Kid-Friendly Snorkeling: Bight Reef Providenciales (Coral Gardens)

August 3, 2022

Coral While Snorkeling at Bight Reef Providenciales

If you’re looking for the best snorkeling in Turks & Caicos with kids, head straight to Bight Reef Providenciales on Grace Bay Beach (also known as Coral Gardens). 

It’s delightful and you’ll be so glad you went. 

Bight Reef offers a unique off-shore snorkeling experience because the reef is just steps from shore. That makes it especially fantastic if you are traveling with young kids learning to snorkel!

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Turks and Caicos Family Travel Resources

But before we dive in, let’s be sure you have our best Turks & Caicos resources at your fingertips. 

Did you know we have a whole collection of recommended family hotels in the Caribbean – including Turks and Caicos? I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s sort of our pride and joy. 

We’ve made it easier for busy parents like you to find the right Caribbean hotel for your family, with space for everyone. But don’t take our word for it: Explore our collection using search filters (like room size) that we designed just for parents.

Wishing someone else would just handle the logistics for a change? We’re here for that too. We offer bespoke Caribbean family travel planning services. We specialize in helping parents narrow down the choices to identify the best Caribbean island and hotel for a top-notch family trip. 

And finally, want more Caribbean travel inspiration in your life? Sign up for our weekly newsletter, where we feature a Caribbean destination each month and highlight our favorite hotels and family travel tips. We also share our best Caribbean destination guides for families

Now, pour yourself a Daquiri and start thinking about your Bight Reef Providenciales snorkel trip…

Snorkel at Bight Reef Providenciales

Overview of Bight Reef Providenciales

Bight Reef is the most popular snorkeling spot in Grace Bay Providenciales.  It’s often called Coral Gardens, Bight Beach, or the Bight Settlement, which confused me at first.  All those names are referring to the same place. 

Now, normally, the popularity might turn me off, as I’m not wild about snorkeling with crowds. But Bight Reef is really worth it — and if you go in the morning you can see it without the crowds.  It’s some of the most fun and accessible snorkeling I’ve ever seen right off the beach.  

Map of Bight Reef

You can see on the map below just how close Bight Reef is to the infamous Grace Bay Beach.   

 

Getting to the Bight Reef Providenciales 

If you’re staying at one of the family resorts on Grace Bay Beach, you can simply walk down the beach to Bight Reef!  The closest of our recommended hotels to Bight Reef is The Palms Turks & Caicos, about a 25-minute walk down the beach.

To arrive by car or taxi, your best marker for google maps is Somewhere Cafe and Lounge, a beachfront restaurant right next to the best snorkeling.  (It has great cocktails too, make a stop there after your swim!)

Your best for parking is on either Stubbs Road or Penn’s Road.  Both beach access roads run from Lower Bight Road to the beach, and finding a parking spot is very easy.

The Coral Gardens Reef will be just off-shore once you walk to the beach.  

Snorkel at Bight Reef Coral Gardens Providenciales

Swimming Conditions at Bight Reef

The water at Bight Reef is calm and shallow, with a sandy bottom. It is protected by a large reef about a mile offshore.  But the smaller reef is literally steps from the beach, with most of the coral growing in only 3-4 feet of water.  That’s what makes this a fantastic snorkeling spot for young kids. Families love it for snorkeling because of the easy access from the beach.

When you arrive, the first thing you will notice is a ring of buoys above the reef. These are to protect the reef from damage by people and boats.  Because Bight Reef is a very shallow reef, it is easily damaged.

There are two areas of the reef that are good for snorkeling.  The first is close to the shore, where it’s shallow and your kids will likely stay.  But for more advanced swimmers, you can head around the back of the buoys where the reef drops into deeper water, about 15 – 20 ft deep. Both areas are marked with buoys, so you can easily find your way back to the snorkeling trail.

Snorkeling at Coral Gardens Providenciales

Marine Life at Bight Reef Coral Gardens

Ok, so what makes Bight Reef Providenciales such a great snorkeling spot?  The crystal clear water, and the wildlife!

Closest to shore, where kids can still stand, you’ll see swarms of colorful fish.  If you want to get your little ones excited about snorkeling, a few minutes at the coral gardens on grace bay will do it.  Our 5-year-old daughter took off with her snorkel in pursuit of fish, she was so excited.

But around the back of the reef, that’s where it really gets good.  There was a moment when I was snorkeling near the back of the buoys and tried to count how many different types of colorful fish I was seeing altogether. I stopped counting when I got to 25. It was an incredible snorkeling moment.

A few of the many fish you will see include:

  • Parrotfish
  • Angelfish
  • Trumpetfish
  • Squirrelfish
  • Damselfish
  • Sergeant Majors
  • Goatfish
  • Snapper
  • Filefish
 

Beyond fish, you’ll see a ton of marine life. Snorkelers at Bight Reef often spot green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, and stingrays. You may see lobsters, shrimp, and moray eels if you take your time and peer into nooks and crannies. It’s not unheard of for a nurse shark to be chilling on the ocean floor.

And the coral! Bight Reef is home to over 60 species of coral. You’ll see everything from brain coral and elkhorn coral to staghorn coral and fire coral.  As with fish, the most impressive array is seen on the deeper side of the reef furthest away from the beach.

Snorkeling at Bight Reef With Kids

Tips for Snorkeling at Bight Reef

We set out with the whole family — grandparents and babies included — to enjoy this section of Grace Bay Beach. It was one of my favorite mornings on our trip to Providenciales. My husband and I snorkeled with our five-year old, while grandparents and the little one enjoyed the beach.  

Because we were traveling with little ones, we were up and out of the house early.  When we arrived at 9 am, there were no beach chairs set up — but also, no other snorkelers.  For about 30 minutes we had the place to ourselves.  Come early, bring gear, and beat the crowds.

And be safe! Remember that it’s illegal in the Turks & Caicos islands to take conch shells or other natural objects out of the ocean.  Consider wearing reef-safe sunscreen since you’ll be so close to the fish and the reef.  And try not to step on any rocks or coral while you’re snorkeling.

That’s all — and remember to have a fantastic time and take it all in! I continue to be impressed every time I see great off-shore snorkeling, and Bight Reef Providenciales was one of my favorites.  Next time, we’ll be checking out Smith Reef down the way, for more advanced snorkelers.

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