The "Turks" part of this island nation's name refers to a particular cluster of islands of which only two are populated, Grand Turk and Sandy Cay. The combined population consists of about 4,300 residents and is 6.7 square miles with Cockburn Town being the capitol of Turks and Caicos. The Grand Turk Cruise Center located on the southwest of the island plays host to cruise ships as one of the stops on their itinerary. While many come for the shopping and beaches, most take advantage of the water sports in the turquoise blue ocean that surrounds the island, snorkeling is more than often one of them. Whether you are cruise based or land based, we have gathered information on what may be considered the best snorkeling in Grand Turk for you explore. Most of the locations being highlighted are on the western side of the island. You can choose to either snorkel from shore or sign up for one of the many snorkeling boat excursions which will take you out to the coral wall itself located 300 yards offshore. The waters and reef here lie in the Columbus Landfall National Marine Park where it is touted that the famed explorer and adventurer Christopher Columbus stopped during his epic journey of 1492. The use of the waters of the park do have rules and regulation that need to be adhered to one of which is not to bring anything out of the water such as shells, corals or marine life. The marine park consists of most of the waters along the western shore of the island.OSPREY BEACH HOTEL
The crystal clear waters just off of the beach area of the Osprey Beach Hotel are excellent for all levels of snorkelers. Entry from the sugar white each is uncomplicated and the abundance in marine life will amaze you. This is an excellent area for in water photo opportunities. Trumpet Fish, Stop Light Parrotfish, Grunts are just a few of the creatures that make this reef and sand area their home. You might even spot a shy octopus or two hiding themselves in some of the nooks and crannies of the coral reef areas.PILLORY BEACH
Pillory Beach is located on the northwest side of the island near the Bohio Resort and is a popular area to get away from the beaches that are closer to where the cruise ships dock. While it may be farther, it is well worth the taxi ride out there. The colorful sponges are a stark contrast to the bright white sand of the beach itself and the marine life here is in great abundance. As part of the marine park area, it is no wonder that the corals here are so healthy. While you are able to snorkel from the shore, participating in one of the boat snorkeling excursions might be more preferable as they can take you to the more pristine areas of the main reef which would reduce long surface swims. You might even spot turtles cruising the reef in this area or the beautiful and majestic Eagle Ray during your exploration.GIBBS CAY
The location of this snorkeling site is accessible only via boat as it is an uninhabited cay which is located 1 mile from shore on the southeastern side of the island It was thought to be the site of a French gun encampment around the 1780s but now is only inhabited by sea birds. An excellent picnic and snorkel destination. The reason that Gibbs Cay makes this desirable list is that you can participate in the Sting Ray encounters while you are there. These beautiful creatures gather and gracefully glide in the shallow water there. The tour operators often bring food so you can feed them. This is usually booked as a half day excursion and people often find that this is a great place to relax with a picnic lunch. Don't get too wrapped up with the Stingrays though because just 50 yards off shore is a beautiful reef to explore which is teeming with all sorts of marine life. Parrot Fish, Grouper, Snapper.....the list goes on and on. Gibbs Cay is definitely a must for your Grand Turk list of places to snorkel.GOVERNORS BEACH
This site is home to a spectacular expanse of beach which is about a 15 to 20 minute walk from the cruise center. The warm waters here invite you to snorkel with the schools of chub and snapper as they frolic with the parrotfish and angelfish. The plate corals scattered here are a good opportunity to spot spotted drums and damselfish. You might also catch a glimpse of some flamingo tongues clinging to the colorful soft corals. This area is part of the Columbus Landfall National Park and is subject to the rules and regulations as set forth by the government there. There are public washrooms here and even a bar for libations following your most enjoyable snorkeling adventure.
These are just a few of the choice spots found on Grand Turk. Remember that many of the others may be reached by signing up for an organized boat snorkeling adventure through the resorts or dive shops on the island . Those arriving via any on the cruise ships can also sign up for some of the prearranged tours and shore excursions offered through the particular cruise line being used.
By Roy Jamason
Updated June 12, 2015