It's ironic; the British Virgin Islands aren't known as a wreck-diving mecca, yet the islands' most famous dive is the wreck RMS Rhone. The Rhone, however, is typical of the diving experience in the BVI -- easy, shallow and usually without current. Downed during an 1867 hurricane, the Rhone's bow and open midsection rest at 75 feet.
About 50 yards away her stern sits butted against Salt Island on a slope that starts at about 25 feet, shallow enough and protected enough for snorkelers to dive on it. That is what BVI diving is all about.
You'd be hard pressed to find many 100-foot dive sites or soaring walls here. What you will find are expansive coral gardens, coral and rock grottoes, and relaxation.
The other thing you'll find in the BVI is sailing. With more than 60 islands to explore and light but consistent trade winds, the sailing here is almost incomparable. Marry this first-rate sailing to enjoyable diving and you'll know what the BVI are all about.
Dive operators here even offer rendezvous diving, a service for guests who are on sailing charters or who are bareboating (crewing their own rented boat). With a day's notice, they will pick you up from your boat or meet your boat at a designated site. They provide rental gear and tanks, take you diving and bring you back when you're done.
Or you can do it on your own. Dive sites in the BVI are protected by a comprehensive marine program, which includes separate color-coded moorings for charter boats and commercial dive boats. This makes it easy for even novice sailors/divers to locate the best dive sites on your own.
Then you can try sites like The Indians, four feather-shaped rocks that tower out of the water near Norman Island. This site offers divers the opportunity to explore caverns filled with shining fry fish, mountainous star coral formations and intriguing swim-throughs. Near Pelican Island there's Rainbow Canyons, named for the assortment of fanciful organisms and colorful tropicals. Snorkelers will delight at the sergeant majors, yellowtail snapper and blue tangs that encircle them at The Caves near Norman Island. Carrot Shoal off Peter Island, Black Tip Reef at Peter Bay and The Chimney and Bronco Billy's at the Dog Islands are more dives not to be missed.
Topside, the BVI are as easygoing and relaxed as the diving. There is virtually no crime here, and there is much history and nature to explore. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island about Norman Island while living on nearby Tortola. While the book was fictional, it is true that pirate treasure was indeed found on the island in the beginning of the 20th century.
Besides diving the Rhone and sailing, the BVI are also noted for the Painkiller, a rum concoction that will let you experience the ultimate in island relaxation.