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Turks & Caicos Islands

Only 575 miles south west of Miami and within swimming distance (almost!) of the Bahamas lie the sleepy islands of the Turks & Caicos. The main group, the Caicos Islands, form a curve to the north, that enclose the Caicos Bank, a huge sand and coral plateau that has been the scourge of many a ship, ancient and modern. All around the Caicos Bank the famed walls of the Turks & Caicos Islands plunge into the deep blue, dropping, in many places, to well over 6,000ft.

Low-lying coralline islands that do not stick more than about 100ft above sea level, these beach-fringed islands are a haven for wildlife. The marshes and salt pans offer excellent feeding and stop-over points for migratory birds. Flamingos, herons, egrets, ospreys, pelicans, frigates, boobies and terns are just some of the many species that can be observed. Some of the smaller and uninhabited islands are home to iguanas, large lizards that enjoy the dunes and scrub.

Dividing the Caicos Group from the Turks Group is the Turks Island Passage, a 7000ft deep trench that is a natural passageway for pelagics to travel between the open seas of the Atlantic and the sheltered and warmer Caribbean. Manta rays, eagle rays, turtles and friendly, cheeky dolphins are regular visitors to the walls of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The walls of the Turks & Caicos Islands are encrusted with sponges and soft & hard corals, home to a colourful array of fish and invertebrates. Caves and channels split the walls making for interesting nooks and crannies in which to find a wealth of macro critters.

Further South and East from Grand Turk is fabled Silver Bank, a series of oceanic reefs that rise to within 10ft of the surface. Silver Bank is known to be the resting place of several Spanish galleons, grounded during storms or at night on these reefs that rise abruptly from the immense depths of the Atlantic. But it is not in search of treasure that divers visit Silver Bank in February and March, but to witness the awesome mating display of the Atlantic Humpback Whales that migrate from cold Northern waters to the clear warm waters of Silver Bank every year. Part of the courting display of humpbacks is "breaching", where the males, in an attempt to gain the attention of an attractive female, leap almost bodily out of the water, to plunge back in again with a resounding splash!

During the late summer months nurse sharks come to French Cay to mate; hundreds and hundreds of them can be seen cavorting in the shallows, a sight seen nowhere else on earth. JoJo, the friendly dolphin, is a frequent visitor to many of the dive sites, and enjoys interacting with divers and snorkellers.


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