he Turks and Caicos Islands are surrounded by approximately 340 miles of barrier reef considered to be the second finest reef system in the tropical Atlantic. It is mainly for this reason that visitors travel from across the globe to visit our spectacular shores. For those, young and old, who may not have the ability to experience this natural wonder up close and personal, there is a creative and fun way to explore the corals that surround our islands. Caicos Tours offers the Undersea Explorer, a semi-submersible that allows those onboard a viewing opportunity as close as any encounter, with the added perk of not getting wet. Embarking for the north shore, the hour-long guided tour takes guests on an adventure on the inside of the reef, close to shore, and through the corals and marine creatures that call this area home.
The Undersea Explorer
The vessel, designed specifically for viewing coral reefs, operates just above the surface with guests seated in the passenger cabin located 5 feet below the water. The air-conditioned underwater observatory is lined with thick wide-viewing windows from which to view beautiful coral gardens and life below the surface.
The vessel holds a maximum of 16 passengers and seating is comfortable and spacious, allowing for all on board to catch a glimpse of resident Nassau grouper, conch, large coral heads, and reef fish going about their day. A knowledgeable guide leads the tour, identifying different fish and marine life, and providing fish identification cards to guests. A crowd favorite are the large green sea turtles spotted (and almost guaranteed) on each tour. The sea turtles feed on the seagrass, and the slow speed of the vessel provides for a special encounter where the turtles remain calm and comfortable, giving guests a chance to snap some photos and appreciate these creatures in their natural habitat. For those still developing their sea legs, there is a viewing area above, where one can get some fresh air or view the reef from above through crystal-clear waters.
Fun for All Ages
The Undersea Explorer is a wonderful way for people of all ages to enjoy the wonders of the ocean, but for visitors looking to entertain little ones, the Mermaid Adventures tour is an exciting opportunity. The tour includes an educational exploration of the local coral reefs, but with the bonus of a mermaid sighting. The mermaid also makes private appearances and can be arranged for private kids parties, camps, weddings, or corporate events. Caicos Tours also has a kids section on Undersea Explorer’s website, under the ‘kids quizzes’ tab. Here, children can identify fish species, learn to make their own submarine, and participate in quizzes and experiments.
The Turks and Caicos supports an incredible range of marine life, nearly all of which relies on the reefs for survival. The extensive wetlands of the Caicos Islands are an important counterpart to the reef systems that serve as nurseries for many species that are found on the reefs offshore. Many of the tropical Atlantic water species are represented on or around the Turks and Caicos Barrier Reef. Particularly, the reef system excels in the general diversity of species, and supports large densities of stoplight parrot fish, Caribbean reef sharks, and a plethora of hard and soft coral species.
It can be challenging to get children or non-swimmers to engage with our underwater environment, but the Undersea Explorer opens up a whole new world to life below the surface in a safe and comfortable environment, elevating visitor experiences with the islands and their surrounding waters in a unique way.