Snorkeling Around Tortola

Photo credit © Day Trips BVI

Whether you're planning a sailing adventure that will make a stop at Tortola, or you'll be staying long term, incorporating snorkeling into your trip to this island is a must.  This always alluring activity is made even more attractive thanks to the promise of crystalline waters and many interesting sites to see.

There are two sites that regulars point to for snorkeling around Tortola: Smuggler's Cove and Brewer's Bay Snorkel Site.  Each is known for their explosive coral formations located to the left of each beach that make a wonderful home for turtles, rays, and huge schools of tiny but vibrantly colored fish.  

If you can't make it to either of these spots, you can typically wade in to the waters of any beach and find a little something to see.  Keep an eye for rock outcroppings jutting out of the water – if you see birds milling about looking for a meal, likely there will be a nice array of sea life in that area.  There are some areas of the island where the water is not as clear as others, especially after a storm when the sand is moved around more than normal.  Use your best judgment if you're going it alone.  Your goal will always be to find the clearest waters so that when you are below the surface you can truly escape into your unique and almost magical surroundings.  

If you're new to the sport, or simply want to make sure you see the best sites there are to see, Tortolla has numerous tour operators, especially in Road Town and Cane Garden Bay.  Most sailing excursions also offer snorkeling.  The benefit of this is the gear is typically included in the price, and the guides are very well versed in the local underwater world.  These trips might keep you close to shore or take you out to the islets and reefs that are only accessible by boat, so there is a great variety to choose from.  Snorkeling tours will generally cost anywhere from $40 to $65(USD), and you can also rent a snorkeling kit for a week from a local dive shop for around $35(USD). 

Snorkeling Sites

If you're looking forward to seeing what's down below you might enjoy visiting Chromis Reef. A collection of coral creates a patchy reef system that ranges from depths of zero to 45 deep. The area is home to grunts, squirrelfish, baby drum fish, and electric blue chromis. This snorkeling site is found within Cooper Island, in the eastern part of Tortola.

Cistern Point is another option. A large rock surfaces here, and reef spreads out from there, inviting school upon school of fish to thrive here. You'll typically see crabs, barracuda, and spiny lobster in addition to the typical colorful reef fish. The underwater sites here are dramatic and go as deep as 50 feet.

A third location to consider is Manchioneel Bay. This u-shaped reef has a swift current that brings lost of diverse sea creatures in. On any given day, you'll have the opportunity to see sea stars, sea horses, grunts, parrotfish, butterflyfish, blueheads, clownfish, blue tank, snapper, rays, and even octopus.

A fourth place where you can go snorkeling is White Bay. Because it is a protected area where anglers can't take advantage of the abundance of sea life, this is a snorkeling site where visitors will encounter some of the larger fish species including yellowtail snappers, jacks, and grunts. Many are friendly and curious and will swim right up to you. If you're interested, this site is found within Guana Island, in the northeastern part of Tortola.

Smuggler's Cove is a fifth site to consider. If you're new to snorkeling, this is the place to you. The waters are very shallow and the sites are some of the best in the area, making it the perfect place to hook a newbie.

Glance through this table for summary info concerning 12 of the best locations to experience snorkeling in this area.

Snorkeling Sites Near Tortola
Site Location Island
Chromis Reef 5.2 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town Cooper Island
Cistern Point 0.4 mi. West-Northwest of Central Cooper Island Cooper Island
Manchioneel Bay 5.1 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town Cooper Island
White Bay 1.8 mi. North of Central Parham Town Guana Island
Smuggler's Cove 3.4 mi. North of Central Coral Bay Tortola
Brewers Bay 1.5 mi. North-Northeast of Central Cane Garden Bay Tortola
Vanishing Rock 5.2 mi. Southeast of Central Parham Town
Conch Bay 2.0 mi. East-Northeast of Central Parham Town Beef Island
Lee Bay 1.9 mi. North of Central Beef Island Great Camanoe
Cam Bay 1.9 mi. North of Central Beef Island Great Camanoe
White Bay 3.5 mi. Northwest of Central Beef Island Guana Island
Green Cay Beach 2.7 mi. East of Central Jost Van Dyke Green Cay

Snorkeling Boat Trips

For some people, the most enjoyable snorkeling is accessed away from the shore.

If you're hoping to combine some snorkeling with a boating adventure, you might want to contact BVI Yacht Charters. If you're looking to charter a yacht to sail independently throughout the British Virgin Islands, this charter company has over 50 yachts in their fleet. This means you'll be able to choose from a huge variety of vessels and are sure to find the perfect fit for you.

Another option worth investigating is Footloose Sailboat Charters. Every custom sailboat in their fleet includes electronics and navigational charts, double staterooms, freshwater showers, fully appointed galleys, stereo systems, initial ice and water, housekeeping supplies, and much more. Everything you need to get your sailing adventure started comes included. They're located in Road Town, in central Tortola.

Still another option is Day Trips BVI. Offering a tailor-made day aboard their power boat "Irie," you'll truly encounter the spirit of the word as you quickly find yourself at peace with your surroundings.

Some information concerning boat operators that offer snorkeling opportunities can be found here:

Day Sails and Boat Trips On Tortola
Name Phone Location Island
Aaron Rentals (284) 494-8917 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Aristocat Charters (284) 499-1249 Downtown Road Town Tortola
BVI 360 (284) 541-1281 0.7 mi. South-Southeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
BVI Yacht Charters -- 0.5 mi. Northeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Blue Sail BVI (284) 494-2268 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Conch Charters (284) 494-4868 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Day Trips BVI (284) 340-3434 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay
Footloose Sailboat Charters (284) 494-0528 0.4 mi. North-Northeast of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Kuralu (284) 495-4381 3.0 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Tortola
Mystique Charters (284) 494-0740 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay
White Squall II (284) 494-2564 Downtown Road Town Tortola

Snorkeling Services

If you're looking for a business offering snorkeling gear, excursions or similar services, you should check out Tortola Kayak Snorkel Tours. Tailoring a marine adventure to your needs is what this watersports shop specializes in. If you want to spend some time snorkeling, but another person in your party prefers sailing that leads to lunch on the beach, they can make it happen. They are located within Beef Island, Tortola.

A second place that offers snorkeling related services is Dive BVI. They often make trips out to Dog Island, Scrub Island, Ginger Island, Cooper Island, RMS Rhone, and Chikuzen, which means snorkelers can see these sites as well.

A third company worth contacting is BVI Scuba Company. Just 200 feet from the entrance to the cruise ship dock, this dive shop is easily accessible by cruisers who are looking for a snorkeling tour. In addition to their great location, they are known for creating eco-friendly tours that educate their guests about local marine life as they explore underwater. They're located in downtown Road Town.

Glance through this table to find out more concerning 6 firms that offer services of interest to snorkelers.

Snorkeling Services On Tortola
Name Type Phone Location Island
BVI Scuba Company Snorkeling Tour Operator (284) 540-2222 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Blue Water Divers Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (284) 494-2847 1.9 mi. South West of Downtown Road Town Tortola
Blue Water Divers Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (284) 495-1200 2.9 mi. North-Northeast of Central Coral Bay Frenchman's Cay
Caribbean Images Tours (Snorkelling) Ltd Snorkeling Tour Operator (284) 494-8599 Downtown Road Town Tortola
Dive BVI Snorkeling Tour Operator (248) 495-5513 3.6 mi. Northeast of Central Parham Town Scrub Island
Tortola Kayak Snorkel Tours Snorkeling Equipment Rental Service (284) 346-2606 1.0 mi. East-Northeast of Central Parham Town Beef Island

To learn more concerning snorkeling, including tips and suggestions for both "old pros" and beginners, check out our extensive guide to snorkeling in the Caribbean.

The waters that surround Tortola are famed for many reasons, and you won't want to miss out on the stunning variety of sea life that can be seen even if you never leave the beach.  Bring your snorkel or rent one when you arrive, just make sure you spend some time exploring under the sea.


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