Sailing Vacations

- Snorkelling

What to expect when snorkelling in the Virgin Islands, the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands.

Warm Caribbean Water: Body temperature water.

Crystal clear water for 80-foot visibility.

Coral, rainbow colored fish, colored sponges.

It is your broker who provides information to make your yacht charter better than the rest.

Snorkelling in tropical and subtropical parks in the Virgin Islands--this is where water is the same temperature as your body. Great! No silver shock to your body as you first jump in. No special skills are required, and no exertion is required to stay afloat. Face down in the water, breathing through a snorkel, your body is naturally buoyant.

Kindly note coral reefs are extremely fragile environments where we humans impacts their lives. Corals exist in small environmental conditions and, when the coral is killed, the huge array of other creatures and plants that exist with it lose their habitat, then they too pass away.

Many of the islands are edged with mangroves. The roots dip into the water and offer protection for all species of fish life, invertebrates, baby turtles, etc. I feel this is a second protection area for young sea life; the first protection area is the coral reefs themselves. The coral reef and all the life related to the coral is what keeps all of us intrigued. The mangroves and the coral reef protect the young until they are big enough not to be eaten.

The Virgin Islands only have 14-16 inches of tide change between spring low and spring high tides. This means very little undertow, if any.


This is what you will see on the "live" side of this barrier reef, a virtual wall stretching up from 5 feet to 45 feet straight up. Coral faces the deep blue sea because the nutrients (food) come from that direction. So this is the "live" side of a barrier reef, and a luxury yacht can drop anchor very close. Once you see this wall teeming with rainbow colored fish and coral life, you immediately know why it is called a barrier reef. With 80 feet visibility in all directions, you can see there are no dangers (like sharks or jellyfish). Your comfort level rises, and you settle down to exploring nature around you. One of the world's safest barrier reefs to snorkel is Coulequan Reef, 200 yards east of the Bitter End Yacht Club; yet few people venture here to snorkel. Have your captain escort you to the outside of this wonder of the world; yes, you will be in deep water, but you can see it is safe. Huge stag horn coral forests, elk horn patches, large plate coral outcropping, and monster brain coral castles project from this large barrier reef. Rainbow colored fish dance in between the coves and branches; large spiny lobsters sheepishly peek at you from dark caves. It is not uncommon to see a stingray 80 feet away from you, and 180 degrees the other way a greenback turtle swims to her daily grazing field.

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What you will see underwater:
Your captain or guide will point out many items you miss. His trained eye picks up a small herd of red seahorses, the male seahorse holding and protecting his young. A lone sunfish 1 foot in diameter keeps his distance from your group. A soft purple fan coral holds a flamingo tongue. Touch the mantle of the flamingo tongue, and the leopard spotted mantle retracts to show a white shell. A large turtle swims by with one shy eye on you. A spotted eagle-nosed ray digs his nose into the white sand, creating a furrow behind while feeling under the soft sand for crustaceans to eat. His mate is close by, doing the same; they are merely having breakfast. Your yacht charter captain points out a slipper lobster, as well as a large Caribbean spiny lobster. These are nocturnal but can be seen during the day. Butterfly fish and parrotfish go about their daily routines, giving humans a second glance. Pygmy conch and conch can be seen on the seabed as the odd sand dollar glistens in the bright sunlight. A section of the barrier reef drops to a forest of stag horn coral! Two weeks during the year, jellyfish abound, but their stings are not a problem. Fan worms pop in at the first sign of danger and slowly ease out to full bloom once the danger is gone. Red-banded coral shrimp show themselves to you as you go by a section of yellow live stag horn coral. Purple and yellow goby fish keep close to the side of a cave or entrance to a coral opening ready to dart for protection from any danger; the odd black and white drum circle their protected nook. Keep an eye open for large shells that move, live trumpet shells, pygmy conch and conch shells; hermit crabs abound. Your yacht charter captain will point all these out to you as you glide past.

Cannons underwater:
There are 4 sixteenth-century cannons in 10 feet of water on the inside of Coulequan reef, so take your underwater camera and click away. Here are some of the pictures I have taken starting from 1990 and the cannons were there in 2008.  A large red buoy marks them; day charter boats have been seen to come here are well, this all on the inside of this barrier reef. These cannons are from the wreck of the San Ignatius.

Children spend many hours each day snorkelling; the life they see underwater is so very different from what they have ever dreamed of.  Underwater to most children is an unknown world that they wish to explore to the hilt. This is good clean fun for them, so encourage it.

Although TV's are always requested on board all charter yachts, they are seldom used. Every night without fail, the children enjoy their dinner and go to bed, knocked out from their action- packed day and the clean fresh air taken into their bodies. I have never heard of any child being bored onboard a private Virgin Island yacht charter. Adults are also mesmerized by the way life goes on and off underwater, and the crewed charter yacht is the very best way to enjoy this BVI vacation. The trained eye picks up far more than the novice, but it is wonderful to be a novice in underwater wonderland, provided you know you are very safe indeed.  

Click Here to see some pictures of how this yachting adventure impacts children's lives. I also had a 2-year- old little girl who absolutely loved every second of her yacht charter.



If you are snorkelling in the snow then something is wrong. No sailing vacations here


Snorkelling notation provided by Captain Andrew Buys.

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