Turks and Caicos: Diving in the Thunderdome

We came to Turks and Caicos to dive. Also to eat and drink and forget about our workaday troubles, but mostly to dive. And it didn’t hurt that Angela found some great airfare that coincided with Ben’s Thanksgiving break from school.

There are only a few dive companies offering services to all of the major dive sites near Providenciales, and we chose Dive Provo based on the recommendations of our local dive shop, Choo Choo Diving, in Chattanooga. With friendly dive guides and a shop located less than a five-minute drive from our villa, it was an easy choice to make.

Like all of the dive companies in Provo, this one only offered two-tank morning dives with departures around 8:00 AM, and an afternoon return anywhere from 1:00 to 3:00, depending on the trip. As a full-service shop, we were able to drop our gear off the day before our first dive and have it ready and waiting for us when we boarded the boat.

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Sharing a laugh on the way to West Caicos

The first trip took us to West Caicos where we would dive the the Rock Garden and the Gully, where the resident reef shark, Sully, gave us a toothsome welcome. This morning Sully was accompanied by a pregnant female companion on the dive. Congratulations to the happy couple!

With several fantastic swim throughs and lots of sea flora and fauna, the trip to West Caicos was worth the hour-long boat ride. DiveProvo had established themselves as a top-notch company, and we were looking forward to diving with them again after a day of resting and exploring Provo by car.

I love driving in foreign countries. Angela and I began our travel adventures by taking extended road trips, so driving along strange roads with my best friend as navigator is something I eagerly anticipate with every venture. And it’s even better on an island. With the sea as an unerring boundary, getting lost and finding our way back is a wonderful part of the journey.

On our day off from diving, we pointed the rental car south in search of new vistas. And we found them along sudden dead-end roads and luxury neighborhoods skirting the southwest coast of Provo around a shallow stretch of water known as Chalk Sound.

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View across Chalk Sound

The water here is an iridescent white-blue, with lush-green and rocky islets dotting both the near and distant horizons. On such a calm, shallow stretch of water we expected to see jet skis and other watercraft crisscrossing the sound. But, thankfully, it remained undisturbed, adding to the primitive, austere beauty of this place.

We met some fellow travelers along the lonesome roads who recommended Boogaloo as a restaurant choice on this part of the island. Their reopening after Hurricane Irma was fortuitous for us, having only occurred two days prior to our arrival, and we couldn’t have been happier to find the trifecta of beautiful scenery, delicious food, and stiff drinks in their company.

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One of the many spectacular sunsets on Turks and Caicos

Back at our villa, well fed and well rested, we awoke early the next morning to dive once again. This time we would cruise to the northwest point of Provo and explore the Amphitheater and the Thunderdome dive sites.

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Ben returning from a dive on the Amphitheater

While the Amphitheater was an interesting dive, with plentiful reef sharks, two massive Nassau grouper, and a coral overhang at ninety feet that created a cavern-like setting, the truly interesting dive on this excursion was the Thunderdome.

Turks and Caicos offers few wrecks for diving, but the Thunderdome makes up for that with its weird, otherworldly setting. And its backstory.

As part of an ill-fated French television show from the 1980’s, the Survivor-like pilot involved free divers descending to 30+ feet to capture pearls within the Mad Max-inspired Thunderdome structure. Dangerous as hell, and completely in disregard of diving principles, it’s fortunate that the free dive portion of the program didn’t last more than one episode.

But it does make for an excellent artificial reef these days. With plentiful schooling fish and the occasional octopus, shark, or stingray, the Thunderdome is well worth an extended boat trip to the northwest point of Provo.

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Ben diving the Thunderdome