Scuba Diving Turks and Caicos
Home to the best beaches in the world, breathtaking hues from inviting waters, and legendary diving and snorkeling the Turks & Caicos Islands beckon you to an undiscovered Caribbean.
The Turks and Caicos Islands consist of 40 islands and cays, eight of which are inhabited. The islands are located 550 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, just below the Bahamas chain and just to the east of Cuba and the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Providenciales (Provo) is the most well known of the Turks and Caicos Islands and is the center of the tourism industry with a wide range of hotels, restaurants, attractions and facilities. Surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, Provo has been ranked “Best Beach” by Conde’ Nast magazine and by the World Travel Awards for several years running. The two main and oldest settlements on the island are the Bight and Blue Hills, and are built around fresh water supplies. Both locations give a real feeling of Caribbean villages.
Grand Turk and Salt Cay offer a glimpse into Caribbean history with great Bermudian architecture and a rustic charm as well as some of the best diving and probably the most “relaxing” time you will ever have.
Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, its historical heartbeat, and home to a state of the art luxury cruise ship center.
Cockburn Town is the administrative capital and the historic and cultural center of the islands. It is strongly reputed to be the landfall island of Columbus during his discovery of the New World in 1492.
Salt Cay is a quaint island, a mere 2.5 square miles, can be the ultimate get away from it all! The real charm of visiting Salt Cay is the overwhelming sense you will get of being transported in time.
SCUBA DIVING TURKS & CAICOS
The three islands generally visited by divers – Grand Turk, Salt Cay and Providenciales – have three distinct personalities, but share one trait: awesome wall diving. The Turks & Caicos archipelago consists of two island chains that sit atop two limestone banks separated by the 6,000-foot-deep Turks Island Passage. Six islands rise above the submerged Caicos Bank, including Providenciales and West Caicos. To the east are the islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay, in the Turks Islands.
Excellent visibility (up to 200 feet), pristine reefs, abundant tropical flora and fauna, fish and other marine life, quality diving services and easy conditions make the Turks and Caicos Islands a world class diving destination. The exceptional wall diving starting in shallow turquoise water and dropping off into the deep blue giving a real thrill. The reef is relatively close to the beach which makes for accessible beach dives. Shipwrecks, old and new further increase the multiplicity of the islands as an outstanding diving destination.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Provo is perfect for divers who like to play both above and below the water; the island offers a wide array of resorts, restaurants and activities. On Provo’s north shore, the 14-mile barrier reef bordering on Grace Bay is one of three main diving areas on the island, as are Northwest Point, a national marine park off the west coast, and uninhabited out islands like West Caicos. At least once a week, most of Provo’s dive operators make the hour-long trip to West Caicos, 10 miles southwest of Provo. Here, divers find a dizzyingly steep drop-off. Choice sites include Elephant Ear Canyon, packed with tube sponges and black coral (though the giant elephant ear sponge for which it’s named is gone). Provo’s renowned Northwest Point offers more than a dozen sites including Amphitheater, which boasts a pageant of fish – parrotfish, clown wrasse, angelfish – plus chance encounters with Caribbean reef sharks.
On Grand Turk, one site, McDonald’s, is named for the graceful coral arch on the wall’s lip, a gateway to the site’s showy drop-off. McDonald’s is emblematic of the diving off Grand Turk – shallow reefs that give way to a striking wall. Along the way, you’ll encounter hawksbill turtles, good-sized Nassau groupers, healthy corals and mammoth sponges.
Tiny Salt Cay, eight miles southwest of Grand Turk, is home to only about 70 people. You can stay on Salt Cay and dive nearby sites, or make the trip from Grand Turk if your operator is willing and able. Dive sites here include the HMS Endymion, a historic wreck 16 miles south of the island, Kelly’s Folly, whose undulating coral gardens slope down to a precipitous drop-off, and Northwest Point, where black corals cling to the wall and tiger groupers hang out in cracks.
Between February and April, hundreds of migrating North Atlantic humpback whales pass in close range of Grand Turk and Salt Cay and operators offer snorkeling encounters with the animals.
DIVING SEASON: You can dive the Turks & Caicos all year long, but the tropical, rainy season runs from October to January. Hurricane season is June to the end of November.
VISIBILITY: Generally the visibility runs 60-100+ feet. While the weather is consistently good year-round, during the rainy season (roughly October to January) visibility can dip below the usual 40-60 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: The weather in Turks & Caicos is very consistent year-round with temperatures not varying much. Although people generally assume it’s going to be much hotter in the summer than in the winter months, that is normally not the case. Daytime highs near the coastal areas range from about 22 to 30 degrees Celsius (72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
CURRENTS: Mostly mild, but can vary by location
WEATHER: Warm tropical weather is the norm, with little change in temperature from winter to summer. Average annual temperature is 85° F/29.4° C. Humidity is usually high, especially from May to September.
DIVING SKILL LEVEL: Divers of all levels will find the Turks & Caicos exciting.
DIVE ACCESS: Most of the diving is via boat. Although Turks & Caicos also offers accessible shore diving to great coral reefs with little to no current.
WHAT TO EXPECT TO SEE: Diving here offers excellent opportunities for encounters with Sea horses, colorful mollusks, crustaceans, anemones and tunicates. Divers will be enthralled by the variety of marine creatures to see – and underwater photographers will think it’s a dream come true. Other resident creatures often spotted here include nurse sharks, lobsters, octopus and squid. Visiting squadrons of eagle rays are frequently sighted, and patrolling reef sharks.
CLIMATE: The average temperature ranges between 85 and 90 degrees (29-32 degrees celsius) from June to October, sometimes reaching the mid 90’s (35 degrees celsius), especially in the late summer months. From November to May the average temperature is 80 to 84 degrees (27-29 degrees celsius). Water temperature in the summer is 82 to 84 degrees (28-29 degrees celsius) and in winter about 74 to 78 degrees (23-26 degrees celsius). A constant trade wind keeps the climate at a very comfortable level.
ELECTRICITY: 110 volt/60 cycle, suitable for U.S. appliances.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: U.S. Dollar and all credit cards accepted.
GRATUITIES: There are no rules about tipping but it is customary to add 15% for good service. Some restaurants will add a 10% service charge to your bill, not to be confused with the 12% restaurant tax, please check before automatically adding your tip.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Local and international service is provided by Cable & Wireless and Digicel (wireless only). Telex, facsimile, internet and cellular phone services are provided. You may use your credit card or a debit PhoneCard at public phone booths. Internet is available throughout the Islands, but not reliable.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: Tourist Visa on US passport can stay for 30 days.
CUSTOMS: Duty free goods that may be brought in to the Islands include: 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 1.136 liters of spirits or wine and perfume for personal use. There are no restrictions for travelers on the import of cameras, film or sports equipment, except spear guns and Hawaiian slings.
DEPARTURE TAX: USD $35.00.
GETTING THERE: Most international flights arrive at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS) (Provo).
American Airlines has two daily flights from Miami, and one a day from Dallas on Saturdays.
Delta offers Thursday, Friday and Saturday service from Atlanta, as well as Saturday only flights from Boston and New York.
US Airways offers daily flights from Charlotte, a Saturday flight from Boston as well as Philadelphia flights everyday, except Tuesday and Thursday.
Air Canada has direct flights from Toronto everyday, except Tuesday and Thursday; and from Montreal on Sundays.
JetBlue has daily flights from New York and Saturday service from Boston.
United Airline offers service from Newark, NY everyday except Tuesdays. .
Westjet has service from Toronto on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and a flight from Montreal on Fridays.
British Airways provides service to London via Nassau on Sundays.
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