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.
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.
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.
Due to the consistently clean and sandy bottom of Grace Bay, there are no snorkelling reefs within easy access of the beach.
Spectacular snorkel sites can be found on the barrier reef off of Grace Bay, but these locations are over half a mile off the coast, so it’ll be necessary to take a boat cruise.
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).
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.
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.
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.