Marine life is varied and beautiful and can be enjoyed by snorkellers & sailors as well as scuba divers. Colourful fish and grouper can be seen on the coral and close to the shore there are green and loggerhead turtles and manta and spotted eagle rays. Because there is no soil run off from the islands, water visibility is excellent. The best months for diving are Apr to Nov.
In January-March, humpback whales migrate through the deep Turks Island Passage on their way south to the Silver and Mouchoir Banks breeding grounds north of the Dominican Republic. Whale watching is co-ordinated by the Department of Environmental Heritage and Parks, who have drawn up rules to protect the whales. On Grand Turk contact Everette Freites of Oasis Divers, he has swum with the humpbacks. Beyond the reef are the game fish such as tuna, blue marlin, wahoo, snapper, bill fish and barracuda. Great care is being taken to conserve the reefs and the coral is in very good condition. The islands have become one of the most highly regarded diving locations in the region. Some of the best diving is off the wall at Northwest Point, West Caicos and French Cay. Do not take live coral, sea fans or other marine life. The use of spearguns is prohibited.
All divers must have a valid certificate; there are plenty of training courses for novices. The sea is often rough in February-March. For detailed descriptive information consult the Diving, Snorkelling, Visitor’s Guide to the Turks and Caicos Islands, by Captain Bob Gascoine.
There is a recompression chamber at Menzies Medical Practice on Provo, T9464242, DAN insurance is accepted On Provo there are nine land based dive operations offering courses (resort course approximately US$130, full certification US$400) and dive packages. The standard cost of a two-tank dive is US$70. Several companies are based at Turtle Cove: Flamingo Divers, at the Erebus Inn, PO Box 322, Providenciales, T/F9464193, T800-2049282,caters for small groups of experienced or novice divers, PADI and SSI instruction; Provo Turtle Divers, PO Box 219, T9464232, 1-800-3285285, F9415296, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Turtle Cove Inn at Turtle Cove marina and at Ocean Club Resort, and Comfort Suites, Grace Bay, run by Art Pickering, is also recommended for small groups of experienced divers at similar prices; Caicos Adventures, by Banana Boat, T/F9413346, www.caicosadventures.tc, 36 ft custom boat trips to West Caicos, French Cay for small groups, full service, NAUI/CMAS.
There are three live-aboard boats based in Provo for those who want to spend a week doing nothing else but diving. Sea Dancer (Peter Hughes Diving, T800-9-DANCER or 305-6699475, what...@tciway.tc) operates from the Caicos Marina Shipyard, has accommodation for 18 people and offers five dives a day around French Cay, West Caicos and Northwest Point. Tao, a 56 ft trimaran takes groups of nine for up to two weeks’ sailing, diving and fishing in the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas, T9416767, F9415510, Email: T...@provo.net The Turks and Caicos Aggressor, contact the Aggressor Fleet Limited, PO Drawer K, Morgan City, LA 70381, T800-3482628, F504-3840817, www.aggressor.com
On Grace Bay there are Dive Provo, located at the Allegro Resort, PO Box 350, T9465029/5040, F9465936, www.diveprovo.com, three boats, windsurfing, kayaks, shop in Ports of Call; Big Blue Unlimited, which specializes in eco-adventures, small groups, private charters, T9465034, F9465033, Club Med which also has a dive boat for in-house guests, T9465500, but caters for large parties; and Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa includes PADI and NAUI, scuba and all watersports in its all-inclusive packages, T9468000, F9468001.
At Leeward Marina is J & B Tours, T9465047, F9465288, 24 ft dive boat, courses, one tank US$60, two tanks US$85 and Silver Deep, T9465612, F9464527, www.silverdeep.com, private dives, three divers US$280 including tanks, 4-6 divers US$85 per person including tanks.
On Grand Turk there are three dive organizers. Blue Water Divers Ltd is on Front Street, next to the museum, PO Box 124, Grand Turk, T/F9462432,Mitch Rolling offers a complete range of courses and special day trips with two small boats (bimini tops for shade). Sea Eye Diving, run by Cecil Ingham and Connie Rus, is a larger operation in a beautifully renovated building with underwater photography and a range of watersports on offer as well as a shop selling diving equipment and beach wear. They have three boats, maximum 12 divers per boat, NAUI and PADI instruction, US$55 per dive, frequent cay trips, dive packages with accommodation available, PO Box 67, T/F9461407, www.reefnet.on.ca/grandturk Oasis Divers is run by Everette Freites and Dale Barker, PO Box 137, Grand Turk, T9461128, www.oasisdivers.com, offering a complete range of courses to small groups aboard 28ft dive boats. They also have a small shop. The highlight of diving here is the wall off Cockburn Town, which drops suddenly from 40ft to 7,000ft only a quarter of a mile offshore. There are 25 moored sites along the wall where you can find coral arches, tunnels, canyons, caves and overhangs.
On Salt Cay, Salt Cay Divers, operated by Debbie Manos and Oliver Been is based at the Mount Pleasant Guest House, run by Brian Sheedy, T9466906,(see Salt Cay). The dive boat is a 24ft Carolina skiff which takes you to the main dive site in five minutes. A two-tank dive is US$50, but most people stay at the guest house and take a five day package for US$914 which includes three meals, transfers and unlimited day and night diving. There are seven moored dive sites and off Great Sand Cay there is an 18th century British shipwreck, now a National Monument, the Endymion, still loaded with cannon. A wall chart telling her story is on sale at gift shops on the islands and at the Museum on Grand Turk. She was found in 1991 by Brian Sheedy with the help of a local historian, Josiah Marvel, and the only way to visit her is with Salt Cay Divers. It is thought that this is the only unsalvaged 18th century wreck in the world which the diving public can visit and explore. The wreck lies in about 25ft of water with the remains of two other ships nearby: a Civil War steamer and a ship dating from around 1900. The coral is prolific and the fish plentiful and huge. The best time for a visit is May-November.
On the west side of the Columbus Passage the wall along the east shores of South Caicos and Long Cay also drops gradually or steeply from a depth of about 50 ft, with many types of coral and a variety of fish of all sizes. Snorkelling is rewarding with several shallow reefs close to the shore. On South Caicos Club Carib Dive and Watersports offers excellent diving and snorkelling with eagle rays 5-10 minutes offshore, T9463444, F9463446, packages available. On North Caicos Club Vacanze will arrange diving and snorkelling, T9467119, F9467114