Dive Enthusiast or Dive Addict?

Land-based or liveaboard diving . . . which is for you?

By Kelly Currington

A chance to dive the world-renowned reefs of the Turks & Caicos Islands is a coveted destination for any diver. Known for dramatic walls, warm, crystal-clear turquoise water, healthy, diverse marine life, and little or no current, choosing TCI as your destination is the easy decision. Deciding on the best option for your dive vacation in the Turks & Caicos Islands can be a little more laborious, depending on many factors. 

Some think the perfect dive vacation consists of doing a couple of dives during the day and then enjoying island-life amenities like eating at oceanside restaurants, walking on the stunning beaches, and strolling through the local shops. Others view the ideal dive vacation as diving as much as possible (including night dives), sleeping and eating, and then doing it all over again every day of their vacation. 

Diving in the Turks & Caicos Islands is known for healthy and diverse marine life. This photo was by Flamingo Divers (www.flamingodivers.com). They specialize in small group diving and private dive charters.

These differing perspectives require thought in the planning process to achieve the desired experience for your perfect dive vacation. There are a few options for diving our beautiful reefs and walls. You can choose to mix diving in with other aspects of your vacation by diving day boats; you can immerse yourself in all the diving possible by choosing a liveaboard; or you can choose a private charter and create your own schedule.

The Turks & Caicos Islands boast some of the most beautiful resorts in the region, overlooking pristine white sand beaches leading into turquoise waters so stunning they look Photoshopped—but I can assure you they are absolutely real! When you choose to stay on land and dive with a day boat operator, you get to enjoy any one of these beautiful properties while still getting your dive fix, which for a diver is crucial on all vacations.

Most land-based operators provide two-tank trips, so you dive one location, have a surface interval with water and snacks, move to a new location, and then dive the second dive. Some offer three-tank specials and private charters, where the schedule is a little more customizable. Because day boats are much smaller than liveaboard vessels, they have the ability to get to locations that are inaccessible to liveaboards due to depth or weight restrictions on the mooring balls.

Once your diving thirst has been quenched for the day, there are a variety of available adventures to be had above the surface. Everything from dining out, shopping, golf, tennis, casinos, exploring the pirate cave at Osprey Rock, The Hole in Long Bay, or trying another sport like kite surfing, parasailing, kayaking, or paddleboarding the mangroves. A must-do for every visitor is the Thursday Night Fish Fry on Providenciales. This is a festive celebration of island culture with music, dancing, and local vendors. When choosing land-based diving, you will have plenty of time to enjoy other activities.

This exciting dive site is called “Chimney” at North West Point off Providenciales. The photo is by Dive Provo (www.diveprovo.com), one of the Islands’ oldest operations.

Another benefit of diving land-based is it gives you the opportunity to visit the other Islands and expand the boundaries of your holiday. You can choose to dive at some of the other islands as well—each has features unique to the area—and broaden your diving experience in the Turks & Caicos. 

A couple of the all-inclusive properties include diving with your reservation, which is a big help with the budget. If you are traveling with friends and/or family members who don’t dive, this option usually works best so you can dive and still have time to spend with your travel companions. The all-Inclusive properties usually provide non-divers with activities to enjoy while you are out playing underwater. Everyone is happy!

Now, if you are a dive addict (meaning you must dive as much as possible every day of your vacation, within the safety limits of your dive computer), choosing a liveaboard is the best way to feed your habit. Liveaboards are floating hotels for divers, where you eat, sleep, and dive without stepping foot on land once the vessel leaves the marina for the week. This is a dive addict’s utopia! 

The liveaboards here usually get in four to five dives a day (including night dives), they have a chef onboard who provides three meals a day plus snacks between dives. The cabins have on-suite bathrooms and are comfortable. The truth is, most people who choose the liveaboard option don’t spend any time in their rooms except to sleep. When not underwater, you are usually on the sundeck talking to other divers about diving, in the salon looking at photos and videos of your dives, or having meals and, yes, you guessed it, talking about diving. 

Liveaboard diving provides the opportunity to explore each dive site more thoroughly since you usually do two dives on each site. Night dives are something that most land-based operators don’t offer as much due to the distance of the reefs and the hazards of maneuvering the channels in the dark, but since liveaboards are already moored up at one of the prime locations, you can explore the same dive sites at night that you have dived during the day. This opens up a whole new world of amazing creatures as the day shift clocks out and the night shift clocks in.

Considering you get accommodations, all meals, snacks, alcohol, and up to 27 dives in a week, this is a very cost-effective option for the dive addict. And, there is something very special about waking up and having your coffee out on the ocean as the sun rises. Falling asleep as you are rocked by the motion of the sea is better than any sleep aid. 

Divers with Aqua TCI (www.aquatci.com) are enjoying an encounter with a Hawksbill sea turtle.

The third, and least cost-effective choice, would be a private vessel, where you can design your own schedule for diving based on your needs and goals for your holiday. You can decide to go out and dive during the day, returning to the marina in the afternoon so you can have access to all the amenities of the island. Or, you can choose to stay out for days and transit around from dive location to dive location, picking and choosing which sites you dive and how many dives you do (always following your dive computers NDL limits).

Both land-based and liveaboards offer dive training. You can choose to become a diver or continue your dive education, making your holiday both fun and educational. Most who go on a liveaboard are at minimum Open Water certified, but often choose to do their Nitrox, Advanced, or Specialty courses throughout the week. You are surrounded by experienced instructors, so what better time to increase your skill set and knowledge?

Land-based operators offer courses from Discover Scuba (a try-scuba experience) all the way up through Instructor, so always check ahead of time and schedule training early on to ensure an instructor is available during your desired dates. Liveaboards are a great place to continue your dive training and do specialty courses.

All dive operators, whether land-based or liveaboards, have certified Instructors or Divemasters in the water with divers, guiding you along the reef and showing you points of interests, whether it be a structure, coral formation, or marine creature. They tend to know where the “good stuff” is!

Take the opportunity to pick their brains about local inhabitants. Ask about marine creatures, coral, local conservation efforts, etc. One of the great things about diving with an Instructor or Divemaster is that they are knowledgeable about the waters they dive and enjoy sharing that knowledge. Instead of saying you saw a blue fish, yellow fish, flat fish, or mohawk fish, they will teach you the proper common names of fish, creatures, and coral as well as telling you interesting details and facts about them. It’s a fun way to learn.

Regardless of preference for your dive holiday, the ultimate reward will be dipping below the surface and exploring our beautiful reefs, bustling with marine life, and dramatic walls that drop off into the abyss. The reefs of the Turks & Caicos boast a kaleidoscope of colors, a plethora of amazing creatures, both large and small, pelagic and macro, offering once-in-a lifetime encounters. 

One common thread in all the choices is the chance to mingle with other divers, where there is an unspoken bond and shared interest in the sea, marine life, and adventure in general. Many lifelong friendships have been forged over dinner planning the next dive trip. 

This pod of dolphins was captured by Aqua TCI (www.aquatci.com), who specialize in small group diving, private charters, and private guiding.

Come experience the magic of diving the Turks & Caicos Islands. If you are underwater and blowing bubbles it will no doubt be the most amazing holiday ever.

Author Kelly Currington says, “My first dip below the service of the sea brought a realm of beauty, tranquility, and peace to my life that I had never known before. It changed my life in an instant and my soul was completely saturated with the power, vastness, and mysterious riches it holds. I will spend every minute I can in that underwater world.”

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Gary James at Provo Pictures (www.provopictures.com) used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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