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I get quite a few PMs at this time of year (I suspect other BVI resident SB members do too) asking for advice about diving in the BVI. I have no problem with replying to PMs, but I thought it might be useful to set down a few guidance notes on BVI diving (according to Rhone Man) for anyone who wants to visit.
I am biased obviously, but there are a lot of good dive sites in the BVI. Depending upon where you will be, I'd try and prioritise the following:
 Wreck of Rhone. Most local divers get tired of it quickly, but all the visitors gush, and unless we are really jaded we remember our first breathtaking dive on the Rhone. Not a classic penetration wreck dive, more of a blown-open artificial reef. Tons of marine life and gripping tale to go with it (ship went down in 1867 with almost all hands).
 Indians. The "other" big dive in the BVI; 4 large pinnacles plunging down to about 65 feet, speckled with shallow caves. Pretty good snorkelling too for the kids.
 Ginger Steps. Rhone Man's personal favourite; a plunging wall, with a fanastic garden of sand surrounded by coral at the top. Really nice reef dive.
 Carrot Shoal. Lovely pinnacle between Peter and Norman Islands. Rarely dived, but loaded with interesting marine life.
 Blonde Rock. Tough to do in bad weather, but a lovely pinnacle full of caverns, ledges and crevasses. Packed with lobster, but sadly, the site is a national park.
 Wreck of the Chikuzen. Very tough to do in bad weather, but a really nice wreck dive if you get the opportunity. Largely in tact 240 foot freighter sunk about 12 miles north of Scrub Island.
 Wreck Alley. 4 artificially sunk wrecks just off Cooper Island, next to a reef wall. Better if you can do the Inganess Bay, which is the bigger wreck, split off from the other three.
 Thumb Rock. Often overlooked dive site right next to wreck alley, which is pretty good dive itself - good place to spot sharks.
 Seal Dog. Another weather dependent site, but a really good dive - very sharp pinnacle that breaks the surface and goes down to 80 feet pretty much vertically.
 Santa Monica Rock. (Yet another) weather dependant site (so much so, that Rhone Man hasn't been there for 15 years), but a really nice deep water pinnacle (although the dive itself is not very deep at all).
Others will have their own favourites. There are also some pretty good dives not listed there for various reasons: Wreck of Parmatta (in Anegada, just too hard to get to), Grand Central Station (cave system - no longer marked because the Government doesn't want tourists killing themselves), Two Towers (perfectly good dive, but too far East so most dive operators don't go there much).
Just to balance the score card, I'll mention what I tend to think of as slightly overrated dives:
 Vanishing Point. Shallow reef that I never think has much going for it, except being close to a popular mooring site (Cooper Island).
 Wreck of the Fearless. Used to be a good dive - now the superstructure has almost completed rotted away, there is not much to see and it is an accident waiting to happen. Visibility is always poor around the wreck.
 "Airplane wreck", sometimes called by its old name: Coral Gardens. It sounds cool - diving on an airplane. And it is, for about 5 minutes. Then you have to spend 55 minutes wandering around a reef that never recovered from an ill advised bleach fishing incident some years back.
 Bronco billy. The Marmite dive site - some love it, some hate it. I think of it as a bit unremarkable except for one decent swim through. But (so local legend says) it was Jacques Cousteau's favourite dive in the BVI, so people seem to take the great man's advice a lot.
 Painted Walls. Bit like a Reese's peanut butter cup. It is nice enough, but too small to really satisfy. Mind you, others gush about it, so maybe it is just me.
Most of them are pretty sound (except for one, that I won't name, lest I be sued). I'll just mention four here though:
- I dive mostly with Sail Caribbean Divers. This has absolutely nothing to do with the large number of attractive blonde dive instructors. Honestly. They are probably the most professionally run dive outfit in the BVI (IMHO). Bit too professional sometimes - bordering on anal. But they are good, you have fun, and you'll be safe. Just bear with them over "boat briefings" and "tank pressure checks".
- Blue Water Divers are probably the opposite - also a really nice bunch of guys, but so relaxed as to be almost catatonic. Muffy and Keith may be the last of the real old guard divers. They also taught Rhone Man how to dive, so they have a lot to answer for.
- Dive BVI. Never dived with them, but I hear good things. They are also the only operator with Nitrox, so that has to be good. Downside is that they are based on Virgin Gorda, which is a bit out of the way.
- UBS. Tony and Kate run a slightly smaller, more bespoke operation (think taxi cab rather than bus). Never dived with them, but it sounds good on paper, and Tony and Kate are genuinely nice people. I have to say that or Kate beats me up.
Really only two based in the BVI:
- Cuan Law. I spent 3 very happy days on Cuan Law once (which also has Nitrox incidentally), and had an absolute blast. Really, really good time - big, roomy, lots of fun - can't speak highly enough of it. Although I wasn't picking up the tab (which was substantial), so that helped.
- Promenade. Don't know much about them. Sorry.
How to get here:
From Europe, fly to either Antigua or St Martin, and then catch the LIAT flight up
From US, either fly to Puerto Rico, and then take either American Eagle or Cape Air across, or fly into St Thomas and catch the ferry (more of a pain than it sounds when you type it - the ferry schedules never tie up with the flights so you usually have to overnight in St Thomas).
Cell/mobile phones: Should all work here on roaming, although a lot cheaper to buy a local SIM card and put it in your phone ($10). For some reason US Blackberries work here, but European ones tend not to. Go figure.
Nearest deco chamber: In St Thomas. But very few dive sites in the BVI go deeper than 80 feet, so decompression injuries are pretty rare in BVI.
This is great! Thank you! I'll be staying with friends in Tortola this weekend. I emailed Blue Water but never heard back. Can you recommend another shop? I dove with Underwater Safari years ago but can't seem to find them anymore. This will be my 7th trip down there - can't wait!
I just returned from a trip to Virgin Gorda. I had read this thread before going, and I found it helpful. I have been to the BVIs a few tmes previously, but had not been to all of the sites listed. I thought that I would give my two cents, for what it is worth.
Generally, I agree with the ratings with a few exceptions. First, my favorite dives from this trip were the Rhone, Thumb Rock, Blonde Rock, the Chimney, and Painted Walls. Obviously, I disagree with Rhone Man about Painted Walls. I liked the topography enough to make up for the relatively small size of the site. I also disagree somewhat with the assessment of Ginger Steps. It was a nice site, but I thought that the health of the corals was just okay, and not great. It is worth diving, for sure, but I would not rank it as highly as Rhone Man. Of course, everyone comes away from dives with their own personal viewpoint, and I want to thank Rhone Man for the excellent descriptions and guidance. I found his post very useful.
I dove with DiveBVI out of Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. They were great. I have previously gone on dives with UBS, and I rate them highly, too.
Here is a link to my pics from our March 2009 trip.
Thought I would do a 2010 update on this thread, both to add things I frequently get asked by PM, and also just to replace some out of date information above.
Hunting: Hunting on scuba gear is, sadly, illegal in the BVI. Spearfishing (on scuba or freediving) is also illegal. However, it is legal to catch lobster whilst free diving or to catch fish by hook-and-line provided you purchase fishing permit (which are pretty readily available, and cheap). Although law enforcement is quite relaxed in BVI, every so often they go beserk over their fishing laws (relates to a long standing dispute with the USVI where a world record Marlin was caught off Tortola illegally, so the fisherman claimed he caught it off St Thomas, which duly got entered into the record books), and they go and try and make a real example of someone, so be warned.
Currency: BVI uses the US dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted, and American bank cards work in local ATMs.
Diving: I largely stand by the list of sites above as to one that I like and don't regard so well, but with one exception. As a few people have mentioned, Ginger Steps is looking a bit tired these day (over dived) so I don't go there as often, and I'd probably drop it from favourite to off the list. Santa Monica is probably now my favourite dive, both in terms of size and diversity (you can go to 110' or stay above 45' the whole dive, or do both as a two tank dive) and marine life. A 'new' (to me) dive site that I would highly recommend is Devil's Kitchen off the back of Cooper Island. Also a good dive for tourists, because it is almost impossible to get lost on. Also, Wreck Alley now has five wrecks on it since they added the MV Island Seal.
Literature: Since I wrote the above post, Jeff Williams has published a fairly comprehensive guide to the 70 or so dive sites in the BVI (including various hidden secrets, like our only cave dive (which people normally prefer to pretend does not exist), the Anegada wreck dives, and notable dive sites which don't have mooring balls on them). Every site is located on a map, or by GPS coordinates, or both. Every site also an underwater map to help you navigate your way around.
Hurricanes: Yes we do get them, but no they are not common. We had one this year (Earl), and it was our first for 11 years. Even when they do hit, they only wipe out a couple of days (unless you were intending to fly that day).
Tourist season: Runs from about October to April. Personally I recommend coming outside of those dates if you can, for several reasons. (i) No hurricanes (see above). (ii) Cheaper deals. (iii) You don't have to put up with crowds at the popular moorings.
Fwiw, the dives off Ginger are always my favorites. I did Alice in wonderland, in December and thought it had the best in both coral health and fish diversity. I also like other dives, not really mentioned like The nursery, since it is a simple long shallow reef dive, close to where we stay and easy to anchor.
The Rhone, is still cool to me. The giant prop and small swim though there are awesome.
Also for people diving the indians, one of my favorite if not my favorite overall is right there. Angelfish reef. The coral isn't very abundant but the underwater topography is IMO the coolest in the area. Looping through the maze of huge boulder passages is always awesome.
I dived a site called Mousetrap in 2006. It was given a 5 star rating by Fromer's Cruising Guide. The winter conditions were terrible. Ground seas rolling in from the northwest. worst surge I've ever been in. Visibility about 5-10 feet. What I could make out looked like it would be awesome in easy, clear conditions.
Do you know this site? Ever tried it?
Do you know it by another name? It is located off the bluffs along the south side of Lee Bay on Great Camanoe Island.
I have never heard of this site outside of the mentioned cruising (for sailors) guide.