The warm turquoise water surrounding the Turks and Caicos Islands is a haven for water sports and submarine exploration, such as a genuine snorkelling adventure. Grace Bay Beach is continuously ranked the number one best beach in the world for its perfect white sand and abundance of both relaxation and activities, both on and beneath the sea. If you’ve never been snorkeling it is an amazing experience, both relaxing and invigorating. And while scuba diving is the ultimate way to visit the underwater realm, snorkeling really is the next best thing. And with snorkelling you don’t have to worry about lengthy training and complicated heavy equipment – just grab some flippers, a mask, and a snorkel and hop into any body of water around. Then it’s adventure time.
The first known reference to snorkelling was by Aristotle (350 BC) when in discussing the underwater world he mentioned divers using “instruments for respiration” that resemble the trunk of an elephant. It’d make sense that this was the inspiration for the tool, which is in itself an extension of the lungs. (Communication theorist, Marshall McLuhan, suggests that any medium is just an extension of ourselves – for example, wheels as an extension of our feet and the phone an extension of our voice.) But people have been snorkeling for at least 5,000 years. Sponge farmers in Crete would dive down to harvest underwater plants and swimmers throughout the ages used hollowed out reeds to breathe through. Assyrian divers used animal skin balloons filled with air that they’d bring down with them for periodic gulps. Of course as technology is prone to do, the snorkel evolved.
Alexander the Great commissioned the first diving bell in 333 BC – a massive contraption with a moon pool design that trapped air inside as it was lowered into the depths by an attached cable. With the diving bell submerged, divers could swim around at the bottom and just pop back inside the bell for a breath. The drawback with the bell was its limited mobility. This problem was solved centuries later with the invention of scuba gear, the submarine, and the modern snorkel.
Today’s snorkel comes in three basic designs: purge snorkels (easily filled with water and requiring often purging by way of rapid exhale like a whale); semi-dry snorkels (with a deflector cap that limits water from entering but requires occasional purging; and dry snorkels (with a cap that automatically senses when you’re underwater and closes to require no purging at all). Of course the dry snorkel is the optimal method for exploring the deep at your leisure, swimming down as long as you can hold your breath. Models even exist with built-in FM radio receivers so you can jam to tunes underwater or maybe listen to an audio lesson of the plants and animals that you’re observing.
Snorkeling Turks and Caicos is definitely one of our favourite things to do on vacation. It’s fun for the whole family and super easy to do. Many hotels and resorts offer complimentary snorkel gear for you to get out there right away, just stroll down to any spot on Grace Bay Beach, slap on your goggles and gear and jump on in. Ask your concierge for the very best spots to snorkel, as some zones in the offshore reefs are more vibrant with life than others. And if you really want to do it right, rent out a chartered boat tour and they’ll sail you out to the most excellent snorkel spots available.