Unlike several of the other main islands in the Turks and Caicos, Grand Turk doesn’t have many excellent beach snorkeling sites. Vibrant and impressive reefs surround the island, but these are either too deep to be great for snorkeling or are too far offshore to safely swim out to. If you’re a qualified scuba diver, consider taking a dive trip to some of Grand Turk’s excellent dive sites and the wall.
Rocky patches can be found off of many of the main beaches, but these really don’t offer more than small numbers of reef fish. You likely won’t see the coral, sea fans, larger fish, and sea creatures common to the vibrant Turks and Caicos reefs.
Snorkel From The Beach or Take a Snorkeling Boat Cruise?
Unfortunately, cruise ship guests typically do not have the time to do more than one of the organized activities, shore excursions, or tours offered through their cruise line. As explained on our Guide for Cruise Visitors page, it’s best if you decide before you land what activities you want to do. If you want to see some of the sights of the island, visit the beaches and spend a little time snorkeling, we highly recommend that you rent a vehicle and plan your own day instead of taking an organized tour or cruise. If snorkeling is your sole interest, book a snorkeling cruise (or a combination of Gibbs Cay and a snorkeling cruise).
Free usage of snorkeling gear is provided on most boat excursions. However, be advised that the quality and conditions vary. If you own equipment, ensure that you bring it with you.
Beach Snorkeling Locations
If the ocean conditions are calm, Boaby Rock Point offers the nicest beach snorkeling site on the island. If you can tolerate the vast amounts of seaweed and flotsam on the beach, you’ll be rewarded with a really beautiful reef in shallow water. Lush seagrass surrounds the site, and fish, coral, and sea fans abound. Due to being on the east coast of the island, this beach is exposed to the constant east-southeast trade winds and can be choppy at times.
Simply due to the ease of access and (and because it’s also an incredible beach) Governor's Beach is the most popular “snorkeling site”. Here, rocks from an old jetty can be found close off the beach. A few red sea fans and some small reef fish are the main sights.
To the north, Pillory Beach also offers old coral formations and features, but the variety and abundance of life parallel what is seen at the other west coast beach sites.
Marine Wildlife and Underwater Sights
The Turks and Caicos is surrounded by warm and clear ocean water teeming with marine life. There are plenty of colorful tropical fish to see at both shore reefs and in the deeper water. Every type of fish has its own favored terrain.
Parrotfish, angelfish, squirrelfish, grouper and snapper like to cruise close to the reef. Tiny wrasse, butterflyfish, and damselfish are highly territorial of their coral heads. Above sheltered reefs, schools of French grunts, blue tangs, and goatfish are common. In the deeper water, schools typically consist of yellowtail and horse-eye jacks.
Larger sea creatures such as barracudas, turtles, stingrays, and sharks tend to enjoy a wider range.
It’s very easy to overlook small and interesting creatures. Lobsters, cowrie snails, prawns, and flamboyant marine snails can be seen on almost any reef in the country.
The masters of camouflage are fascinating as well. Peacock flounders, scorpionfish, and the elusive octopus are common to the islands yet are rarely seen.
Many mistakenly identify corals with plants, yet they actually are classified as animals. Hard and soft corals, sea fans, and sponges are abundant.
There a quite a few uniquely-shaped fish and mollusks to spot. Squids, cuttlefish, trumpetfish, lionfish and porcupinefish are present in the Turks and Caicos throughout the year.
A tiny island off the east coast of Grand Turk, Gibbs Cay offers a unique underwater experience. Flocks of southern brown stingrays, quite used to human visitors, swim up to any boats landing at the shallow water of the cay.
It’s possible to snorkel with these majestic sea creatures and see them close-up in their natural environment.
Snorkeling Reefs and Locations at Grand Turk
Important Snorkeling Guidelines
- Don’t snorkel alone. We recommend snorkeling as part of a group.
- Know your physical limitations. Wear a snorkeling vest (it provides additional buoyancy).
- Many different types of coral, fish, and small sea creatures can cause stings if touched. Do not touch anything on the reef.
- Don’t touch or stand on anything. Coral is a living animal and you will likely kill or severely harm any part you contact.
- Make sure not to brush anything with your flippers or gear.
- Don’t take anything. This includes all shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, starfish, and small pieces of coral.
- Don’t heavily coat yourself with sunscreen or other lotions before snorkeling. Chemicals and oils will kill the reef.
- Don’t follow closely or chase any sea life.
- Don’t attempt to feed any sea life.
Buying or Renting Snorkeling Gear
A decent selection of snorkel masks and gear are available on Grand Turk. It’s better to visit one of the many dive shops (mostly located on Front Street in Cockburn Town), rather than the gift shops.
Some of the vacation villas and hotels include snorkel gear, and most of the dive shops and dive resorts rent gear.