The Turks and Caicos have two features that define local diving: the third largest barrier reef in the world, and excellent sheer walls.
The Turks and Caicos is situated on an expansive underwater plateau that rises 7000 feet (2100m) from the ocean floor, with most of the islands being located directly on the north edge of this plateau. The transitions from the 40-50 foot (12-15m) flat sandy ocean bottoms near land to the vertical walls of the plateau vary, and make for countless interesting dive sites. The north edges of the plateau tend to have distinctive spur and groove formations and the west and south edges offer impressive wall sites. Sand chutes, canyons and cracks are found at many sites and make for excellent swim-throughs
The reefs around the country have large numbers of Caribbean reef fish and small sea creatures, and vibrant corals and sponges.
Most of the sharks sighted around the islands are Caribbean Reef Sharks or Lemon Sharks, but hammerheads, Nurse Sharks, and Bull Sharks are sometimes sighted.
Humpback Whales migrate past the Turks and Caicos during the winter months of January, February, March and April. Salt Cay tends to be the best for whales, but they can also be seen in the deeper water off the other main islands.
Nearly all popular dive sites in the country are located in protected nature reserves and national parks.
Although there’s no established dive operators on South Caicos, it’s worth mentioning this island. Several interesting sites are found near South Caicos, including a Convair CV-440 airplane wreck and quite a few sites with fascinating reef architecture, including deep crevasses in the barrier reef and small coral caves and grottos.
The School for Field Studies' Center for Marine Resource Studies is located on South Caicos and students regularly dive during their study and research.
Other than whales and to a lesser degree the larger sharks, all of the common sea animals can be seen year round. Generally, late summer tends to have the calmest weather and greatest visibility, but this period is also the hurricane season and a big storm can obviously cause major disruptions! Water temperature is generally consistent, reaching a low of about 75°f (24°c) in late January and a high of about 86°f (30°c) in July and August.
Night diving is an amazing change from daytime diving. Because the longer wavelengths (reds and oranges) of light are filtered out before the shorter wavelengths (blues) in the water, everything appears increasingly blue as you descend during unilluminated daytime diving. During a night dive, what you see is lit up by your dive light and because the light travels only the distance from the light to the subject and back to your eyes, the longer wave colors are still vivid. You’ll see everything as it more naturally appears, with brighter warmer colors.
The enhanced colors are only part of the benefits. Many fascinating sea creatures only commonly come out at night, including prawns, marine worms, and lobsters. Sometimes it seems that the reef is busier at night than during the day!
Several of local dive companies offer night dives, but these dive are not regularly scheduled and have to be reserved in advance.
The Turks and Caicos has one live aboard dive operator, the TCI Aggressor II, a 120 foot ship with accommodations for 18 passengers. The TCI Aggressor II departs from Providenciales and visits many sites along the northwest coasts of Providenciales and West Caicos, and the remote south banks near French Cay.
PADI is almost exclusively the main accrediting organization used by local dive companies for training, and most of the main dive businesses offer certification up to Advanced Open Water Diver. Dive Provo and Caicos Adventures also offer some higher level courses such as Rescuer Diver.
We highly recommend that prospective divers obtain Open Water Diver certification (or equivalent) instead of a DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) or basic Scuba Diver certification. Open Water Diver allows greater flexibility and a much better understanding of the physics and risks of diving.