RMS Rhone, BVIsThe RMS Rhone is one of the most popular wreck dives in the British Virgin Islands. Photograph by Jeff Yonover.
My Ann, British Virgin Islands
A bloom of saucer-shaped moon jellyfish is bobbing near the water’s surface when we giant stride in off West Dog Island — my photographer buddy settles underneath the jellies; he’s trying to capture their delicate, translucent domes gorgeously lit by sunlight. Then we descend — we’re on our way to Joe’s Cave, a triangular opening in the rock face of the island. A bit of surge greets us as we enter, but it’s worth the two-kicks-forward, one-kick-back finning we do to reach a small chamber that is often filled with glassy sweepers. If it’s just you and your buddy, it makes for a perfect Instagram moment, and you’ll get another photo op once you turn to exit. Light rays filtering down from the crack in the cave’s ceiling illuminate the coral-encrusted walls, and huge boulders are scattered along the bottom. It’s pretty magical.
Outside the cave is a shallow reef known for its intricate underwater topography, like many other sites in the BVI that we’ve been diving from the luxury crewed sailing yacht My Ann. In fact, after we snorkel and poke around at the Baths, a world-famous maze of colossal granite boulders that form grottoes and pools on a Virgin Gorda beach, we realize that many BVI dive sites are submerged versions of this geologic wonder.
Mainly arrayed on either side of the protected waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel, these emerald islands are beloved by yachties for their sail-billowing trade winds, easy-to-navigate waters and scenic anchorages. For divers, sites in the BVI are as varied as the variety of blues found in the Caribbean — lush coral gardens on sloping reefs and mini walls, seamounts that rise from the seafloor, and an underwater armada of sponge- and coral-covered wrecks.
Maybe best of all: I get to experience both sailing and diving aboard My Ann. One photo of the gleaming catamaran was all it took for me to sign up for this unique, all-inclusive live-aboard experience offered by the Moorings, a company that has a fleet of motorboats and sailboats, and specializes in arranging bareboat (skipper-your-own) or crewed vacations. I am doing the latter — both crew members are PADI Instructors who combine cooking gourmet meals, sailing to secluded coves, handing out fluffy towels and mixing Painkillers (a concoction of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut), and giant-striding in as divemasters on the best sites the BVI has to offer, including formations like Thumb Rock, wrecks like the Rhone off Salt Island and shallow reefs like Cistern Point.
You work hard for your vacation dollars, so why not splurge and treat yourself to a little pampered luxury? — Patricia Wuest
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