This is not really a question.. just what I hope is a helpful review. As my wife and I finish up another busy charter season, and, looking back at the last year, we wanted to put together a list – from our point of view – of the BVI’s greatest snorkel spots. The search for the perfect snorkel site in the BVI is always a great debate. The truth is, a snorkel site can be great one day, and downright dangerous the next. And, sites change year to year, as coral grows and recovers and, unfortunately, is sometimes destroyed from careless swimmers. Finding a great snorkel site, in the right condition, on the right day, is an art. That is one of the great values of a good crewed yacht captain. Captains have the kind of local knowledge that can only be gained by living here and snorkeling, every day.
So, with the understanding that our ranking is based on snorkeling in the right conditions, here is our new, 2014, best snorkel spots in the BVI list:
Chromis Reef is on the west side of Cooper Island. Snorkel in 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. There are 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. There is a twin-seat airplane wreckage resting in a sand patch in 35 ft. of water. Good Luck finding it.
This site gets it's name because the rock disappears most of the time, unless the tide is low. Vanishing Rock sits between Salt and Cooper Islands in a narrow passage that attracts scores of fish. Some of the "Rock" highlights include a variety of corals, shrimp, squirrelfish, and maybe a nurse shark or two.
If you're looking for some brain (coral) then make sure to stop at Coral Gardens. Located Northeast of Dead Chest Island, Coral Gardens offers onlookers jawfish, sea fans, barracuda, snapper, and of course brain. Please be advised to only snorkel Coral Gardens on very calm days. This place is also an excellent scuba destination.
The coral here is pretty much dead, but that’s not what you’ve come to Monkey Point for. Along the coastline, there are about 100 billion bait fish schooling in, around and through the rock/coral structures, and very large Tarpon are feeding on them. You can swim above, among, and under the bait fish, and watch the tarpon (and occasional tuna, snapper, jack, etc) feed on the baitfish. Last trip out we were entertained following an octopus! It’s also fun to watch from underwater as the pelicans dive in and grab a mouthful of bait fish. There were so many bait fish there this February that you could not find the big fish due to the little fish!
AKA ‘Alice’s Back Door’, this is a protected and beautiful hard coral site under the dramatic backdrop of Ginger Island. You will snorkel in 10 – 60ft of beautiful water as 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. There is also an abundance of schooling reef fish, and sometimes turtles.
Cistern Point is one of the better shallow snorkeling sites around the BVI, with a rocky sea floor and some small underwater alleys. The sea life here includes gray snappers, angelfish, and goatfishes.
Shallow boulders lead to coral then onto a sandy bottom of soft corals in approx 50 ft. 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. Look out for tarpon, turtles, eagle rays, angel fish, file fish, butterfly fish and schools of squid.
The Indians feature four cone-shaped rocks rise from a depth of 40 feet to about 30 feet above the surface. Three rocks stand together while the fourth is separated by a narrow channel. Near the bottom, a myriad of fish fill the narrow passages. Expect to see almost every variety of reef fish and crustacean, as well as schools of harmless jelly fish in the summer. Sea fans and corals of every hue dot the walls. When the sun’s rays spotlight the vibrant colors of this reef, you will know why this site is considered to be one of the best spots for snorkeling in the BVI. It is truly a spectacular site.
Loblolly Bay, Flash of Beauty
I’m talking about the site that is a mile or so down the beach from Big Bamboo. Big Bamboo’s beach offers good snorkeling, but the beach in front of Flash of Beauty is better. There’s a very old reef that protects the beach from high surf, so it’s usually pretty calm. The reef is very shallow and you’ll see immediately that it is indeed an “old reef”. It’s not deep, but it’s cavernous. You can see how the reef has grown out from the sand over many years, and how the wave action keeps the reef in check. Hundreds of ships have wrecked off the reef here—many carrying treasure, cannons, and other valuables. This reef is the favorite site of Pat Little, crewed charter captain of Miss Kitty!
Spyglass Hill and the extended snorkel around the tip of Soldier Bay
This calm and protected cove is one of the BVI’s best kept secrets. It is a favorite of the charter crew of Ocean Jedi! The looming Spy Glass Hill above was once a pirate look- out for unsuspecting galleons, who then fell prey to the unscrupulous buccaneers. 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.
The number one site in the BVI, 2014:
Nestled between the famous Baths and Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda) lies The Aquarium. Having a close proximity to the Bath's, you'll see boulders and rocks piled up all over the sea floor. There is some amazing vertical coral formations, sponges, lobsters, and possibly a nurse shark.
Capts Derek and Brenda