The British Virgin Islands are a self-governing British overseas territory, situated in the Caribbean just to the east of the US Virgin Islands.
The BVIs, as they are called, are a popular travel destination for sailors, fishermen, sun worshippers, and other independent travellers, albeit not for the cost conscious. Boating among the dozens of tiny, mostly uninhabited, islands is a great stop on any tour of the Caribbean islands.
The British Virgin Islands comprise 60+ islands and keys, with more than 43 of them being uninhabitedislands. The islands fall into two types: the majority are steep volcanic islands (including the main islands, Tortola and Virgin Gorda), and a small number of relatively flat coral islands (such as Anegada and Sandy Spit). In fact, Anegada is referred to as "the drowned island" because its elevation is so low. Many people miss it altogether until they sail close to it. The highest point is Sage Mountain on Tortola.
With a tropical climate tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, and little seasonal temperature variation, the weather in the BVI is rather enjoyable. In the low season, there are some hurricanes, although in recent years they have had little consequent damage beyond some flooding.
The islands were first settled by the Dutch in 1648 before being annexed in 1672 by the British.
The economy is one of the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean. The US dollar is the legal currency within the British Virgin Islands. The islands of the BVI are highly dependent on tourism, generating an estimated 45% of the national income, together with the offshore financial industry.
The quality of beaches in the British Virgin Islands, even by Caribbean standards, is very high. Because of the large number of
The Virgin Islands is the most popular area for a sailing vacation in the Caribbean. This is a first-timers paradise, since the islands are close together and well protected from the Atlantic. You wake up to sunshine and a blue sky, choose the cruising target of the day by pointing on a nearby island and set sail in a comfortable trade wind. There are many yacht charter companies and marinas in the British Virgin Islands. Apart from cruise ship passengers, the majority of visitors to the British Virgin Islands stay on liveaboard boats or charter sailing vessels.
- Scuba diving
The BVIs are home to the wreck of the RMS Rhone which served as the site for the underwater scenes in the 1977 Nick Nolte/Jackie Bisset/Robert Shaw flick The Deep. The Rhone is the best-known and most often visited dive site in the islands. Lying just west of Salt Island, the Rhone is a former Royal Mail Steamer that sank in a hurricane on October 29, 1867 with the loss of nearly all lives. A spectacularly large 310 ft (94 metres) steamer in her previous life, she's now a three-site dive, with each chunk resting at varying depths, from 20 to 80 ft (6 to 24 metres).
Apart from the Rhone, the BVI boasts several other shipwrecks, the most notable of which are the Chikuzen, a collection of four purposely sunk wrecks in 'Wreck Alley' off Cooper Island, the Inganess Bay, the Fearless, the rarely dived Parmatta, and an aircraft off Great Dog Island. In addition to wreck diving, the BVI has the usual plethora of coral reefs that one would expect in a Caribbean diving destination.
A list of dive operators in the BVI can be found here. When diving on a guided tour, expect to pay around US$80-100 for a two tank dive and about US$50-60 for a one tank dive, although cheaper deals can be had as part of a package. Most dive operators do not charge extra to use their equipment if you decide to leave yours at home, and most are happy to pick up guests who are staying on boats en route to dive sites ('rendez-vous diving' in local slang). Almost all dive sites in the BVI have permanent marker bouys on them attached by the National Parks trust. If you are on a boat, confident in your diving skills, and are a semi competent navigator, it is easy to locate these bouys and dive most of the sites without a guide.
It is illegal for non-British Virgin Islanders to remove any marine organism from BVI waters without a recreational permit. A permit is available for charterers who intend to fish while in the BVI. The cost is $35 ($10 application fee; $25 for the permit). This temporary fishing permit can be obtained from the Department of Conservation and Fisheries: Department of Conservation and Fisheries, The Quastisky Building PO Box 3323 Road Town, Tortola. Tel: (284) 494-5681/3429 or (284) 468-3701 ex. 5555/1 Fax: (284) 494-2670 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The government office closes early on Friday afternoons and doesn’t reopen until Monday morning. For charterers arriving on the weekend, it may be a couple of days before you can get a permit. When you arrive for your charter, check with the local staff for advice on obtaining a permit. There have been instances of extremely zealous enforcement of penalties for fishing without licences (including 5 figure fines), so visitors should be mindful of that.
Spearfishing (of any kind) is strictly prohibited in the BVI, as is any kind of marine harvesting whilst using scuba equipment. With appropriate licences, visitors can hunt for lobster and conch by hand whilst free diving (ie. with no snorkel or scuba tank) during the relevant hunting seasons.
Several beaches offer surf-oriented breaks, including Josiah's and Apple Bay.
The annual "HiHo" windsurfing race-cum-travel-tour is held on or around the 4th of July weekend. For a week, internationally renowned competitors participate in formal course racing. Recognized as "One of the 100 top BVI adventures" by the BVI Tourist Board, the HiHo fleet is easily recognized by the distinctive event and sponsor flags flown by the charter fleet. The event generally stops for a day or two at Virgin Gorda, a night on Anegada, one or two nights around Tortola and finishes with a day of racing around the area of Sandy Cay, west of Jost van Dyke. Participants join in a 15-mile ocean dash from the waters around Necker or Gorda directly to Anegada. This event is unusual in that Anegada, a low-lying island, only becomes visible to someone at ocean-level during the last five miles of the race.
- BVI Kite Jam. Annual, week long kite boarding event including professional demonstrations, races, parties and awards ceremony. BVI Kite Jam is a kiteboarding event held in the beautiful British Virgin Islands, and is open to amateurs, professionals and spectators. This week long event is packed full of of Freestyle, Sliders, Big Air, Wave riding and long distance racing all in some of the windiest and most spectacular locations in the world such as the North Sound, Necker Island, Anegada and Eustatia Sound.
If you're renting a boat, you already have your bed too, but for landlubbers, the larger islands offer resorts, budget bungalows, and a few things in between. To get off the beaten path there are many options if you're willing to island hop by boat.
There are larger hotel options on Tortola, as well as many intimate, locally owned inns that are hidden treasures. Private islands like Necker Island (owned by Sir Richard Branson) and Guana Island can be rented. Peter Island Resort is a very exclusive private island resort (and is connected by a free ferry service from Road Town). Other high end resorts are on Virgin Gorda, but there are many villas and smaller hotels there as well. Jost Van Dyke offers laidback options and Anegada has adventurous packages for the active traveller.
Many visitors to the BVI stay on land will rent private guest houses rather than stay at larger hotels, and there are a large selection to choose from through the islands
source : http://wikitravel.org/en/British_Virgin_Islands
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