Salt Island, British Virgin Islands, is one of our favorite islands to explore, anchor, snorkel, sightsee, or play in the water.

Salt Island
View of the Settlement Beach on Salt Island

Take advantage of the great diving, snorkeling, hiking, and beachcombing. Salt Island’s claim to fame is that it has the wreck of the RMS Rhone.

The RMS Rhone is listed among the top ten dive wrecks in the world and is often slated as the premier dive site in the Caribbean.

Salt Island has Two large, naturally forming salt ponds. These ponds fill with seawater and dry out in summer.

Drying out the salt leaves behind a salt crust around the rim of the pond.

The people of salt Island would bag this salt up to sell to passing boats.

Salt was the primary source of preservation for meat and fish before refrigeration was standard; because of this, boats would anchor off the beach and row ashore and stock up on salt.

Manhead Point
Manhead Point on Salt Island

Sailing Ships that visited the British Virgin Islands

The old sailing ships did not have heavy lead keels like we expect to find on sailboats, they would lay hundreds of ballast rocks in the lowest part of the bilge to add stability.

These rocks were generally round river rocks local to wherever they unloaded cargo, usually in Europe.

If the vessel took on cargo, the weight of the load would offset some of the required stones. Because of this, if you snorkel the waters off the jetty on Salt Island, British Virgin Islands, you will see hundreds of round rocks that are not native to the area.
These are ballast stones. Ballast stones are one of the first items that you are looking for when trying to locate any treasure wrecks. As many boats sat there, the sailors would drink rum at night then toss the bottles overboard.

Bottles dating back to the 1600s can still be found around Salt Island.

There is still much old glass on the bottom of the seafloor. Occasionally, another old complete bottle gets pulled up from beneath the sand when a boat retrieves its anchor.

Sea glass shards can always be found on the beach and around the salt ponds.

Old Bottles and Pottery
Salt Island, British Virgin Islands. Bottles and Pottery

Salt Island Residents

The houses on Salt Island, though privately owned, stand as a testament to the resilience of its residents. Despite the island’s buildings being heavily damaged and many destroyed in the hurricanes of 2017, the spirit of the community remains unbroken.

The last resident, Henry, who left the island around 2004, is now passed on and buried on Salt Island.

As you explore the island, you’ll come across some intriguing concrete bunkers onshore. These structures, once filled with wood and set ablaze by the residents, hold a significant place in the island’s history.

 A steel door was closed, starving the fire of oxygen.

The wood would continue to smoke, turning it into charcoal.

Charcoal is still used as cooking fuel in the Caribbean. In earlier years, island residents sold their charcoal to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

Walk from the beach to the back of the island and find South Bay.  Coral rubble makes up the beach here, and it’s all about the size of footballs.

Amongst the coral rubble, you may find some beautiful shells. However, walking on the rubble can be challenging. It’s important to go slow and be methodical about where you step, ensuring your safety while enjoying the unique landscape. A hike to the top of one of the hills also offers a great opportunity for vacation pictures.

Many of the casualties of the RMS Rhone wreck lay at the western end of the beach. Follow my link here, which opens in a new tab for my history and pictures on the RMS Rhone.

Salt Island Salt Pond
Salt Island British Virgin Islands.

Man head Point

Man head point is the prominent headland that juts out to the east of the settlement. While off the beach and looking at the point at some angles, the cape looks like the Sphinx.

From another angle, people say it is a Silverback Gorilla.  Ride over to it in the dinghy and cruise to get different perspectives; camera buffs love it!

The stretch of shoreline between the beach and Man Head Point is a haven for snorkelers. The shallow, tranquil waters are home to diverse marine life, including southern stingrays, turtles, jacks, goatfish, barracuda, and a vibrant assortment of aquarium fish. Watch for large groups of  Caribbean reef squid, who often observe snorkelers from just off the reef.

Additional Salt Island Info

Another critter that you are likely to see here is the octopi! Octopi are the masters of disguise, so much so that they can cross a checkerboard and change their color to match the board. Octopi needs to improve housekeeping habits. At night, they leave their lair and search for crabs and shells.


When they find a shell, they take them home to eat; the octopus tosses the shell out of their front door.

 Don’t look for the octopus; look for a small group of shells while snorkeling.

Next to the pile, there will be a small hole or gap in the rocks. Take a look; there will be an eye looking back at you! Octopi makes great little workers to collect and clean shells for you.

South Bay

SCUBA diving Salt Island RMS RHone
Getting ready to SCUBA dive the wreck of the RMS Rhone

On the southwestern side of Salt Island is South Bay. This area can be a pleasant anchorage during the Christmas winds, anchoring between 30 and 50 feet, and substantial coral beds here. Do not anchor here unless the sun is high enough to find the sandy patches.

At the site of the RMS Rhone, many national park mooring balls are close together; some are placed for smaller dive boats rather than yachts.

If you are on them, be aware of your neighbors; they may be close enough to touch you.

The area from the west side of Salt Island over to the east side of Dead Chest Island makes up the Rhone National Park. Do not anchor or fish within the National Park.

If your boat is over 60 feet long or no more moorings are available, anchor around off the beach at the settlement and dingy around.

For snorkeling, this will place you in a better spot to see the wreck. The dingy mooring is the two blue balls with a line between them; tie to the line and jump in. The RMS Rhone is just west of the large black rock that juts from the shoreline. 

RMS Rhone
The ribs of the RMS Rhone Wreck Diving BVI

Clementine Helena Leonard Smith, born on May 9, 1911, grew up on Salt Island, and after elementary school in Tortola, she returned to help with the island’s daily activities, including fishing, farming, and salt mining. In 1935, she married Gerald Smith of Peter Island, and they had nine children. Once her children moved to Tortola for education, Clementine dedicated herself to maintaining the burial ground of the HMS Rhone shipwreck victims, a site on Salt Island known for its tragic sinking in 1867, which is now a popular wreck dive site. She also shared the history and culture of the local islands with tourists.

Recognized for her contributions, Clementine received the British Empire Member Medal in 1985 and was honored by the Frederick Pickering Memorial Foundation in 1996. She passed away on May 14, 2002, and is buried in the graveyard she tended. Following her death, Norwell Durant became the last resident of Salt Island, continuing the family tradition of salt collection until his death in 2004. Today, no one resides on Salt Island, but visitors still enjoy its beaches and history.

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