Salt Island, British Virgin Islands

Photo: Laiduan uk (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Laiduan uk (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been too long since your last scuba-diving trip. What used to be a must—you once planned entire vacations around your favorite underwater sport—has become an infrequent, last-minute addition to your plans. So this trip to the British Virgin Islands is all about diving.

From Tortola, you’re heading southeast to Salt Island, in between Cooper and Dead Chest Islands. The small island was named after its large salt ponds. Residents used to pay rent—a one-pound bag of salt—to the Queen of the United Kingdom each year. But the last resident passed away in 2004. The island is now uninhabited.

That doesn’t mean people don’t visit Salt Island. Some come to picnic on the white-sand beaches. Others hike to the island’s highest point to find the little lighthouse and the gorgeous views of the surrounding islands. Most want to see the RMS Rhone Marine Park, though. The Rhone was a Royal Mail Ship that was considered indestructible. That turned out to be false. In 1867, a hurricane sunk the ship off Black Rock Point, the island’s western point. Less than one-quarter of the 150-man crew survived. Many who perished were buried in a mass grave, marked by a stone circle, near the jetty. The wreck has become one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.

The historic site is still largely in tact and teeming with marine life. The wooden decks rotted away long ago, but the bow section, the iron hull, and the massive propeller are clearly visible and covered with coral. Deep crevices have become home to eels, lobsters, and octopuses. Moray eels and sea turtles, large groupers and a barracuda named Fang weave through the brass portholes. While large lemon sharks, rarely a threat to humans, sometimes use the wreck as a feeding ground. So adjust your tank and put on your mask. It’s time to start diving again.

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