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
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.