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Dive Review of Grand Turk Diving Co. Ltd/Oxprey Beach Hotel in
Turks and Caicos/Grand Turk

Grand Turk Diving Co. Ltd/Oxprey Beach Hotel, Dec, 2013,

by Michael D Smith, OK, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports). Report 7531.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments If there is better all-around, land based diving in the Caribbean than that to be found on Grand Turk, I haven't been there yet. Glover's Reef off Belize has larger fish in general, but the total diving experience on Grand Turk is absolutely top notch in my book. This was our fourth trip to Grand Turk and the third annual holiday visit in a row. We will probably return for a fourth time in December 2014.

5 to 10 minute boat rides are the norm for getting to the sites along the seven miles of reef capped wall on the west shore. We dive with Grand Turk Diving and their boats load from the nearby beach with plenty of assistance from owner Algrove (Smitty) Smith and Dive Masters Jason and Jake. The shop managed our gear for the whole stay. We rinsed and hung our dive skins to dry at the shop and kept our masks and fins in our room. The shop also has good quality rental equipment. Our normal schedule was two days of diving and one day off. Divers arrive at the shop between 8:30 and 9:00 AM to get suited up, squared away and loaded onto the skiffs and head out by 9:15 to 9:30 . . . though everything runs on island time. The shop is very accommodating and service oriented. Chris manages the shop and offers some of her hand made glass and metal jewelry for sale along with standard dive shop merchandise; sodas, water, and a few bags of chips, cookies, peanuts etc.

We mostly dove with experience dive travelers, and locals on this stay, with a few less experienced folks thrown in over our three weeks on the island. Only an occasional diver from the cruise ships that make stops there now. The primary contract for those cruise ship passengers wanting to get in a little scuba is held by Oasis Divers.

Grand Turk Diving LTD’s boats are small Carolina skiffs with canvas canopies accommodating a maximum of eight divers. All of GTDs boats had oxygen, first aid kits, a dry box and bottled water. On most dives there were no more than six divers. In nearly every case the boat is manned only by the Dive Master. The divers usually assist with the mooring lines and help fellow divers with their equipment. Entry is by backward roll and return is via a three step stern ladder after handing weights, BC and fins up to the Dive Master. The boats are left unattended during dives, but with minimal currents, well maintained moorings and the beach only a few hundred yards away, this shouldn't be a concern to even inexperienced divers. Surface intervals are taken back on the beach with the second dive heading out between 11:30 and noon.

We stayed at the Osprey Beach Hotel, which is just across a narrow street from the dive shop, so we had no need for a car or to make arrangements for transportation to the dive shop. The other dive operations some other accommodations are within a couple of blocks as well.

Most of the three dozen named dive sites are on moorings. The reef top at the edge of the wall begins in 20 to 50 feet of water and some of best diving for beginners is on the reef in the shadow of the boat. The quality of the corals and sponges is excellent and the fish life abundant. Some sites have sandy bottoms with numerous coral heads and pentacles, while others are coral gardens. Many of the coral heads are massive and undercut with ledges and large openings that collect larger reef fish and other critters. I ran onto a six foot Green Moray on one dive and Smitty spotted a slightly larger Nurse Shark laying in the sand under one of those ledges on another. Other reef formations include spur and groove, coral mounds and coral hills.

The walls are clad with coral plates, splashed with colors, draped with soft corals and sponges and decorated with fans and gorgonias. The means of accessing the wall varies from site to site and includes multiple swim troughs, gaps between coral heads, sand chutes and sandy ski slopes. Most of the wall has terraces and slopes away into the blue, but the wall at the far south end at "Smitty's" drops spectacularly straight down and is also called "The Abyss"
Many sites had large schools of Yellow Tails, Blue Tangs and smaller schools of Jacks, Snapper, and Atlantic Spade Fish and on one occasion, a school of two dozen Barracuda. The site named "Fish Pond" was exactly that.

On our first trip in 2001, the site named "The Amphitheater" featured a 40 pound friendly Grouper named Alex. He would meet divers as they arrived on the site and accompany them on the dive. He enjoyed being petted, scratched and rubbed and would literally swim under your elbow or nudge a diver to get their attention. Though Alex has departed the scene, he apparently left behind many offspring, several of which are now 20 pounds and larger. They populate "Amphitheater", "The Annex" and a few other sites, and exhibit the same enjoyment of interacting with divers as Alex did. Grand Turk would be worth diving just for the fun to be had with these friendly Grouper.

The island of Grand Turk is about seven miles long laying north and south and one mile wide. Nearly all the diving is along the leeward west shore. Quiet, sleepy and laid back with a little action, except when the cruise ships are in, pretty much describes a typical day. Fortunately, the cruise ship docks at the far South end of the small island, where is a long beach lined with a few places to keep those folks busy during their short stay. However, on cruise ship days, a parade of ATVs or Segways along with a few small buses adds a little chaos to the usually quiet streets. Things pick up a little at night, but everything shuts down around 10:00PM except on Friday and Saturday night when a couple of bars stay open later.

Accommodations on Grand Turk include Bohio Resort toward the North, Turks Head Hotel, Manta House, The Salt Raker Inn and a few other one or two unit rentals on Front Street in Cockburn Town then the Osprey about half way down the west beach followed by some individual houses and small condos further south. There are also other rentals scattered around the island. There are three or four larger condo projects in various stages of construction, but who knows if or when those projects will be finished.

There aren't any . . . excellent . . . restaurants on the island, Osprey's restaurant is about the best available. The food at Bohio is nothing to write home about either and the service is especially slow. But, if you are in no hurry, we hear that the Saturday night Bar B Que is not bad and there is some live music as well. The Osprey has a Bar B Que on Wednesday and Sunday evenings featuring music by Mitch Rolling, the owner of Blue Water Divers and a local favorite. Bar B Que on Grand Turk is really just their name for a grill cook out, rather than actual smoked meats. The usual fare includes steaks, fresh fish, lobster, chicken, pork and other meat selections as available. Sides of peas and rice, slaw, bean salads, green salads and desserts finish up the menu.

Our room at the Osprey has a small kitchenette, so we bring some food stuffs from home and shop the local grocery stores as needed. A decent liquor store on West Road within a ten minute walk from The Osprey has a good selection of wine, liquor and beer at reasonable prices. The local beers are Turks Head Lager, Turks Head Amber and Presidente. All imported from the Dominican Republic.

Also at the south end of the main drag is the Sand-Bar, a typical beach side, fried food, burger place that keeps somewhat unpredictable hours. The Secret Garden Restaurant and Bar is across the street in the Salt Raker Inn. The Secret Garden features Reggae Music on Friday by a local group that includes a guy playing rhythm with a phillp’s screw driver on a saw. The food is tolerable and it's a local’s hang out, as is the Sand-Bar. Erica, owner at the Secret Garden puts together a unique island Christmas tree construction each year . . . Heineken bottles in 2012 and plastic water bottles last year. Two or three other mostly sandwich eateries are located at the north end of the Cockburn commercial strip.

Dive, eat, nap, followed by a stroll down the main street then dinner on our balcony or in the Osprey's beach side, open air, linen table cloth, restaurant, filled out most of our diving days. The Osprey's food and service are good, prices reasonable for an island, and Anna May's Key Lime Pie is not be missed. A few local dogs wander all the restaurants and the Osprey is no exception. Tinkerbelle is the cute black and white cat snoozing under a chair. There are a few other attractions like the museum and old prison as well as the light house on the north point to take in as time permits.

Planes from Europe, Canada and the US get you to Providenciales then a half hour hop on Air Turks & Caicos gets you to Grand Turk. Divers carrying their gear will pay $30 to $50 for that extra luggage in each direction on AT&C.

The airport on Providenciales is crowed on week days but on Saturday is a total zoo. The international departure lounge will be packed wall to wall, standing room only and not much of that. Just finding the right line for your flight is a total crap shoot. A little relief and an adult beverage can be had up the stairs in the corner to the Sky Lounge . . . capacity 140 with rows of seats, a bar and some shade. A much needed and long overdue remodel and addition is underway, but no completion date is available . . . hopefully before the end of the year.

Websites Grand Turk Diving Co. Ltd   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Caribbean locations: Cozumel, Bahamas, Belize, Bahamas, Exumas, Caymans, Roatan, USVIs, BVIs, Turks & Caicos. Cocos Islands in the Pacific.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 78-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60-100 Ft/ 18-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Suggested max depth of 80 feet and a 45 minutes of bottom time. Experienced divers with computers could dive their own profile and expected to return to the boat with a reasonable amount of air. Most of our dives were one hour plus.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments We are not photographers and there seem to be fewer divers with cameras this trip. A couple of divers has small video cameras. There are no rise tanks on the GTD LTD boats, but is rinse facilities at the shop.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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