a rapid and huge growth in dive tourism during the past 10 years, the Turks
& Caicos remain one of the last great diving frontiers, with miles of vast
reefs and wrecks yet to be explored. In fact, some of the finest and oldest
coral communities in the Western Hemisphere fringe the shores.
Located well off the beaten path, at the southeastern tip of the Great Bahama Bank, most of these islands are sparsely populated. Topside, the terrain and vegetation resembles the Bahamas – flat with scrub brush and tall cactus, edged by pink and white sand beaches.
The Turks consist of two main islands: Grand Turk and Salt Cay, which are separated from the Caicos by a 22-mile-wide deep-water channel, the Turks Island Passage. The Caicos group consists of six principal islands: West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Grand Caicos, East Caicos and South Caicos. All are flanked by small uninhabited cays. Providenciales’ posh hotels, casino gambling and direct flights from Miami attract most dive tourists. Grand Turk, on the other hand, has fabulous diving too, but lacks the posh resorts and takes a little more effort to get to.
Grand Turk is part of the virtually undiscovered archipelago paradise of the Turks & Caicos Islands. It is one of the few remaining diving frontiers in the Caribbean and has possibly some of 'The' best diving in the world. Rated by the late Jacques Cousteau as one of his top ten dive locations, it features a superb diversity of dive sites and marine life. Be it on the walls, sand canyons or coral reefs, dive trips invariably include sightings of sea turtles, manta rays, eagle rays, mahi-mahi, barracuda, jacks, parrot fish, drums, atlantic spadefish, short nosed batfish, grouper, snapper, grunts, squirrelfish, lobster, spider crabs, moray eels, octopuses, shellfish, reef sharks, bull sharks, whale sharks, hammerheads, humpback whales.
When to Go
A substantial annual rainfall during the late summer and early fall almost dictates that you visit the Turks and Caicos in late winter, spring or early summer. Generally, the high season runs a week later than most Caribbean islands and at many establishments lower hotel prices prevail until mid-December.
Best Dives of Grand Turk
Superb diving and snorkeling exist all along Grand Turk’s western coast. The reef starts shallow just 300 yards off shore, then drops to about 35 ft for a quarter-mile. Then the wall drops 7,000 ft into the Turks Island Passage, an expressway for every imaginable creature in the sea. Schools of manta rays come in to feed on the shallow reefs during spring, a period when the waters are rich with a bloom of plankton – free-swimming micro-organisms that are a food source for many species of marine life. Bottlenose dolphins pass through the dive areas and, occasionally in late winter, humpback whales do as well. Several shallow areas entice snorkelers. Good shore diving exists off Governor’s Beach on the south end.
The Gardens start at 35 ft, then slope off to channel depths. Marine life is so abundant along this section of the Grand Turk wall that the magnificence of the animals often overshadows the reef’s exquisite beauty. Residents include giant Nassau grouper, oversized parrots, rock beauties, and Spanish hogfish, as well as schools of large barracuda. During springtime, manta rays come in to feed. Tiny cleaner shrimp and octopi inhabit the crevices. Mini-critters hide in the vase sponges and gorgonians that grow from the wall. Farther down you’ll find immense barrel sponges and black corals. Visibility is usually excellent except during the plankton “blooms”, which create a soupy cloud over parts of the reef.
The Tunnels, just south of the Gardens, are swim-through chutes between 50 and 75 ft. Reef life is similar to the Gardens. Six-ft mantas arrive during spring migration. At 60 ft there’s a big sandy bowl where our researchers surprised a number of spotted and Nassau groupers. Big and small jacks, trunk fish and enormous file fish sway with the light current. Spotted and green morays poke their heads out from the crevices.
The Anchor, one of the prettiest sections of the Grand Turk wall, features huge pastel sea fans, dense thickets of soft and hard corals, and some huge tube and barrel sponges. Black coral is found in the deeper sections. Like most of the wall, the reef starts at about 40 ft and drops off to channel depths. Unusual coral sculptures provide superb photo compositions.
For more information
to help you plan your trip, contact:
Turks & Caicos Board Postings: In partnership with CaribbeanMag.com
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