Rhone National Marine Park
Founded in 1980, the Rhone National Marine Park is the BVI’s first and only sea park. The protected area – which encompasses nearly 800 acres between Dead Chest Island and Salt Island – is home to a plethora of dive spots, including that of the RMS Rhone, a mail ship that sank in 1867.
Today, the RMS Rhone is one of the world’s best wreck dives, and the park as a whole is a favorite destination amongst divers, thanks to the numerous reefs, wrecks, and caverns to explore.
Want to explore the best dive sites and things to do in Rhone National Marine Park? This quick travel guide covers everything you need to know.
About the RMS Rhone Wreck Site
The Royal Mail Steam (RMS) Rhone was a 310-foot mail ship that sunk off the coast of Salt Island in 1867, during a hurricane. In the 1970s, the wreck became a popular dive site, and it was protected in 1980, being named a national park. The wreck remains well intact. For example, the iron bow is still in mostly one piece, with only the wood decking having rotted away. And the stern’s propeller and 500-horsepower engine are still visible and great for exploring.
As such, the RMS Rhone is one of the Caribbean’s top wreck dive sites. Here are a few reasons why:
- Historical Interest – The ship is well intact, and offers a prime example of a steamship of the 1860s. The iron bow is still in one piece, and numerous artifacts are visible including tools and silverware.
- Marine Life – The wreck attracts schools of brightly colored tropical fish, and numerous areas are covered in bright corals. At one point, a 500-pound Goliath grouper also called the stern home. Turtles, barracuda, eels, and lobsters are also regular sights.
- Safety – The site doesn’t have enclosed areas, and therefore offers great swim-throughs for divers. The stern section, which lies in about 30 feet of water, is a favorite intermediate site, while the bow is an advanced dive in 75 feet of water.
Dive Sites in Rhone National Marine Park
There are two wreck sites – the bow and stern of the RMS Rhone – because the ship broke apart as it was sinking. These two sites are the most popular in the park, but in addition to the two sections of the RMS Rhone, the marine park is home to dozens of amazing dive sites. They include a sunken airplane, vibrant reefs, and underwater caverns. Favorite BVI dive sites in Rhone Park include:
- RMS Bow: Located in about 75 feet of water at its deepest, the bow section of the RMS Rhone offers amazing swim-throughs underneath the crow’s nest and lifeboat davits. The bow is mostly intact, and it attracts a plethora of tropical fish and corals.
- RMS Stern – The stern section is located closer to Salt Island, and it sits in about 20-40 feet of water. On this dive, visitors can see the 15-foot propeller, as well as the 500-horsepower engine. Many artifacts are visible as well, including tools and silverware.
- Rhone Reef – Located near the wreck site, the Rhone Reef is one of the most brightly colored reefs in the BVI. Here you’ll find a collection of hard and soft corals, as well as exotic fish, turtles and nurse sharks. It’s an advanced dive in 70 feet of water.
- Blonde Rock – This dive lies in about 70 feet of water and is just off Peter Island. (You’ll find it between Salt Island and Dead Chest Island.) The spot got its name from the collection of yellow fire corals, and you can expect to see clownfish, triggerfish, barracuda, and angelfish.
- Painted Walls – One of the most popular dives in the BVI, this dive site is located just off the coast of Dead Chest Island. The spot is known for its Hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, moray eels and collection of bright, boldly colored corals. There’s plenty to explore here.
- Coral Gardens – Located in 50 feet of water, this spot is known for its airplane, which was put there by the BVI government to foster reef growth. Today, the plane attracts a smattering of brightly colored fish and corals. This is a popular intermediate dive spot.
Where to Go Nearby
Diving is the main attraction at Rhone National Marine Park, but you’ll also want to spend some time exploring the surroundings. In particular, the smaller, uninhabited islands along the Sir Francis Drake Channel offer plenty of history and landscapes to explore. Some spots to see include:
- Peter Island – The 1,800-acre Peter Island is privately owned and home to a luxurious resort and villas. It’s a perfect destination for sailing, scuba, hiking, and biking, or for some rest and relaxation. This is a popular haven for yacht charter guests.
- Dead Chest Island – As legend has it, Captain Blackbeard marooned 15 members of his crew on Dead Chest Island, giving each one their own cutlass and a bottle of rum. The legend is said to have inspired the lyrics “fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” In addition to the nearby dive sites, there are also several snorkeling spots nearby.
- Salt Island – Tiny, uninhabited Salt Island is located a stone’s throw from the RMS wreck site. Therefore, it’s a popular destination for divers. Many choose to stop here for a mud bath at the island’s historic salt ponds.
Visiting Rhone Marine Park on a Yacht Charter
Rhone Marine Park is a favorite destination on any BVI yacht charter. In fact, the park is designed to accommodate charter yachts and tenders. Although anchoring is prohibited within the park’s boundaries – as a precaution to protect divers – there are many moorings nearby. Mooring spots include:
- Moorings are available near the RMS Rhone wreck site.
- There are beautiful anchorages near Salt Island, including in Lee Bay or Salt Island Bay.
- Peter Island is home to a deep-water marina, a favorite destination on BVI yacht charters.
Set sail to Rhone National Park on your BVI yacht charter. Contact a broker with Worldwide Boat today to learn about itineraries, diving options, and more. We offer a variety of luxury yacht charters in the British Virgin Islands.