Naturally the British Virgin Islands are much nicer than their
American counterparts, and are famous for their perfect sailing
waters, remote beaches and great snorkelling and dive spots. There
are also now some serious hotels, which we have had the great
fortune to stay in. The main action is on the islands of Tortola,
Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke (no relation to Dick), and
numerous smaller outcrops such as Richard Branson's Necker.
It was Columbus who first put these islands on the map: he
sailed through here on his second visit to the New World and named
the untouched islands Las Virgenes in reference to Saint Ursula and
her 11,000 attendant virgins.
The British Virgin Islands' diving ranks consistently at the top
of many dive magazine polls, and once you're there it's easy to see
why. The protected waters offer some truly excellent diving. The
wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone (voted the best Caribbean
wreck dive by Sport Diver & Rodales Magazines) lies just a
fifteen minutes' distance. Sunk in a hurricane in 1867, Rhone is
one of the best known and sought after wreck dives in the world and
starred - complete with killer moray eel - in the film The Deep.
Having been there for nearly 150 years she is now totally
encapsulated with corals.
The ship's remains are home to abundant marine life, including
yellow moray, lobster, barracuda, a school of Jack, Soldierfish,
Spotted Drum, Queen Angelfish, Cowfish, and octopus. Weather
permitting; you can also venture to the outside reefs where admist
the blue waters there is a good chance of the bigger things. The
coral reefs are in great shape (El Nino seems to have had little
impact here) and there are forests of waving fans and soft corals.
Be aware that there is also a lot of fire coral, especially at
Santa Monica Rock, so keep your hands to yourself.