The breathtaking sights of the underwater ecosystems at the Smith’s Reef Snorkel Trail are all set to be explored by local communities, students, and international guests thanks to rehabilitative work funded by the Sandals Foundation to ensure the protection of the enchanting marine life, the safety of snorkelers and the sustained livelihood of those who earn a living from using the nearby boating channel.
On Tuesday June 8, in commemoration of World Oceans Day, the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources proudly reopened the more than 20 year old near shore trail after implementing upgrades valued at just under US $30,000 from the Sandals Foundation.
Restoration works included the cleaning and continued maintenance of existing snorkel trail markers, installation of beach signage and marker buoys around the snorkel site, introduction of swim zone lines outside the snorkel area to prevent snorkelers from accidentally entering the boating channel, and the provision of signs and other collateral noting guideline for reef etiquette.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation was pleased to see the reopening of the iconic site, bringing with it opportunities for sustained education and economic exploration.
“The trails’ new signs will add to the rich educational experience of students and local community members who’ll be able to develop a deeper appreciation for and understanding of how they too can help protect the beautiful natural resources,” said Clarke.
The site’s reopening is even more significant, Clarke continued, as the theme for this year’s World Oceans Day, “Connects the importance of the Ocean to what we know all too well as Caribbean nationals – our lives and livelihoods. The marine space is part of our identity as a region and we are very happy to have this beautiful snorkel site reopened with restored amenities to not only protect the natural ecosystems that are present but also the life and livelihoods of persons who share in its resources.”
Alizee Zimmermann, Executive Director at the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund expressed gratitude to the Sandal's Foundation for the Smith's Reef restoration works funded.
"Smith's Reef is an iconic off-shore snorkel site enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The restoration efforts have created a safe space for snorkelers, alerting them to where the boat channel begins through the addition of a swim zone line. Additionally, the snorkel ring itself serves to keep people off of the shallow, fragile areas of the reef, protecting our vulnerable corals all the while taking the snorkeler on an informational tour through the placement of underwater trail markers. The beach signs and waterproof but recyclable maps will make this a fun, educational and memorable experience for all."
Turks & Caicos is home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world with more than a million travelers venturing to the island each year to explore the wonders of the marine space.
Speaking at the Trail’s brief reopening ceremony executed under strict safety protocols, General Manager at Beaches Turks and Caicos, James McAnally beamed that, “As the island’s tourism industry continues its upward trajectory, the newly reopened snorkel site will be a welcome addition to marine adventure seekers.”
Guests at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resorts, McAnally added, “will be encouraged to explore the snorkel trail by grabbing their water gear at the resort’s Aqua Centre and taking the short stroll along the beach to the site which is also open to the public.”
Coral reefs are threatened throughout the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic. Near shore reefs are particularly valuable assets as they allow visitors a one of a kind opportunity to easily access and learn about the wondrous ecosystem. Renovations of the Smith’s Reef Snorkel Trail began in late 2019 but had numerous setbacks due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project continues the longstanding partnership between the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund and the Sandals Foundation who have over the years implemented a number of activities towards the sustained conservation of the island’s marine spaces.