Sail Away

Four fa­vorites for your next char­ter

SAIL - - Contents - By Zuzana Proc­hazka

Top char­ter des­ti­na­tions for snorkel­ers

Iam a snorke­l­ing snob, hav­ing been for­tu­nate enough to swim in wa­ters around the globe, breath­ing through a plas­tic tube, watch­ing the un­der­wa­ter world go by. Some places like Cozumel, I’ve vis­ited by plane. Oth­ers, I’ve reached by sim­ply jump­ing on a char­ter boat that car­ried me to se­cret and not-so-se­cret spots where I could while away an af­ter­noon in wa­tery glory.

There’s a rea­son why snorke­l­ing gear is ubiq­ui­tous on char­ter boats. Just about every­one wants to see what’s be­low the wa­ter­line, and it just wouldn’t be a va­ca­tion with­out tak­ing a dip. Here are some of my fa­vorite spots that are on the very beaten path of most char­ter com­pa­nies, eas­ily reached and much en­joyed.


Beau­ti­ful beaches, plen­ti­ful bars and steady tradewinds de­fine the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands. But I’ve al­ways found the snorke­l­ing spots un­der­whelm­ing here. Un­til my last visit that is, when I stopped by three great places all in one af­ter­noon. The first were the In­di­ans near Nor­man Is­land. This is a clus­ter of four rocks that jut out of the wa­ter and look men­ac­ing un­til you catch a moor­ing and dive in. Yel­low fire co­ral abounds, so no touch­ing, but the struc­ture re­minds me of an un­der­wa­ter city packed with plants and fish.

Just six miles north­east of there, near Salt Is­land is the renowned wreck of the Royal Mail Steamship Rhone. Be­cause the hulk has col­lapsed and is now mostly flat, it’s easy to snorkel from the pro­pel­ler wedged in the shal­lows to the bow buried in 60ft of wa­ter with­out need­ing dive gear. It’s an eerie but fas­ci­nat­ing site.

If you’re not com­pletely wa­ter­logged by now, shore up your af­ter­noon with a stop at Man­chioneel Bay off the north­west cor­ner of Cooper Is­land. Tie your dinghy, kayak, or SUP to the string line near Cis­tern Point and get ready for a col­or­ful aquar­ium. Par­rot­fish and grunts flit by while schools of blue tang curve lus­ciously around in long lan­guid rib­bons. Sea stars abound, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a ray be­fore call­ing it a day on your wet ad­ven­ture.


A seem­ingly Pho­to­shopped par­adise with its kalei­do­scopic colors, the Tobago Cays in the Gre­nadines is the place to drop out of civ­i­liza­tion for a lit­tle while. Four small is­lands hide in the pro­tected wa­ters of the horse­shoe reef, their beaches the he­do­nis­tic movie set for Johnny Depp’s Pi­rates of the Caribbean.

The cays were des­ig­nated a Ma­rine Na­tional Park in 1998 and fishing or ha­rass­ment of the lo­cal sea life are not al­lowed, which makes ev­ery­thing that swims by un­afraid and mel­low. Near Ba­radel Is­land, there is a pre­serve marked only by a line and buoys. The bot­tom is sand and grass, and no boats can an­chor here. If you swim in and then just float at the sur­face for a while, you may soon find your­self flanked by sev­eral tur­tles. If you’re ex­tra quiet, you can even hear them munch­ing on the grass at the bot­tom. They’re cu­ri­ous and at the same time obliv­i­ous to your pres­ence, mak­ing it easy to spend an hour drift­ing in the warm wa­ter with th­ese pre­his­toric crea­tures as your sole com­pan­ions.


There is a well-kept se­cret spot in French Poly­ne­sia. Not many know about the drift snorkel at the south­east­ern tip of Bora Bora’s fring­ing mo­tus. Once an­chored on the is­land’s back, or east­ern side, a dinghy ride will bring you to an iso­lated stretch of bro­ken co­ral beach where you can pull up the dink and walk to wind­ward. From here, start a de­light­ful and ef­fort­less snorkel, car­ried by the cur­rent that flows in through the open­ings in the reef.

It’s best to bring wa­ter shoes for the walk and then tuck them into your swim­suit for the float back. Lots of fish swim in and out of a size­able co­ral gar­den that sprawls out like a liv­ing maze. It’s not un­usual to see spot­ted rays glid­ing by silently. The star at­trac­tions are the clams with their multi-col­ored iri­des­cent man­tles that bur­row into the co­ral heads. Swim­ming over them is like a trea­sure hunt with a new color ev­ery­where your eye set­tles.


If you like caves, Mi­los in the Greek Cy­clades Is­lands is the place to be. This is­land is where the stat­ues of Venus de Milo(s) (back when she may have had arms) were un­earthed. The stark white is­land is seem­ingly en­tirely made up of caves and cliffs that hover over blue la­goons, punc­tu­ated here and there by rocks, which spring out from the depths.

Tourist boats packed with day-trip­pers from Adamas, Mi­los’s main town, are on a rigid sched­ule around the is­land, but a great way to avoid them is to hang back about two hours be­hind their cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion. That way, you’ll have each stopover to your­self. The first must-see is Sykia, a top­less cave that lost its roof a few cen­turies ago. Dinghy in­side, beach the ten­der and hop in the cool wa­ter. Rocks rather than co­ral make up the bot­tom, and while the fish are few, the echo of your own voice as you swim around, watch­ing the birds play tag over­head is worth the price of ad­mis­sion. s

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