BVI: Shipwrecks, corals, easy diving

From Global Adventures, LLC

The first divers may have come by boat to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), since chain of more than 60 sparsely inhabited islands and rocks is a haven for sailing enthusiasts.

Calm waters along with steady breezes culminate to make some of the best sailing conditions in the Caribbean.

What has attracted boating enthusiast for centuries is now drawing scuba divers from around the world to the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. Intact reefs, a healthy marine life, and some interesting shipwrecks can easily keep divers busy for a week.

The RMS Rhone, a royal mail steam packet ship that transported cargo between England, South America, and the Caribbean, is the flagship dive in the BVI.

The 310 feet (94 meter) long vessel was one of two ships deemed unsinkable by the British Royal Navy. Passengers liked to travel on the RMS Rhone due to her speed and 253 lavishly appointed first class cabins. A late season hurricane did sink the ship on October 19, 1867.

Today, the bow section of the ship rests in eighty feet of water. Due to her mast sticking out of the water, and her shallow depth, the HMS Rhone was deemed a hazard by the Royal Navy in the 1950s and her stern section was blown apart.

While the wooden decks have rotten away, divers can still explore the well preserved stern section. The hull is encrusted with corals, sponges, and sea fans, jew fish and barracudas are a frequent site.

The wreck was also the stage for the movie “The Deep”. Director Peter Yates shot the movie, which was based on the novel by Peter Benchley, here in 1977.

Another wreck is the 268 feet (82 meter) Chikuzen. The former refrigerator vessel went down in 1981 off Tortola’s east end and lies in 75 feet (23 meter) of water.

Barracuda, octopus, jew fish, drum fish, and schools of yellow tail frequent the wreck that can be usually seen from the surface.

While the dive site can be accessed by boat only, the excellent visibility and the abundance of marine life make the Chikuzen a favorite for underwater photographers.

Alice in Wonderland is a coral wall at South Bay off Ginger Island. It is named for its huge mushroom and gallant brain corals.

Easy dive conditions with no currents and great visibility make the wall, which starts in 15 feet (5 meters) and ends on the sandy bottom in 90 feet (27 meter), a favorite among beginner divers and photographers.

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