Volume 3 - US Virgin Islands: St. John

Eagle Shoal is a dive that many divers know about but few have dived. When we met instructors who had not dived it, they always wanted to know whether it was as good as its reputation suggests. There are only two operators in Coral Bay and the site is too far from stores in St. Thomas and St. John’s west coast, especially as it can only be dived in calm conditions It is a long boat trip to find it is too rough to dive. As to whether it is as good as its reputation suggests, read on.

The site is a row of three long coral fingers, interspersed with coral heads and riddled with caves and overhangs.

Dive Profile

The water is so clear that from the surface we can see the rock marking the southern end of the site. We drop down onto sand at 40 feet and swim along the first ledge. It has been so undermined that a two-tiered overhang has formed. We take an overhang each and are constantly trying to attract each other’s attention to point out some interesting marine life.

Moving north the other coral rows are even better. We come across tunnels, arches, caves and overhangs every way we turn, and they are packed with fish. Rarely have we seen so many fish on one dive and we discover later that it is because the terrain snags fishermen’s tackle so they give it a wide berth. Eagle Shoal is nature’s version of a safe haven.

We find most species of grunt: Spanish, blue-striped, Caesar, and French. Porkfish, schoolmasters, yellowtail and mahogany snappers add their buttercup yellows to the sunny display. Deeper in the recesses are glasseye snappers, glassy sweepers and a big fat Nassau grouper. Not all the fish are packed in the overhangs; surrounding us as we move from one hole to another are bar jacks, Bermuda chub, and black durgons. On the face of the reef, parrotfish do their best to gnaw through what remains of this ancient reef.

One cave is much larger than all the others and has no less than four entrances, leading into a large circular arena. It is quite remarkable that this structure is still standing, as there does not appear to be enough to hold it up. The Reverend Bob Davis performs underwater marriages in the cave. Fabulous shafts of light amplify the ethereal experience and we are quietly overawed. We did not need the added excitement of a bull shark sliding past one of the exits, but we do not always get to choose our experiences.

Having become accustomed to squeezing our way through hordes of fish, we can take time to inspect the sessile marine life. The overhangs are festooned with sponges in the colours of a well-stocked fruit bowl filled with tangerines, apricots, lemons and plums. Some, like orange ball sponges, even have the physical characteristics of fruit. Even the coral feels obliged to colour co-ordinate with fine displays of orange cup corals.

Looking back across the reef we get the eerie sense that this is not a reef but a sunken ship. A powerful bow, complete with bowsprit, is clearly visible. This really is a place to fire the imagination and even with how long our air lasts at 40 feet we are disappointed when the dive is over.

Thanks to Tina of East End Divers.
USVI sample dive site map
Eagle Shoal
20' - 45'

dive site rating