Scuba Diving Turks and Caicos – Dive Sites
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.
GRAND TURK DIVE SITES
Amphitheater – Soft white sands and large coral heads await upon first descending at Amphitheater. An easy 100’ swim to the wall and a slight turn west leads divers to a huge bowl with three sloping sides – the Amphitheater. Blue parrotfish are abundant in this area and the queen triggerfish is often seen munching on sea urchins or warding off wrasses and snappers.
The Aquarium – Located toward the north-end of the island, The Aquarium is often one of divers favorite Grand Turk dive sites. The reef ridges rise and fall sharply, creating several sand canyons below. Boulder star coral, sea rods, brain coral, and sponges are abundant here and in particularly good health. It is common to see large Nassau groupers, longspine squirrelfish, black durgon, and green turtles in the area.
Black Forest – Normally found at much deeper depths, black coral is found in abundance here, due to the shadow created by the overhanging reef. Bushy black coral, feathery black coral, long curly wire coral, and black coral trees create an interestingly beautiful and tranquil Caribbean dive site. Large parrotfish and sand tilefish call Black Forest home and it is often the only site to view the Graysby grouper.
Coral Canyon – A cliff-like drop into the ocean abyss is what gives Coral Canyon its name. A gradual decline on the upper reef ridge suddenly drops to more than 150’ and spectacular views. Hard and soft corals provide a safe haven to the octopus and eel that teem below.
Coral Garden – A 30’ deep top sandy reef gives way to wide shelf that is nearly 100’ deep. Rugged coral formations and a variety of sponges abound on this dive site, from plate and brain coral to barrel sponges and the cerulean-colored tube sponge. A variety of Caribbean fish call this Grand Turk dive site home and scrawled filefish and Spanish hogfish are often found here.
McDonald’s – Just like the hamburger chain, Grand Turk’s McDonalds is known for its magnificent arches and is often cited as one of visitors’ favorite Caribbean dive sites. The arch is several feet wide, which allows divers room to move around and explore the bright coral and sponges located throughout. Schools of grouper and parrotfish stop by the nearby cleaning station to allow cleaner shrimp and smaller fish to remove dead skin and parasites. Green moray eels and eagle rays are also often sighted in the area.
Rolling Hills – This Turks and Caicos dive site begins with fascinating spur and groove formations on top of the reef that eventually shift into easy sloping waves. There are three swim-throughs along the site and while they can be difficult to find, they are worth the effort. Sea fans and coral heads surround the openings and oftentimes crabs, lobsters, or other crustaceans are found hiding in the crevices of the tunnels.
Tunnels – Two irresistible swim-throughs formed by arching coral await divers at Tunnels. Light peering in from the openings allows divers too peek into the nooks and crannies inside the tunnels. Butterflyfish and angelfish abound this site and in the summertime, it is an excellent spot for manta ray encounters.
PROVIDENCIALES (PROVO) DIVE SITES
Northwest Point – Malcolm Roads beach and the Northwest Point dive sites, are approximately a 40 minute boat ride from Harbour Club Marina. The wall starts at 35 feet and plunges to more than 3000 feet. Divers will see black coral, tube sponges and wire coral with abundant schools of fish such as Creole Wrasse and Mahogany Snapper
Amphitheater – At about 85 feet, there is an undercut on the wall which goes back into the wall at 10-15 feet. A large orange elephant ear sponge sits on the top lip with black coral and orange rope sponges found below the undercut. Lobsters, schooling horse eye jack and flamingo tongues are common on the soft corals on the top of the wall.
Black Coral Forest – Divers will find large areas of plate coral and deep water gorgonians and see a ledge at about 200 feet leading off into the blue. Lots of black coral here including wire and pinnate and schools of grunts and parrotfish are often seen on the top of the wall.
Chimney – Starting at about 50 feet, divers swim through a ravine and exit on the wall at 90 feet. The wall is a nearly vertical drop to about 200 feet with scattered wire coral, soft corals, and crinoids in many of the holes. Keep your eyes on the blue water for the occasional shark and eagle ray.
Coral Stairway – The top of the wall at about 45 feet starts sloping down like a stairway. No sand patches just a unique stairway-like wall. On the wall are found schools of barracuda, horse-eye jacks, Bermuda chubs, and hamlets. Sometimes the occasional hawksbill turtle swims by.
Eel Garden – Many brown garden eels can be found near the cable and wireless cable. Nurse sharks and peacock flounders too. Lush corals cover the top of the wall starting at about 50 feet and the wall itself is covered with soft corals, tube and rope sponges, and star corals with a huge sand patch at about 130 feet.
Hole in the Wall – A hole in the top of the reef drops vertically from 55 feet and exits from the face of the wall at 90 feet. Space is limited to one diver in the chimney at a time. Growths along the inside walls are brittle and sharp. Lots of plate coral, schooling fish and lobsters.
Real Mans Wall – The dive site starts with a large canyon leading out to ‘the wall’, and exiting at about 90 ft. Pillar Corals are found here and lots of schooling fish. Remnants of ‘spur and groove’ coral formation form small ridges. Lobster, crabs, and other critters that enjoy the recesses of the reef like to hang out.
The Crack – South of Eel Garden, the mooring is in a large sandy area again with garden eels. A deep crevice cuts down the wall from the top at about 50 feet down to 100 feet. This area has loads of Christmas tree worms and feather dusters. There’s a large black coral tree if you exit the wide crevasse on the wall at 75 feet. A large pillar coral is on the top edge of the wall. Schools of yellowtail, schoolmasters, and mahogany snappers can be seen.
Thunderdome – Originally was part of the set for a French game show. The top of the steel structure is at 15 feet and the bottom at 35 feet. What remains of the dome is covered with scallops, clams, Christmas tree worms, Secretary blennies and other small life. Red stripe cleaning shrimp are often seen there, as well as a resident barracuda, gray angelfish, and Queen Angelfish. Scattered around the dome are coral heads.
Tiki Huts – Just offshore from the Amanyara on Malcolm Roads Beach, this site starts at about 40-45 feet and great for blennies and gobies. Knobby and corkscrew anemones are common with golden and beaded crinoids found in many of the nooks and crannies. Gray angelfish are also often seen on this site
Two Step – The top of the wall starts at about 40 feet and drops sheer to 100 feet where there is a sandy shelf. The wall then drops off into the deep. An old anchor is cleverly disguised as a pillar coral. Nurse sharks are commonly seen as well as whitespot filefish, blackbar soldierfish and squirrel fish.
Sandbore Channel – Lying halfway between Providenciales and West Caicos, Sandbore Channel is outside the marine park and has some of the best diving with walls that are sloped or sheer. Good area to watch for for eagle rays, dolphins and sharks.
Land of the Giants – This dive area is found in a deep water channel between Provo and West Caicos, leading to the Caicos Banks. Can be rough in the winter months. An abundance of nutrients pass from the banks to the reefs and sometimes this reduces the visibility and makes this site undiveable. These conditions are often the best though for spotting large pelagics…… sharks, eagle and manta rays so keep your eyes fixed out into the “blue”.
Tons of Sponge – Diveable only during an incoming tide, the topography is mixed with huge sand patches at the top of the wall, shallow reefs with holes and hiding places for fish. Great site for watching fish…..schools of Atlantic spadefish, horse-eye jacks, grunts, angelfish, rock beauties, and chromis.Watch for lobsters, channel-clinging crabs, eels, and stingrays too.
WEST CAICOS DIVE SITES
Located 10 miles southwest of Providenciales, West Caicos is an uninhabited island offering pristine walls and numerous pelagics. Caribbean, black tip reef shark, and eagle rays are often seen along the sheer walls. This is your best chance to spot wild flamingos, osprey and brown pelican. West Caicos is approximately 45 minutes from Provo.
Becky’s Beautiful Bottom – Huge coral heads and barrel sponges line this wall, each containing a community of fish and creatures. Great site for photographers who like shooting macro shots. You’ll find hermit crabs, pederson cleaning shrimp, and corkscrew anemones.
Boat Cove (aka Rock Garden Interlude) – The top of the wall is a sand plateau with many small coral heads. The sandy area attracts many rays and flounders as well as yellow coral shrimp. The reef on top of the wall has small clumps of staghorn coral and is home to grunts, snappers, groupers, rooster-tail conch, and many juvenile fish. Lots of fish found on this site.
Brandywine – The top of this dive site starts at 55 feet and drops down the sheer wall to about 120 feet. Sand chutes lead down to the wall and create overhangs where fish can hide. You will find giant sea anemones, blue tangs, soft corals, tiger-tailed sea cucumbers, and white spotted filefish.Watch for azure vase sponges as well along the wall and on top of the reef.
Coney Island – A small, sloping mini wall in about 25 feet of water is home to several small caves and overhangs great for finding those elusive critters that like to hide in the shade, including the occasional nurse shark. A lush coral field is located in 40 ft of water and is home to many fish, southern stingrays, eels and flying gurnards. On top of the wall, the depth gets as shallow as 5-15ft, but is one of the prettiest parts of the dive. Large ‘sinkholes’ are home to giant sea anemones, and the small creatures that live in and around them.
Devil’s Horn – This site is named for a large coral outcropping (‘the horn’) on the wall. It starts in about 55 ft, with the top of the horn in 80 ft of water. A spectacular view greets the diver as you round the top of the horn with schooling fish congregating on the top of the out cropping. Under the boat sometimes you’ll see large Southern Stingrays, and beds of garden eels
Driveway (aka Skislope aka Yankee Town) – A sand area with scattered coral heads lies under the mooring in about 40 feet of water and leads into a sand chute that heads down through the reef from 50 feet to a ledge at about 80-100 feet where the wall drops vertically to the deep. All along the wall, as at many of the sites at West Caicos, divers will find black coral and purple tube sponges, with yellow-headed jawfish, golden-tailed morays, groupers, black durgons. The ledge area features some excellent growth of plate and star corals.
Elephant Ear Canyon – Named after the largest known orange elephant ear sponge in the Turks and Caicos. It’s a huge one…….nearly 11 feet in diameter and almost perfectly round. The top of the reef starts in 40 feet of water where coral heads are scattered amongst sand chutes that extend down the reef. The sponge is located at the foot of the sand chutes in 95 feet of water.
Gully – The Gully gets its name from a cut in the reef that forms two distinct sections before dropping off vertically. The wall begins in about 50 feet and the top of the wall is a dense coral reef with many cleaning stations. Divers begin by swimming through this cut and dropping onto the wall at 85 feet. The vertical wall here has many undercuts covered in sponges, black corals and long tentacled anemones. If you’re real lucky, you may see a redbanded lobster at about 75 feet.
Pot of Gold – This anchor site at the North end of the Gully was aptly named, as one diver explained, for the myriad of rainbow colors in the fish and wall as you drop into the abyss! You might not find treasure of the metallic kind here, but this deep, sheer wall, is reward enough!
Highway to Heaven – Located towards the north end of West Caicos , the dive begins in 50–60 feet of water with a large colony of garden eels in the sand chute resembling a highway or alley. This is one of the deeper dives with coral arches and swim-throughs around 80-100 feet. There are two unique and rare rope sponge colonies whose form mimics staghorn coral. The site is a popular one because of the many stingrays and frequent shark sightings.
Magic Mushroom – The site is named after the rock formation near West Caicos that is shaped like a giant mushroom. The wall is buttressed with sand chutes covered with rope sponge and black coral leading down the wall. Look for the huge black coral tree at about 80-85 feet. On top of the wall, for a shallow 2nd dive, the large coral heads are home to numerous fish, eels, and conch.
Southwest Reef – This reef has a deeper wall beginning between 50-70 feet. The wall is vertical with enormous barrel sponge, deep water gorgonians and frequent sightings of shark and eagle ray.
Sunday Service – At the top of the wall on this site, three sand chutes extend to the sloping wall. Divers will find lots of schools of small barracuda, squirrel fish, yellow goat fish and several members of the hamlet family.
Whiteface (aka The Anchor) – The name of this dive site comes from the steep cliffs along the shoreline. Along the top of the wall is an expansive reef with some impressive stands of pillar coral. Fish include barracuda, parrot fish, French angelfish, longsnout butterflyfish and groupers. Just north of the mooring is a crack in the wall with a large anchor from the mid 1800’s embedded at 70 feet. The wall is well undercut to a depth of about 100 feet. Keep your eyes out for the many white-spotted morays along this site.
Yankeetown – This site is named for the community that existed on West Caicos from the late 1800’s – 1920’s. The top of the reef is in 50-55 feet and is fairly flat with scattered coral heads. Amongst these coral heads are large tube sponges, star coral, and plate corals along the wall. You’ll also find large Nassau Groupers, porcupinefish, honeycomb cowfish, puddinglifes, and trumpetfish.
FRENCH CAY DIVE SITES
French Cay is a tiny atoll (only a few hundred feet long) about 15 miles due south of Providentiales. It offers virtually no shelter from the seas so needs to be dived in good weather. It is well worth the 50 minute boat ride, with some of the best walls and reefs on the islands.
It has two distinguishing features which make for great dives. First, the wall faces south and is usually well lit by the sun’s rays. Secondly, the top of the wall is relatively shallow at around 40 feet and well covered with coral clumps, rather than the sand bottom which is found on West Caicos sites. This offers divers a rich sunny playground in shallow water with long dives.
Double D – The name “Double D” comes from two large pinnacles rising from the ocean floor. The wall here is a fairly gradual slope with a profuse carpet of corals along it’s entire length. The area around the two pinnacles is home to a huge, photogenic scorpion fish and a large school of spade fish. There is often strong current at this site.
Rock & Roll – The wall starts at 60′ and slopes deceptively straight down. As great as the wall is, this is an incredible dive in the shallower water with beds of staghorn coral that are layered with grunts, soldier fish, squirrelfish and chromis. There are often huge eagle rays cruising the along the top of the wall as well as reef sharks and schools of jacks.
Half Mile Reef – A popular section of the reef is located in a large bowl on the wall which tends to eliminate the effects of currents encountered elsewhere on the reef. Large schools of barracuda and mahogany snappers are always present and two large elephant ear sponges are at the 85 feet contour.
Dax Canyon – Another dive that is fun to do shallow due to the number of coral heads and different fish species. The wall is covered with sponges, especially Elephant Ear, and many different kinds of coral. Due to the current that pulls off the wall on an outgoing tide, this site is not always divable.
West Sand Spit – The West Sand Spit is an area of sand in the open ocean which has about 50 feet of sand exposed and dry at low tide. The wall here begins in 60 feet and drops to about 150 feet. A large school of goatfish call this area home, as well as many other species. The REEF Survey completed in 1996 identified more than 120 different types of fish at this site. The sand area is also home to large stingrays. During the year, seasonal visitors to the Sand Spit include Sargassum Triggers, Ocean Triggers, and a variety of pelagics. Frequent currents combined with its remote location make this a healthy vibrant reef.
SALT CAY DIVE SITES
Salt Cay is considered “Whale Headquarters” from January to March each year. The little cay is directly in front of Columbus Passage where the Atlantic Humpbacks migrate to the Silver Banks, between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic, to calve & mate. When scuba diving and snorkeling you can hear the mesmerizing songs from the Humpbacks. The beautiful songs assist them with their navigation.
Snorkeling with these huge whales during frequent “in-water encounters” is truly an awe inspiring experience. You can get an excellent view from the boat if you don’t want to get in the water with them. Salt Cay is one of the last places in the world where you can actually swim with these magnificent creatures.
Rookery – Deepwater gorgonians, sand bowls, Nassau and Tiger groupers; nurse sharks.
Northwest Drop-Off – Purple tub sponges, barrel sponges, black coral, pillar coral.
Black Coral Canyon – A gorge carved into the face of the wall. Black coral, yellow tube sponges, rope sponges. Undercut ledge at a sand shelf.
Kelly’s Folly – Large schools of Blue Tangs, Bermuda Chub, Ocean Triggers, Goatfish and grunts.
Turtle Gardens – Fields of coral interspersed by sand, hawksbill turtles.
Point Pleasant – Caverns; huge corals; spotted eagle rays, African Pompano, Tarpon, nurse sharks. Excellent snorkeling.
Endymion – Unsalvaged 18th century British warship.
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.
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