Volume 3 - British Virgin Islands: Tortola and the
Sir Francis Drake Channel Islands

Dives off the Sir Francis Drake Channel islands deliver sinkholes and ledges as well as a wide repertoire of caves and canyons. Another feature of the area is some of the finest sponge encrusted walls we have some across in the region. By walls we are referring to the sides of tunnels, the underside of arches and inside caves. The site known as Painted Walls is the most obvious example, but there are many other equally colourful scenes.

Of the Sir Francis Drake Channel dives, the R.M.S. Rhone (see sample dive site 44) tends to dominate the reputation of the B.V.I. but there are several other interesting wrecks, though none as old or with so dramatic a story. However, they are all within the ability level of most divers, so novices or those who have not dived a wreck before can gain some experience of wreck diving.

If you can travel to the area in August you can witness the other great spectacle—coral spawning. See the operator’s section in the book for information about stores that offer special packages to see the spawning. It occurs 1 week after the first full moon in August.

The sites to the north of Tortola (those to the south are described in the Sir Francis Drake Channel section) are primarily summer sites because in the winter months northerly swells make conditions at best uncomfortable. None of the dive stores are based on the north coast so it makes it a long boat ride but worth it when conditions are good. One store has a base in Sopers Hole which makes these sites more accessible. See the book for further details.

The Chikuzen is north Tortola's best known dive site and it is increasingly earning a place of respect. It would be a more popular and famous site if it was a little more accessible. It is too far for dive stores based on Tortola’s south coast to reach. Only the Virgin Gorda stores can make the trip in a reasonable time (45 minutes or less). Being to the north of Tortola, the Chikuzen has no shelter from the islands and is exposed to northerly swells. The dive stores dive the Chikuzen on only about 50 per cent of their scheduled days. This figure might be less from January to March but more from May to November.

Checkout dive site 44 - RMS Rhone

Review the other BV Island of Virgin Gorda

Download the BVI chapter as a pdf from our on-line store