The island nation known as The Turks and Caicos is comprised of over three hundred islands, most of which are small and uninhabited.
These are naturally divided into two proximate but distinct island groups separated by the deep 20-25 mile wide Turks Passage.
The Caicos Islands lie to the east, along the rim of an atoll-like formation called the Caicos Bank, a shallow sand-topped formation that is the geological and ecological equivalent of the Bahama Banks that stretch to the northwest.
The island of Providenciales (popularly known as "Provo") is the center of commerce and tourism for the Caicos group.
The Turks Islands group is far smaller, and lies some 20-25 miles west of the Caicos Bank. Almost all the population of these islands resides on Grand Turk, the national seat of government.
Geographically, the Turks and Caicos represent the southernmost extension of the same geological formations that underlie most of The Bahamas. Politically however, these two island nations are completely separate entities.
Caicos Bank Snorkeling Environment
The Caicos Bank is surrounded by an extensive coral reef that plummets steeply into very deep water. Because of its remote southerly location, lack of sedimentation runoff from land, and low population density the entire Caicos Bank is bathed by very clear tropical waters.
The superb fringing reef that surrounds the Caicos Bank provides particularly good snorkeling opportunities for beginners as well as highly accomplished snorkelers. Most Turks and Caicos snorkeling takes place in reef areas along the coast of Provo, where some of the world's most beautiful beaches can be found.
A particularly good example of such an idyllic snorkeling haven is Provo's Grace Bay, a majestic crescent-shaped beach located within the protection of Princess Alexandra Land And Sea Marine Park (aka Princess Alexandra National Marine Park). This marine park extends for miles along the northern coast of Provo.
Two of the most popular snorkeling sites at Grace Bay are Coral Gardens and Smith's Reef. Coral formations here can be found an easy swim from the beach. Here, it is not uncommon for snorkelers to spot sea turtles and spotted eagle rays, as well as a great diversity of reef fishes and other animals.
Turks and Caicos Travel Tips
The main entry for international flights to the Turks & Caicos is Provo's International Airport.
Flying to Provo is easy, with direct flights from a number of N. American cities (Miami, Dallas, New York, Charlotte, Toronto, Halifax), as well as from other international locales including Kingston (Jamaica) and London.
Visitors are allowed to stay a maximum of 30 days. And be sure and leave the underwater artillery at home - spear guns and Hawaiian slings are not allowed and will be confiscated at the airport.
Dress lightly - winter temperatures average in the 70s while summer temperatures average in the mid-80s, reaching the low 90s in late summer.
Provo particularly caters to scuba divers and snorkelers, and offers a variety of accommodations ranging from quaint island-style villas to luxury beachfront hotels with all the amenities one could ask for.