Turks & Caicos Dive Sites & Marine Life

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Turks and Caicos Marine Life

A large area of the coast of Provo comprises the Princess Alexandra National Park within which there is no commercial or sport fishing allowed. As a result the diver benefits from a profusion of marine life, much of which remains undisturbed in its reef habitat by visiting divers. Even outside the boundaries of the Princess Alexandra National Park the dive operators all happily support a policy of reef preservation and conservation.

Sharks: Caribbean reef sharks are frequently seen cruising the depths off the walls at North West Point and West Caicos, but do not discount Grace Bay which often produces a shark fest all of its own. While Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks are by far the most common blacktips, tiger sharks, and hammerheads are often spotted.

Horse-eyed jacks: Perhaps the signature fish of Northwest Point; spend an enchanting safety stop watching their hypnotic circling as you hang under the boat.

Turtles: Always a crowd pleaser these pre-historic creatures, although endangered in many areas, are seen quite commonly on our dives. The very pretty Hawksbill Turtles are most commonly sighted.

Bottlenose Dolphin: Sometimes seen underwater on dives, but more often enjoyed as they play in the wake of the boats traveling to and from the dive sites. Perhaps the best known denizen of the Provo sea is “Jojo,” a bottlenose dolphin who has frequented the area since the 1980s. Jojo is wild, but frequently visits divers and seems to enjoy human company.
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Spotted Eagle Rays: Sightings of these magnificent creatures seems cyclical. Usually seen in ones and twos cruising the edge of the barrier reef, this year has produced huge schools of eagle rays, especially at the southern sites. Imagine flying along the edge of the wall amongst 15 or 16 eagle rays.

Eels: Easily swum over, just take a close look at the reef to see large green moray or tiny golden spotted eels.

Whales: Humpback whales are frequently seen in January through March when they are migrating to the Silver Banks off the Dominican Republic to mate and calf.

Grouper: Provo is also home many large groupers which can be seen regularly at cleaning stations on the reef. Nassau Groupers are particularly friendly with “Scratch” in Grace Bay, and “Nick” at the Boneyards, an area located in Grace Bay, openly welcoming interaction with divers.

Grunts: Large schools of brightly coloured grunts, ideal subjects for photography, are seen at many dive sites. Look for them in abundance amongst the staghorn coral at the Boneyards in Grace Bay.


PINE CAY AREA:

Pine Cay is a small island located 40-50 minutes by boat, northeast of Turtle Cove marina. The dive sites off the Cay are submerged seamounts that rise to within 50′ of the surface and are known for consistently good visibility — even at times when the visibility is down at other north side sites.

Football Field — The Football Field dive site is a good example of the ocean floor topography in this area where the mooring pin is in 50fsw at the top of a steeply sloping wall. Divers can expect this area to be teeming with schools of juvenile barracudas, jacks, Bermuda chub, and groupers. Swimming away from the wall brings the diver to a large area of sand in 70′ of water, home to many lobsters.

Eagle Ray Pass — Another site in this area is Eagle Ray Pass. A sand gulley leading off from under the mooring takes the diver out to the top of a sloping wall. This site has a tremendous selection of corals down to a sand bottom at 100fsw.


GRACE BAY AREA:

Grace Bay is a short 15-20 minute boat trip from Turtle Cove and is protected by a 14 mile barrier reef. Prolific marine life such as groupers, barracudas, turtles, sharks and the occasional manta ray inhabit this area.

Coral Gables — A gentle slope to the wall allows divers to pick their depth. Sand chutes stop just below the top of the wall and give way to large stacks of coral, home to grunts, snappers and groupers.

Graceland — This site has a large sand chute under the dive boat and a swim-through leading to the wall at 50fsw. The wall has many buttresses and indentations with a good possibility of reef sharks swimming in the depths off the wall.

Grouper Hole — The mooring is by a deep sandy grotto, the Grouper Hole, with a large coral head in the middle of a sand chute that leads divers to a gently sloping wall. school-of-jacksIn the days before the formation of the marine park in Provo this was a spot that grouper feeding took place.

Aquarium — Enormous schools of grunts and snappers form an almost continuous school on top of the wall at the Aquarium. The wall is an exaggerated spur and groove type formation with some spectacular sand chutes that run on down through the reef to a depth of around 100fsw.


NORTH WEST POINT AREA:

The vertical walls of Northwest Point begin at 35 feet and are famous for a variety of formations including gold and purple tube sponges. Dramatic dive sites are the rule here where large fish and elephant ear sponges are frequently encountered.

Shark Hotel — At the top of the Shark Hotel wall, divers find schools of grunts, snappers, and goatfish. The wall begins in about 45fsw and drops straight down to 80 to 100fsw where a plateau juts out and forms a shelf before plunging into the depths. As the name suggests, this site is a good place to spot small reef sharks. Close to the mooring is a huge stand of pillar coral, some of the largest to be seen in the Turks and Caicos.

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Amphitheater — There are large pillar coral under the boat and an abundance of horse eyed jacks. The wall drops vertically to an amphitheater formation that is undercut 10-15 feet to a sandy bottom in 85 feet.One prominent feature of this site is a large elephant ear sponge with black coral along the top lip of the undercut, and some rare orange rope sponges at about 90fsw. In front of the amphitheater is a buttress with some beautiful examples of plate corals.

The Crack — This site’s name comes from the deep crevice that cuts down the wall from a depth of 50 to about 100fsw. Large grouper and snapper tend to hang out in the crack among black coral and deep water gorgonian. There is always a good chance to spot sharks and spotted eagle rays at this site.

The Hole in the Wall — This is a crack or hole that drops vertically from 55fsw and emerges from the face of the wall at 95fsw. Space is limited to one diver in the hole at a time, but the sensation of emerging into the blue water is an incredible one. Extensive sheet coral formations are also found here.

Sandbore Channel:

The area between sites # 10 and # 11 is the Sandbore Channel, a deep navigable channel that lies between Providenciales and West Caicos. Leaving from the south shore of Provo you travel across the shallow Caicos banks and join the channel where pale turquoise water turns deep iridescent blue. This is one of he most spectacularly beautiful sights you will ever see. Diving here is also breathtaking with deep water sponges and large pelagics, but must be dived when tide and weather are just right.


WEST CAICOS AND BEYOND:

Highway to Heaven — Located at the north end of West Caicos, the dive begins in 50fsw with a large colony of garden eels in the sand flat. The site is also popular because of the many stingrays that play in the sand. This is one of the deeper dives out at West Caicos with coral arches and swim throughs around 80-100fsw. Lot’s of large marine life and frequent shark sightings.

Elephant Ear Canyon — Divers know they are at this site when they see the elephant ear sponge 11 feet in diameter. The reef at the top of the wall is about 50fsw split into sections by sand chutes. Under the boat at the end of the dive, divers can see garden eels, stingrays, and tilefish.

Gulley — The wall begins in about 50fsw and the top lip of the wall is a dense coral reef with many cleaning stations. The gulley gets it’s name from the cut in the reef that forms two distinct sections before dropping off vertically. The vertical wall here has many undercuts covered in sponges and black corals.

Driveway — Under the boat in about 40 feet of water lies a sand area with scattered coral heads leading into a sand chute that extends down through the reef from 50fsw to a ledge at around 80-100fsw where the wall drops vertically to the depths. Marine life includes sharks, groupers, black durgons, and the ledge area features some excellent growth of plate and star corals. As with many of the sites at West Caicos all along the wall divers will find black coral and purple tube sponges.

Whiteface — The name of this dive site has nothing to do with the underwater topography, but comes from the steep white cliffs along the shoreline. Along the top of the wall is particularly profuse reef with some impressive stands of pillar coral. The fish population includes barracuda, parrot fish French angelfish and Nassau grouper. Just north of the mooring is a crack in the wall with a large anchor embedded at 70 feet. wall-2The wall is well undercut to a depth of about 100fsw.

South West Reef — This reef has a deeper wall starting in 50-70fsw. The wall is vertical with enormous barrel sponges, deep water gorgonians and frequent sightings of sharks and eagle rays. Currents are frequently encountered at this spot.

Molasses Reef — This reef on the edge of the shallow banks and the wall appears as the boat approaches as a line of waves and a golden brown color from the coral reef breaking the surface. This reef is the site of several historic shipwrecks, however, the dive takes place on the deep water side along the wall. Spotted eagle rays and sharks are common over the top of the wall, with Nassau groupers and jacks abundant under the boat.

Double D — Located just offshore from the bird sanctuary on deserted French Cay, Double D’s name comes from two large pinnacles rising from the ocean floor. The wall here is a fairly gradual slope with a profuse carpet of corals along it’s entire length. a
The area around the Double D pinnacles and the boat mooring is home to large numbers of jack, black durgon, and grouper.

Half Mile Reef — As the name suggests, this reef is roughly half a mile long and lies to the east of French Cay. A popular section of the reef is located in a large bowl on the wall which tends to eliminate the effects of currents encountered elsewhere on the reef. Large schools of barracuda and mahogany snappers are always present and two large (7-8 feet across) elephant ear sponges are found twenty feet apart at the 85fsw contour.