Award Winning Turks & Caicos – One of Earth’s Top Tier Dive Locations

Exceptional wall diving starting in shallow turquoise water

I read a lot of reportage about “where’s the best dive location” from armchair divers who wouldn’t know the difference between a BCD and a lifevest and they always seem to have to rely on random quotes from real divers or worse – regurgitate random blog posts they’ve trawled from Google.  They never seem to appreciate the basic concept that us divers are a fussy bunch and we change our opinions about what’s hot and what’s not more often than we change our BCD’s!  

Incredible Cave and Cavern Diving

So perhaps refreshingly; I’m actually a qualified PADI Dive Master and I have to say that my opinion of the best diving location in the world has changed many times and perhaps controversially; I think it’s impossible to be definitive.  My flavour of the months have ranged from the Red Sea to The Maldives to Cozumel to The Seychelles to Turks & Caicos and what I’ve noticed is that my tastes mirror my (considerable) experience and my personal diving tastes at a particular moment in time.  I remember the novelty of discovering Nitrox diving but obviously, there’s a lot more to diving then being able to go deeper for longer.  As time has gone on, I have increasingly looked for added value in my diving – such as the dive staff, the accommodation and indeed the extraneous factors like what the hell is there for me to do when I’ve finished my dives for the day?  Where’s the dive shop? Where can I get a drink? Are there any decent restaurants that serve the fish I’ve just seen and not burgers? Where’s the hyperbaric chamber should I – god forbid – ever need it?  My diving style has definitely changed over time, I used to favour wreck dives but now I prefer cavern diving now.  I used to prefer night dives but now I get my darkness from deep diving.  I used to actually enjoy using my dive tables and resist technology but who dives without a dive computer now?  What I’m trying to say is you could ask me where the world’s best diving is or what’s my favourite type of dive and I’d probably give you a different answer every year!   

Bear in mind also that there aren’t many bad dive locations, certainly not in the Caribbean where you not only have the Turks & Caicos but you also have Belize, The Bahamas, BVI, Cozumel, Cayman and several other world class dive destinations, all on your doorstep.  Dive operators only tend to spring up and thrive in the best locations and they follow demand, they don’t create it so it’s always a subjective thing to try and choose the best dive location within a region that is brimming with wonderful locations. It’s like trying to argue the level of luxury between a Bentley and a Rolls Royce and I find it quite fatuous and narrow minded to attempt to talk down one destination while bigging up another.  

The Turks & Caicos - A Watersports Orientated Destination

What I will do though is present the argument for the Turks & Caicos as one of several top tier dive destinations since it is universally recognised as a nation that is first and foremost a watersports orientated location. As I said, there are plenty of good destinations for diving in the Caribbean and beyond but few if any offer ALL of the range of dives that I personally enjoy.  There are amazing drift dives, wall dives, wreck dives, the most incredible cavern and cave dives (on Middle Caicos), spectacular nature dives and much much more.  There’s even an alienesque Blue Hole formation off Middle Caicos that only a few of the dive operators know about (well enough to take divers to anyway, it’s a sight to behold and was certainly a unique dive for me).  

Divings always better when you're surrounded by luxury...

Ultimately, there are very few locations that are set against the backdrop of such an uber-luxurious context as the TCI and fewer still with stunning airlift, sophisticated infrastructure, high-quality dive operators and a pleasant absence of crime and / or boozed up tourists steaming straight from the cruise ships via McDonalds to clunk about on the coral (we’ve all had to give a piece of mind to first time snorkelers who have no concept of coral being alive!).  Thankfully (aside from the fact there are no McDonalds or fast food chains in the Turks & Caicos), the cruise ships only come into Grand Turk not Providenciales and their cruise traffic is largely contained within a spanking new $40m cruise centre so most of the divers you meet on GT have come there specifically for the speciality upmarket dive product it is famous around the world for.  

Plenty of Stingrays!

Turks & Caicos is situated on the world’s 3rd largest coral reef system and has over 300 kilometres of sugar white sandy beaches. As a result, the islands are consistently ranked as one of the premier diving locations in the world.  I could of course list a wide range of individual comments from divers at this point giving the pros and cons of the Turks & Caicos versus comparable locations but as I’ve said – that’s often misleading so perhaps it’s best to just look at a few of the dozens and dozens of recent awards and accolades that the Turks & Caicos Islands have won for their dive product:  

  • Cruise Critic’s Editor’s Picks: Best Eastern Caribbean Cruises for Snorkelling and Diving – Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Yachting Magazine’s 6 Best Diving Spots – Provo, Turks & Caicos
  • Yachting Magazine’s 10 Best Snorkelling Sites – Princess Alexandra National Park, Turks & Caicos
  • Rodale Scuba Award – Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) Readers Choice Award – Turks and Caicos
  • Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) Readers’ Choice Awards – Providenciales
  • Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) Readers’ Choice Award
  • Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) – Turks and Caicos Islands Top Five for ‘Big Animal Encounters’
  • Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) – Top Twenty Global Dive Destinations
  • Scuba Diving (Caribbean and Atlantic) Readers’ Choice Awards – Grand Turk and Salt Cay listed in the Top Three – ‘Top Wall Diving’; Top Five ‘Healthiest Marine Environments’ and Top Fifteen – ‘Top Dive Destinations’
  • Scuba Diving Magazine ‘Best Fish Life,’ ‘Best Overall Destination,’ ‘Top Fifteen Most Popular Dive Destinations Worldwide,’ ‘ Best Wall Diving’ and ‘ Best Beginner Diving’ – Turks & Caicos

And that’s just a few of scores of awards I could mention although undoubtedly – there are other locations able to list equally prestigious accolades in the region. I see that as a positive – the Caribbean, especially the Eastern Caribbean, is an undisputed dive mecca and the more that is promoted collectively, the more divers will take come to the TCI and elsewhere.   

Turtles abound...

#1 Place on Earth to Dive With Humpbacks

The reasons for Turks & Caicos being such a great dive location are as broad as their awards list.  Excellent visibility (up to 200 feet and an average of 125 foot), pristine reefs, abundant tropical flora and fauna, fish and other marine life, high quality diving services, hyperbaric chambers, class leading hospitals, stunning marinas and easy conditions all converge to make the Turks and Caicos Islands the world class diving destination that it clearly is.  Exceptional wall diving starting in shallow turquoise water and dropping off into the deep blue never cease to give a real thrill.  An abundance of rays (Manta, Stingray, Eagle Rays) can be seen easily along with plenty of sharks, dolphins, turtles, whale sharks, huge sponges, healthy corals and countless other species of marine life.  The reef is relatively close to the beach which makes for accessible beach dives and shipwrecks, old and new, further increase the multiplicity of the islands as an outstanding diving destination.  Under the National Parks Ordinance; vast areas have been set aside as marine park and fisheries reserves, replenishment, and mooring buoys have been established at all dive sites and mooring areas to avoid any possible damage from anchors. As part of the general preservation and protection drive from the eco friendly government; divers and snorkelers visiting Turks and Caicos are proactively encouraged to observe, respect and enjoy the pristine natural beauty of the marine environment and to leave the reef as healthy as they found it.   

Pristine, Healthy Coral

Excellent diving can be found right off most of the islands and popular dive sites include:  

   

Personally, I recommend Grand Turk and Salt Cay – not just for diving but for whale watching also since the entire herd of North Atlantic  humpback whales passes twice annually through the 22 mile-wide channel called the Columbus Passage which separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands. This 8,000 foot deep passage – one of the deepest parts of the Caribbean – serves as a major transit route for migrating, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, turtles and dolphins as well as the humpback whales.  

Warm, cerullean waters

Diving equipment is available for rent across all the islands and resorts, PADI certification is recognized (and indeed taught) and virtually all the main resorts offer both diver and non diver packages.  Summer waters range from 82 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface which are certainly warm enough for swimsuits although many divers wear shorties. In the winter, water temperatures of 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit would suggest the use of a 2 to 3mm (1/8 to 3/16 inch) wetsuit. Computers are an advantage owing to the multi-level nature of diving in the Turks and Caicos.  

It’s worth noting also that the Turks & Caicos is home to the World’s Best Beach (Grace Bay) and dozens of award winning, world class hotels and resorts including Beaches, The Seven Stars, The Amanyara, Gansevoort, The Somerset and Parrot Cay (recognised as the World’s most luxurious resort and home to Bruce Willis, Donna Karen, Christie Brinkley and Keith Richards).  Trip Advisor have just – based on millions of reviews – named the Turks and Caicos as “The World’s Top Beach and Sun Destination 2010″.  

So, there is clearly a lot of choice to be had in the Caribbean when it comes to diving but don’t let anyone kid you that one location empirically outdoes another.  Judge the facts for yourself by visiting all of them and remember that all clients purchasing from Conch Developments are given free five star holidays to the Turks & Caicos and we’re more than happy to organise your diving programme for you with our TCI partners – all at preferred rates.  

Set Sail for the TCI With Conch Developments

One claim I will make – the Caribbean as a whole offers the world’s best diving.  It’s down to personal taste and sensibilities however as to which locations in the Caribbean reign supreme.

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~ by Conch Developments on May 19, 2010.

One Response to “Award Winning Turks & Caicos – One of Earth’s Top Tier Dive Locations”

  1. […] in the world (the Turks & Caicos are located on the world’s third largest coral reef system, diving is world class, they’re recognised as having the World’s Best Beach – Grace Bay – and […]

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