Whale watching in the Turks and Caicos almost entirely takes place on small-group excursions, and is a different experience to the organised tours available in other regions. Encounters most-often take place on full day dive and snorkel trips to the remote waters off the west of the Caicos Islands. Good in-water encounters are an unforgettable experience.
5 star rating for Providenciales Whale Watching by Visit Turks and Caicos Islands
Snorkelling with humpback whales in the Turks and Caicos.
The Turks and Caicos is a great place for humpback whale watching. Whale watching tends to be a specialty charter activity on Providenciales, and is only available during the winter months.
Humpbacks are not the only aquatic marine mammals seen in the Turks and Caicos. Atlantic bottle nose dolphins are common sightings year-round, especially the famous
Jojo the Dolphin. Pilot whales can also be seen in the deep blue water surrounding the islands.
Generally, there are no organised and dedicated whale watching charters from Providenciales. Encounters most often happen on snorkel and dive trips to Northwest Point, West Caicos, and Sandbore Channel, such as on
Big Blue Unlimited’s extensive Edge of the Banks snorkel safari.
Humpback Whales in the Turks and Caicos?
Every year, humpback whales undertake a migration from their normal domain of relatively cold waters to warmer waters to give birth and to mate.
The humpbacks that make the journey to the Turks and Caicos are thought to originate from northern hemisphere waters, including those off of north-western Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, and from inside the Arctic Circle.
For many whales from this part of the world, their southern-most destination are marine banks near the Turks and Caicos and Dominican Republic, including the Silver Banks, Mouchoir Banks, and the isolated Gentry Banks.
Which Island is Best for Whale Watching?
The Turks and Caicos has several populated islands, and whale watching conditions and the availability of charters varies greatly by island.
The remote and tiny island of
Salt Cay is the best spot in the country for whale watching due to ocean topography. The Turks Island Passage, the deep channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands, tends to funnel whales close to Salt Cay. Salt Cay is an amazing destination for whales, diving, and secluded beaches, yet doesn’t offer much more than that, and likely wouldn’t appeal to those seeking an active vacation.
Grand Turk, largely due to its close proximity to Salt Cay, also offers great whale watching conditions, and many of the many of the local dive companies cater to whale watchers during the winter months.
Whale watching is one of the few activities in the Turks and Caicos that has a clearly defined season, with optimal sightings typically occurring between late January and the beginning of March.
The Atlantic humpback migration is a predictable event, yet the number of sightings does vary by year. During good years, whales are spotted almost every day and in-water encounters are regular. Other years may not be quite as rewarding.
Snorkelling with Humpback Whales
The Turks and Caicos is one of the few destinations where it’s feasible to snorkel with humpbacks (at least in non-freezing water!). Snorkelling encounters are certainly not guaranteed, yet the opportunity to do so often does occur.
In-water encounters are intended to be as low of an impact to whales as possible. As is often the case, the boat will stop a distance from the humpbacks, snorkelers will enter the water, and the whales will approach or pass on their own.
As giving birth is one of the primary reasons the humpbacks make the long migration, it’s common to see calves. In some unforgettable encounters, whales and calves will spend time around the snorkelers, which in some cases has been longer than an hour!
Big Blue Unlimited, based in
Leeward on Providenciales, is the primary whale watching excursion business. This eco-tour company specializes in small group snorkelling, diving, and charters, and has been pioneering whale watching from Providenciales for decades.
The whale watching season coincides with the peak ‘
high season’ tourism arrivals in the Turks and Caicos, so availability of charters may be limited. We advise booking well in advance.