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Snorkeling in the Turks and Caicos

turks and caicos snorkeling

Explore coral reefs with your kids just steps from the beach

In April, Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos became TripAdvisor’s 2015 pick as the world’s top island. Travel site TripAdvisor selects Travelers’ Choice award winners based on the quality and quantity of user reviews over 12 months.

According to TripAdvisor, the beautiful turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos is just one of the things that makes Provo the world’s top island for planning a vacation.

The shallow, crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and diving. There are plenty of underwater spots to explore and brilliantly-colored fish to see.

Snorkeling on Provo

Snorkeling in the Turks and Caicos offers a window into a breathtaking underwater world. There are great opportunities to observe marine wildlife here, often quite close to our resort on Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales.

Your entire family can try “beginner” courses at Bight Reef close to the Sands Resort. You can also experience Caicos Dream Tours, a guided excursion which heads to seamounts offshore for snorkeling and diving.

This brief guide to snorkeling on Providenciales includes information about where beginners and families can try out snorkeling.

We have also prepared information about snorkeling opportunities for more advanced swimmers, along with information about local laws related to collecting corals and shells.

Snorkeling for Beginners and Families on Provo

The Turks and Caicos is a ring of islands located to the east of the Bahamas. The archipelago consists of two island chains that sit atop two limestone banks separated by the 6,000-foot-deep Turks Passage.

turks and caicos snorkeling map

Six islands rise above the submerged Caicos Bank, including our own island of Providenciales. To the east are the islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay in the Turks Islands.

The Sands at Grace Bay is located on the calmer, leeward side of Providenciales. Grace Bay Beach is protected from strong trade winds that power the large breakers which are very popular with surfers and kiteboarders on other parts of the island.

As a result, Grace Bay Beach is a great place to try out snorkeling.

Coral Gardens

Also known as Bight Reef, the Coral Gardens snorkeling area is a short twenty-minute walk with children down the beach from The Sands at Grace Bay resort. Bight Reef is one of the most popular snorkeling areas in Providenciales.

Bight Reef Snorkeling

Families with children can walk out to the shallow and calm waters right from the beach. The diversity of fish, the clearly marked boundaries, and a roped-off area clearly and safely marking the reef make this a great spot for families and beginners to snorkel.

As an added bonus, guests staying at The Sands at Grace Bay may use the resort’s complimentary snorkeling gear when exploring this popular snorkeling site.

Bight Reef Snorkel Trail

Bight Reef extends 350 feet out from the beach and tends to have a large number of friendly fish, slow-moving sea turtles, rays and even the occasional spiny lobster. Water depth ranges from 3 to 16 feet, which makes Bight Reef an ideal location to take your kids snorkeling.

Bight Reef also features a snorkel trail. Markers anchored to the sea floor guide swimmers to the beautiful corals. Marker buoys indicate both ends of the snorkel trail.

How to Get to Bight Reef

Bight Reef is located twenty minutes by foot from The Sands at Grace Bay and five minutes by car or taxi.

The reef is located in front of several resorts with restaurants on-site. Families may wish to pack a picnic lunch.

Snorkeling for Stronger Swimmers

Smith’s Reef

Smith’s Reef is actually a number of reefs located close to Turtle Cove, a resort area to the west of the international airport.

Smith’s Reef is a bit isolated and can be a little harder to find than other popular areas, so be sure to ask our concierge for directions.

smith reef providenciales

Happily, the relative isolation of Smith’s Reef means it is less busy than Bight Reef.

Tips for Snorkeling at Smith’s Reef

Be aware there is no lifeguard here and also be sure to watch out for boat traffic from the Turtle Cove Marina nearby to the west of Smith’s Reef.

Other conditions to be aware of at Smith’s Reef include tides and currents. Snorkelers should also watch out for Lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive species that have become common in some parts of the Turks and Caicos. While Lionfish are not aggressive, their spines are poisonous.

lionfish in the caribbean

The best time visit Smith’s Reef is on the incoming tide. Clean ocean water displaces stirred up water near shore. The clearer water contains none of the little bits of sand and particulates that come off the shore line and out of the canals and inlets when the tide is going out.

You’ll need to rent a car to get to Smith’s Reef. A sandy pathway near the small parking area leads to the water. Rocky areas can be slippery and more dangerous.

Since this is a rather isolated area without much traffic, be sure to lock your car and leave valuables out of sight, or back at the resort.

Guided Snorkeling Tours

While Smith’s Reef and Bight Reef are easily accessible from The Sands at Grace Bay, guided tours to more remote locations can open up a whole new world.

caicos dream tours providenciales

Snorkeling and beachcombing adventures at remote, quiet locations such as Fort George, Half Moon Bay, and the coral reefs around Pine Cay and Blue Haven Marina at the eastern tip of Provo make for an amazing excursion.

Tour operators such as Caicos Dream Tours offer guided trips to these locations.

Grace Bay

Located on the north side of Provo and protected by a long barrier reef, the marine life in Grace Bay is spectacular.

Dive sites here consist of small walls with deep coral canyons that start at 30 feet and drop down to 100 feet.

Ask our concierge for information about snorkel and dive tours out to these locations.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a snorkel and dive destination located just to the east of Providenciales, and is only accessible by boat. The trip takes about 15 minutes. Several tours depart from Blue Haven Marina.

The relative inaccessibility of the island means deserted, pristine beaches you can enjoy all to yourself. A series of reefs close to the beach provide snorkeling opportunities for families and children.

Pine Cay

Pine Cay is a private island located between Providenciales and North Caicos. While the island itself is reserved for residents and guests, the shallow waters around the island are perfect for snorkeling and guided diving tours.

Like Half Moon Bay, Pine Cay is only accessible by charter boat from the leeward end of Providenciales.

providenciales snorkeling tours

Fort George Cay

Fort George Cay is uninhabited, lying to the west of Pine Cay and is only accessible by boat. The cay itself is great for exploring, and features old British gun emplacements.

Caicos Dream Tours offer trips to Fort George Cay.

Northwest Point Marine National Park

Northwest Point Marine National Park lies at opposite end of Providenciales from Half Moon Bay, right at the northwest tip of Provo.

Northwest Point Marine National Park includes reefs and several salt lakes that attract breeding and migrant birds. The parking lot at the eastern end of the park provides access to diving and other water sports.

The coastline is home to hard and soft corals, schools of barracuda, horse-eye jacks, lobster, crabs, angelfish and numerous other species of fish.

The beach is located a fair distance from the parking lot – it’s about a one-mile walk to reach the beach and reef access. Once you arrive at the beach, take note that sea urchins and broken coral make the northwest shore of the point less than ideal for snorkeling.

The reefs just off the northeast shoreline are better for snorkeling. Just off the beach, a coral wall starts at about 35 feet and plunges more than 3000 feet.

Once again, as this part of Providenciales is fairly isolated, care must be taken with valuables, both in your car and on the beach.

West Caicos

West Caicos is an uninhabited island southwest of Provo known for its pristine walls and opportunities to encounter Humpback whales.

This is a trip best suited for adventurers and experienced divers. Contact our excursion desk and Caicos Dream Tours for more information.

SNUBA

SNUBA is a shallow water diving system that bridges the gap between snorkeling and scuba diving.

Kids from ages 8 up to seniors, are able to swim a maximum of 20 feet underwater to view tropical marine life in their natural habitat including turtles, stingrays, lobsters, and beautiful fish and the colorful coral reefs.

Contact our concierge for more information.

Restrictions on Collecting Conchs, Shells and Corals in Turks and Caicos

conch shell rules providenciales

Anyone snorkeling or diving in Turks and Caicos should be aware that it is a criminal offence to take shells or coral from any national park. National parks cover much of the coastline, especially on Providenciales where all of Grace Bay is part of the Princess Alexandra National Park.

We recommend that you do not purchase conch shells, conch jewellery or other conch souvenirs because you must obtain a permit (which can be a time-consuming process) or will likely have your shells confiscated at the airport.

We have received several complaints from tourists who have purchased shells from local shops only to have them seized at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS).

Caicos Dream Tours

Caicos Dream Tours offers a wide range of watersports and optional excursions that may be conveniently booked online by guests of The Sands at Grace Bay via the Caicos Dream Tours website or at our Tour Desk, located by our resort’s main swimming pool.

Snorkel & Conch Cruise

Caicos Dream Tours offers a popular Snorkel & Conch Cruise and Full and Half-day Charters.

This is a terrific excursion option for families and couples looking for a half-day snorkeling adventure that offers breathtaking sights both above and below water and four hours of pure fun.

The most popular excursion offered by Caicos Dream Tours provides a terrific way for resort guests to experience the third largest coral reef system in the world that surrounds the island of Providenciales.

With snorkel equipment included, the captain will first make a stop to snorkel along the shallow waters of the Caicos Bank.

The next stop on the tour is Half Moon Bay, an uninhabited island to the northeast of Providenciales where you can relax on the white-sand beach and snorkel in the crystal clear waters just offshore while the staff prepares you a light lunch.

Learn more about the Snorkel & Conch Cruise.

Want to Learn More about Snorkeling and Diving?

Contact our Tour Operator Desk located between Hemingway’s and our main swimming pool for more information about Snuba tours in Providenciales.

Have a Favorite Snorkel or Dive Spot?

If you have a favorite snorkel or dive spot, please let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

 

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