Explore the British Virgin Islands with Odyssey Expeditions

Scuba Diving, Sailing, and Marine Biology Discoveries in 'Natures Little Secrets'

The British Virgin Islands offer some of the best sailing and SCUBA diving in the world. With fair weather and constant winds plus a wealth of natural resources, no other Caribbean destination offers so much. Dramatic scenery, friendly people, intriguing bays, and spectacular reefs await us. Underwater terrain ranges from gently sloping reefs, sheer walls, and pinnacles to spectacular shipwrecks that are engulfed by schools of Spanish mackerel, blackbar soldierfish, and French angelfish. The large underwater national parks and marine reserves help to keep the environment healthy and diving outstanding.

Map of the British Virgin Islands

With reefs teeming with large fishes and healthy corals, the British Virgin Islands are the ideal place to learn to SCUBA dive or to continue your dive training and to learn about marine biology. There are many shipwrecks to explore including the HMS Rhone and the Chikuzen. The water is crystal clear and most dive sites are protected from the waves providing for comfortable entry and exit from the water.

Renown as 'the sailing capital', smooth waters and steady trade winds provide exciting inter-island passages and allow your sailing skills to develop quickly. The islands are close together so it's easy to visit them all, and each has its own unique charm, from cactus covered uninhabited desert islands to towering rainforests. There are endless opportunities for adventures hiking, kayaking, and trekking. The calm coves are our relaxed base to explore the marine kingdom, carve deep-arcs waterskiing and drift asleep under the stars. Odyssey has explored the BVI's for more than 14 years and will delight you with dive sites not on the charts.

At the center of an enchanting archipelago, sweeping like giant stepping stones from Florida to South America, lies a group of beautiful and pristine islands with fascinating biological, geological and cultural history. These mountainous volcanic islands emerged next to the Galapagos and, over the eons, plate tectonics has pushed them northeast over two thousand miles. Some are tall and trap passing clouds producing dense green vegetation and rain forests, others are smaller and drier. Swept by steady trade winds, all have perfect coconut palm fringed beaches surrounded by crystal clear waters and colorful reefs.

First colonized two thousand years ago by the oriental-looking Arawak Indians, who were great navigators, artists, and sportsmen, the islands have undergone numerous cultural upheavals. Not to the Arawaks' good fortune, the cannibalistic Carib Indians invaded from the south in the twelfth century. On his second voyage to the Americas, Columbus discovered the islands in 1493 and named them 'the Virgins.' While the Caribs were the first to prey upon treasure-laden Spanish galleons, several European nations soon followed by unofficially backing private enterprises to indulge in smuggling, piracy, and the harassment of the Spanish. Infamous names include Sir Francis Drake, Henry Morgan, Calico Jack, Bartholomew Roberts and Edward Teach (the legendary Blackbeard, renowned for stranding fifteen of his men on the isle of 'Dead Chest' with only a 'Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum'). Fortunately, today this sailors' paradise is much more civilized.

Surrounding each island, resting just beneath the surface yet falling off hundreds of feet into the deep blue, lies a magnificent network of coral reefs so luxuriant in color, so diverse in flora and fauna, so intricate in architecture that the singular beauty of the islands themselves pales in comparison. Diving into these largely unexplored reefs reveals life forms rarely seen and species yet to be named. Brilliantly colored fishes dance before us, acting out intricate roles in an ongoing drama with continuously changing rhythms. They harbor the spirit of exploration and hold our dreams of discovery.

While the Caribs and pirates are no more and your yacht has greater speed and comfort than an old galleon (they didn't have CD players), an adventure still awaits you! Sail around, hike above and dive below this spectacular archipelago. Hold on as your yacht slices deeply into the blue Caribbean. Forge friendships as you learn seamanship, SCUBA diving, and marine biology, no experience necessary!

Tortola, the capital and largest of the islands, has beautiful white sand beaches and tall rugged mountains. A hike up to the peak of Mt. Sage brings us into a dense tropical rain forest with incredible vistas of the islands and reefs below. Cane Garden Bay's palm-fringed beach is the epitome of Jimmy Buffet's tropical paradise, where we dance to the beat of steel drums and reggae into the night. In Roadtown, our home port, we scout the colorful local markets for those great island bargains.

Virgin Gorda, the second largest of the islands, is home to Savannah Bay, a tranquil sandy cove perfect for our SCUBA training, windsurfing, water skiing, and kayaking activities. Mountain Point is a rocky outcropping where we night dive in a carnival of fish-filled grottos and soft-coral gardens to witness the nocturnal transformation. The Baths, a gravity-defying jumble of massive granite boulders stacked high along the ocean's edge, provide you with rock climbing and snorkeling opportunities among emerald pools of water.

An exhilarating eighteen-mile blue-water sailing passage brings us to Annegada. This low-lying coral atoll, reaching just 29 feet at its highest, is completely encircled by a barrier reef and home to more shipwrecks than any other island. Pink flamingos outnumber people on this island of endless beaches where we "kick back," flying kites, snorkeling, hammocking. Departing, we dive the wreck of the Chikuzen. This 247-foot freighter summons marine life from miles around, allowing us to blow bubbles under spiraling circles of barracuda, jacks and grunts.

Across the Sir Francis Drake Channel is a host of pristine small islands which provide us with a diversity of environments to explore. Along the sheer oceanside cliffs, we can observe pelicans, frigate and tropic birds dive-bombing for fish. Jost Van Dyke, named after a Dutch pirate, is the home of Foxy, a local who entertains us with his great wit and humorous songs. Diving at the Playgrounds often brings us face to face with a pod of dolphins. In Norman Island's pirate caves, inspiration for Robert Louis Stevensons' novel Treasure Island, we scour for lost booty but come up only with tall tales. Angel Fish Reef is aptly named for the numerous French and queen angelfish that flash their vibrant colors our way. Off Salt Island, we dive back to 1867 when the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone was blown aground. Now a national park and signature wreck dive, its fractured hull, featured as the underwater set for the movie The Deep, is rife with numerous historic artifacts, including the crows nest, bowsprit, and huge wrenches. We visit a secret wall of black coral off Peter Island before snorkeling the ocean side of Carrot Rock, an exciting opportunity to see large pelagic fishes and even sharks. Diving the Chimney off Great Dog Island brings us through a meandering coral- and sponge-laced tunnel and up into a ceilingless sunlit chamber populated by spotted drum and shy jawfish.

Odyssey offers our 21- day Adventure voyages in the BVI's. No experience necessary or expand your SCUBA and sailing skills on a safe, fun and awesome experience of a lifetime.

We recommend this book about a teenage girl discovering adventure in the British Virgin Islands