Snorkeling the Turks and Caicos Islands
By Candyce H. Stapen
We swim right over the flounder, not noticing it until Donnie, our guide, points out the camouflaged critter on the sea floor. The fish’s gray and tan skin meshes with the sandy bottom. Only its two eyes, both on the upward facing side of its body, betray the flounder to keen observers.
The reef that wraps several of the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos Islands offers rewarding snorkeling. We see trumpet, parrot, trigger fish and a school of blue tangs as we float above brain, purple fan, fire coral and large stag horn formations that nearly reach the surface.
The reef is long, the fish and coral, abundant and the water clear with visibility to 40-plus feet. Despite being out in high season, we come across only one other boat all day. That’s part of the beauty of a Turks and Caicos adventure.
Of the 40 plus islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands, about 10 or so are inhabited. Providenciales (known as “Provo”), while not the capital, is the most populous with about 30,000 people. Even with recent development, Provo still has no traffic lights.
Donnie, our naturalist and guide, works for Big Blue Unlimited, an adventure tour outfitter located on Provo. He pilots our catamaran to two of his favorite snorkeling spots, both of which are off of uninhabited Fort George Island, about a 40-minute boat ride from Provo.
Once, the British patrolled the island, fending off pirates and Bermudians who came to rake the Turks & Caicos salt, a precious commodity. Now we watch brown pelicans, the country’s national bird, swoop and dive for fish as we picnic in the shade of a casuarina tree.
Before we return to Provo, Donnie steers us to Little Water Cay, a nature preserve that’s home to more than 2,000 rock iguanas. As we walk along the boardwalk path cut through silver thatch palms—the critters munch on the berries—, the lizards scuttle through the brush.
Several come near us, their fat bellies dragging in the sand. Once found throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands, the reptiles, picked off by dogs, cats and cattle, thrive mainly on Little Water Cay.
Provo is also known for spectacular Grace Bay Beach, 12-miles of silky, white sands edging clear, turquoise waters. Among the newest properties on Grace Bay Beach is Seven Stars. The luxury resort consists of three buildings containing a total of 115 studio and one to four bedroom condominiums, each with a kitchen. The resort features attentive service, a large pool and up-market accommodations.