Out Islands Attractions
The British Virgin Islands includes more than 60 islands and cays, however most are either sparsely or totally uninhabited. The term "out islands" is a Creole expression meaning "remote cays", and the BVI Out Islands appeal to travellers searching for privacy, pristine natural settings and ideal conditions for snorkelling and diving. The Out Islands are also frequent stops for yachters and wind sailors.Frequented Out Islands of the British Virgin Islands are Marina Cay, The Dogs, Mosquito, Fallen Jerusalem, Cooper, Salt, Dead Chest, Pelican and the Indians, Peter and Norman Island.
The fifth-largest island in the British Virgin Islands, Peter Island is shaped like the letter "L" and covers 1,800ac/729ha of land. Only 4mi/6.5km south of Road Town, Tortola, Peter Island was first settled by German slave traders (17th C) who established a cotton plantation along with several Tortolians. After the abolition of slavery, Peter Island returned to its natural state. Since, there have been a few tobacco plantations on the island and it has changed ownership twice.Today, the island is owned by JVA Enterprises and remains mostly undeveloped but for the shores of Deadman's Bay and Sprat Bay where the current Peter Island Resort and Yacht Harbour sits. The island offers excellent diving and snorkelling sites, five beaches, hiking trails and roads for trail biking.
All of uninhabited Fallen Jerusalem (30ac/12ha) has been designated as a national park. Lying just 0.5mi/0.80km southwest of Virgin Gorda, Fallen Jerusalem makes for a good day trip for those looking to escape the crowds. Fallen Jerusalem is named for the large granite boulders scattered around the island that seem to be ruins of an ancient city, resembling building foundations and clearly defined roads.The north side of the island offers boat moorings, and there are a few beaches to choose from for swimming and sunbathing. If calm weather permits, the fringe of the island presents good snorkelling opportunities. Birds such as boobies, terns, pelicans, noddies and gulls nest and can be spotted on Fallen Jerusalem.
Since 1843, various legends have deemed Norman Island the site of buried treasure. Measuring 2mi/3.2km in length and 0.5mi/0.8km in width, Norman Island is the largest uninhabited island in the British Virgin Islands. Lying 6mi/10km southwest of Tortola, the anchorage at the Bight, known for good snorkelling, is usually crowded with sailboats, swimmers and dinghies.Apart from the beaches at the Bight and Benures Bay on the east side of Norman Island, the terrain is mostly undeveloped and impenetrable. There is a hiking trail between the Bight and Spyglass Hill, however it is not always cleared and there is a chance of meeting wild goats and cattle along the path.
Useful tips: Be wary of wild goats and cattle that find humans threatening.
Santa Monica Rock
Lying 1mi/1.6km south of Norman Island, Santa Monica rock is one of the prime dive sites in the British Virgin Islands, featuring a pinnacle reaching 100ft/30m. Since the rock lies on the outer edge of the island chain it is a good place to spot larger open ocean fish such as nurse sharks or spotted eagle rays. The BVI National Parks Trust has set up moorings here.
The underwater Treasure Caves at Norman Island are believed to be the place Robert Louis Stevenson had in mind when writing Treasure Island. The four caves offer ideal snorkelling and diving, and one of the caves extends 80ft/24m under the island, replicating the conditions of a night dive.
Dead Chest Island
Lying 0.5mi/0.8km north of Peter Island, Dead Chest Island resembles a giant mushroom and covers 30ac/12.2ha of land. The entire island is a national park and bird sanctuary for gulls, noddies, terns and boobies. The area provides good snorkelling and diving as a reef just off Dead Chest features brightly colored tropical fish and sponges, as well as a variety of crustaceans.Dead Chest is the reputed place where the pirate Blackbeard abandoned 15 men with a bottle of rum and a sword to settle their differences, inspiring the phrase "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum". Pick up the moorings set up by the BVI National Parks Trust.
A prime diving site in the British Virgin Islands, Painted Walls is a shallow dive site off the southern coast of Dead Chest Island. Depths reach 30ft/9.2m, and the four gully walls feature brightly colored sponges and coral.
Protected by the British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust, The Dogs are a group of six islands lying halfway between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. The islands are named for the extinct monk seal (lobo marina, sea wolf) that had colonies on The Dogs before being obliterated by hunters.Today The Dogs are wildlife sanctuaries for marine life and birds such as the sooty, bridled and roseate terns as well as the red-billed tropicbird. The Dogs are fringed with coral and are known for superior snorkelling and diving attractions such as Joe's Cave, Flinstones and Wall-to-Wall. The BVI National Trust has placed moorings around The Dogs for anchoring.
The Chimneys are one of the prime diving sites in the British Virgin Islands. Characterized by a series of canyons and arches, colourful soft coral and a variety of fish life can be spotted.
Great Dog island is a perfect diving site for beginners. Divers can swim along a parallel reef that stretches from 10ft/3m to 60ft/18.3m.
Cooper Island lies 4mi/6.4km south of Tortola and is a small cay measuring only 1.5mi/2.4km in length and 0.5mi/0.8km in width. Shaped somewhat like an hourglass, the island features moderate hills and is mostly undeveloped except for a couple restaurants, and a few other guesthouses near the main palm-fringed beach, Manchioneel Bay. Long and narrow, Manchioneel Bay is sheltered from winds and is a popular overnight anchorage. There are good snorkelling opportunities off Cistern point, and a dive-shop offers sailboards, sailboats and kayak rentals.
Pelican Island & The Indians
About 0.5mi/0.8km north of Norman Island, Peter Island attracts many interested in snorkelling and diving. The main attraction is The Indians, four jagged tooth-like pinnacles of rock protruding from the sea that have created a series of canyons and grottoes featuring both hard and soft corals.When the seas are calm snorkelling is best on the eastern side of The Indians, while the western side features 50ft/15.2m drops with elkhorn and brain coral. The BVI National Parks Trust has placed moorings here.
This tiny islet lies just east of Tortola and Beef Island. Marina Cay measures only 6ac/2.4ha. The anchorage on the north side of the cay provides excellent shelter, so the cay is often busy with yachters (normally 50 yachts can be seen) who come ashore to the islet for meals and entertainment. A small beach and shallow reef off the west end of Marina Cay offers good snorkelling and other water sports opportunities.
Mosquito Island lies in the entrance of Virgin Gorda's North Sound. Measuring 125ac/50ha, the island resembles a green gumdrop and is named for the Miskito Indian tribe, whose relics have been found here. The terrain of the island is largely untended and undeveloped, creating a nature sanctuary offering several hiking trails. Although the island is privately owned, there is a small resort, dock and restaurant on the south side of the island.