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Sailing & Scuba Diving the Virgin Islands

I couldn’t imagine going to the Virgin Islands and only staying on one island. All you need is one week, and you can see it all! Well, you can get a good summary of things. The way to do the Virgin Islands is simply by sailing. We had a private catamaran tour, where our captain and his wife sailed us from St. Thomas, up to Virgin Gorda and back, as well as cooked for us. This was my first time on a catamaran. I thought I’d have a problem with seasickness or tight quarters, but I had no problems at all. The tight quarters and the funny boat bathroom setup just made it more of an adventure. It’s certainly not a trip for those with mobility issues, but for people who love the water, relaxing in the sun, and especially those who dive, this is the dream trip.

My family scuba dives, so this was our main priority. This is another good reason the catamaran came in handy! We were able to store all of our equipment right on the boat and just jump in wherever we wanted to dive.

The Virgin Islands are home to over 70 dive sites, which include many reefs as well as wrecks. We were only able to hit three sites in the week that we were there. This is what I meant by “a good summary of things.” For the divers: we did The Chimney, The Indians, and the RMS Rhone and all were incredible! There were sea turtles, giant lobster, rays, and so many different fish. My thrill-seeking sister tried to swim after a barracuda, just to get a closer look. Nurse sharks are more common at other dive sites.

We flew into St. Thomas and got a transfer to Redhook Bay, where we boarded the catamaran. We spent the night off the coast of St. John, then went up to Jost Van Dyke to hit up Soggy Dollar Bar and Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, which I’d highly recommend stopping by! From there, we headed down to Tortola and anchored in Cane Garden Bay. We learned to paddleboard there and had dinner and drinks at Myett’s Grill, where they had live music and a good atmosphere. The next morning, we sailed past Scrub Island and through The Dogs to do our dive at The Chimney. From there, we shot up to Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club. We had a very nice dinner there and spent the night. Bitter End is a beautiful, clean area with a couple of restaurants, a dive shop, and higher-end tourist shops. Following our stay at Bitter End, we snorkeled just off the north coast of Virgin Gorda and spent the night off Prickly Pear Island. We could see Richard Branson’s private island (Necker Island) from the boat!

On our way back, we headed down to the south end of Virgin Gorda to The Baths at Devil’s Bay National Park. We were able to snorkel up to shore and explore the caves on our own. In addition to what they had shown below, there were also tide pools with a variety of marine life.

Following The Baths, we sailed over to Salt Island to dive the RMS Rhone wreck. This dive was great because it’s not very deep, like many wrecks can be, and we saw so many different fish, plus a giant lobster and a sea turtle. From there, we did our final dive just off Pelican Island at The Indians dive site. This site is comprised of two pinnacles that come out of the sea with a variety of corals and fish. Another spot in the Virgin Islands that did not disappoint.

What impressed me the most about the Virgin Islands was the fact that all the islands we stopped at weren’t very built-up at all. We were the only boat in sight for a couple of the overnights. It makes the private adventure that much better and seem more like you’re getting a backstage pass, in a way. There are definitely resorts and bigger areas, but for the most part, we were able to hit the areas that aren’t overrun by tourists… yet? Get there and experience that while you can.

Jill Fischer About the Author: Jill is a recent graduate of Michigan State University and is Classic Travel’s Group Travel Specialist. She’s a PADI certified scuba diver and also enjoys heading “up north” to ski and snowboard. Some of her favorite destinations are Spain and the Virgin Islands. Email Jill: jill@classictravelusa.com