If you’ve glimpsed those perfectly clear turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos, you’ll know that it’s the ideal spot for water related activities, especially paddleboarding. I mean, calm water, 50 ft visibility…conditions don’t get any better than that folks! While there’s plenty of snorkeling, diving, and kayaking in the TCI, one of the trendiest new things to do is paddleboarding. It’s a combo of surfing and kayaking and the calm warm waters of the TCI are the perfect place to learn.
While most of the resorts on Grace Bay rent paddleboards by the hour for guests to try out, I had my eye on a paddleboarding excursion that would take us out to the mangroves. We booked a tour with SUP Provo who has several guided tours into TCI backcountry. The Mangrove Island Tour is one of their most popular tours since it takes paddleboarders into an ecosystem that they wouldn’t ordinarily see while on vacation. In addition to the lazy mangrove trails through shallow waters, we were told we could expect to see baby sharks, eagle rays, sea turtles, snapper, conch, starfish, and pelicans. Read on for details on my paddleboarding trip.
We met our guide Wes in the parking lot of the grocery store in Grace Bay and followed him to the east side of the island to a secluded launching spot. There were six of us on the tour and we were of varying degrees of skill when it came to paddleboarding and swimming. We all got a lesson on the beach before we got on our boards and paddled across a small channel to get to the mangrove islands. At its deepest point, the channel was 20-30 feet deep but we could see the bottom the whole time. Once we reached the mangroves, the water varied from 1-3 feet.
The scenery of the mangroves in the backcountry is a total departure from the tropicalness of Grace Bay, but make no mistake, it’s still the Caribbean. The water was calm and crystal clear which made for perfect viewing conditions as we paddled through the mangrove trails. We saw small lemon sharks right away and a couple of eagle rays at the mouth of the mangroves. As we paddled deeper into the mangroves, we saw plenty of snapper, puffer fish, and even a turtle!
At the deepest point in the mangroves, before we turned our boards around and paddled back out, we all sat down on our boards and Wes chatted with us about the ecosystem of the TCI mangroves which really made them come alive for us.
A few things we learned:
- The mangroves are considered the ocean’s nursery, which is why it’s such a good spot to see so many of the species that we saw. Its protective nature keeps out bigger predators and acts as a safe haven for these sea creatures until they’re big enough to find tor themselves.
- The mangroves are alive and actually one large organism.
- The mangroves “walk” and so trails are constantly forming and closing as they move around.
- The mangroves are only paddleable for a few hours a day at high tide.
We paddled out of the mangroves and back across the channel (be sure to save some energy for the paddle back-it’s challenging but the current helps!). Paddleboarding through the mangroves is the perfect way to see parts of the TCI that most tourists don’t see as well as gain an appreciation for the ecosystem of the islands and the role that the mangroves play.
What You Should Know Before You Go:
- The total time for the tour from meeting our tour guide near Grace Bay until we landed back on the beach near Mangrove Cay was about 2-2 ½ hours.
- The launch point for the tour isn’t easy to find so your tour guide will meet you in the parking lot of the grocery store in Grace Bay and you’ll follow him. If you don’t have a car, they can suggest a taxi driver.
- The guide usually has a waterproof backpack that you can put things in but I would recommend bringing some sort of bag and packing a camera/phone and some water.
- The tours can only happen during high tide, which is usually during the heat of the day (2-3 PM) and it’s HOT. Wear plenty of sunscreen (we wore rash guard shirts too) and bring along some water (see above).
- If you’ve never done it before, don’t be scared to try paddleboarding! This is the perfect place to learn. If you’re uncomfortable or nervous about standing up on the board, you can paddle while sitting or on your knees.
- Bring a Go Pro or waterproof camera. You’re going to want pictures!
- Don’t forget to tip your guide!
Have you paddleboarded before? Hop on over to Facebook and let me know where!
Want more? Here’s 15 more things to do in Turks and Caicos.