Snorkelling is definitely one of our recommended activities on Providenciales. The Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef are the two main snorkelling sites accessible from the beach. The Bight Reef is easy to access, but the more difficult to find Smith’s Reef offers much more to see. Snorkelling on a boat cruise can be excellent and better than the beach reefs, but it depends on where your captain takes you. One of the dedicated snorkelling trips available from a dive company will usually give the best underwater experience.
5 star rating for Providenciales Snorkelling by Visit Turks and Caicos Islands
The gullies and sea fans of the Providenciales barrier reef.
Providenciales offers some great snorkelling right from the beach. Generally, the best snorkelling reefs are off the north coast, but there are quite a few interesting sites elsewhere as well. See detailed information on the main locations below. If your schedule allows, it’s worth waiting for calm and sunny conditions as your snorkelling experience will be more enjoyable.
Snorkelling from the Beach Compared to a Snorkelling Boat Cruise
A good snorkelling cruise will typically be better in several ways than the experience at one of the reefs near the beach. Visibility is almost always far superior, reef and coral formations are usually much better, and you’ll also have a greater chance to see some of the larger sea animals. However, one of the decent shore sites on Providenciales (such as the outer reef at
Smith's Reef) will typically offer a wider selection of approachable reef fish and small creatures, along with the obvious benefit of not costing anything.
One of the dedicated snorkelling trips (usually travelling out to the south edge of the Caicos Banks) offered by the local
dive companies will usually give by far the best underwater experience compared to a combination beach and snorkelling cruise. Most boat tours include the use of equipment, although quality and condition vary.
The Best Beach Snorkelling Locations
These two sites are centrally located and easy to access. Both sites are generally safe, but can have a bit of current when it's windy.
Found off the remote west coast of Providenciales, these two beaches offer some excellent snorkelling. However, keep in mind that along with being located on the largely uninhabited region of the island, ocean conditions can also be a bit more volatile at times. There will probably be no one around to help if you run into difficulties.
Bandtail Puffer Fish at Smith’s Reef, Providenciales.
Many of the water sports and gift shops in Grace Bay sell snorkelling gear, and prices range from approximately $30 for a basic quality mask, snorkel and fins, to $70-100 for a high-quality set. We recommend visiting one of the dive shops to get the best selection and advice on gear and fitment. Snorkelling gear is also available for rent from most dive shops and at the
Snuba stand at
The Bight Reef (Coral Gardens).
Important Snorkelling Guidelines
Don’t touch or stand on anything. Coral is a living animal and you will likely kill or severely harm any part you contact.
Make sure not to brush anything with your flippers or gear.
Don’t take anything. This includes all shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, starfish and small pieces of coral.
Don’t heavily coat yourself with sunscreen or other lotions before snorkelling.
Don’t follow closely or chase any sea life.
Don’t attempt to feed any sea life.
All of the snorkelling sites listed here are in
national parks and it is illegal to fish or collect conch and lobster. Penalties can be harsh.
Flamingo Tongue sea snails on soft coral at Smith’s Reef, Providenciales.
Power boats and reckless operators are the greatest danger to snorkellers. Although all of the sites we list are in national parks with regulations on vessel speed, boaters commonly ignore these rules. Generally, the areas around the reefs are safe, but be vigilant in open water far from shore.
Currents, waves and rough conditions are another concern. Generally, the popular snorkelling sites in
The Bight and
Smith's Reef have rather tame conditions, but locations off the east and west coasts of Providenciales (such as at the
Northwest Point National Park) are subject to currents and rough surf at times. Beginners and unsure swimmers should consider using a snorkelling vest.
Although quite a minor risk, Lionfish are probably the biggest sea life threat to swimmers. The Lionfish are an invasive predatory species from the Indo-Pacific and are quite damaging to the native fish and reefs. The fish are predators and although only reaching a mature length of about 14 inches, they consume an incredible amount of the smaller reef fish. The danger to humans come from the venomous spines on the back of the Lionfish. The stings are usually just very painful, but in worst case scenarios can cause temporary seizures or paralysis. Fortunately, the lionfish are not aggressive to humans and only sting in defensive situations. They are almost always only found close to the reef.
Peacock Flounder on the sandy bight sea floor. These interesting fish are actually not uncommon around Providenciales, but often go unnoticed due to their excellence at camouflage.
Very small jellyfish are occasionally seen around Providenciales. The jellyfish usually appear in large groups, but tend to disappear after a couple days. The stings from these jellyfish tend to cause small itchy welts and are more of a nuisance than any danger. It’s extremely rare to see Portuguese-Man-Of-Wars or the larger types of jellyfish here.
Although they can look scary,
sharks and barracudas should be considered harmless to snorkelers. The only known cases of shark attacks on snorkelers in the Turks and Caicos are a couple of incidents that happened to spear fishers (spear fishing results in blood and thrashing fish and is illegal here) far from shore and the attacks weren’t fatal.
Underwater camera choice on Providenciales is unfortunately limited to two options: rental of an underwater camera from a dive company, or the purchase of GoPro with an underwater housing (available from a few watersports shops in Grace Bay). The other islands in the country really don’t have any options.