Last week, in part one of this two-part series on Turks and Caicos wildlife, we walked you through the most commonly seen land animals that call Turks and Caicos home. This week, we’re introducing several of the most notable sea creatures of the Turks and Caicos islands.
When you snorkel or dive the idyllic waters of Turks and Caicos–home to the world’s third largest barrier reef–you can expect to see a plethora of tropical sea life including over 60 variations of coral, decorative lionfish, starfish, angelfish, eagle rays, butterfly fish, eels, sea turtles and more. Following are just a few of the most common ocean inhabitants that you’ll have the chance of meeting while exploring the underwater world of Providenciales:
You’ll Flip Over JoJo!
Just about every visitor’s favourite example of Turks and Caicos wildlife, and widely considered the “sweethearts of the sea,” Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are common inhabitants of the crystal, turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos. This includes Providenciales’ most famous and friendly finned-inhabitant, JoJo the Dolphin that’s made the waters of Grace Bay his home.
While Turks and Caicos doesn’t have charters that specifically offer dolphin tours, some of Provo’s charters are known for taking visitors to excellent snorkelling areas that are commonly visited by dolphins.
Sharks but Pretty Mellow Ones
As the saying goes, “If the water is salty, there are sharks,” and this is true of Turks and Caicos, too. But rest assured, shark attacks and negative encounters are extremely uncommon in Turks and Caicos (and the entire Caribbean Antilles region as a whole) despite how many people enter the pristine waters every day! Perhaps our sharks are just super laid back. Rarely seen in the waters of Provo’s most popular beaches, many visitors venture out on diving excursions with hopes of seeing a shark such as our mellow and mangrove-loving lemon sharks, graceful rays and nurse sharks.
Soak up the Rays
The pristine waters of Turks and Caicos are home to a variety of rays including Spotted Eagle Rays and stingrays. Charters such as Oasis Divers in Grand Turk offer excursions to a “stingray playground” in Gibbs Cay where you can swim with the gentle and sociable rays and even rub their silky-soft underbellies.
Long and Lean but Not so Mean
Barracudas, while common and curious, aren’t considered to be much of a threat to people. They may linger around snorkelers and divers if they associate people with the possibility of being offered a free snack. That said, it’s good practice to avoid wearing sparkly nail polish and jewelry while snorkelling and swimming to reduce chances of attracting curious fish–yes, fish like the bling!
Swimming on Island Time
What’s the Caribbean without sea turtles? When it comes to Turks and Caicos wildlife encounters, meeting a sea turtle during a swim, dive or snorkel is pretty much guaranteed! Visitors to Provo delight in turtle spotting from the beach, during a swim, or while kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving.
The endangered green sea turtles and the critically-endangered hawksbill sea turtles are like elders of the sea because of their longevity. Green sea turtles have an average lifespan of 80 years while the hawksbill sea turtle can live to be 100 years old!
As far as size goes, the green sea turtle can grow as large as 5 feet long while a full-sized hawksbill is considerably smaller at 3 feet long. In both sea turtle species, adult female turtles typically have shorter tails than males. In extreme cases, a male sea turtle’s tail can grow to extend past his hind flippers!
Hawksbills can be identified by the narrow and pointed beak appearance of their upper jaw and for their serrated-looking shells. The colour of the green sea turtle’s shell, ironically, ranges in olive-green to black and their bodies are lighter shades of cream, brown and green. The green sea turtle is also a herbivore and is often seen swimming gracefully in the shallows while feeding on delicious seagrasses, and consequently delighting swimmers.
Docile sea turtles often venture close to swimmers and are relatively friendly. Just be sure to respectfully give them (or any other sea creature) their space and never touch, chase, corner, crowd or feed them.
Turks and Caicos wildlife includes regular visitors that make the waters of our island home during the winter months. A prime example is the altruistic humpback whale! Every winter, humpback whales make the long migration from their cold water origins to the warm waters of Turks and Caicos to give birth. This results in plenty of wonderful whale watching opportunities if you visit the islands during the winter months. Charters in Providenciales such as Big Blue Collective offer seasonal whale watching and whale snorkelling excursions.
Cute, Quirky and Introverted
Often taking refuge in the rocky areas of shorelines and beaches, hermit crabs are land and sea crustaceans that make their home in discarded shells (and sometimes even less-suitable objects such as empty soda cans). While it requires a bit of looking around to find them, hermit crabs are fun to observe and you’ll find them hiding in a variety of shells: from teeny-tiny snail shells to giant conch shells.
Good Looks and Personality
Parrotfish, balloonfish and trunkfish are just three examples of remarkable looking fish that call the reefs of Turks and Caicos home. There’s also a variety of eels, squid and octopuses!
Conched out in the Caribbean
What would an outline of Turks and Caicos wildlife be without Conch? One of the national symbols of Turks and Caicos and commonly used in many Caribbean dishes, this sea snail is known for its gorgeous shells that come in a myriad of sizes and colours. You can eat conch when you visit Providenciales, take a conch shell home with you, or simply enjoy observing conch in its natural habitat during a snorkelling adventure or dive.
When it comes to unique Turks and Caicos wildlife, these glow worms take the cake. A few days following a full moon, tiny glow worms (Odontosyllis Enopla) light up the sea with a natural light show that’s incredible to witness. Local charters such as Big Blue Collective in Providenciales are experienced at knowing when and where to best see these creatures and are happy to take you there.
We hope our introduction to Turks and Caicos wildlife inspires you to visit and explore our beautiful island of Providenciales. Perhaps this is also the perfect justification to pick up a good underwater camera for your trip! And if you’re the type of traveler that prefers to stay on land, there’s plenty of interesting land animals to see while you’re here too. In case you missed it, visit our blog post from last week where we introduce you to several of the land animals that either inhabit Turks and Caicos year-round, or migrate to our warm weather and waters every winter.
Save on Your Visit to Turks & Caicos This Summer!
Situated on the best beach in Providenciales (and voted one of the best beaches in the world), every suite at the Venetian on Grace Bay features a full-sized and equipped, gourmet kitchen, a laundry room equipped with a washer and dryer, spacious sitting areas and a screened-in porch that overlooks the white sands and turquoise waters of Grace Bay Beach.
Plus, the Venetian places you within a short 3 – 20 minute drive or bicycle ride of the island’s best shopping, dining and activities.
You can choose between 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites and enjoy all the comforts of home during your stay with us.
To make things even better, when you book your stay with us between now through August 31st, you’ll receiv 35% off any 1 or 2 bedroom suite, or 25% off any 3 bedroom suite.