Tortola Scuba Diving
I had the good fortune to be on Tortola (one of the British Virgin Islands) for several days and spent much of my time diving. As is my preference, I booked a hotel very close to the dive shop and dock and it worked out well. This time around I did my diving with Blue Water Divers out of Nanny Cay. These folks had OK equipment, but I had to use a dive belt which I don't like as much as integrated BCDs. The dive masters were great and the dive shop went the extra mile with e-mailing their database to find additional night divers so I could hit the 4 diver minimum. If you're good with your air usage, the divemasters will stay under for more than the usual 45 minutes -- more bang for your buck! There are a lot of dive sites within 30-35 minutes of the dock and I certainly didn't make it to all of them. Here are the ones I did get to.
Wrecks dives aren't typically of interest to me, but the RMS Rhone is written about so much in the travel books that I felt it was worth doing. For the entire boat ride out out to the site I was hoping it wasn't just another tourist trap. It wasn't!
Having been submerged for over 100 years, the RMS Rhone wreck is basically an artificial reef now. As a result a lot of coral and fish call it home. Particularly, there are two barracudas that you're almost guaranteed to see. Our sighting was quite memorable as the barracuda was hidden in the shadows so that only a few of it's teeth could be seen -- it reminded me of a scene out of the Aliens movie. The RMS Rhone dives include a couple of swim-throughs both of which are great for photographs.
Many of the dives off of Tortola are around large submerged rocks. These rocks are good places for sea life as they receive nutrients from the water flowing around them while providing protection -- basically a base on which a coral can grow. Carvel Rock is home to groupers, nurse sharks, moray eels, parrot fish, trunk fish, and soft coral.
This dive site has a few plateaus at different depths which is where the "steps" name comes from. The Ginger part is from the nearby Ginger Island. It's a good site to dive with a lot of sea life similar to other sites.
Blonde Rock (Night Dive)
Blonde Rock gets its name from all of the soft coral growing atop it that is light brown in color. This coral was not particularly noticeable though for me as I was at this dive site at night. Swimming around the edges of the rock and peering under ledges revealed numerous crustaceans including some of the largest crab I've seen anywhere. Starfish and lobster were also abundant. I also enjoyed seeing the parrot fish cram themselves into crevices for the night -- some were even sideways. The most surprising siting was a turtle that was sleeping under a ledge.
Angel Fish Reef
This dive started over a patch of turtle grass. And I knew it was going to be a good dive when even before descending I saw a turtle feeding at the bottom. I think in the end there were 4 or 5 turtle sitings. Oddly, there was just an angel fish or two.
Ring Dove Rock
Another good dive, but not too different than the other rock dives described on this page.
This dive started off slow and I was a bit worried at the start since this my last day in Tortola and I wanted my dives to be good. However, after swimming a bit things got interesting as we entered a rocky area with canyon-like portions filled with colorful rocks on either side of you. Visibility was great at around 80 feet and the other divers were good with their air so the dive lasted over 55 minutes.
The main permanent attraction of this dive is Sargent Major City -- a coral formation on the far side of the rock that is home to numerous fish swimming in and out of the coral tubers and crevices. I could spend an entire dive just watching the activity.
As an incredible bonus, a group of 50+ squid were swimming around the area of our boat upon our return. They didn't seem to be too afraid and once I matched their depth they actually came quite close to me making for some great photographs. Squid are such unusual creatures and like Sergent Major City I think I could watch them for an entire dive. As with the previous dive on this day, the divemaster was quite happy to let us stay under for as long as our air lasted -- over 60 minutes!