Updated: Nov 5
One of the biggest attractions in the British Virgin Islands is the sea life. The waters surrounding these minimally developed islands are teeming with colorful fish and striking coral formations. Two of the most popular snorkeling spots are the Caves and the Indians. The coral formations at the Indians are spectacular with beautiful blue fan coral, golden brain coral, and patches of red fire coral. The Caves are interesting because of the formations into the rock cliffs. They form small caverns that are home to tons of tropical fish.
Because these are the most popular spots, they are also the most crowded spots. However, in almost every cove, there is a quiet spot to enjoy the sea life. Below I have listed my favorites and the best way to enjoy them.
I get lots of questions on what type of equipment I use. I have recently fallen in love with my HD Mask. The HD lens creates a stunning visual experience, when snorkeling. The difference is dramatic. I also love my full face mask. These masks are sold by specific size, so it fits my face well, which minimizes leaks. It also allows you to breathe in and out by both your nose and mouth. It is great for people who hate to have a snorkel in their mouth. The other thing I can not stress enough is to use reef safe sunscreen. The reefs are incredibly fragile and chemicals in many sun screens are very damaging to them. When you spend a lot of time exploring sea life, you see the impact of plastic on our environment. Last year CaptK and I took the no plastic straw challenge. I keep stainless steel straws in my car and in our boat bags. We also try to eliminate as much single use plastic from our lives as we can. It is not an easy thing to do, but multiple use zip loc bags and glass food storage containers help.
Best For Beginners, The Bight Norman Island
If you have people who have never snorkeled before in your travel group, the easiest way to get them comfortable with snorkeling is off the beach. This is especially true for adults. Starting their snorkeling journey off the beach, allows them stand at any time that they are uncomfortable. The Bight at Norman Island has a nice size beach that gradually drops off, giving new snorkelers lots of space to practice. On one side if the beach is a large sea grass field. I have never snorkeled there without seeing a sea turtle. There are lots of rays and young nurse sharks in that area as well. On the other side is a shallow rocky area that attracts a lot of tropical fish. You can see some smaller coral formations as well. Both sides offer the tentative snorkeler a protected shallow area to practice while seeing some intriguing sea life.
Best for Weak Swimmers, Kelly Cove Norman Island
I love Kelly Cove. See my post on the Quiet Anchorages of the British Virgins Islands to get a full description of this lovely spot. It is well protected with sheer rock cliffs that drop directly into deep water. The coral formations are beautiful especially on the north side of the Cove. Several factors make this a great place for tentative or weaker swimmers. The area is protected and calm. You can see some great sea life while snorkeling with a noodle. You can snorkel right off the boat. It is easy for the "life guard" to keep track of everyone from the boat. Because the cove is very deep, the mooring balls are very close to the snorkeling area, giving the "life guard" a view of everyone.
Loblolly Bay, Anegada
Visiting Anegada is a high point for many boaters on a British Virgin Island vacation. Snorkeling in Loblolly Bay is must when you visit. All along the north side of Anegada is Horseshoe Reef. This 18 mile barrier reef is one of the largest in the Caribbean. At Loblolly Bay, there are hundreds of coral heads between the beach and the reef. These coral heads are home to thousands of fish in all sizes, majestic coral formations, and the delicious crustacean that makes the island the lobster capital of Caribbean. You can snorkel directly off the beach, just be cautious, the current can be very strong. For more information about visiting Anegada, check out my blog post Add Anegada to your Cruising Itinerary in the BVI.
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Whether you are heading to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, or Anegada, a stopover at the Dogs is a great way to break up the trip. The Dog Islands are made up of 5 islets, Great Dog, George Dog, West Dog, East Seal Dog, and Little Seal Dog. These islands are named for the barking seals that originally inhabited them. These Caribbean Monk Seals were considered by sailors to be a good source of fresh meat. They are now extinct from over indulging in them. The Dog Islands are now a protected National Park. There are day use only mooring balls on west side of George Dog and Great Dog Islands. These anchorage can be rolly and the current can be strong. George Dog is more protected than Great Dog. The reefs are beautiful and well worth a stop. You will see several patch of golden Staghorn Coral.
Monkey Point, Guana Island
Monkey Point is at the eastern end of White Bay on Guana Island. There are several National Park day use only balls to secure your vessel to when visiting this spot. The water is about 30 feet deep and very clear. There are lots of brightly colored fish that call the rock crevices home at Monkey Point. Be careful of the bright red fire coral, while it is beautiful to see, it can really sting if you brush up against it.
Cistern Point, Cooper Island
Cooper Island is one of my favorite spots. The mooring field is covered in sea grass and it it home to many sea turtles and rays. Cistern Point is at the southern tip of Manchioneel Bay. There is a dingy line that allows you to access the Point without swimming there. I like to have Capt K drop me off in the dingy and I snorkel back to the boat. Cistern Point has lovely coral formations and lots of interesting fish. This is the first place I ever saw a seahorse fish. As you snorkel back to your boat the undersea terrain changes from rocky to sea grass. I love following along with a turtle or a ray as they move through the sea grass.
Do you have a favorite place to snorkel in the British Virgin Islands? Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below. Are you considering a trip to the British Virgin Islands, check out Booking.com for the best prices on land accommodations.
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