Every month after the full moon, a natural phenomenon lights up the ocean, creating the appearance of twinkling stars in the sea.
But these flashes of light that shimmer just below the ocean surface are, in fact, the creation of life. It’s the mating dance of the Odontosyllis enopia—known locally as the glow worm, a bioluminescent marine worm—and it’s a remarkable light show you can’t miss if you’re in the Turks and Caicos at just the right time.
The show begins three to five days after the full moon and almost an hour after sunset. That’s when the female glow worm rises from the sandy seafloor where she resides to the surface of the water, swimming in circles and releasing her eggs—all while emitting a bright fluorescent chemical that attracts her male counterpart. While swimming to his mate, attracted by her beckoning glow, the male worm also “glows” as he makes his way to his partner. He then releases his sperm, creating even more light. All this from these tiny marine worms, with the females growing to about 20 mm long, and the males growing only to 12 mm.
It’s a brilliant, albeit brief (about 15 minutes), affair that you have to see to believe. And it’s suitable for an audience of all ages.
But the only way to witness the spectacle of the glow worm is to be out on the water, particularly in shallow areas. And you have a few options as far as getting out there to see the show.
The Good Ship Atabeyra
The Atabeyra, operated by Sun Charters, is a 70-foot sailing vessel that has operated as a charter boat in the Turks and Caicos since 1998. Originally a cargo ship that transported goods between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos, the Atabeyra is a favorite among locals. After picking guests up from the Blue Haven dock, your captain will cruise around the Caicos banks and return to the channel to catch the glow worm light show. Need more incentive? A refreshing rum punch is also incl
uded in the trip.
If you’re looking for a more active glow worm experience, try a standup paddleboarding excursion with SUP Provo. Imagine paddling out to sea on your board, when all of a sudden tiny blinking lights begin to illuminate the water just below your feet—talk about surreal. SUP Provo provides the necessary equipment (which is just a board and a paddle), and a guide will go over the basics of SUP with you before you embark on your glow worm excursion.
However you decide to see the glow worms, be sure that you do. It’s not every day you get to see a marine mating dance that lights up the underwater world.
It’s a national symbol of the Turks and Caicos, a local delicacy and the country’s No. 1 export. We’re talking, of course, about conch—the marine snail that’s celebrated every year at the Turks and Caicos Conch Festival.
This year, the country will celebrate the 13th Turks and Caicos Conch Festival at Three Queens Bar & Restaurant in Blue Hills on Saturday, Nov. 26. Local restaurants from all over the island will be on hand serving up their best conch dishes. Every year, there’s a variety of conch recipes to choose from, ranging from traditional fare like conch salad, fritters and stew, to more eclectic dishes like conch wontons, empanadas, and yes—even conch pancakes.
In addition to the food, there will be live music and entertainment—including the traditional conch shell blowing competition. And did we mention the festival is steps away from the beach?
The Conch Festival started in 2004 with the goal of bringing more people to Blue Hills, one of the original settlements of Providenciales. The charm of Blue Hills today is found in its lack of development, with the main Blue Hills Road running parallel with the ocean shore. Without a doubt, the road is the most scenic on the island and is worth the drive any time year. Blue Hills is mainly a residential area dotted with local restaurants and shops, offering visitors a look at what the island was like many years ago.
If you plan to go to the Conch Festival this year, be sure to go on an empty stomach. No doubt you’re going to leave a few pounds heavier—tis the season, after all.