|My husband, Kenneth, and I have been vacationing and diving in the
British Virgin Islands since 1991. In 1992, we started taking our laptop
computer along and I sent "on the spot" dive and travel reports to online
services in the U.S. This file is an accumulation of my uploaded "live"
reports and includes information about the weather, diving, resorts, and
other BVI tidbits. You will probably notice our "evolution" of diving -
we began as new divers in 1991 and slowly "graduated" to more advanced
levels as we gained experience over the years. Now, six years later,
more than 80% of our 200+ dives have been done in the BVI - I think we've
dived every site at least twice and could probably dive the Wreck of the
Rhone blindfolded! <grin>
This log contains information about many of the dive sites in the British
Virgin Islands. Some are not moored or marked in any way, are far off the
"beaten path" and seldom found by those diving on their own. While I realize
that some folks like to "do their own thing" and would rather not dive
with a Scuba operation, we think it is an advantage because the operations
know ALL the dive sites, moored or not - and many of the best ones are
not marked in any way, shape, or form. The dive operations also know where
the fish have been hanging out lately and where to avoid currents or surge
depending on the wind direction, weather, and season.
Usually, we stay at two islands during a vacation, making a switch midway during our stay. This allows us to have two resort "experiences" and also to dive different regions of the B.V.I. In most cases, we arrive at Peter Island first, then we move to Biras Creek, Bitter End, or Drakes Anchorage in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. One year we stayed at Little Dix; sometimes we switch to Guana Island. You will find reviews of these resorts in the BVI section of this web site.
During our visits to Bitter End, we dived with Kilbride's Underwater
Tours, but we usually go out with Dive BVI which has five operations scattered
throughout the islands located at Leverick Bay, Little Dix, and the
Yacht Harbor on Virgin Gorda, Marina Cay north of Tortola near Guana Island,
and Peter Island south of Tortola. We can take advantage of multiple day
diving rates, even if we switch islands and resorts, plus we really enjoy
all the Dive BVI staff - great folks and fun to be with.
This web site about dive sites was originally ONE page with over 500 KB of photos and information ... a very long download. I have now broken it into several parts - each year of diving is on its own page and links interconnect them. This gave me a chance to add more photos taken with our underwater video camera (60 hours of film) and converted into photo images with a program called Snappy. If you visit my Main Scuba Gateway, you'll find many links to more of our photos and dive experiences. With this page, we'll start with our diving during 1992 and you'll find links to all the others at the end.
All of the message reports in this file were "bounced" out of the B.V.I.
to the U.S. through a phone node in Puerto Rico. Strangely, the very first
"online" connection I made from the islands generated very weird "data"
characters at the beginning of the message - it has never happened again,
but seems to be a great place to start...
++ 0 B1FATransfer cancelled ++ 0 Hi gang, this is your BVI reporter going on-line from Kilbrides Underwater Tours located at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda! Mike Van Blaricum, the new owner of this dive operation, has generously allowed us to use his office phone to give you some updates.
Water temperature is 81 degrees, skies are beautiful, and NO crowds. Mike's dive boat is 40', one of the most modern boats in the BVIs, built stictly for dives. Average dive trip has 8 to 12 people and there's plenty of room on the boat. Mike uses giant stride entries and a full step ladder angled for easy exits.
Will give you more information later. A big "thank you" goes to Mike
for helping us give our on-the-spot reports!
Our first day of diving with Kilbrides ended up being the Wreck of the Chikuzen, an exciting dive, unfortunately cut short by equipment problems while at 66' (full details in next message). It is a 240' freighter, was sank in 1981 and the bottom sets in 74' of water. Our second dive was at the Invisibles, another good dive in a remote area accessible only in good weather and calm seas. This site has rock pinnacles coming up out of 50' of depth to within 3' of the surface - lots of color with schooling fish, moreys, and lobsters.
Nov 02, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
HALLOWEEN DIVE FROM HELL - gremlins in the equipment
As new divers, the first scuba outting of a vacation is always a tough one for us, with time spent on equipment, reviewing SCUBA procedures, and becoming used to being underwater again. Kenny's last dive was during May in St. Lucia and I had once again "survived" the swift currents and 100' depths of Cozumel last July. We are both PADI OW divers, but I have been working on my Advanced Certification, lacking only the nav. dive. Before this trip to the BVI, Kenny had logged 21 dives and this would be my 32nd dive. I always hope to start with a shallow easy site, but it seldom happens. Kenny and I planned to go out with Kilbrides, based at the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda.
One other diver showed up and wanted to go to the Wreck of the Chikuzen, an advanced, hard to find site in open waters 7 miles north of Virgin Gorda. The weather was perfect and seas calm, so conditions were ideal. We had all dived the Rhone, so were excited to have the chance to see the Chikuzen.
While setting up equipment, Kenny's high pressure hose blew. Fortunately we hadn't left the dock and Mike had a spare on hand. Joanie, a NAUI/PADI instructor friend of Mike's, switched hoses on the way to the site, and commented on how much she liked his octopus mounted on the BC hose. He had made this change, but had not yet tried it out. (I had tried it in a pool, but prefered my traditional octopus set up.) Meanwhile we discussed (and kidded about) my new SCUDA and wondered if it would really help me clear ears and decend a little faster than usual by allowing me to sip and swallow on the way down.
We reached the site, jumped in and while doing our usual slow decent
played with the SCUDA (which didn't do a whole lot for me) and Kennys new
regulator set-up. Upon reaching the huge wreck and seeing tons of small
fish, we promptly forgot about our new "gear". We were astounded
with all the big fish that hang out at this site! Mobs of fish everywhere
-- in the wreck, above the wreck, around the wreck.
The dive leader took us into a large open section and back out; suddenly, Kenny began tugging on my tank. I figured out that it had slipped and he was trying to put it back into place. (unbeknown to me, the bottom strap was loose and the whole tank was about to float completely away). After some struggling, he strapped it back down, and we continued the dive. Next, a mouthful of salt water came into my regulator! Thinking that the SCUDA bag had broken, I tried to turn the tiny valve off. No change. By this time, I was breathing more water than air.
Fortunately, good buddy Kenny realized that I was having some kind of problem and was right in my face with his primary held out. I reached, but noticed that he had not yet put his octopus in his mouth. (Now y'all, this is when your brain starts switching over to reflex, because you are running out of thinking time and have already run out of breathing time!). I reached down, snapped my octopus out of its holder, purged and plopped it into my mouth. Air, wonderful air, but what's this? Bubbles, a storm of bubbles! Kenny disappeared behind the cloud, but I felt him reach over and grab my BC. I knew we were going up, but couldn't tell how fast! About the time I tried to dump air, we broke the surface.
From Kenny's viewpoint, he knew I had a problem but did not know what it was, quickly went to his octopus (spare regulator) in case I needed his primary since he couldn't see through the bubbles either, and knew it was past time to head up! We have no idea how fast our ascent was, knew the bubbles were rising much faster than we were, and are guessing it took between 1 to 2 minutes to go from 66' to 0'. Mike later observed that I had a left hand octopus rigged on the right side... that's right, just the way our dive instructor wanted it and pounded into our heads ALWAYS keep the primary and give up that octopus. So, it ended up in my mouth upside down...worked, but sure blew bubbles galore. I have always checked it before dives, but never noticed that it was back-*ss-wards. We found that the SCUDA valve can be positioned to take in outside water (stupid and life threatening design!), but still aren't sure what exactly happened. Obviously, I don't recommend that ANYONE try a SCUDA for ANY reason.
So, we survived... thanks to our PADI OW training which was heavy on sharing air practice... followed by quite a bit of buddy breathing. As for my reflex action of going for my octopus instead of grabbing Kenny's primary, I must give the credit to many of the messages I have read on the online services. Some folks have mentioned redundant systems and using your octopus as a backup for primary regulator failure.
The Forum messages and our PADI training discussed trying to take care of yourself, if possible, without endangering your buddy. If Kenny had managed to get his octopus in place before offering his primary, I probably would have taken it, but figured it was our only backup system while we both struggled to get to our octopi. I had left my spare air on the boat - never again. What if we had entered that large room in the wreck, Kenny's hose had blown, my tank fell off, and the SCUDA had malfunctioned all at the same time? Grim situation. Anyone ever tried to buddy breath a spare air at 66'? It would have been slightly better than nothing, but in this situation, seconds count, and every breath counts.
Nov 03, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
The next day, only Kenny and I showed up for the dives, so Mike said "where to"? Instead of telling him where, we told him what (I was still recovering from the SCUDA mishap!) - two easy dives please with lots of color and fish - something to write home about! Mike grinned, said he knew just the place and we settled back on his big boat to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and ride. We tied up at The Chimney by Great Dog Island - Max depth is only 45', but it offers coral and sponge encrusted canyons, elkhorn coral, and a great arch full of underwater critters and fish. A great dive, but the best was yet to come. Next stop was Big and Little Grottos - near Mountain Point of Virgin Gorda. Big Grotto had a large underwater tunnel leading to an open pool; Little Grotto was a smaller version of the first, but just as exciting. So ended our dives in the northern parts of the BVI - next stop would be Peter Island to have underwater adventures in the southern region near Norman, Cooper, and Salt islands.
Nov 04, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
We left the Bitter End on the North Sound Express, a 45' power boat and transfered to the Peter Island 55' cruiser at the Beef Island airport dock. The entire "resort transfer" trip took about an hour and half. Upon reaching Peter Island, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the "resident" DIVE BVI boat was a 32' fiberglass deep v-hull 6 pack. The DIVE BVI boats in Virgin Gorda are larger steel hull boats.
Before coming over here, we stopped at the Leverick Bay Dive BVI and found Roger, a NAUI/PADI instructor and one of our favorite dive leaders from last year's trip. Kenny's first dives after certification were with Roger and he generously spent quite a bit of time helping us both improve our new underwater skills.
All Dive BVI branches allow divers to drop off gear if multiple diving days are planned ahead. Peter Islands operation encourages guests to leave gear with them upon check in and the only time it will reappear is when they stroll on the boat to go diving. DIVE BVI will store it, rinse it, and set it back up. The only thing you strain is your brain trying to figure out which one of the endless dive sites to visit! :-) [This is a little different than Kilbrides who will store your gear, but not rinse or transfer it to the boat.]
On our first day of Peter Island diving, we awoke to a downpour, gusty winds, and plenty of choppy surf, and arrived at the dive shop at 9:15. Derrylyn, the manager of this DIVE BVI branch, already had our gear on board and was ready to roll.
Since it was just the three of us, we left the dive selection up to her and headed out through the rain and the waves to Angelfish Reef, a protected site just off the tip of Norman Island. I was amazed at how sea worthy the little boat was, gently rolling through the swells. Fortunately the weather cleared before we reached the mooring. As we sank into the depths, an abundance of coral, sponge, and fish of every kind appeared. We wandered through a maze of canyons, dotted with huge barrel sponge. Derrylyn is a great dive leader, taking the time to point out every little detail while madly writing on her slate. Our max depth was 60', but plenty can be seen from 10' to 80' making this a very versital diving spot.
The second site was one Kenny and I had snorkeled long ago - The Indians
- four rock pinnacles rising 50' above the water near Pelican Island. We
were so impressed with the snorkeling that we had always wanted to return
to see it from below. The Indians have pinnacle walls with abundant coral
gardens, large brain coral, a 15' tunnel, lots of parrot fish, and a cavern.
It is regarded as one of the best shallow dives in the BVIs and is fun
to have the interaction between divers below and snorkelers above! :-)
Interestingly, most of the popular sites show very little diver damage. The BVI National Parks Trust has placed over 120 moorings throughout the area for dive and day use and plans to install more in their continuing program to protect their fragile ecosystem.
Thu Nov 05, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn] - Randy is typing this message (that's he and Lynn in the photo).
Hi, this is Randy Keil at Dive BVI, Peter Island. I just got back from vacation and lo and behold, my first dive tour was with Ken and Lynn. She has me sitting down with this computer and wants me to tell you about diving in the BVI. I've been diving the BVI for over 10 years now and lost track somewhere around dive 7000.
What is there about the BVI that makes it the kind of place where someone can do 7 or 8 thousand dives and still look forward to going to work (underwater) every day? I think the key is in diversity. The sites are each different in bottom composition, and the marine life provides an ever-changing counterpoint to these differing backdrops.
One day we might be working the canyons and tunnels of Painted Walls
on Dead Chest and the next exploring offshore pinnacles such as Blonde
Rock, Santa Monica Rock, Ring Dove or Carrot Shoal. As Lynn has stated
the many islands that make up the BVI also provide lots of sheltered locations
for the less adventuous divers or those prone to mal-de-mer. The area also
abounds in what I call coral gardens - shallow and not-so-shallow areas
where the coral creates fantastic shapes, terraces, and ledges that seem
to stretch endlessly.
I hear alot about Cayman and Bonaire from our guests because most divers have dove around a bit before they finally make it to the British Virgins. I have never had a diver complain about the diving here being inferior to that of Cayman or Bonaire, but it is different. If you want walls endlessly dropping to thousands of feet, go elsewhere but otherwise, I'll match our diving with any Caribbean destination that doesn't train the fish. We don't feed sharks, eels, or stingrays which probably makes us one of the few islands that can still boast of wild populations.
Thu Nov 05, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
Gosh, give a guy a computer and he goes crazy! If the shop hadn't filled up with customers, we probably would have had another 100 words. [if you ever go to Peter Island, get Randy to tell you about his "extreme" diving trips in places around the world where no one else has ever dived before! My favorite story though, is when he told us about being in the "Special Forces" during the "Nam" war and would jump out of a plane at 40,000' - yep, thats 40K! in full scuba gear, drop his chute at 15', plunge in to do the "mission" and then hope the submarine would pick up the team! Jeeezzzz, and I have the priveledge of DIVING with this guy!!!!???]
Todays dives with Randy were completely different than those done with Derrylyn - instead of seeing canyons and arches, we visited two sites with terraces, ledges, and sand flats teaming with marine life. PELICAN is home to several types of eels and small schooling fish living throughout its coral gardens and boulder field. We saw several sunburst anemone and a flamingo tongue.
Our next stop was RINGDOVE ROCK, a round underwater pinnacle about 150'
in diameter which rises to within 12' of the surface of open waters. Before
the mooring was set, this site was considered somewhat dangerous to divers
who might be exploring the top as a silent sailboat passed overhead! Randy
still warned us to safely stay under 9' at the top. We sank to the bottom
near 60' and began slowly circling on our way up, passing a series of ridges
with abundant tropical fish - some quite large. The highpoint of this dive
was discovering a 5' nurse shark hiding under a ledge (my first shark,
even if he didn't have big JAWS!! It was so sleek and beautiful that I
forgot to be scared! :-) Somehow, seeing one freely swimming in the ocean
is much different and more appealing than viewing one in an aquarium. It
slowly swam away, but passed back near us later in the dive. Nope, I still
wasn't afraid... and kinda wished it had hung around somemore - so facinating
Randy's knowledge of marine life is extensive. His pet project is helping protect the resident turtles and their nesting grounds. On the way to the sites, he entertained us with tales of diving with sharks, filming some Discovery shorts, and diving in the Sea of Cortez. He's one of those guys who you'd like to have along for every dive!
Sat Nov 07, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
Yesterday, Randy asked us what we wanted to see and I said RAYS! Durned
if we didn't see three of them at PAINTED WALLS along with a ton of fish
- all sizes and kinds. This site is named for the colorful sponges that
grow on the walls of three canyons. We also visited BLONDE ROCK, a 60'
to 15' underwater pinnacle which has tunnels, archs, and ledges with large
French Angels and Parrotfish. During the last few dives, a lot of big lobsters
have been hiding in the cracks and crevises - too bad we can't catch them
and take them home for dinner!
Randy also promised to find an octopus, but I heard him whisper to the girls to get the rubber one out and hide it in the boat tomorrow. :-) He's not fooling me... doesn't a rubber octopus look something like a rubber ducky?
Today we did the Rhone in about a 2 knot current - thank goodness for
my big, long Mares fins! Fortunately we beat everyone else there and had
the whole place to ourselves on the first dive which covers the bow, fore
mast, crow's nest, a cannon, and midsection at depths from 70' to 80'.
For the second dive which includes the stern mast, prop, shaft, gearbox, and boiler, we moored our tiny 32' boat next to Baskin In The Suns 55' - I suddenly realized that I liked being one of five divers on our nice little rig compared to 30 butt to butt, fin to fin divers on his!
This section of the Rhone had schools of fish everywhere. Kenny and
I dived the wreck last year, but there is always more to see. And this
time, I actually had the nerve to swim through it! (wide open spaces).
Kenny was glad to finally go through the Rhone after staying by my side
on the outside last year. (now I won't hear anymore moaning and groaning...
One of the highpoints of the dive was that Randy did an underwater "Tootsie" impression of BOTH Jaq.Bisset and Nick Nolte in the movie "The Deep" (partially filmed on the Rhone). I almost drowned trying to figure out how to laugh underwater at his antics! If you are ever lucky enough to dive the Rhone with Randy, don't miss this "act"!
Sat Nov 07, 1992 SCUBA.MOM [Lynn]
We made our last dive on the Wreck of the FEARLESS, north of Great Harbor, Peter Island. It is a large steel hull boat which was sunk 8 years ago by the local dive operators, and rests in 80' of water near a terraced reef rising to 45'. The wreck and coral gardens have huge "trees" of black coral growing everywhere and a resident 200# Jew Fish... cute little fellow. The weather is clear, but windy, making open water moorings rough, but we've finally gotten the hang of reaching the boat platform, stripping off our gear and making an exit without help... (I look like a giant beached whale in the process! :-) It's been great fun, but we'll have to return someday to do all those sites we still haven't seen. Hope you've enjoyed the on the spot reports from the BVI - will "see" you soon when we return to the real world!