Even whales love the Turks and Caicos!

5th December 2018 11:53 am

Whale watching in the TCI is one of the most spectacular sights you could imagine. The Caribbean whale migration is an annual event that will thrill even the most jaded heart, bringing unparalleled views and experiences with these gentle giants. Today the Big Blue Collective takes a closer look at the best time to see whales in the Caribbean waters of the Turks and Caicos, as well as why these unique mammals love the area so much.

Is whale watching in the TCI really annual and predictable?

Imagine the moment. You’re exploring a gorgeous dive site, snorkelling a reef, or enjoying some time on the deck of a boat. Suddenly, a huge plume of water erupts in the near distance, closely followed by one of the most majestic sights on earth- a whale breaching, erupting from the crystal clear water playfully. Perhaps you can hear the unique, yearning song of the rest of its pod. Heart doubtless in your throat, you watch as it playfully slaps the ocean before sinking gracefully back out of sight.

It’s one of the most incomparable experiences you will ever have, and thanks to the annual humpback whale migration through the Caribbean, it’s one that blesses the Turks and Caicos every year. These magnificent beasts set off every year on a massive trek across 5000 km of water, taking themselves between their regular feeding grounds and the warmer waters where they prefer to calve and play with their young ones. It’s the world’s longest migration of any mammal, and it happens almost by clockwork.

Why do the whales come to the TCI?

Humpback whales, you see, prefer to feed near Antarctica in summer, taking advantage of rich layers of plankton and krill, their preferred foods. As the waters grow colder in winter, however, these populations die off. It’s not strictly a problem for the whales, who are able to store vast amounts of ‘food’ in the form of thick layers of fat, called blubber. It’s no place to raise a family, however, and these unique creatures have an amazing bond with their pods. Instead of suffering through the dwindling food supplies, they set out on their epic journey to the Pacific and its warmer, friendlier waters. This makes their time here the very best time to see whales in the Caribbean. Here they will spend the season breeding, calving and playing in the kind, warm environment before heading back for another summer’s feed.

Right about the time they hit the TCI, a unique geographical quirk ensures the experience of a lifetime for lucky observers. The area between the islands, plus the shelf on which they lie, creates a natural funnel, forcing them to pass through a relatively tiny area of ocean to reach their ultimate destination. This makes for the chance of unparalleled sightings. Coinciding with mating season, the whales are unusually active, with males making good use of impressive tactics like tail-slapping and breaching to attract a mate.

When is the best time for whale spotting in the Caribbean?

The migration of whales to the Caribbean typically brings them to Turks and Caicos shores as we cusp into December. The Big Blue Collective, busy as we are in the offshore waters, are often among the very first to spot them in late December, a true Christmas treat! The first two to three months of the New Year will then be packed with exciting sightings and encounters; with snorkelers, divers and other busy folks all eagerly sharing where the latest activity has been spotted. It’s a season where it pays to watch the water carefully.

Is whale watching in the TCI guaranteed?

Of course, as with all things in the natural world, you can never guarantee anything. As the whales migrate to the Caribbean in their own family pods rather than en masse, it’s not unusual to have flurries of activity interspersed with periods of quiet until the next pod passes. If you’ve come specifically for whale watching in the TCI, the key is to be ready to hit the water the second word comes in. The beaches at Provo, and the calm seas of Salt Cay, both make great spots to watch out for them coming in. Your best chances of a sighting will always occur on sunny days with flat seas, when they- and you- will be in the mood to play in high spirits.

While they are a huge draw at this time of year, it’s important to remember that the whales are enigmatic, wild animals. We at the Big Blue Collective draw on the expertise of Philip Shearer, with decades of responsible, ethical whale experience under his belt as part of the Aggressor fleet under the renowned Captain van der Walt. Using the Silver Banks guidelines of the Dominican Republic, we are proud to operate around our massive cousins with sensitivity and respect, a tactic that has built us a wealth of unique, intimate encounters that do no harm and leave no marks.

No two experiences of the whale migration in the Caribbean are ever the same. With a guide who understands them, the magic goes a little deeper. Gentle handling allows for closer, friendlier encounters than aggressive pursuit ever will. We’ve had a host of utterly unique whale encounters over our two decades of operation, with visitors left in awe of these mighty giants at play. However your particular encounter shapes up, we can guarantee you will leave your whale watching experience in the TCI forever changed by the memory. Even the lucky locals who live here year round are never able to resist the lure of them gracing our shores.

Whale watching in the TCI is one of the best ways to experience the annual whale migration to the Caribbean, and the best time to see whales here is undoubtedly now, while December fades gracefully into the New Year. Why not get in touch with the Big Blue Collective today, and allow us to help you maximise your chance of a unique whale encounter of your own?


Filed under: Whale Watching

Unparalleled whale watching opportunities await you in Providenciales

24th June 2018 9:32 am

One of the most breathtaking and unforgettable experiences of many people’s lives is having the opportunity to spot whales at play. These majestic, incomparable creatures- our mammalian cousins despite their size and habitat- exert a pull on the heart and imagination that’s difficult to describe without being there. Whale watching in the Turks and Caicos is one of the most rewarding experiences possible, as the area is rich with Humpback whales during their annual migration season. Imagine your dive and snorkel trips with a symphonic background of whale song, and you’re well on the way to discovering the magic. Let Big Blue Collective help you to the ultimate whale watching experience in Providenciales today.

Why do whales come to Providenciales?

The reason that whale watching in the Turks and Caicos takes on the spectacular proportions it does is due to where the islands themselves lie in the ocean. Every year Humpback whales migrate between feeding and breeding grounds. This trek is often over 5000 km long, the longest of any mammal on earth! The Humpback is fairly unusual in that it can be found in almost any ocean of the world, but most populations feed over the summer in Antarctica. As the months turn, however, their krill and plankton food supplies run low. They fortunately store extra ‘food’ in the form of blubber, fat layers just below the surface which will provide the energy necessary to sustain them through the next season’s travel. They will then migrate to the warmer waters of the Pacific during the winter months to breed, calve and play. The unique topography of the TCI means they are funnelled into a relatively small area of the sea on their journey, giving you the perfect opportunity for unparalleled whale watching, while the mating season vibe leads to spectacular chin- and tail-slaps, breaching and other display antics from the males.

When is the best time to spot whales on Provo?

Typically, the very first buzz of excitement blooms in November and December, with the first songs and sightings rolling in come late December. The next 2-3 months sees the peak of whale watching in Provo, and makes the season one of the most exciting all around for visitors.

Whale sightings may well be accidental- our fleet is abuzz right from December through the season as returning snorkelers and dive teams report in on where they have spotted the latest signs of activity. The Big Blue Team tend to spot more whales than any other operator in the area, simply because the vast wealth of activities we offer takes us to every corner of the island chain regularly. In the season, one eye is always kept cast on the ocean just in case. As always with these enigmatic creatures, sightings cannot be guaranteed, and the pods tend to pass through in waves- it’s not unusual to have sighting after sighting for a week or two and then hit a lull. The key is simply to be ready to hit the waves at a moment’s notice.

If you’re finding that your trip to Provo isn’t yielding you a lot of sightings, then consider heading out on a day trip to Salt Cay with us. Flat, calm seas and sunny skies make whale spotting easier and typically mark the best days for remarkable encounters- coincidently the perfect weather to sit back, relax and chill with a glass of something cool, too!

Whale watching on Providenciales with Big Blue Collective

Big Blue Collective provides you with the ultimate Humpback whale experience in Provo and the whole TCI, carefully trained under the eye of resident whale expert Philip Shearer. His experience is nothing to be taken lightly- he spent just short of a decade as whale guide in the Aggressor fleet of the late Captain Piers van der Walt, after all. We’re proud to hold ourselves to the high standards of the Silver Banks guidelines [out of the Dominican Republic], a protocol we’ve followed for over twenty years now. This sensitive and gentle approach enables us to help you get closer and more intimate whale encounters than ever. It’s about whale watching, not aggressively chasing the whales. You can read a little more about our approach on this link.

No two experiences with these gentle and mighty mammals are ever alike, which is part of the magic they weave. Without a guide used to the nuances of the whales, however, you may miss out on a critical magic from the experience. With a sensitive, careful approach and respectful team leader, the chances of the whales allowing a more fulfilling encounter are heightened. From jaw-dropping full body breaches to playing with dolphins and even once freeing a whale trapped in a gill net, this approach has facilitated hundreds of unique whale watching experiences in Providenciales with Big Blue. Visitors are inevitably left speechless in awe at these gigantic, thoroughly remarkable animals and their antics. If you’re very lucky, you’ll spot a mother and their calf swimming and playing together, or find yourself surrounded by the whole pod! Each encounter is different, but no less rewarding- it’s one you’ll remember for life. Even the islanders who live in the area never become jaded at the sight of these mighty mammals at play.

If you’re hoping to create the perfect whale watching experience in Providenciales, then why not let Big Blue Collective help you craft the perfect tour designed to give you the ultimate in whale experiences in the TCI?  


Filed under: Whale Watching

7 Things You Can’t Get from Turks and Caicos Resorts

26th June 2017 11:12 am

Turks and Caicos resorts are world famous for offering the highest levels of luxury and service in the Caribbean islands. You have a lot of variety too, from stylish guestrooms to fully equipped private villas that are outfitted with your own pools and personal chef.

While these five-star Turks and Caicos resorts and hotels are stunningly beautiful and relaxing, they can be a little lacking in things to do. To truly enjoy Turks and Caicos, you need to step beyond the resort grounds and into the pristine beaches, dive beneath the waves, or cruise above the waterline.

Here is a list of activities you might not be able to get from Turks and Caicos resorts—even the all-inclusive ones.

#7 Private Charters

Spending your entire vacation at a Turks and Caicos resort is relaxing, but you’ll actually be missing a lot of what makes the islands so special. There’s so much to see above and below the waves.

Hire a private charter during your stay and you can experience Turks and Caicos in the way it was meant to be experienced. Avoid the tourist attractions and head out into the water. You’ll visit hidden and secluded beaches where you and your group will be the only people in sight.  

Many private charters are also outfitted with snorkeling and diving equipment so you can always explore the sites you visit.

#6 Stand Up Paddleboarding

Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) is actually offered by some Turks and Caicos resorts, however the rates can get a little pricey and you’ll have to content yourself with being one among hundreds of stand up paddleboarders on the beach.

Instead, leave the resort and rent your own from a trusted vendor. You will have a lot more freedom of where to go and for how long your want to stay out on the water. There are even special eco-tours you can take where you can explore mangrove channels and national parks to safely and respectfully view the delicate ecosystems and nesting birds.

#5 Kayaking

Kayaking is another sometimes-offered activity by a resort. Renting your own kayak is a popular way to explore beaches, shallow channels, tidal creeks, and the cays either on your own or on a tour.

There are even opportunities to join private multi-day kayak expedition where you can venture deeper into the national parks and nature reserves. There are also special hours you can kayak to catch the sunset. These kayak expeditions and sunset hours frequently take place away from the busy crowds that spawn from the resorts along Grace Bay Beach.

Similarly to stand up paddleboarding, kayak rentals are reasonable and there are a variety of options.

#4 Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a must-do activity during your stay at on the islands no matter which Turks and Caicos resort or hotel you are staying at. The area around the islands is perfect for snorkeling, giving you unmatched views of colorful reefs and the surrounding sea life.

While the resorts and hotels are often found near beautiful beaches, these beaches aren’t ideal for snorkeling. They are often full of tourists and the beaches, while lovely to relax and walk on, lack the exciting underwater scenery. You’ll have to venture to more isolated places away from the resorts to get the best snorkeling experience.

There are also snorkeling tours that will take you out to quieter snorkel sites.  Knowledgeable guides can help you identify the hundreds of different fish and describe the important coral reef ecology.

#3 Diving

Like snorkeling, Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales island isn’t suited for diving. What makes the beaches so great also makes for poor diving conditions. The water is shallow for dozens of yards out. Because of this, the hotels and resorts don’t offer the best SCUBA excursions.

If you’re more comfortable with deep waters, Turks and Caicos is a tough place to beat in terms of quality dive sites. You can descend and scale walls that are dozens of feet to over 100 feet that are overflowing with life.

There are plenty of diving companies that can take you to amazing dive sites teeming with fish, turtles, rays, sharks, and eels.

#2 Kiteboarding

Kiteboarding is an exciting activity that many resorts can’t accommodate. Learning how to kiteboard requires PASA and IKO certified kiteboarding instructors, and because it’s such a fun sport, the beginner classes that the resorts do have are often full.

However, since Turks and Caicos is such a hotspot for kiteboarding, it’s easy to find instructors outside of the resorts with decades of experience. Class sizes are small and some even offer private lessons that can help beginners get a good run or an advanced intermediate pick up and refine the more flashy techniques.

#1 Whale Watching

If you are visiting between November to February, you’re visiting at a great time for whale and dolphin watching. This period coincides with the humpback whale migration as they transit towards their northern feeding grounds.

The resorts and hotels hardly ever have their own boats to take guests to see whales but there are plenty of whale watching charters around the island during this time.

Even if you are out on a private charter to snorkel or dive, the boat captains are always in communication and will take you the last sightings of whales if you and the other passengers are game. You might even have the chance to snorkel or dive with whales!

 



Turks and Caicos Island: Grand Turks Water Excursions

7th June 2017 9:52 am

The Turks and Caicos islands are stunning Caribbean islands that have plenty of beautiful sites and fun activities in around the beaches. Nearly every visitor to the Turks and Caicos islands wants to spend at least some time in the water.

 

While all the biggest and most popular Turks and Caicos resorts are on the Providenciales island, some of the best shore and water excursions can be found around the Grand Turk island.

Things to Do on Grand Turk Island

Because Grand Turk is the second most populated island after Providenciales and is the historic and political center of the country, you have a lot of options as to what you can do while you’re on the island.

 

The capital city, Cockburn Town, was the first permanent settlement on the Turks and Caicos islands. It was founded in 1681 by salt collectors and is now an an intimate Caribbean town that is easily walkable and has many interesting sites to see, including:

  • The National Museum of Turks & Caicos Islands
  • Grand Turk Lighthouse, the highest point of the island
  • Columbus Landfall National Park

 

But again, you’re in the Caribbean! Islands are fun, but there’s a whole new world for you to explore off the coast!

Grand Turk Shore and Water Excursions

Grand Turk shore excursions open up a broader variety of things for you to do on your Turks and Caicos vacation. The Caribbean has a rich biodiversity that is only visible and can only be appreciated only if you’re willing to get wet.

Diving Excursions

The Grand Turk island is formed in a unique way that makes it an exciting place for divers. It’s well known for wall diving and countless marine creatures call the reefs and walls home.

 

The famous Grand Turk “wall” runs the entire leeward side of the island. It is the third largest reef in the world with a drop that goes from 15 feet (4.57 meters) to 7,000 feet 7,000 feet (2.13 kilometers). That means you’ll find yourself in a company of plenty of underwater life hiding and living among the ledges and shelves of coral covering the wall.

 

Some of the most interesting dive sites among the over dozens of dive sites on the Wall include:

 

  • Black Forest
  • Tunnels
  • Sand River Canyon
  • Tunnels
  • Cecil’s Reef
  • Windmills
  • Tiki Hut
  • Library Reef

 

Diving with Big Blue Collective?

When you head out to dive sites with Big Blue Collective, you’ll be in a small group of no more than nine divers that will allow you to feel like you have the entire site to yourself. There’s no rush either. There are no dive time limits and a strong emphasis on flexible dive profiles. Big Blue Collective has been offering private Turks and Caicos diving excursions since 1997.

 

You’ll get to the dive sites quickly and comfortably and geared up with everything you need, including:

 

  • Cressi mask and fins
  • Oneill wetsuits
  • Suunto computers
  • Aqualung BCD’s
  • Sherwood regulators

 

All boats are fitted with O2 kits and are TCI marine certified.

Snorkeling Excursions

Just like diving, snorkeling is an excellent Grand Turk shore excursion. While you can’t quite go as deep as you can while diving, the Grand Turk wall still has magnificent displays of life closer to the surface.

 

If the 7,000 feet sheer drop is too intimidating, there are plenty of snorkeling sites at reefs or shelves around Grand Turk that is teeming with fish, coral, and invertebrate life. One of the more popular places to snorkel near Grand Turk is a smaller cay called Gibbs Cay.

 

Gibbs Cay is a small island located approximately one mile (1.5 km) off the southeastern coast of Grand Turk. Also known as Stingray Cay, Gibbs Cay main attraction is the vast numbers of stingrays that call it home. You’ll have a great opportunity to see them as many tour guides boaters feed them fish and squid feed.

 

Snorkeling with stingrays might seem intimidating, but the stingrays at Gibbs Cay are very familiar and friendly towards people. Some tour guides are even known to pick them out of the water while teaching visitors about the animal.

Open Water Excursions

Many charter boat operators are always on the lookout for open ocean encounters, especially during animal migration seasons. The Big Blue Collective team is constantly keeping a weather eye out and are willing to ferry divers to sightings.

 

Imagine the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with agile dolphins, graceful whale sharks, and the massive humpback whales.



5 Ways to Enjoy the Turks and Caicos Islands

17th May 2017 11:31 am

Vacationing in Turks and Caicos is one of the best traveling decisions you will ever make. The archipelago nation’s tourism strikes a careful balance between luxury resorts complete with royal treatment and nature reserves brimming with life and beauty and waiting to be explored.

 

Whether you are are traveling family, a honeymooning couple, or a solo adventurer, there are plenty of ways to enjoy and experience the Turks and Caicos Islands. And because it’s made up of seven main islands and over 40 smaller islands and cays, it’s easy to find a site that suits you and your vacation pursuits.

 

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: hitting the beaches. Providenciales has several beaches that are consistently ranked among the best in the world by Condé Nast magazine and World Travel Awards. There’s good reason too. With stunning white beaches made of powder soft sand and clear turquoise waters, these beaches are what people think of when they imagine a Caribbean paradise while daydreaming in front of their laptops during a conference call at work.

 

However, if you don’t want to spend your entire trip lounging at the beach, here are some of the favorite and most popular picks by tourists while you vacation in Turks and Caicos.

#1 Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddle board (or SUP) can be done by nearly anybody and nearly anywhere. The waters around Turks and Caicos are warm year round and can be exceptionally calm on the shallow beaches. This makes it a great activity for families, kids, or people who want a more relaxed activity.

 

The great thing about SUP is that it is what you make of it whether you’re a beginner or seasoned paddle boarder. It can be a leisurely way to sightsee or it can be a full body workout—whatever you’re in the mood for.

 

There are even special eco-tours you can take while on a stand up paddle board. You get to venture into mangrove channels and national parks to see delicate ecosystems supporting nesting birds. Or, you can skim over clear waters near reefs and see vibrantly colored marine life right beneath your board.

 

Stand up paddle board is a very affordable activity too. It requires very little gear—just a board and paddle, hence the name. You can try it out for an hour or be out on the water all day on a touring excursion.

#2 Kayaking

Like stand up paddle boarding, kayaking is another popular way to traverse the beaches, shallow channels, tidal creeks, and around the cays. It’s a quiet and non-intrusive way to get close up pictures of wildlife like iguanas and birds.

 

Any accessible waterway can be explored by kayak while you’re on the Turks and Caicos islands. You don’t have to stay on one island either. Kayaks are lightweight and easy to transport with boats and trailers.

 

Kayaks can easily be the highlight your entire Turks and Caicos stay. Become a part of a private multi-day kayak expedition where you will camp or travel inn-to-inn to explore nature reserves and the endless beaches.

 

If you’ve already reached your preferred tan, you can kayak during sunset. Enjoy a completely different experience in cooler temperatures and watch the sky light up in fiery shades of red. You’ll also see completely different marine life as the nocturnal creatures swap with their daytime counterparts to take their turn on and around the reefs.

 

Similarly to stand up paddle boarding, kayak rentals are reasonable and there are a variety of options.

#3 Snorkeling and Diving

Turks and Caicos has marvelous conditions for underwater activities: great weather, warm and clear water, and shallow reefs teeming with fish, coral and marine life.

 

Snorkeling and diving is a real treat that you can partake in every single day you’re on the islands. You can’t get sick of either—there are just too many snorkel and dive sites to visit and no two are the same.

 

In fact, there are snorkeling tours that will take you out to several snorkel sites.  Knowledgeable guides can help you identify the hundreds of different fish and describe the important coral reef ecology.

 

If you’re more comfortable with deep waters, Turks and Caicos is a tough place to beat in terms of quality dive sites. You can descend and scale walls that are dozens of feet to over 100 feet that are overflowing with life.

#4 Kiteboarding

For a unique experience, try kiteboarding. With the islands located in an intersection of trade winds and surrounded by beaches that are shallow for hundreds of feet out, kiteboarding can be a great activity for beginners and experts alike.

 

Since Turks and Caicos is such a hotspot for kiteboarding, it’s easy to find PASA and IKO certified kiteboarding instructors with decades of experience. It won’t take long for beginners to get a good run or an advanced intermediate to pick up and refine the more flashy techniques.

#5 Whale Watching

November to February are great months to spot whales in the Turks and Caicos. This season coincides with the humpback whale migration as they transit towards their northern feeding grounds. You might even catch sights of a few calves as the Caribbean is a known breeding ground.

 

These, of course, are chance encounters. However, if there’s an opportunity, you can bet we’ll let you know when you’re out on a snorkeling or diving excursion. If we catch wind of whales nearby, we’ll pack up your gear and make our way over to give you a chance to snorkel or dive with whales!

 

The opportunity to swim with these majestic creatures shouldn’t be missed.

 

Do… Everything?

Depending on how long your trip is, it might be possible to do every one of these activities. You don’t even have to do them separately. You can sign up for private charters that can take you to places most tourists don’t even see.
These charters aren’t operated by small dinghies. They’re sizable boats that can store kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling and diving gear, so you don’t have to pick and choose.