They swim right into each other almost colliding before both arc back, their noses aimed at the sky. They then circle each other repeatedly, transfixed by one another and unaware of our presence. Is this aggressive or mating behavior?
The two eagle rays remain captivated with each other -- as we do with them as we swim along at Three Tugs, a site just off Cooper Island, where the Beata, Pat and Mariel lie. Our friends at Paradise Watersports, the on-site shop at Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands, have taken us here for the morning.
To understand why the British Virgin Islands are so popular, one just has to look at a map -- preferably Franko, designer of the waterproof dive guides and fish identification cards.* Each of the nine larger islands offers its own menu of dive sites and surprises -- from a host of wrecks to the little-dived adventures off Jost Van Dyke, where pelagics and larger fish make frequent cameos thanks to the Atlantic Ocean sweeping across its north shore.
Because most travelers want to explore all of the islands and everything in between, bare-boating reigns among this cluster of islands. But a few ferry tickets and a sense of adventure will also allow you to explore these famous isles.
From Tortola, the largest island, operators like Dive Tortola know the best hot spots, such as the Vanishing, located just 15 minutes by boat from the dive center. The site's name refers to the rocks that mark it -- they often disappear when conditions shift -- but also hints at some of the magic that can be found there. The uprising rocks force water to channel quickly around their sides, which attracts legions of life, like schools of horse-eye jacks, pompano, angelfish and channel crabs.
At Jost Van Dyke, ask Colin Aldridge of Jost Van Dyke Scuba to take you to one of his favorites: the Playground. At this site, perfect for advanced divers looking for a little more challenge, divers must remember to look in every direction: Tarpon, eagle rays, dog snapper, ocean triggerfish and turtles can swim by anywhere in the water column.
It's a good lesson to remember in the British Virgin Islands, where anything can happen.
To purchase a Franko map, please visit www.frankosmaps.com