The Turks and Caicos Islands, named after the Turk's Head "fez" cactus found on the islands. Caicos comes from the Lucayan, caya hico, meaning string of islands. The islands first settlers were the Taints, these left little else behind but ancient utensils. By the middle of the 16th Century, the people Columbus named as the Lucayan's had all been either used for slaves, pearl divers or died from imported disease. Columbus was said to be the first to discover the islands in 1492, but some will still argue that Ponce de Leon was the first.

In the 17th century the Bermudans settled on the islands of Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos and used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America. Cotton and Sisal Plantations were set up by British Loyalists who were taking refuge from the American revolution, these were laboured by imported slaves. Cotton and Sisal were sold in London and New York, and solar salt became the main economy of the islands. Due to other competition and the thin soil, the cotton plantations were slowly deteriorating and after a hurricane in 1813 the cotton plantations were to perish.

In 1776 after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony but attempts to integrate failed and so abandoned in 1848. London - Kingston boats frequently visited Turks and Caicos, so links with Jamaica were well developed. Turks and Caicos became a British Crown Colony in 1962 and links were maintained to the Bahamas through the Anglican Church.

The 1976 elections were won by the PDM, the People's Democratic Movement, the other main political party is the Progressive National Party (PNP). The PDM were then to negotiate independence if they won the next elections (1980). The PDM failed to win the 1980 elections and the PNP were elected, this meant that all talk of independence was set aside.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are surrounded by one of the most extensive coral reef systems worldwide(65 miles across and 200 miles long).

A 22 mile-wide channel, the Turks Island Passage, separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands. This 7,000 foot deep passage serves as major transit lines for migrating Humpback Whales, Spotted Eagle Rays, Manta Rays, Turtles and Dolphins.

Excellent viability (up to 200 feet), pristine reefs, abundant tropical flora and forna, fish and other marine life, quality diving services and easy conditions make the Turks and Caicos Islands a world class diving destination. There is exceptional wall diving starting in shallow turquoise water and dropping off into the deep blue gives a thrill. Shipwrecks, old and new further increases the multiplicity of the islands as an outstanding diving destination.

Under the National Parks Ordinance, vast areas have been set aside as marine park and fisheries reserves and replenishment, and mooring buoys have been established at all dive sites and mooring areas to avoid any possible damage from anchors. As part of the general preservation and protection drive, divers visiting Turks and Caicos are encouraged to observe, respect an enjoy the pristine natural beauty of the marine environment and to leave the reef as healthy as they found it.

Grand Turk: This represents a wealth of tremendous experiences for the diver. Less than a quarter of a mile off shore and starting in just 25 to 45 feet of water a coral wall runs the full length of the island, with profiles ranging from steeply sloping terrain to interesting coral undercuts and perfectly vertical drop-offs. The sponge growth and fish population are spectacular and distinctively different from the other Turks and Caicos sites. You can expect Manta Rays in the summer, Turtles year-round and Whales in the winter. This a primary corridor for migrating Humpback Whales from December through April.

Providenciales: The remarkable walls of the Northwest Point Marine park, starting at just 50 - 60 feet of water features vertical structures laden with elaborate, thick clusters of multi-coloured sponges. Watch for schooling fish, Turtles, Spotted Eagle Rays and much more. To the north of the island is a well developed spur and grove system, with thick fingers of coral sloping from 30 feet to a minimum of 60 feet. This drops abruptly to a sand shelf at 100 feet and is well decorated with soft corals, Black corals and thick growths of gorgonians. Each year brings Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, Dolphins and Whale Sharks.

West Caicos: This a focal point for Provo based dive operators and live-aboard dive vessels. A wall running 2 miles along the western shore offers some of the finest diving in the islands, featuring some of the most mature sponge formations anywhere. Expect the Turks and Caicos trademark of clusters of Purple Tube Sponges and strands of Antler Sponges wrapped in clokes of brilliant Rope Sponges, along with visits by Sharks, Eagle Rays, Turtles and bigger fish. The wall structure varies from dramatically sloping to breathtakingly vertical.

North Caicos: Diving across the north end of North Caicos, as in the other islands, takes the form of spur and groove formations that drop from in a mini-wall from 30 - 70 feet. This is the same barrier reef that stretches across the entire northern boundary of the Caicos Islands, and the diving is similar to that found on the northshore of Providenciales. This area sees far fewer divers, with a subsequent increase in marine life. Expect an excellent fish population with the occasional larger visitor. Divers based at North Caicos frequently visit the fine sites at the nearby Pine Cay and the other Caicos Islands.

South Caicos: Known as the big fish capital of the Turks and Caicos, with large Pelagics seen here in great numbers. A vertical wall wraps around the southern edge of South Caicos, then extends the length of Long Cay. This is reputed to be the finest diving in the Turks and Caicos.

Salt Cay: Blessed with a wall running the length of its western shore, sites include deep sponge draped ledges as well as shallow coral gardens. Turtles, rays, Dolphins and Groupers are all encountered here. During Whale season (December through April), this is prime territory for Whale watching. To the south of Salt Cay lies the remains the HMS Endymion, a British warship that went down in the late 17,00's. She now lies in less than 30 feet of water, an ancient, unsalvaged wreck site. More than a dozen cannons and several large anchors mark her grave.

Dive Tips: While summer waters (82 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface) are certainly warm enough for swimsuits, protection in the form of light coverup (such as Lycra, Darlexx or Polartec) is welcomed by most divers. In the winter, water temperatures of 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit would suggest the use of a 2 to 3mm (1/8 to 3/16 inch) wetsuit. Computers are an advantage owing to the multi-level nature of diving in the Turks and Caicos.

Diving equipment available for rent, P.A.D.I. certification recognised. Diving instruction is available to visitors who want to learn to Scuba Dive.





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