Keep an Eye Out for These Wonderful Turks and Caicos Wildlife Species
As soon as you arrive in Turks and Caicos, you’ll see that this tropical island paradise is full of life; 167 species to be exact. From small critters scampering across the beaches to massive marine monsters cruising under the sea, the wildlife at Turks and Caicos is certain to delight and impress. In fact, the biodiversity here as well as the region’s passionate commitment to environmental conservation has led to Turks and Caicos being place on the United Kingdom’s tentative list of future UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
So, if you love spotting wildlife in beautiful places, then Turks and Caicos will more than meet your needs. Of the many wildlife species to see, here are the most famous and infamous species to be on the lookout for.
Wildlife on Land
Across the approximately 100 islands that make up Turks and Caicos, you find plenty of reptile, amphibian, mammal, and bird species. Of those animal classes, reptiles and amphibians make up the largest section of wildlife here.
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas
The most famous indigenous animal species of the region is the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana, Cyclura carinata. These local lizards measure up to maximum length of 32 inches (81 cm) and are typically green in color. They mainly live a plant-based diet, but sometimes will also consume insects, crabs, and other small lizards.
Although the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas used to live on every island, overhunting and the introduction of dogs and cats have reduced their range to a select few smaller islands. Although the species is estimated to be only 50,000 strong, the iguanas have moved from being Critically Endangers to just Endangered. Still not great, but at least they’re moving in a good direction!
Flamingos are a common sight in Turks and Caicos due to the country’s location in the tropical Atlantic Oceans near the Caribbean. These large birds can reach nearly 4-ft tall when fully grown, and they have a beautiful pick color. Although only one species of flamingo lives here, you may hear it called by a few different dames: American Flamingo, Caribbean Flamingo, and West Indian Flamingo.
On the more developed and touristy islands like Providenciales, you are likely to see a few flamingos scattered about some ponds. However, to see larger groups or flamboyances of flamingos, you’ll need to head out to more remote locations. Check out the Flamingo page on Visit TCI to find the best spots to see flamingos.
The real bounty of wildlife to see around Turks and Caicos is out at sea. Hundreds of marine species call the waters here home, and they’re all a thrill to swim alongside on a snorkeling or scuba diving expedition.
Yes, there are sharks on patrol in the reefs and within the mangrove channels around Turks and Caicos. The most common species are gray reef and nurse sharks, and you can find lemon sharks (often juveniles) in certain areas. On rare occasions you might also see blacktip, tiger, or hammerhead sharks at some dive spots.
Although shark attacks have occurred at Turks and Caicos, they are exceptionally rare (only 3 since 2000). The sharks here are most often small and docile, and prefer to keep their distance from people. You’ll rarely see one anywhere near the popular beaches on Provo, and you likely won’t encounter any unless you choose to snorkel or swim in known shark spots.
Check out the Sharks page on Visit TCI for more info about sharks here as well as the best places to dive with them.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins
Dolphin pods are a thrilling sight out on the waters of Turks and Caicos. Although you’re never guaranteed to spot any, you can often count on seeing a pod or two on one of the many boat tours here. Since dolphins are quite intelligent and playful, they’ll also often seek out vessels that make large wakes.
There are two specific dolphins that are renowned at Turks and Caicos for being exceptionally playful around people. The first, Jojo, has delighted guests and locals since the 1980s, and he was declared a national treasure in 1989. The other famous local dolphin, Dreamer, is a juvenile who has recently begun playing and interacting with people, often in the company of his mother.
Although they’re not year-round visitors, you can see humpback whales around Turks and Caicos if you visit between January and March These gentle giants migrate through here on the way to their feeding grounds near the poles from their nurseries in the tropics. As such, you may have the honor of seeing a humpback calf with its mother.
If you’re visiting during the migration season, you can either hop aboard a whale-watching tour or even go on a whale snorkel excursion. Big Blue Collective is one of the top outfitters for both types of tours.
Other Marine Life
Many other awesome aquatic species frequent these waters. Although they’re not as big of heavy-hitters like the other species listed above, they’re still well-worth noting here.
- Sea Turtles – Always a crowd-pleaser, sea turtles are common to see on dives and snorkel excursions. The most common species is the Hawksbill Turtle.
- Rays – Various rays call Turks and Caicos home, but the most spectacular species is the spotted eagle ray. They measure up to 16 ft long and 11 ft wide, and they have a beautiful white-spotted pattern on their backs.
- Eels – Tucked away in nooks and crannies of the reefs off Turks and Caicos are many species of eel. These odd and toothy creatures range in size, colors and patterns. Small goldspotted eels are brilliant to see, but the 5-8 ft green moray eels will surely get your adrenaline pumping.
Of the hundreds of Turks and Caicos wildlife species on land and at sea, those are among the most exciting to look out for during your vacation. To find more helpful trip-planning information, check out our other blog posts as well as our activity guide.
If you haven’t already, be sure to book your stay on Providenciales with Villa Esencia. We have lovely villas and suites available to rent along Long Bay Beach. Head to our accommodations page to see all of our luxury rental properties in Turks and Caicos.