelling

COOPER ISLAND – Cistern Point – West of Manchioneel Bay (Francis Drake Channel side)

Two blue dinghy balls are situated close to this dramatic rocky outcrop, plus an additional mooring ball is on the west side. Shallow boulders lead to coral then onto a sandy bottom of soft corals in approx 50 ft.

What you need to know

  • You can circumnavigate the rock. Watch out for current and boats on the West side. The current has a tendency to pick up in the afternoon
Butterfly Fish - BVI Snorkelling

TIP: Look out for tarpon, turtles, eagle rays, pairings of angel fish, file fish, butterfly fish and schools of squid.

COOPER ISLAND – Chromis Reef – West side

Three mooring balls are available from close to the island to further south.

What you need to know

  • 0 – 45 ft, mostly patchy reef
  • Hundreds of electric blue chromis fish, 3 cm in length hang around above the coral. They dart in to hide when you come close
  • Some interesting overhangs which are home to squirrel fish, grunts and sometimes baby drum fish
  • The boulders in the shallows usually are good for spotting juveniles
TIP: There is a twin seat airplane wreckage resting in a sand patch in 35 ft. Good Luck finding it.
electric blue chromis fish - BVI Snorkelling

GINGER ISLAND – Ginger’s Backside – North (backside)

Green Sea Turtles - BVI Snorkelling
AKA ‘Alice’s Back Door’, this is a protected and beautiful hard coral site under the dramatic backdrop of Ginger Island. Two mooring balls are available.

What you need to know

  • 10 – 60ft, the coral formations gently slope down to a sandy bottom
  • Boulder corals such as brain & moon coral dominate, but there are also sections of stag horn and pillar coral
  • Interesting mixed coral formations are home to chromis and damsel fish and overhangs are favored by grunts and squirrel fish
  • An abundance of schooling reef fish, sometimes turtles
TIP: you may see the tail of a hiding nurse shark.

VIRGIN GORDA – The Baths – Southern Tip

Virgin Gorda Baths - BVI Snorkelling
Patchy coral reef and dramatic boulders surround this famous BVI attraction. Lots of mooring balls but get there early or late to avoid the crowds.

What you need to know

  • The are several swim-throughs and gulleys
  • Look for an overhang in approx 4 ft of water, near the southern beach and you will discover a ‘bubble cave’
  • Nice and shallow near the shore
  • Look out for peacock flounder in the sand, colourful parrot fish and feeding goat fish schools
  • Use every caution to avoid boat traffic

NORMAN ISLAND (Inspired ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stephenson) The Caves – Treasure Point, just past The Bight

Get there early, as this is a popular site. Lots of mooring balls. Several shallow water caves lead into Norman island. Some go in quite deep so a flashlight is a bonus. Originally used to hide treasure, so keep your eyes peeled!

What you need to know

  • 0 – 45ft
  • If seas are up avoid the caves due to the surge
  • Protected snorkel site
  • Coral formations around the outside of the caves are interesting, plus around the northern headland there is a shallow area which drops off
  • Look out for southern sting rays in the sand, eagle rays, barracuda, sergeant majors, schooling grunts & anemones nestled in the rocks
TIP: Watch out for fire coral and black long spine sea urchins on the rocks.
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NORMAN ISLAND – Angel fish reef – south west tip

Queen Angel Fish - BVI Snorkelling
5 ft – 65ft. Two mooring balls. A little exposed to the swell if there is any, mooring balls are close to rocks if the wind changes, but a nice gentle area to snorkel.

What you need to know

  • Steep canyons and gulley’s make it interesting to look down into
  • Away from the rocks, the area drops down into sand where you may see large southern sting rays
  • There is a cave around the back of the rocks, Southside, which is home to a large green moray and hundreds of glass fish
  • French angel fish (with yellow scales and yellow flapping pectoral wing pits), grey angels and the dramatically colorful queen angel fish, are common in this area

Creepy lobsters lurking under ledges - BVI Snorkelling

PELICAN ISLAND (near Norman Island) Rainbow Canyon

Named after the colourful sheer rock face of Pelican Island, it has two mooring balls sitting in around 45ft. It’s a protected site and usually calm, however, if the wind direction changes, boats can swing close to rocks.

It holds very interesting topography and is a great site for macro subjects such as sea slugs, Christmas tree worms, cleaner shrimps in spiral anemones and often large lobsters, lurking under ledges.

The Indians - BVI Snorkelling

The Indians – off Pelican Island

These four pinnacles are another popular site for both snorkellers and scuba divers, named after the peaceful Carib (or fearsome Arawak Indians) who occupied this Caribbean area at various times. There are lots of mooring balls available in around 35-45ft – get there early to avoid disappointment.

There is a 5th “Indian” underwater on the northern side. The southern side closest to the open ocean usually has schooling blue creole wrasse feeding with their white gulping mouths. Be cautious of fire coral in the shallowest area on the east side, closest to Pelican Island. On this side, look out for a tunnel to swim through a small cave, home to silver-sides.

Moray Eels - BVI Snorkelling

Spy Glass Hill – before The Bight at NORMAN ISLAND

This calm and protected cove is one of the BVI’s best kept secrets. The looming Spy Glass Hill above was once a pirate look out for unsuspecting galleons, who then fell pray to the unscrupulous buccaneers. With one mooring ball, it makes a nice change to snorkel along a wall. 15ft at the top, then dropping down to a 60ft sandy bottom, it’s a good place to spot eagle rays cruising along the wall.

Look out for moray eels free swimming to a new hiding place and spotted drum fish in their various stages of development. Beautiful elk horn & mushroom corals are intermittent with large sea fans.

ALREADY A SNORKELLER? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO SNORKEL? LET US KNOW BELOW!

Stephen Leslie France, Editor - aLookingGlass
Hailing from London, UK, Stephen graduated with a BA English Literature degree at the University of Southampton in 2007. Whilst employed, he completed the second draft of his 90,000 word novel ‘Fall from Grace’ among other writing projects and a variety of occupations. He is currently the editor for all aLookingGlass projects.
Stephen Leslie France, Editor - aLookingGlass
Stephen Leslie France, Editor - aLookingGlass

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