The Turks and Caicos Islands are full of unique attractions and sights, and one such spectacle that many visitors rarely hear about are glowworm cruises. Glowworms are tiny marine worms that inhabit many of the shallow and sheltered bays, channels, and wetlands around our islands. For about 20 minutes in the evening, during a few days per month, these interesting bioluminescent creatures put on a beautiful and fascinating display.
Typically, glowworm displays occur for a few days before and after a full moon, with the best times often after sunset yet before moon rise, on an ebbing tide. For most of their lives, glowworms live on the ocean floor, yet swim up to the surface for the mating event that results in the greenish glimmers. The phenomenon is caused when a fluorescent photoprotein is released by the female worms with their egg masses.
The easiest way for visitors to see glowworms is to take a cruise or charter led by a knowledgeable captain. There are several companies to choose from, with both public and private tours available.
Where to See Glowworms
Glowworms can be seen almost anywhere in the ocean around the Turks and Caicos, yet the best sightings tend to be in specific locations and conditions. The best place to see glowworms are usually channel systems near wetlands and shallow banks, such as at the sections of Leeward Going Through Channel that are adjacent to the Caicos Banks.
Another great spot can be the primary channel at Mangrove Cay, which is a very popular daytime paddleboard and kayak eco-tour destination. Although not a common activity, an evening glowworm paddle via stand up paddleboard, or clear bottom kayak can be very rewarding.
At select locations near sheltered bays and wetlands, it may be possible to see glowworms from shore, yet the sightings are not as predictable as those from a good charter. Some decent locations include Heaving Down Rock, the sheltered bay at West Harbour Bluff, Old Grace Cove at Long Bay Beach, and even Sapodilla Bay and Taylor Bay at times.
Glowworms are not the only bioluminescent animals in the water and on the reefs in the Turks and Caicos. Night snorkeling during the right conditions can be an amazing experience, and various creatures can emit a glow at times, and an even wider collection of marine animals reflect unexpected colors when directly exposed to a light source.
Cruises and Charter Vessels
Several boat charter companies offer glowworm excursions. There are both private charters and public excursions to choose from, aboard vessels ranging from small boats and day yachts, to large sailboats.
Glowworm and sunset cruises often include complimentary refreshments and snacks, usually with the quintessential rum punch, local beer, and soft drinks. Private charters typically have food and drinks catered to customers’ wishes.
It’s important to be aware that glowworm sightings are never guaranteed. Location, weather, wind, tide, and lunar conditions all play a major part in what the display will be. Also, not all captains have the knowledge and experience to be at the right place at the right time.
Glowworm displays are confined to only a very few days per month, and many visitors to the Turks and Caicos won’t have the opportunity to see them. A good alternative is to take a sunset cruise or charter, and there’s a great collection of charter companies to choose from, with both private and public options and a full range of vessel types.