Turks and Caicos diving can wow even the most seasoned of divers. In this splendid archipelago, coral reefs and dramatic walls are in good supply, and often times, you don't have to venture far offshore to find them. Take Grand Turk diving, for example. Some of the best spots off this island are just 900 feet from the coastline. An extensive system of coral reefs and awe-inspiring walls aren't the only reasons to dive in the Turks and Caicos, however. Thanks in part to supreme water clarity, relatively calm conditions, and abundant marine life, many expert divers rank TCI among the top dive sites in the entire world.
Anyone who is interested in enjoying a Turks and Caicos diving adventure will be happy to know that the area waters are relatively calm and warm throughout the year. During the summer months, the water temperatures tend to stay in the lower 80s, while the winter months see average water temperatures of around 75 degrees. You can don a light wet suit in the summer months, and during the winter season, a thicker wetsuit is recommended. In addition to relatively warm water temperatures, those who are engaging in Turks and Caicos diving can also expect clear conditions. The water visibility is most often better than 100 feet, and often divers can see up to 200 feet.
Diving is one of the top things to do in the Turks and Caicos, and as such, anyone wishing to explore the underwater realms with a tank on their back should have little trouble arranging outings. Many of the Turks and Caicos hotels offer special dive packages, and should you stay at one of the resorts, you might even have a PADI-certified dive shop onsite. The hotels that don't have their own dive operations partner with local tour companies to provide some splendid diving options, and a full range of courses are available for beginners and experts alike.
As for the best dive sites, that is debatable, as there are good options off most of the islands. Providenciales gets a special nod, thanks in part to the fact that the island is largely surrounded by protected waters, and the wall off Grand Turk is sure to please.
When it comes to Providenciales diving, one of the most popular spots to dive is Grace Bay. This bay, which is also known for its sublime beach, is actually where most TCI tourists base themselves. As such, the dive operations are in especially good supply. A fourteen-mile-long barrier reef lies just offshore at Grace Bay. You can actually see the ocean breaking over it from shore. The marine life around this reef is plentiful, and the site in general could hardly be easier to get to. As for other top Providenciales diving spots, the Northwest Point features a dramatic vertical drop-off that lures divers to the area.
Turks and Caicos diving certainly isn't limited to the most heavily populated island of Providenciales. Staying in the Caicos Islands chain, other excellent dive sites include the island of West Caicos, Pine Cay, and French Cay. Both West Caicos and French Cay feature immaculate vertical walls and drop offs. The deeper depths are usually full of large pelagics, including stingrays that can have a wingspan of around ten feet!
Other great Turks and Caicos diving spots that are found in the Caicos Islands include North Caicos and Middle Caicos. As for the Turks Islands, they are separated from the Caicos Islands by the Columbus Passage. This 22-mile-wide channel has depths of up to 8,000 feet, and it has little trouble attracting serious divers with its abyss-like appeal and its amazing wildlife. Many marine animals use the channel as a route while migrating, and they include rays, dolphins, and sea turtles. The Wall is the most renowned attraction when it comes to Grand Turk diving. This ledge is where the western edges of Grand Turk Island end and the abyss begins. Along the Wall are coral reefs, and the plunge is approximately 7,000 feet.
As a side note, you don't have to go diving to enjoy the underwater realms in the Turks and Caicos. The snorkeling is also excellent. All of the main islands boast fantastic snorkeling spots. Among the most renowned spots is Grace Bay. Two snorkel trails were established by the government at Grace Bay, and they include the Smith's Reef trail and the Bright Reef trail. Both of these snorkel trails are just offshore, and they feature colorful reefs that are a joy to examine. Over on Grand Turk Island, Governor's Beach and Pillory Beach are among the best snorkel sites.
As a side note, snorkeling equipment is easy to rent in both the Caicos Islands and the Turks Islands, though you might want to bring your own. A good mask is a wonderful thing, and there is a certain peace of mind that comes with having your own snorkel.
Image: Tours & Caicos Tourism Office