Exploring reefs and caves at an uninhabited cay in the Turks and Caicos.
One of the best activities to do in the Turks and Caicos is snorkeling, and there are some amazing reefs,
wrecks, and coastlines to explore.
Providenciales, the main tourism island in the country, has a few beach reefs where it’s possible to snorkel from shore, yet generally, our best reefs are only accessible by boat.
The first four reefs below can be visited by land, and are located closed to the beach. The others require a boat charter or snorkeling excursion.
Every one of our reefs are different. The shore reefs near the
Bight and Turtle Cove are excellent for reef fish, stingrays, and turtles, and the offshore barrier reef sites offer sea fan beds, sharks, and more impressive had corals.
Schools of colorful reef fish at the Bight Reef on Providenciales.
The Bight Reef (Coral Gardens)
The Bight Reef, which is also known as Coral Gardens, is the most popular snorkeling reef at Provo, and is located on the western end of Grace Bay. This relatively simple system starts right off the beach and continues out for about 400 feet (122 meters) off shore.
The Bight Reef is a habitat for many turtles, stingrays, and a spectrum of colorful reef fish, and even the best dive sites often don’t as wide a menagerie of approachable fish.
Smith’s Reef is a complex collection of reefs in the Turtle Cove area of Providenciales, and is an exceptional site for those that are comfortable snorkeling on their own. The area tends to see fewer visitors than the Bight Reef, and thus offers better seclusion.
There are three beach accesses for Smith’s Reef, and each spot offers a different atmosphere, ranging from coral heads right off the beach, lush sea grass beds, and large reef networks further off shore.
Wildlife that’s commonly sighted at Smith’s Reef includes eagle rays, stingrays, turtles, lobsters, and dozens of types of fish.
The remote Malcolm Roads beach is located on the undeveloped western coast of Providenciales. The secluded setting and sheltered coastline create a beach that’s unlike the others on the island. Fascinating reefs start right off the beach and continue out to the wall, where depths drop rapidly from about 50 feet (15m) into the thousands.
Malcolm’s Road Beach is also the best spot for freediving from shore on Providenciales.
Freediving, which should only be practiced after professional training and with a trained buddy, is the water sport of diving while holding your breath. It can be a fun and tranquil way to explore the reefs of the Turks and Caicos. A collapsed underwater Thunderdome from a TV game show is located off the beach, and is one of the most popular freediving sites in the islands.
Snorkeler at the Northwest Point National Park on Providenciales.
Northwest Point Marine National Park
The Northwest Point Marine National Park on Providenciales is an expansive protected area, and home to many great snorkeling sites, which represent a wide collection of underwater environments. There are barrier reef sites, lush sea grass beds, small coastal caves, and many types of colorful corals to discover.
Nearly the entire western coast of Providenciales is undeveloped, and only the exclusive Amanyara resort is in the area.
Northwest Point does have some great snorkeling near shore, yet it’s easiest and best to visit via boat with a knowledgeable guide as it can be hard to find the best spots.
Another great snorkeling site is the barrier reef at Leeward Cut on the north-eastern end of Providenciales, and this site is the single most popular snorkeling boat tour destination in the islands.
Leeward Cut Reef is a prime example of our barrier reef system, and supports systems of sea fan beds, small gullies and caves, and the spur and groove reef formations that lead out to the edge of the underwater plateau that host our islands.
The western side of West Caicos, which is the West Caicos Marine National Park, is home to some spectacular. There are small caves, sea fan beds, vibrant reefs, and plenty of sea life. Visibility tends to be excellent as well, which really adds to the underwater serenity and surreal experience.
As West Caicos is about a 45-minute trip from Providenciales, most scheduled and public boat cruise do not visit the island, so it’ll be necessary to arrange a
private charter. Private trips can definitely be worth the extra cost, especially for large families, as it’ll allow you to spend the day exactly as you’d like.
On calms days, another great snorkeling spot to visit when on a south coast boat charter is Turtle Rock. This cay is a small limestone rock that split, and a narrow and shallow channel now divides the two halves. Hidden in the crevices and overhangs are lobsters, big channel crabs, fish, and stingrays.
There’s also a couple spots on the rocks that can be fun to jump off, but be sure to snorkel and check for hazards before doing so. There are some fun places to explore in the area in addition to Turtle Rock, including
Bay Cay and the beautiful
West Harbour Bluff.
Kayaking in the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve near Mangrove Cay.
One snorkeling site that’s a little different from the other sites mentioned on this page is Mangrove Cay in the
Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve. This small wetland cay features tidal channels that are lined with verdant red mangroves, which serve as nurseries for a wide array of marine life.
On incoming tides, water visibility improves, creating an exquisite underwater scene of turquoise water, overhanging mangrove roots, and juvenile fish, turtles, stingrays, conch, and starfish.
The best way to explore Mangrove Cay is via a paddle board or kayak eco tour. It’s possible to rent equipment and visit on your own, and most excursions are happy to include snorkeling as well.
One underappreciated snorkeling environment in the Turks and Caicos are the countless small coral heads and reefs that are found in the shallow Caicos banks between Providenciales and South Caicos. The quality of the reefs and underwater visibility generally improves towards
East Caicos and
South Caicos, yet some great spots are within a 10 or 15 ride from Providenciales.
Many of the reefs are quite small, yet they are home to incredible sights. One may have unbelievable numbers of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters, and the next reef will have a few baby lemon sharks circling it.
Trips heading out reefs in the Caicos Banks can also stop at the
La Famille Express wreck off of
Long Bay Beach, which can be fun to snorkel. There are small starfish on the hull of the wreck, and the giant prop and anchor are interesting.
Another popular place to visit on snorkeling boat cruises are Grace Bay reefs, which are located between the beach and the barrier reef. These collections of coral heads are most impressive off the Bight Beach area, and usually combine good visibility and plenty of interesting coral. The numbers of fish tend to be a little less than what’s seen at some other sites, yet these reefs are well worth a visit.
The Grace Bay reefs are located close to many of the resorts on Providenciales, so boat travel times are typically quite quick.