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Turks and Caicos

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Turks and Caicos

In the islands of the Turks & Caicos, expansive undersea plateaus end in coral-dense cliff faces that drop abruptly from the shallows to depths of a mile or more. This is the land of the multi-level profile, where bottom times culminate with extended stays in sunlight shallows. To complete the picture, add in consistently stellar water clarity, a smattering of historic and modern wrecks, and thousands of acres of coral heads and shallow reefs. Beachfront resorts on the island of Providenciales offer a full range of perks and indulgences; liveaboards cruise to remote and pristine reefs; and Grand Turk provides a step back in time.

Turks and Caicos Information

Diving in Turks & Caicos

The Turks and Caicos islands are made up of 40 islands and small cayes, with most of the resort development centered on the island of Providenciales, which is often called Provo. From shops in the Grace Bay area, dive operators make quick runs to an expansive area of spur-and-groove coral formations that drop from depths of 30 to 100 feet. These reefs are dominated by star and pillar corals, and covered in sea rods and gorgonians. Profiles are relaxing and suitable for all divers, and in summer month there is a good chance of seeing reef sharks, as pregnant females move into the warm, protected waters of the bay to rest while gestating. This area is also a favorite for night dives. A bit farther from shore, a large sea mount rises from deep water to within 45 feet of the surface. The top and sides of this formation are cut by exaggerated coral ridges and valleys that attract a wide range of sea life, including groupers that pause at cleaning stations along the reef crests. A half hour run to the west, Provo's Northwest Point is a realm of swim-throughs, caverns and canyons that lead to steep walls. This area is known for abundant fish life, and includes many of the island's signature sites, with names such as Thunderdome, Chimney, The Crack, Hole in da Wall, Shark Hotel, Black Coral Forest. After free-falling down vertical cliffs covered in huge barrel and orange elephant ear sponges, tube sponges and in many places black coral trees, divers can thread their way back upward through indentions, chimneys and splits in the wall that lead to shallow reefs where bottom times can be stretched to upwards of an hour. Liveaboards and day boats making an all-day trip will find some of the most dramatic walls along the shores of uninhabited West Caicos and tiny French Cay. In addition to a full range of reef species, these sites offer eagle rays, turtles, sharks and passing pelagics, including rare but possible sightings of manta rays, blue sharks and whale sharks. More consistent are the gray reefs that cruise the middle depths. The humpback whales that migrate through these waters rarely come close enough to the walls to be seen, but their songs can often be heard by divers. The island of Grand Turk sits 22 miles to the east of the Caicos Bank, across a 7,000-foot deep channel that rises abruptly to depths of less than 40 feet just a short way off Grand Turk's white sand beaches. This puts prime dive sites within a very quick boat ride from shore. More than just a straight drop, this wall is perforated by wide canyons and amphitheater-like indentions, with surfaces riddled with arches, overhangs, outcroppings and caverns. This twisted topography supports a rich range of reef species and prolific growths of soft corals and sponges.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. All persons leaving the T&C, pay a Government Departure Tax of $20 which should be included in your International Airline ticket cost.

Immunizations

Vaccinations are not required for entry into the T & C. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.

Culture and Customs

Don't expect volcanoes, waterfalls and palm trees when you arrive in the Turks & Caicos. These low-lying islands are about white sand beaches, sun and some of the clearest waters in the western hemisphere. Situated mid way between the Bahamas and the Caribbean, they were never major trading ports , and planters struggled and failed to establish crops in the dry, sandy soil. However, the two elements the islands had in abundance—salt water and sun—became the basis for a prosperous industry, which involved flooding large shallow lagoons that evaporated into acres of dry salt that could be raked up and shipped around the world. With the demise of the salt industry in the 1960s, the islands seem destined to sink into obscurity. Change began with the arrival of the first beach resorts in the 1980s, followed by a nascent offshore banking industry. Today, the rewards of finance and tourism are apparent on the island of Providencialies, while outlying islands retain the low-key charm of years past. History buffs can visit the former strongholds of British Loyalists on islands like North Caicos, and reminders of the salt-raking era are evident in the remains of salina walls, windmills and warehouses, all free for wandering. Music lovers can discover the unique genre known as rake-and-scrape, which can often be heard at the fish fries held each Thursday night at Provo's Bight Park. This island-wide gathering is also a good time to shop for iconic sea glass jewelry, and take in the weekly Junkanoo parade.

Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access

Electricity is 120V, 60 Hz, so no adapter is needed for electronic devices for U.S. visitors. The country/area code for Turks & Caicos is 649. Check with your cell phone provider to see what options are available for International plans. Internet service is available at most hotels and many restaurants.

Water Quality

Some resorts may offer purified water, however the CDC recommends drinking bottled water.

Language & Currency

English is the official language of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The official currency is the U.S. Dollar. Most resorts and restaurants accept credit cards and ATMs are available.

Time

The Turks and Caicos are on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and stopped observing Daylight Savings Time in 2015. The Turks & Caicos are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).

Location, Size and Population

The Turks and Caicos Islands are 550 miles Southwest of Miami, just south of the Bahamas chain and east of Cuba. The islands consist of roughly 40 islands, only 8 of which are inhabited. The islands encompass approximately 365 square miles. Middle Caicos includes the largest islands of Providenciales, approximately 47 square miles, North Caicos, approximately 45 square miles, South Caicos approximately 8.1 square miles and Parrot Cay, 2.3 square miles. East Caicos is uninhabited. The Turks Islands are separated from the Caicos Islands by the Turks Island Passage. This is a trench that is approximately 7,200 feet deep. The Turks Islands include Grand Turk, approximately 6.71 square miles and Salt Cay, approximately 2.60 square miles.

The population of the Turks & Caicos Islands is 34,904 (2016).

Dive primer
  • Water Temp: 78-82°
  • Visibility: 100'+
  • Wetsuit: 1.5mm to 3mm
Best time to travel
  • Year-round
Favorite dive sites
  • West Caicos Wall
  • French Cay
  • Grand Turk Wall
Topside attractions
  • Stingray Encounter at Gibbs Cay
  • Whalewatching (Jan-Apr)
  • Visit Salt Cay
We Highly Recommend
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