Snorkeling the Channel Islands, BVI

We go snorkeling, see some amazing creatures, find the best Painkiller in the BVIs and go rum tasting!

When we left off, we were in White Bay in Jost Van Dyke, the westernmost point of the British Virgin Islands before getting into the USVIs. But we still had plenty of the BVIs to cover, so we continued our counter-clockwise sailing journey towards the Channel Islands, so-called for their position in the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Our next stop was Norman Island for a couple of snorkel-intensive days.

JVD to Norman Island: Our course was slightly less straight than this

Norman Island is often referred to as “Treasure Island”, with age-old rumours of buried treasure. Some even say it inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the same name. During our time there, we didn’t find any gold, but Norman Island certainly holds underwater treasure for those willing to don a mask and snorkel.

We first went snorkeling at the Indians, a unique formation of four red rocks rising straight up out of the water, with an excellent variety of wildlife swimming in the coral that has formed along the steep rock wall. It was during this snorkel that Mel saw her first spotted eagle rays of the season. Seeing these majestic creatures glide through the water is always a magical experience.

The Indians, c/o SV Haven

Our second snorkel excursion brought us to The Caves, where the coral is completely different from the Indians, as it only contains species that can live in darkness. The colours were absolutely amazing, with bright orange coral, sponges and fireworms. As we swam out of the caves, we crossed paths with a group of iridescent reef squid, who seemed completely unphased by the presence of so many humans. Just as we were about to head back to the dinghy, Mel spotted a large black fish swimming along the bottom. Then she realized that something was moving below it: a reef octopus! It was doing a fabulous camouflaging job, but the fish had drawn our attention to it, so we bobbed around to watch it reach its tentacles under rocks, looking for goodies. At first we thought the black fish was protecting it, since it was chasing away other fish, but we quickly realized that it was simply trying to keep any cast-offs for itself.

The super camouflaging Caribbean reef octopus c/o oceana.com
Image result for caribbean reef squid
Caribbean reef squid c/o reefguide.org

After a busy day of snorkeling, we hit up the most popular bar of the anchorage: the William Thornton, aka Willy T’s. This floating barge and party stop is actually the second version of the bar, as the first didn’t survive Irma and was recently sunk to make as a dive site. We likely would have preferred the dive site, as the new and improved Willy T’s was a bit too much for us old folks. The drinks were overpriced, the music too loud, and it was jam-packed with tourists. We spent our limited time there watching drunken tourists jump off the barge’s second level, a popular pastime for the clientele at this particular establishment. After a very speedy drink, we went ashore to the beach bar, Pirate’s Bight, where we may have found the best Painkiller in the BVI’s (half-priced during happy hour—bonus!).

Norman Island anchorage, with Pirate’s Bight Beach Bar in the background (c/o Haven)
We didn’t even need to be in the water to see the wildlife (barracuda!)

After a couple of days on Norman Island, we followed Haven to neighbouring Peter island. The quiet anchorage at Great Harbour was lovely, especially since there weren’t any charter boats due to a limited number of beach bars and mooring balls. We spent a couple of days there enjoying the seclusion.

Peter Island sunset

We continued our counter-clockwise journey east, anchoring at Cooper Island. The snorkeling there wasn’t great compared to what we had seen on Norman, so we consoled ourselves with a few samples from the eco-friendly, solar-powered Cooper Island Beach Club’s rum bar, which offers over 200 different rums by the glass from all over the world. David was in heaven. For all the rum fans out there, our favourite finds included the Zacapa XOXO (Guatemala) and the Plantation XO (Barbados).

At this point a heavy wind was in the forecast, so we had to choose our next anchorage very carefully, as we could be stuck there a while. Any guesses where the wind would take us?

Stay tuned for more from the Virgins!

3 thoughts on “Snorkeling the Channel Islands, BVI

  1. Any whisperings of covid-19 where you are? This afternoon Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer has advised everyone here to stay at home unless it’s essential to leave. Between Wednesday (Ottawa’s first confirmed case) and today, things have been moving at break-neck speed. Stay safe down there, you two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes we’ve been getting lots of reports and monitoring the situation closely. There have been only a handful of cases on the islands, and some islands have closed their borders. St. Martin for example has prohibited flights from Europe and the US but not Canada. We are still aiming to come home at the end of April. In the meantime, social distancing is much easier on a boat!

      Liked by 1 person

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