Look out below! Holding Our Breath Under the BVI

A big thank you to Dream Yacht Charter for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

The Islands of the British Virgin Islands are practically paradise with their vast white sand beaches stretching out under swaying palms and lush mountains rising above to the sky. However, that is only half of the picture.

There is an equally amazing world of colors and scenery, along with an incredible collection of marine wildlife, to be discovered beneath the crystal blue water. We have always felt like it is akin to swimming in an aquarium.

But the ability to get close to many of these places can be quite an obstacle without access to a boat small enough to squeeze into some pretty tight places. Problem solved by sailing with Dream Yacht Charter, and even better, we got to stay the night at some of them.

As always, we took about a million pictures, thanks to the modern technology of digital cameras we are ardent believers in the “take a hundred shots to get one good one” theory. Here are a few of our favorites and the places that we took them.

The Baths

This is perhaps the most famous spot in the BVI, and for good reason, it is phenomenal.

Enormous boulders, some reaching forty feet across, form grottos, tunnels, arches, and caves both above and below the surface. We had a blast snaking through the openings from one formation to another while watching the array of colorful tropical fish swim by.

After about half an hour we swam through a gap into an open area and headlong into a school of squid.

These did not look like the squid we were used to, nothing like calamari we have seen on many a plate. These were quite different from any we had encountered previously and we were mesmerized by their brilliant phosphorescent colors. We took photos like crazy.

After cross referencing our pictures online, we learned that these were Caribbean reef squid. Turns out that they can change those colors, and not just randomly, it is believed that they are able to communicate with one another through the variations.

The Norman Island Caves

For many years Norman Island served as a home base and hideout for pirates. That historic relationship with the pirates of the Caribbean has led to legends of hidden treasure as yet undiscovered.

The caves are often regarded as a prime suspect location by seekers of water-logged fortune, but we figured the possibility was slim considering the popularity of these caverns with snorkelers.

What we did find was an opulent abundance of orange cup coral clinging to the walls. While it can be hard to tell that most corals are actually living creatures, these left little doubt as they moved in reaction to our hands.

If we had come back at night we might have seen them feeding by extending tentacles to capture nearby plankton.

Deeper inside the rock walls we found a trove of glassy sweepers.  The schools of these shiny swimmers moved in and out of the light like a flocks of birds as we swam through the openings and darkened interiors of the caves.

The Indians

Not far from Norman Island stand four jagged stone pinnacles protruding through the waves. Since they are technically islands, we were pretty jazzed at the prospect of circling the whole chain. It’s not often that the feat of a swimming circumnavigation of an entire archipelago can be accomplished!

The mini mountains are mostly undersea, so the canyons and crevices are best explored while free diving. The technique of holding our breath while descending twenty or thirty feet is something we perfected while living on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.

This allowed us a much closer view of the numerous sea fans and corals that have taken hold among the rocky submarine landscape, including several excellent examples of Brain Coral.

These colonies of genetically identical polyps can live as long as 900 years. Maybe they know where some of that pirate booty is stashed.

Fish

At almost every anchorage we found a colorful combination of blue tangs, yellow jacks, blue runners, red snapper, angelfish, parrotfish, and the striped sergeant major variety of damselfish. They populate almost all of these tropical waters near rocks and reefs.

On a couple of occasions a Great Barracuda decided to hang out under our boat while we were anchored. While these big boys are usually harmless to humans, but it is still a touch unnerving to jump in the water and see a razor-toothed fish as big as ourselves keeping an eye on us.

Great barracudas often top six feet long, and there is something about the way they look that screams dangerous predator. Maybe they should be called sea cougars. Nice kitty.

We are happy to say that everyone avoided losing any limbs and actually got quite a charge out of seeing these sleek ocean hunters up close.

Speaking of limbs, keeping them came in quite handy. Not only for swimming, but we also used them to explore some above the surface environs and discovered some very interesting surroundings.

But that’s another story.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See more of our amazing trip here.


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