Clear and glass-bottom kayaks have become very popular in the Turks and Caicos, as they offer a view into the crystal-clear water below where interesting marine life can be seen. Both guided clear bottom kayak eco-tours and unguided rentals are available at a few locations on Providenciales.
Kayaking is one of the easiest water sports to learn and the Turks and Caicos is an amazing place for the water sport, as we have great settings ranging from verdant marine wetlands and estuaries to lively reefs and beautiful sandy bays.
Most clear kayaks are perfect for one or two kayakers, which is great when there may be a less capable paddler, such as a child.
Clear Kayak Photography
If you’re seeking some amazing clear kayak lifestyle photos, then there are some great options available. Several of the kayak tour companies also offer photo packages, and there are also dedicated professional photographers that especially cater to drone and aquatic shoots.
Sights and Destinations
Leeward Channel and Mangrove Cay
The busiest wetland eco-tour location in the Turk and Caicos is Mangrove Cay, a small uninhabited island that’s found close to Providenciales. The cay is part of the Princess Alexandra National Park. The main tidal channel at Mangrove Cay offers turquoise water and a menagerie of interesting wildlife. There are herons, egrets, pelicans, and coastal birds in the red mangroves and on the beaches, and in the water are conch, starfish, turtles, jellyfish, sharks, stingrays, fish, and more. Your tour guide will point out all of the interesting creatures and sights in the ecosystem.
Little Water Cay and Half Moon Bay
The uninhabited and exquisite cays of Little Water Cay (also known as Iguana Island), Half Moon Bay, and Water Cay are other amazing paddle destinations from Providenciales. Little Water Cay is a famous sanctuary for our unique and endangered Turks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguana, Half Moon Bay is a breathtaking lagoon and beach, and Water Cay offers an incredible white sand beach that stretches all of the way to Pine Cay.
Trips to these spots will typically depart from the same place as those navigating to Mangrove Cay, yet the travel distance will be a little longer. Staying close to the cays when making the journey will typically be the best route, as it'll be more sheltered from the wind and currents.
The Bight Reef
The Bight Reef, also known as Coral Gardens, is a great and easily-accessible snorkeling reef, and is located on the western side of Grace Bay Beach. On most days it’s possible to rent clear kayaks and snorkel gear at the beach.
Kayak Rental and Delivery
For those staying in a villa or vacation rental, another option is to rent clear kayaks, and have them delivered to your accommodation. Many of the rental companies are happy to do so. Several accommodation spots are near some fascinating and vibrant reefs, at locations such as Smith's Reef and Turtle Cove, Blue Mountain, and in the Bight.
For those seeking a unique experience, a custom kayaking adventure can be a great idea. The Turks and Caicos is home to extensive wetland systems, and the best spots tend to be quite remote. Tour companies can provide transport via both land or on the ocean by boat to places such as the Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve, or the extensive Ramsar Nature Reserve.
What Wildlife Can Be Seen?
Bird and marine life sightings of course vary by location, season, tides, and more, yet there are some rather consistent regulars.
In the Leeward Channel and Mangrove Cay area, the most popular paddling location in the Turk and Caicos, it’s common to see red cushion starfish, turtles, stingrays, conch, upside-down jellyfish, several varieties of colorful fish, and sometimes juvenile nurse sharks or lemon sharks. In the deeper channels are larger turtles, eagle rays, and the occasional dolphin or tiger shark.
On calm days, an exceptional location for clear kayaks are our reefs, including bay reefs such as the Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef, as well as the barrier reef at Leeward Cut. These sites offer bright corals and colorful fish.
Clear Kayaks, Touring Kayaks, or Paddleboards?
The various types of kayaks and paddleboards all have their own advantages and disadvantages, and these traits may not be initially obvious. The best watercraft varies depending on what you want to do. Kayak and paddleboard types and availability vary across our islands. Providenciales has by far the greatest selection. North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, and Grand Turk have more limited selections, and clear bottom kayaks are not as common on our less populated islands.
Clear and Glass-bottom Kayaks
Clear kayaks are great for short trips in sheltered areas where there is a varied and active underwater environment, such as a red mangrove estuary.
They don’t track (glide in a straight line) very well and are not great for covering any distance, so they’re not the best choice if you plan for longer trips, such as when paddling from Leeward to Half Moon Bay or Water Cay. Also, their open design can allow water to splash in, so they’re not suitable when there are any waves.
Conventional Touring Kayaks
When departing from the popular Leeward Channel area of Providenciales, touring kayaks are going to be the easiest way to visit some of the further paddling destinations, such as Little Water Cay or Half Moon Bay, as they are simply far more efficient. They tend to be fast, quiet, and track in a straight line nicely, which means you won’t have to be correcting your direction as much as with short kayaks and paddleboards.
Larger touring kayaks are also great when you’re carrying extra equipment, such as when you may be spending an afternoon and have extra gear, or when camping.
Clear kayaks may appear as the best option for seeing into the water, yet it’s not always the case. Due to the user’s additional height over the water, it’s often much easier to spot turtles, small sharks, stingrays, and fish from a paddleboard than it is from a clear kayak. In the sheltered channels and estuaries, the water is often calm enough to get a great view from above.
As is often the case with clear kayaks, when you’re low to the water’s surface, it can be hard to spot some of the larger skittish wetland sea creatures, as they tend to move off before they can be seen through the kayak.