The Bight Reef is a great place for shore snorkeling on Providenciales. The outer section of the reef supports a wide menagerie of colorful fish, and there’s almost always at least one turtle around. Beware of dangerous boat activity when snorkeling.
5-star rating for The Bight Reef (Coral Gardens) by Visit Turks and Caicos Islands
See a detailed snorkeling and beach access map below.
he Bight Reef (also known as Coral Gardens) is an excellent snorkeling reef that begins close to the beach, and is the most popular snorkeling site in the Turks and Caicos.
This is a great location to start your underwater adventures before exploring some of the other beautiful beach reefs around Providenciales.
The Bight Reef is home to a wonderful diversity of fish and marine life, yet the coral isn’t quite as vibrant as what’s seen at Smith’s Reef or at the reefs typically accessed on snorkeling boat tours.
Unlike the nearby Smith's Reef which is more extensive, the Bight Reef consists of only one main ridge of coral that extends about 350 feet (107 m) out from the beach. At the far outer reaches of the Bight Reef, the ocean depth becomes 15-20 feet (4.5-6 m).
Beach loungers, umbrellas, snorkel gear, and other water sports equipment are typically available for rent by vendors at the Bight Beach.
Fish and Wildlife Sightings
It’s quite common to spot green turtles and hawksbill turtles, as well as southern brown stingrays and the occasional spotted eagle ray. As they are accustomed to the regular snorkelers, the creatures at the Bight Reef tend to be more approachable than those at other reefs in the Turks and Caicos. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a nurse shark resting on the ocean floor.
The fish sightings include stoplight parrotfish, blue parrotfish, bar jacks, Nassau groupers, queen angelfish, butterflyfish, barracudas, porcupinefish, trumpetfish, squirrelfish, yellowtail snapper, queen triggerfish, sergeant majors, damselfish, scrawled filefish, schoolmasters, trunkfish, and yellow goatfish, to just name a few of the species at the reef.
Under the ledges and in crevices are spiny lobsters, banded coral shrimp, spotted moray eels, and sea cucumbers.
Hard and soft corals can be seen across the entire Bight Reef system, and the most impressive examples are seen at the deeper eastern side of the reef.
Snorkel equipment, clear kayaks, beach loungers, and umbrellas are typically available for rent from vendors on the beach. Two casual restaurants: Jojo’s Café, and Somewhere Café, are located in the dune at the Bight Reef.
Please use reef-safe sunscreen when in the Turks and Caicos. Common types of sunscreen that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate cause lasting and significant damage to corals and reefs.
Getting to the Bight Reef
It’s very easy to find the beach accesses and coral at the Bight Reef. There are two adjacent accesses, with parking and pedestrian paths that lead to the beach and close to the reef. If you’re staying at accommodation in the Bight or western side of Grace Bay, it’s also possible to walk along the beach to the Bight Reef.
Reef etiquette and informational signs can be seen on the beach at the Bight Reef, and red marker buoys can be seen close off the beach, so it’s hard to miss the snorkeling site when on the coast.
Driving to the Bight Reef
The lanes that lead to the Bight Reef are found off of Lower Bight Road, the route that leads between Grace Bay and Turtle Cove. When looking for the two lanes that lead to the beach, it’s easier to watch for the signs for the two adjacent resorts, Coral Gardens Resort and the Windsong, rather than the relatively unobtrusive Princess Alexandra National Park beach access signs.
The Penn’s Road access is on the western side of the reef, and the footpath to the beach here leads directly to the start of the snorkeling reef. The Stubb's Road access is on the eastern side of the reef, and is usually a little less crowded. Free parking can be found along both Penn’s Road and Stubb’s Road.
Beaches All-Inclusive Resort
If you’re staying at the Beaches resort, the reef is a 10-minute walk away to the west. If you’re looking at the ocean in front of the resort, head left down the beach for about .5 miles (.8 km).
Wymara and West Bay Club
If you’re staying at the Wymara Resort or West Bay Club, you’ll want to head east (right if you’re looking at the ocean) about 1500 feet (470 meters).
Wind and other weather conditions can affect underwater visibility and general snorkeling pleasantness at the Bight Reef. Great visibility and clarity really improve the underwater experience.
Generally, great snorkeling is had when the wind is below 12 mph (19 km/h). Additionally, the incoming or high tide times likewise typically bring better clarity.
Midday and full sun of course lights up the underwater scene better, yet some of the interesting creatures, such as lobsters, lionfish, and marine mollusks emerge in the morning and evening.
By far the greatest danger at the Bight Reef is careless and reckless boat operators. The area has a roped-off swim zone around the reef, yet small speedboats offering tubing and wake rides tend to travel at excessive speeds directly outside of this zone. Along with being dangerous, these boats also churn up sediment and reduce visibility in the water.
Although not much of a threat, the occasional lionfish is something to be aware of. An invasive predatory species from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish have venomous spines on their back capable of giving very painful stings, which in the worst case scenarios can cause temporary seizures or paralysis. Fortunately, the lionfish are not aggressive to humans and only sting in defensive situations.
It’s quite uncommon, yet there may be swarms of thimble jellyfish in the Grace Bay Beach and Bight Beach areas at times. If you see these tiny unpleasant creatures, we advise avoiding the area.
Currents and underpulls are rarely an issue at the Bight Reef. However, beginners and unsure swimmers should consider using a snorkeling vest. As with any location, strong winds or rough conditions can make snorkeling unpleasant and difficult, and should be avoided. If there is a current present, it usually travels parallel with the shore. If you’re in such water movement, it typically makes sense to swim toward shore, and not attempt to swim against the current. Once back on the beach, it’s easy to walk back to your starting point.
Important Snorkeling Guidelines
As with all reefs in the Turks and Caicos, great care must be taken to preserve and protect the fragile coral and sea life.
Don’t touch or stand on anything. Coral is a living animal and you will likely kill or severely harm any part you contact.
Make sure not to brush anything with your fins or camera gear.
Don’t take anything. This includes all shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, starfish, and small pieces of coral.
Don’t heavily coat yourself with sunscreen or other lotions before snorkeling. Please use reef-safe biodegradable lotion.
Don’t follow closely or chase any sea life.
Don’t attempt to feed any sea life.
If you are in charge of children, make sure that they understand and follow these guidelines.
This snorkeling site is part of the Princess Alexandra National Park and it is illegal to fish or collect conch and lobster.
Due to damaging behavior by snorkelers and sediment caused by dredging and powerboats, the Bight Reef has declined a bit from what it was fifteen years ago.