Turks and Caicos: Diver's Delight

Provo, as everyone calls the island of Providenciales, is the cosmopolitan heart of the Turks and Caicos, an archipelago of about 40 islands and cays surrounded by one of the globe's largest net- work of coral reefs. With visibility up to 200 feet, divers delight in the range of wall- and wreck- dives, while snorkelers can follow a marked trail off the beach at Smith's Reef, near Turtle Cove.

There are more than 200 miles of white-sand beaches in the Turks and Caicos; the best-known, 12-mile-long Grace Bay, is home to most of Provo's resorts and hotels. (Offshore, keep an eye out for JoJo, a wild dolphin that likes humans.) Some of the best beaches for shelling and snorkeling are on the outlying cays, an easy day trip by boat or kayak. Little Water Cay, the closest, is an iguana preserve, and other islets are sanctuaries for ospreys, frigatebirds, and snowy plovers.

Provo has some of the best bonefishing flats in the Turks and Caicos, and consistent big-game fishing beyond the reef and a championship course at the Provo Golf Club. But this laid-back collection of cays is really a serenade to sun, sea, and sand.

Diving: Hole in the Wall - actually a crack in the reef near Northwest Point, on Provo - has room for only one diver at a time. The hole begins about 50 feet below the surface; from there divers descend carefully between the sharp walls (while keeping an eye out for large West Indian spider crabs), then exit the hole at a depth of 95 feet.

Beaches: Rent a jeep for the drive to Malcolm Road at Northwest Point. The road is mostly rock and sand, but the reward for the effort is a day at sheltered, pristine Sam's Beach, which has snorkeling along drop-offs at the north end of the strand. There are no hotels here - just a few thatched huts for shade.

Fishing: Locals call the reef near the Turks and Caicos "The Wall." Beyond that barrier, the sea reaches depths of more than 7,000 feet, and you can fish for blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and sailfish. Prime time is June and July, when the island hosts two billfishing tournaments.