Swimming in the Garden | Sport Diver

Swimming in the Garden

A shallow site in the British Virgin Islands is the perfect place for a leisurely dive For six glorious days, we'd sailed the blue waters of the British Virgin Islands aboard a luxury live-aboard and explored the colorful reefs that lie below the waves. The final day's schedule called for a morning island tour and afternoon beach barbecue, but several of us also hoped to squeeze in one final dive. With 26 hours remaining before our return flight, we had to keep the dive profile simple and relatively shallow. The captain knew just the place.While other guests took shore leave on Virgin Gorda, a dive tender ferried four of us to a nearby collection of rock outcroppings known as the Dog Islands. With the boat secured to a mooring buoy on the south side of Great Dog, we back-rolled into 40 feet of clear water and seemingly unremarkable underwater terrain. There were no soaring walls or current-swept pinnacles to grab our attention - just a multi-hued carpet of coral stretching to the edges of visibility.As we descended, the bottom gained detail and relief. Indistinct patches of color became large formations of boulder and great star corals interspersed with brain corals. Tube sponges, sea fans and feathery gorgonians moved in time with the gentle surge, while the uneven bottom and dense coral cover created numerous crevices and overhangs that provided shelter for lobster, spotted drum and a variety of grunts and snappers. It was a classic Caribbean reef, filled with life and light. The site's intermediate depths allowed plenty of leisurely bottom time. We floated quietly in a state of semi-suspended animation and soon earned the disdain of our fellow sea dwellers.As we finned slowly eastward, the coral garden gave way to a large sand plane patrolled by schools of sennet and home to goatfish, lizardfish and sand tilefish. A turtle glided in for a look and then turned to lead us to the remains of an airplane.From the pre-dive briefing, we knew it was a salvaged interisland passenger plane that was placed in this location for the enjoyment of divers. We took turns posing in the vacant windows of the cockpit and peering into the shadowed recesses of the fuselage, which housed a pair of wary barracuda.Too soon, it was time to turn and begin a slow swim back to the mooring. As we began our ascent, the turtle reappeared and made a slow circle around the group. It was easy to imagine that his flippers were waving a polite goodbye and hard not to return the gesture, along with a promise to return someday. For more information about diving the BVI, click on the home page below.