Aboard the Arabella: Snorkeling the Caves & the Indians in the BVI

by Chris on April 27, 2010

Snorkeling BVI can’t be beat. Just watch out for sea lice bites. Our stops off Norman Island resulted in a nasty sea lice rash.

One of the best things about my trip on the Arabella last week was that we had the opportunity to snorkel almost every day.

Before I met my husband five years ago, I had never really thought much about what lies within the ocean. Although I went to the local pool a lot as a kid, I’m not the strongest swimmer out there. And I have an irrational fear of the bends that prevents me from ever taking a SCUBA course.

Snorkeling, Arabella, BVI, British Virgin Islands

But snorkeling, that I can handle. Since I’ve met Don, we’ve checked out fish in Thailand, Costa Rica, Key West, Tobago Cays and several other Caribbean islands. I even bought my own mask in Turks & Caicos that I carry with me on my trips (snorkeling equipment is included on the Arabella).

Snorkeling, Arabella, BVI, British Virgin Islands

Our first few stops at Vieques and Culebrita – islands off the coast of Puerto Rico known as the Spanish Virgin Islands – were a little disappointing (maybe that’s because the U.S. govt. bombed the heck out of those islands for many years, leaving the coral a mess).

Christmas Cove, St. James, U.S. Virgin Islands, Arabella

Christmas Cove, off the coast of St. James, was a little more interesting. The coral seemed more alive, with sharp urchins protecting it. We did see a large turtle far beneath us here, eating some grass.

Snorkeling, Arabella, BVI, British Virgin Islands

That all changed when we entered the British Virgin Islands. We stopped at Norman Island (also known as Treasure Island, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson book)  at two snorkel sites well known throughout the B.V.I., the Caves and the Indians.

Leaving from the dinghy, we did the Caves first. In the first cave, I kept swimming back until I couldn’t see anything. Creepy! I didn’t go all the way in, as I wasn’t sure how deep the pool was inside and we had been warned about sea urchins among the live coral.

Snorkeling, Arabella, the Caves, BVI, British Virgin Islands

The second Cave was shallow, with tons of fish inside, although these were mostly small clear ones instead of the larger colorful species.

Snorkeling, Arabella, the Caves, BVI, British Virgin Islands

The third and final Cave was our favorite. There were so many colorful fish here that snorkeling felt like swimming in an aquarium! We saw whole schools of blue tangs, yellowtail snapper, puffer fish, trunkfish, and parrotfish.

Snorkeling, Arabella, the Caves, BVI, British Virgin Islands

As we swam around the entrance of the third Cave, I spotted a 4-foot fish swimming about a yard in front of me. I squealed and pointed it out to Don. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back. “Barracuda!” he said. Although I’ve read that barracuda don’t attack, we felt it best to give it a wide berth (sadly, we missed a photo).

Snorkeling, Arabella, the Indians, BVI, British Virgin Islands

After a short break, we headed out to the nearby Indians, two large rocks that extend 50 feet above and below the water.

Snorkeling, Arabella, the Indians, BVI, British Virgin Islands

We circled both rocks and found that while the coral was healthier and more colorful here, there weren’t quite as many fish. Still, it was a gorgeous snorkeling experience. I would love to return to the BVI and tackle the Baths next time.

Now that I’m back, there’s only one problem: my right hand is covered with tiny red bumps that itch. I’m thinking that I accidentally brushed some fire coral or a jellyfish when underwater. Any one know what this is and how to cure it?

Also, where are your favorite snorkel spots?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura April 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Sounds like a great trip, but bummer about the rash 🙁 Could it be sea lice? http://www.surviveoutdoors.com/emergency/sea-lice.asp

My favorite snorkeling spot: Similan Islands in Thailand….like snorkeling over the tops of the Sierra Nevada, with fish!


Chris April 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Sea lice???!!!! Ewww! It’s only on my hand and not anywhere else – thank God. I bought some cortizone cream and am hoping that it will go down.


Sue April 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I have been on the Arabella five times, four in the SVI and BVI. I really enjoyed the snorkeling on Vieques and Culebrita.. gorgonians were fantastic. Christmas cove was wonderful, and Norman Island was stellar. I got that rash on my butt bottom at thigh level. I think I landed on fire coral. It itched on and off for about three weeks and finally went away. Good luck!


Chris April 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

Sue – I think you’re right, that’s what I have. Sucks that it lasts so long! The cream isn’t doing much to relieve it or make it go away…I fear I’ll be scratching for a few more weeks. 🙁


Sue May 3, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Hydrocortisone helps the itch.


Gap Year Opportunities May 12, 2010 at 7:50 am

Wow, love to see that in the future too. Great pictures you posted here, I enjoyed watching it. Snorkeling is one of the things that I want to try. I hope someday I will have the time to try it.


Carla August 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm

One of the best places I have ever been snorkeling is on a public beach on the western end of Barbados. It costs about $10 to rent the snorkeling gear – mask, flippers, snorkel – and the sea life is amazing. It’s also pretty shallow, so you don’t have to worry about getting in over your head. All of the locals snorkel there, so it’s also a chance to meet them while you’re enjoying the views, both in and out of the water!

The Travel Documenters


Chris August 5, 2010 at 9:43 am

Carla – Thanks for the tip! I haven’t explored Barbados yet, so this is a good idea to keep in mind if I get down there. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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