"Beautiful by Nature" is a term that best describes the islands of Turks and Caicos. While Provo is the area that is most noted for tourism for snorkelers, you would be remiss into thinking that it is the only place to go. Middle and South Caicos are two such areas that are well worth the exploration. Our article is going to tell you the best snorkeling in Middle & South Caicos and what you will see underwater.MIDDLE CAICOS
This is the largest of the string of "Caicos" islands with a land mass of 48 square miles. The splendor of the limestone cliffs and sandy beaches are a breathtaking testament to it's beauty. Mudjin Harbour is probably your best opportunity for snorkeling here but the waters can be rough at times. The beach area is serene and at low tide it arcs out toward the ocean to an off shore cay forming a half moon shaped lagoon.
The Dragon Cay is one of the most photographed formation in all of the islands. It's name stems from the shape of the formation itself which resembles a sleeping dragon. The area off of the beach does have some steep drop offs so caution is advised. Grouper, Bar Jacks, Angelfish, Chub and Yellowtail Snapper are just some of the inhabitants that you might spot during your time in the water. Access to the Mudjin Harbor beach is by following a 500 foot concrete walkway through the Blue Horizon Resort. There is a small car park here for those that have cars. If you are staying on Provo and want to visit Middle Caicos, taking the ferry over to North Caicos and renting a car their would probably be the best option.
Middle Caicos may be the largest but it is also the least developed with a population of about 165 residents. There are some resorts for those wishing to make Middle Caicos their base of operations. If the water conditions are too rough for snorkeling, you might want to check out the hiking trail that winds along the hills, cliffs and the beaches in the area or even sign up for one of the cave tours that are available.SOUTH CAICOS
South Caicos ranks number 7 with regard to size relationship with the other islands having a land mass of just 8 square miles with a population of about 811. The Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park is an expanse which covers 1,185 acres of land and water acreage which is located along the southern coast of the island. The park was created as a way to preserve as well as to protect the beauty of the natural habitat of the area. National parks all have rules and regulations for that very purpose. It is against the law to take any historical or natural artifacts which includes corals, sea shells, plants and animals. There is no fishing or collecting of conch on the park property and doing so could result in fines and/or imprisonment. Littering and vandalism may result in the same actions. While there is a 15 mph speed limit for power vessels in the park, this is often ignored by many boaters so caution is advised for both swimmers and snorkelers to be vigilant.
South Caicos is also home to a branch of The School for Field Studies who, by working closely with Turks & Caicos Islands Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs and the National Park Service are constantly developing management strategies to help in the conservation of the diverse marine life while still providing economic opportunities for the island residents whose mainstay is fishing. Dove Cay is one of the more popular areas to snorkel on South Caicos, it is a small island off of the beach from Dove Cay which is about a half mile south of the School for Field Studies. Students of the school are often found snorkeling around here on Sundays both exploring and investigating the area. As you snorkel out to the cay, you will pass over turtle grass along the way which will provide opportunities to see stingrays and turtles and the waters around the cay itself are shallow which is a great opportunity to see lobster soft and hard corals and the smaller marine life that is in the area.life which might be missed in deeper waters.
Long Cay is yet another great place for snorkeling, though it next to Dove Cay, it is best visited by kayak or a organized snorkeling boat trip as the swim there would be quite lengthy. Almost 2 miles in length, the cay has been designated as a sanctuary for rock iguanas which are a critically endangered species. One of the snorkeling sites here is called the Aquarium. French Grunt, Triggerfish, Squirrelfish, Snapper, Grouper and even Barracuda are just some of the fish you might see. Have your Caribbean Fish & Creature ID Card handy because there are many, many more that you will want to remember by name. with you so you can identify the many others that you will see. The ecosystem is the most vibrant in this area which is mainly due to the deep onshore currents which bring nutrients in from the Columbus Passage. Those who are into underwater photography will enjoy the macro opportunities that this area has to offer.
By Roy Jamason
Written July 21, 2015