Volume 3 - British Virgin Islands: Virgin Gorda

As one of the most popular dive sites near the Dogs, there has to be some special attraction. The attractions include an arch, a corridor between two mammoth boulders, and a handful of canyons. You can take in all that plus a series of ridges and sand gullies under the mooring buoys.

We had to wait for the northerly swells to die down before diving the chimney, so do not expect to dive the site unless conditions are relatively calm.

Dive Profile
Keen to swim through the chimney, we set off for the headland and find the base of the rocks at 38 feet. As we pass around to the north side, we see the canyon leadimg to the arch and the Chimney, but we exercise a bit of delayed gratification and continue into the small bay north of the headland.

A large rock is worth exploring on both sides but you cannot circumnavigate it, as the side facing the headland is too shallow. Both sides of the rock are beautifully veneered with wandering rope sponges and encrusting corals.

The depth is never more than 45 feet, so we have ample time to appreciate our environment and to study the arch and the Chimney. Passing first through the canyon leading to the arch, we ascend to around 30 feet.

The arch is everything we had heard. So thickly encrusted, it is hard to know what to look at first. Tiny posies of dainty cup corals are squashed between wads of sponges. Most of the sponges are brightly coloured but the most famous is the colour of alabaster. Famous, that is, because of their rarity and because at least one famous person, Jacques Cousteau, has singled them out for special mention. The arch rivals any piece of baroque architecture and no artist would have had the audacity to cram so many shapes, colours and textures on one canvas. Nature has no shame, it seems.

Like children eager to show off the area and hoping for a tip at the end, fish follow us around the site, hurrying us along. We pause to watch a brittle star sliding over a sponge, but the yellowtail snappers want us to be on the move.

Disappointingly for them, we have no tip for our faithful followers who are, we suspect, used to being fed.

From the arch we zip through a narrow arcade, equally richly trimmed, and come face to face with the Chimney. It is an extension of the arcade, formed by two slabs of rock, which leaves just enough space for a diver to pass. Please do not act like a bottlebrush as you swim through. The marine life on the walls is very delicate and does not survive scouring by tanks, wet suits and fins. Once through the Chimney, we spin round, hang in the water with our fish friends and watch our bubbles dribbling up through the Chimney.

As we move back to the area under the boat, yet more fish gather, looking for a handout. This area of boulders and ridges is popular with snorkellers and the fish behaviour confirmed that fish feeding is a common occurrence here.
Virgin Gorda sample dive site map
The Chimney

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