Caicos Banks refers to the shallow and extensive marine banks that are found on the underwater plateau that supports the Caicos Islands archipelago. The banks are largely sheltered, and are ringed on the northern side by the islands of South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, and West Caicos.
A vibrant barrier reef system surrounds much of the Caicos Banks, with an abrupt transition off the barrier reef and plateau, commonly referred to as the Wall, to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Caicos Banks vie with the Acklins Islands and Long Island in the Bahamas for having some of the most exquisite ocean shallows in the world.
The total area of the Caicos Banks is about 1700 square miles (4400 km2), with depths over much of the area being under 20 feet (6 m).
The greatest defining feature of the Caicos Banks are its incredible ocean hues, ranging from a vibrant pastel turquoise in the shallow spots, to an incredible deep blue in the greater depths near the barrier reef and wall.
The white sand bottom of the Caicos Banks, largely originating from broken-down coral and shell, plays a critical part in why the color of the Caicos Banks is so spectacular.
The extensive Ramsar Nature Reserve on the southern sides of North Caicos, Middle Caicos, and East Caicos borders the Caicos Banks, and the endless mangrove channels and waterways of this pristine wilderness serve as the nurseries for countless types of bird and marine life.
The Turks and Caicos has over 100 named islands and cays, and many of these gems surround the Caicos Banks.
Sights and Attractions
As quite an extensive area, there are quite a few fascinating and beautiful features in the Caicos Banks.
The Middle Caicos Ocean Hole
Definitely the most significant feature in the Caicos Banks is the imposing Middle Caicos Ocean Hole, the widest blue hole in the world. This colossal Karst feature is almost 2000 feet (600 m) across, and approximately 250 feet deep (76 m). This impressive blue hole is found quite close to Middle Caicos, and the surrounding ocean is quite shallow.
Very few people visit the fascinating site due to its remote location, yet it’s easy to spot when flying over our archipelago. Those brave souls who have scuba dived the murky depths of the ocean hole have reported very poor visibility and sharks!
The La Famille Express
Another favorite sight and attraction is the La Famille Express, a grounded shipwreck off of Long Bay Beach on Providenciales. This vessel began life in the Soviet Union, before serving as a transport vessel in Panama, and later, the Dominican Republic.
During Hurricane Frances in 2004, the La Famille Express dragged its anchor for 12 miles from South Dock to its current location. After the wind and storm surge dropped, the vessel was firmly planted in the sand with little hope of recovery.
The consistent trade winds, combined with the shallow depths and soft sandy ocean floor of the Caicos Banks create some of the best kiteboarding locations in the Caribbean. Beaches exposed to the banks, such as Long Bay on Providenciales and Half Moon Bay near Water Cay attract pros and amateurs alike from around the globe.
The shallows and sounds of the Caicos Banks are rapidly gaining attention as a spectacular bonefishing location. Bonefish are common, as well as large tarpon. Several fishing charter companies on Providenciales, North Caicos, and South Caicos cater to this growing boutique sport.