Dotted about the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea just south of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos is an oceanic nation that offers an idyllic and luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and some of the best diving in the world.
Made up of 40 islands and cays, Turks and Caicos is surrounded by 1,000 square miles of pristine coral reef ecosystems teeming with sea life, including the third-largest barrier reef in the world. Gin-clear waters, sheer walls of hard and soft corals, and fascinating wrecks make this a scuba divers paradise and top diving destination for all levels of divers.
Much of the coastline is a marine sanctuary, protected by the National Parks Ordinance, and boasts extremely healthy reef systems that jostle with life. The deep waters of the Columbus Passage, which separate the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands, have large pelagics, dolphins, and migrating whales.
Only eight of the 40 islands are inhabited, but you’ll find a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and dive operators on the islands of Grand Turk and Providenciales. With fantastic weather year-round, warm water, friendly locals, and an underwater world second to none, a diving holiday in Turks and Caicos promises to be unforgettable.
Best Dive Sites in Turks and Caicos
Most of the islands are set on the northern edge of a vast underwater plateau that rises 7, 000 feet from the ocean floor. This shelf features a variety of different underwater landscapes from unusual spur and groove formations and sloping sandy bottoms to sheer vertical walls, canyons, sand chutes, and cracks, which make for amazing dive sites.
Providenciales, or “Provo,” is the most developed island in the chain and is the center of Turks and Caicos scuba diving. You’ll find plenty of fantastic dive sites in the protected turquoise waters with an abundance of fish including angelfish, batfish, and grouper, as well as sponges, sea fans, gorgonians, and invertebrates. Provo is home to several dive operators that offer both snorkeling and diving excursions.
Located in the Columbus Passage, Salt Cay is isolated and remote and boasts some of the beautiful dive sites in the region. The currents in the passage contribute to pristine coral reefs and plenty of marine life, and it’s a great spot for fascinating cavern, wreck, and wall dives. This dive destination is your best bet for spotting migrating humpback whales as they head to their breeding grounds in the Dominican Republic.
The 18th-century British warship, HMS Endymion, rests at a depth of 40 feet and is one of the most famous wrecks in the area. Surrounded by crystal clear water, the visibility is amazing and you’ll see cannons, chains, and huge anchors. There are arches and ledges around the wreck that teem with corals, sponges, and colorful fish.
The capital island of Grand Turk is home to the Columbus Landfall Marine National Park. This protected marine sanctuary offers an array of top-class reef sites for both shore dives and boat diving with very clear, blue water, pristine reefs, and deep drop-offs.
At the southern end of Grand Turk, Chief Ministers is a great dive spot for seeing swaying eel gardens, huge Nassau groupers, triggerfish, filefish, flying gurnards, and docile nurse sharks. Other excellent diving sites around the island include the Amphitheater which is a large bowl with three slopes and an incredible wall covered with black coral. McDonald’s boasts amazing arches that are home to moray eels, parrotfish, jacks, eagle rays, and curious cleaner shrimp.
West Caicos is the place to go if you want to experience mind-blowing wall dives. A six-mile-long wall close to shore is covered in an array of bright barrel and giant orange elephant ear sponges, and staghorn corals. This is a great dive site for beginner divers who want to practice wall diving.
Just south of Providenciales, this small inhabited island has healthy, nutrient-rich reefs that are bathed in sunlight and home to hundreds of species of fish. A 6, 000 vertical wall drops off the sunny reefs and you’ll see bigger prey here like moray eels, eagle rays, turtles, manta rays, and various sharks, including hammerheads if you are lucky.
One of the best dive spots here is Double D, named for two large pinnacles rising from the ocean. Stingrays hang around the sandy area, and during the winter season, you might hear the sounds of migrating humpback whales passing by.
Grace Bay is a spectacular Turks and Caicos dive spot on Provo that is protected by a long barrier reef and teems with marine life. Deep coral canyons ranging between 30 and 100 feet and huge schools of blue tangs, grunts, jacks, snappers, turtles, lobsters, and reef sharks are commonly sighted among huge barrel sponges. Grace Bay beach is the perfect spot for a post-dive picnic.
What To See
Scuba diving around the Turks and Caicos islands will allow you to see a wealth of marine life, from hundreds of species of Caribbean reef fish, barracuda, hard and soft corals, sponges, including the rare giant orange elephant ear sponge, eels, echinoderms, and invertebrates.
The island’s main marine life attractions include sea turtles, along with spotted rays, manta rays, and several shark species such as Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, bull sharks, and the occasional hammerhead shark. One of the highlights of diving in Turks and Caicos is seeing and hearing migrating humpback whales during the winter months.
Where To Stay
There is a good choice of dive-oriented accommodations and dive resorts on Providenciales and Grand Turk. Large all-inclusive dive resorts on Provo like Club Med Turkoise and Beaches Resort offer packages that include unlimited diving trip. Bohio Dive Resort on Grand Turk offers some great deals for divers and dive centers like Salt Cay Divers on Salt Cay offer a selection of snorkel trips and dive charters.
You might want to consider a liveaboard when scuba diving Turks and Caicos as they can travel to the remote sites around the islands. The only liveaboard dive operator in the country is Agressor Adventures who offer trips on the TCI Aggressor II, a 120-foot ship that can accommodate up to 18 passengers. Trips depart from Providenciales and visit many dive destinations, along the coasts of Providenciales and West Caicos, and the remote south banks near French Cay.
Best Time to Dive
Diving can be enjoyed the whole year with an average of 350 days of sunshine annually and water temperatures averaging 82-84° F (28-29°C) in the summer and 74-78 °F(23-26°C) in the winter. Average air temperatures range between 85-90°F (29-32°C) and trade winds keep things cool.