Friday, December 6, 2013

Turks and Caicos!

The Turks and Caicos have been on our travel radar since the late 1980's.  When we started scuba diving, we always read about the world class diving here.  We were enamored with Cozumel at the time and never found time to visit this remote location.

After twenty years, we have finally made it to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).  We visited the island of Providenciales, also known as "Provo" .  We anchored our boat in Sapodilla Bay for one night, then traveled to Cooper Jack Bay to Southside Marina.  Southside Marina was our home base for two wonderful weeks of island exploring and meeting new friends.

Genesis at the dock

Bob Pratt, Owner of Southside Marina

Southside Marina
Before coming here, we really did not know much about the Turks and Caicos islands.  Here are some facts that we learned:

The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) lie 575 miles SE of Miami.  The country  consists of two island groups separated by the 22 mile wide Columbus Passage. To the west are the Caicos islands: West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos.  To the east are the Turks Islands: Grand Turk and Salt Cay (pronounced "key"). The TCI are 166 square miles of land on eight islands and 40 small cays.  The country's population is approximately 32,000.  They speak English and use the US dollar.  The year round average temperature is 83 degrees.  The hottest months are September and October but the almost constant easterly trade winds temper the heat and keep life comfortable. Driving is on the left side of the road. TCI is a British Crown Colony and there is a Queen-appointed Governor. There are no direct taxes on either income or capital for individuals or businesses.  Money comes from indirect taxation from customs duties and fees, stamp duty on vehicle, gasoline, business license and departure taxes.

Islander Cleaning Conch

Historically, TCI's economy relied on the export of salt.  Currently, tourism, the offshore finance industry and fishing generate the most private sector income.  The islands' main export are lobster and conch.  
Fishing Boats bring in Conch and Lobster
Practically all consumer goods and foods are imported, and are thus very expensive. However, after the limited goods available in the Bahamas, we were excited to visit the local Graceway Supermarket, a large food store with a selection of gourmet, natural and organic foods and The Wine Cellar, which had a fantastic selection of over 3000 wine labels. Money flew out the window as we restocked Genesis with fresh produce, meat, and wine.

Citizens of the TCI are termed "Belongers" and are primarily descendants of African slaves who were brought to the island to work on the salt pond and cotton plantations. However, about 70% of the population are expatriates.The country's large expat population includes Canadians, Americans, Brits, and Europeans, along with Haitians, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Bahamians, and Filipinos.  We met people from the States, Canada, Norway, Great Britain, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  Many of the waiters  and shop clerks we met were from the Dominican Republic. 

Kiteboarding in Grace Bay

Sporting activities are centered around the water. Pristine reefs and abundant marine life and excellent visibility make TCI a world-class diving destination.  Parasailing, kiteboarding, sailing, stand up paddleboarding, and deep sea fishing are but a few of the sports that can be enjoyed with a visit here.

Sailing and Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Parasailing... A 15 minute activity

The beaches around TCI are spectacular.   We enjoyed walking along Grace Bay Beach. It is gorgeous, with white powdery sand and turquoise waters. and has been named the "World's Leading Beach" by the World Travel Awards four years in a row and we can see why. We had often wondered when we were in the Bahamas if we were ever going to see any water or beaches as beautiful as those we found in the Bahamas.  We now know the answer.  Yes, Yes, Yes!  The beaches here are breathtaking! 
The beaches are preserved by The Princess Alexandria National Trust.  The Trust provides beach access to the locals through public parks located at various places on the beach and provide trail guides to several hiking trails throughout the island. 

We also visited the beaches of Northwest Point, which is a wild and deserted peninsula.  White sandy bays are interspersed with rocky shores.  

Although listed as "not a good location for rental cars", away we went.. down deserted sand roads with room for only a single car.  We finally stopped when the road became deeply rutted with sand and we saw a prominent sign "Premier Towing". We saw this as a "sign" and did what "Plato" would do... we turned around and got out of there!

Restaurants in Provo are so delightful that we devoted another blog post just for them… 

Until Next Time!

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