A group of 40 islands and cays just southeast of the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos have gained fame in the dive world with a beloved four letter word: walls. Here, wall diving sits at the center of the dive experience. If you want to feel the sensation of flying on every dive, then the Turks and Caicos is the place to soar. Top dive regions include Providences, West Caicos and Grand Turk. The water is always ice clear and as with all wall diving, you never know what will pass by, from spotted eagle rays to reef sharks. The tops of the walls are great places to off gas and change your focus from big to small, as most of the cleaning stations are congregated in the shallows. There are even a few wrecks to explore, such as the famed Endymion. Topside, the Turks and Caicos are about beaches, bars and explicitly forgetting which day of the week it is, and in some cases, which hour of the day it is. The beaches here are white, soft and empty. Romp away. Forget about your cares, emails and voice mails. They simply don't matter here.
When to visit:
The Turks and Caicos boast 350 sunny days per year, and seldom experience trouble with hurricane season.
Marine Life Seasons:
Humpback whales migrate through the Turks and Caicos from January through March, on their way to breed in warm waters. Nurse sharks are often seen around the reefs during their mating season (July-September).
When to Get the Best Deals:
August to October.
What to Pack:
A 3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 24°C/76°F in winter and 28°C/83°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/75°F in winter and 30°C/86°F in summer.
The American dollar (USD) is the official currency. Credit or debit cards are accepted in most places.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
$23 USD paid at the airport.
What to Eat:
Seafood, especially conch, plays an important role in the food of Turks and Caicos Islands. Look for curried conch, conch fritters, conch chowder, conch salad and dishes made with dried conch. Hominy grits or peas and rice accompany most meals. A popular specialty, especially on the weekends, is boiled fish served with johnny cake (a sweet pan bread). Each island has slightly different signature dishes depending on what is locally available.
What to Drink:
Bambarra is the locally produced rum and, as typical of many islands, rum punch is a very popular drink. Turks Head Brewery produces the local micro brew - Turks Head - that you'll find in many restaurants and bars.
Middle Caicos Cave hiking; hit the beach, they're some of the best and loneliest in the world; check out the local crafts at the Caicos Artisan Studio or Middle Caicos Co-op; shop at the Salt Mills Plaza; see the flamingos on North Caicos.
Customs and Culture:
Island times rules in the Turks and Caicos; don't expect or get frustrated by the lack of attention the locals pay to time.
Massin (Masquerade's) and Junkanoo in December and January; Conch festival in November.
Electricity and Internet:
The voltage is 110 volts, 60 Hz. Internet is available at the larger hotels.
Drink the water?
Bottle water is recommended.
Amazing Marine Life
This enormous baleen whale, growing up to 15 meters/50 feet in length, feeds on small plankton, and migrates past the Turks and Caicos from January to March to breed in warm waters.
Remarkable for their wide-bladed head, hammerheads can occasionally be seen patrolling the deeper, cooler parts of the walls, mostly during the winter months.
Elegant, flying carpets, and unforgettable to encounter.
Several species of grouper including nassau and tiger, dwell in these prolific reefs.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on many reefs.
Like a body-part from a sci-fi flick, brain corals never stop growing.
Growing to sizes of more than a meter/yard, these barrel-shaped sponges showcase a healthy seascape.
Caribbean Reef Shark:
This shark is often two meters/six feet long and, true to its name, prowls the reefs around the islands.
Spotted Eagle Ray:
Striking spotted patterns and long elegant tails add drama to the Turks and Caicos seascape.
Take a close look under ledges and around reef structures for nurse sharks.
Top Dive Spots
Walls & Walls, West Caicos:
This uninhabited island boasts 10 kilometers/six miles of protected walls, plunging to a depth of 1,800 meters/6,000 feet. Look for sponges, coral formations, grouper, reef fish, turtles, and stingrays, as well as the occasional sighting of reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, and hammerheads.
This channel opens onto the outer West Reef, making for a combination of reef life (including octopus, lobster, large nassau grouper, and jewfish) and pelagic visitors. Look for giant stingrays, eagle rays, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, and manta rays.
Noted for numerous eagle rays and reef sharks, this site also boasts sea fans and abundant coral of many species.
Famous for its giant barrel sponges and elkhorn corals, this site also offers a chance to spot eagle rays, sharks, and other pelagic swimmers. This dive is best attempted during the winter (February and March), as tradewinds during the rest of the year render diving conditions unfavorable.
Though it used to serve as a hide-away for pirates, this area is now a sanctuary for seabirds instead. Corals and sponges grow especially large here, and divers regularly spot eagle rays, manta rays, or hammerhead sharks. During the months of January through March, sightings of humpback whales are common. Nurse sharks also visit the site regularly during their mating season (July through September).
A vertical wall contoured with coral formations and canyons, this site features giant barrel sponges, sea fans, nassau groupers, eagle rays, and occasionally a larger shark.
West Sand Spits:
This location is another hot spot during the whale season (January through March), but should only be attempted with calm seas. While waiting for whales, divers can enjoy lush corals, large stingrays and pelagic fish, and multicolored reef fish.
Grace Bay and Pine Cay:
This grouping of close dive sites in the Alexandra National Park is conveniently clustered for a multi-dive day (or day-and-night). Enjoy pristine reefs, grouper, lobster, turtles, reef sharks and nurse sharks. This is also a prime site for night diving to view nocturnal life.
At the interface between the islands' shallow reefs and the abyss of the Turks Island Passage stand incredible walls, accessible year-round, with a proliferation of corals, sponges, reef fish and pelagic swimmers. This area is most famous for the humpback whales migratory path to Dominican breeding grounds during winter months.