Turks and Caicos Islands Diving
Boasting access to the third largest barrier reef on Earth, a 2000 meter plunging wall and abundant shipwrecks, the Turks and Caicos are unmissable for diverse year-round diving. Dive there by day or night to discover a myriad of reef fish, turtles, stingrays, sharks and even humpback whales.
Diving in the Turks and Caicos Islands
In the pristine Caribbean waters, you’ll find 40 islands of which eight are inhabited. These islands, the Turks and Caicos, offer spectacular diving all year round in turquoise warm water, suitable for divers of all levels of experience.
The islands boast the third largest barrier reef on Earth, sheer walls and shipwrecks. Situated on an underwater plateau that rises 7000 feet (2100m) from the ocean floor, the topography varies from flat sandy bottoms near the shore to dramatic vertical walls. Much of the coastline is protected by the National Parks Ordinance, meaning dive sites are full of life.
The Columbus Passage, a 22 mile (35km) wide channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands, is a highway for migrating rays, fish, turtles, dolphins and humpback whales.
There are plenty of dive centers and dive resorts on the islands, of which Providenciales, known as Provo, is the most inhabited. Grand Turk, the capital island, is also a great spot to visit, and is a stop off for cruises.
For dive courses, it’s recommended to take an enriched air certification, as most dive operators offer nitrox. A deep diver certification may also be useful.
Best time to dive
Turks and Caicos enjoys around 350 days of sunshine per year. Winter air temperatures average 25°C (77°F), peaking at 29°C (85°F), and water temperatures vary between 23-26°C (74-78°F). The summer period can see air temperatures climb to 31°C (88°F), and can reach 35°C (95°F). Ocean temperatures are around 28-29°C (82-84°F). Late summer tends to have the best visibility, however do note that this is also the hurricane season.
As diving is great all year, it’s hard to say when is the best time. To see something specific, like humpback whales, the best time is winter, between January and April.
Types of diving
Generally, scuba diving in Turks and Caicos involves reef, wreck, night and wall diving. There are amazing wall dive sites everywhere, though sites in the western Caicos Banks, accessed only from Providenciales, are known to be some of the best.
Providenciales is within access to 70 miles (112km) of barrier reef, meaning the reef diving possibilities are almost endless.
The eastern Turks and Caicos reefs near Grand Turk and Salt Cay also boast an epic amount of diverse marine life with lots of beautiful reef sites. The Caicos islands also offer mesmerising reefs, with interesting topography.
The reefs around the Turks and Caicos have caused up to 1000 ships to meet their end over the years. Some slipped off the wall into the deep abyss, while others disintegrated. The most famous is the HMS Endymion in Salt Cay.
What to see
Expect to see a myriad of colorful reef fish, turtles, eels, lobsters, stingrays and eagle rays. Lucky divers can even spot dolphins. Schools of tropical fish, such as horse-eye jacks, blue chromis, bluehead wrasse, Atlantic spadefish and yellow goatfish can also be found among the reefs.
Sharks are also sighted, including Caribbean grey reef sharks and nurse sharks around Providenciales. Off the Northwest Point and southwest, lemon, bull and hammerhead sharks are occasionally spotted. In the winter, you can encounter humpback whales.
Coral life is also teeming, with soft and hard corals of all species and colors, such as elkhorn coral, star coral, rainbow coral, in addition to various sponges, sea fans and gorgonians.
Best places to dive
located on the north side of Providenciales, is surrounded by a 14-mile long barrier reef. Dive sites boast walls and deep coral canyons. Common sightings include pregnant reef sharks, snapper, barracuda and turtles. Manta rays have even been seen in the area.
The uninhabited island of West Caicos is famous for its impressive walls and pelagic sightings. Plenty of awesome dive sites here offer spectacular corals and sponges, and tons of tropical fish, like snappers, grunts, blue tangs and groupers.
French Cay is home to a 2000 meter (6560 feet) plunging wall. A wealth of life thrives here, including eagle rays, turtles, eels, reef sharks and even the occasional manta, hammerhead or humpback whale.
Lastly, at Grand Turk, The Columbus National Marine Park hosts around 25 dive site moorings. Breathtaking wall dives and reefs are in abundance here. Chief Ministers has mesmerising eels gardens, while other sites house groupers, triggerfish, turtles, batfish, nurse sharks and so much more.