On Grand Turk, great dives are just minutes away The faint sound of a crowing rooster drifts through the open window. You jump from bed, eager to begin your dive vacation ... then remember where you are. After enjoying a leisurely breakfast on an open-air terrace, you stroll down Front Street to the neighboring dive shop. Like most business on Grand Turk Island, the dive operation is housed in a picturesque, tin-roofed building dating back to an era when this quiet island was a major force in the sea salt trade. A couple from Chicago arrives and begins an animated account of yesterday's dive at Coral Gardens. A large part of the story revolves around their experience with Alexander - one of several friendly Nassau groupers that patrol the site's double-tiered drop-off. While you talk, the gear is hauled across the street and loaded into a small boat pulled up on the white-sand beach. It is a 20-foot Carolina skiff, the simple, stable craft favored by local operators for the short, typically smooth runs to the dive sites. Conditions look perfect. The sea appears smooth, almost glassy, and less than a half mile from shore, the light turquoise of the shallows makes an abrupt transition to deep azure. As the skiff skims across the calm water, you can make out the faint outlines of the shallow patch and fringe reefs below. Within a matter of minutes, the boat slows and then stops. After a back-roll entry, you pause at a depth of 10 feet to get your bearings and allow your eyes time to adjust. Below, the white-sand bottom is broken by line of towering coral heads growing upward from the edge of a steep precipice. You are on the Grand Turk wall, a submerged cliff than runs along the island's western shore, plunging vertically from 40 or 50 feet to depths of more than a mile. The divemaster leads you to a breach in the coral rampart where adjacent heads have grown together to create a large arch that the locals have named McDonald's. The reef cascades downward with dizzying intensity on either side of the opening. Garnishing its deep convoluted contours, brushy thickets created by scores of gorgonians and small trees of black coral stand backlit in the late morning sun, while sponges add color and texture to the living mosaic of the wall. High overhead schools of Creole wrasses and black durgeons move about like small birds. The dive ends too soon, but after a reasonable surface interval, you will be back for another. And, thanks to the wall's proximity to shore, you can spend that surface interval relaxing on the beach or reviewing the dive while sipping a cool drink on the hotel's shaded porch. For more information about diving Grand Turk, click on the home page below. For general information about visiting and diving the Turks & Caicos, click on the home page below.
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