Exploring the Beautiful Reefs of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Reefs Turks And Caicos: Diving and snorkeling experts around the world, including the late Jacques Cousteau, revere the Turks and Caicos Islands, particularly the seas off of Providenciales, as one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. And is it any wonder? Crystal clear visibility, gentle seas, clean, temperate water and an abundance of colorful, healthy coral, fish, shellfish and other rare and exotic marine life thrive in these beautiful turquoise waters.
If snorkeling is your thing, you can do no better than Coral Gardens Reef (otherwise known as the Bight Reef). As part of the protected Princess Alexandria National Park, Coral Gardens is part of the natural, thriving, nearly perfect ecosystem that the Turks and Caicos government tries to maintain and protect. At Coral Gardens you will see amazing sea creatures; from brightly colored schools of fish, such as yellowtail snappers, lion fish, barracudas, jolt head porgies, and sand-sifting mojarras, to beautiful coral formations, to even more rare and exotic species such as turtles, stingrays, starfish, sea urchins and lobsters.
At night even stealthier and more unusual sea creatures come out; these may include squids, prawns, large sea worms, sea snails and the occasional octopus. At night it is difficult for these animals to see you, so getting close to them and observing their nightly routines of eating, preying and mating can be a fantastic and memorable experience.
Should you truly be in an adventurous mood, go for a night dive in Smith’s Reef……just a bit to the west of Coral Gardens. Smith’s reef has more extensive and intricate coral formations, which breed, hide and attract more rare and spectacular species, such as purple gorgonians, anemones, sea cucumbers, sergeant majors, green parrotfish, long-nosed trumpet fish, the ominous-looking
green moray, southern rays, parrotfish, and maybe even a hawksbill turtle or two.
Indeed, a day (or night) spent exploring Coral Gardens or Smith’s Reef will be a memorable day indeed.
Both have underwater trail signs that give useful information about corals and how they form and how the resident populations of fish and underwater sea creatures co-exist, camouflage themselves, and contribute to their natural environment.
Both are also easily accessible at various points off of Grace Bay Beach and both are near restaurants and diving and scuba operators.
It is important to note that in order to protect and maintain the thriving and healthy natural ecosystem of the Turks, the government asks that you do not stand on any coral, that you do not feed or touch any of the fish, and that if you must use sunscreen, please use biodegradable lotions. Following these guidelines will ensure that these famous reefs will be beautiful, colorful, clean, bright and healthy for years and years to come and that many other tourists and locals will be able to enjoy their beauty, just as you have been able to.
So, whether it’s a spongy red and yellow starfish that you see, lying in the swaying sea grass, or whether it’s a graceful stingray gliding towards you in the crystal clear blue waters, or whether it’s a large sea worm slithering past you on a full moon night dive, the wonders of these reefs are bountiful and plentiful.
Be sure to check them out next time you’re in the Turks!
*Please note that the lion fish is an invasive predatory species native to the Indo-West Pacific near Indonesia. While pretty to look at, the lion fish have venomous spines on their backs that can give painful stings. It is rare and unlikely that a lion fish would be aggressive with a human, but be warned all the same.