Where When How March/April 2017 : Page 153
GO BEYOND PROVIDENCIALES... VISIT OUR OTHER ISLANDS ISLAND HOPPING MADE EASY VIEW OF THE BEACH FROM OSPREY BEACH HOTEL ON GRAND TURK PHOTOS BY LISA ADARA PHOTOGRAPHY There are eight inhabited islands and many deserted cays in the TCI archipelago, each bearing a unique set of paradise-inclined perks. Grand Turk, is the seat of the country’s government, with numerous claims to fame, including world-class diving attracting divers from far and wide. Great things to do on North and Middle Caicos include visiting TCI’s most photographed scenic coastline Mudjin Harbour and Dragon Cay, and exploring the Conch Bar Caves, which houses the biggest above-water cave system in the Caribbean. TCI as a whole has three very distinct, but inseparable cultural threads, from Providenciales and its modern hub of luxurious development, North and Middle Caicos with wild dramatic scenery, to of course, Grand Turk and its roots steeped in fascinating history. Therefore venturing to other islands is a pre-requisite for anyone looking for a well-rounded experience of the Turks and Caicos Islands, explorers, photographers, naturalists, bird watchers, what are you waiting for? Visit the Turks & Caicos Islands at www.WhereWhenHow.com MARCH/APRIL 2017 • • • • • 153
Visit Our Other Islands
ISLAND HOPPING MADE EASY
PHOTOS BY LISA ADARA PHOTOGRAPHY
There are eight inhabited islands and many deserted cays in the TCI archipelago, each bearing a unique set of paradise-inclined perks.
Grand Turk, is the seat of the country’s government, with numerous claims to fame, including world-class diving attracting divers from far and wide.
Great things to do on North and Middle Caicos include visiting TCI’s most photographed scenic coastline Mudjin Harbour and Dragon Cay, and exploring the Conch Bar Caves, which houses the biggest above-water cave system in the Caribbean.
TCI as a whole has three very distinct, but inseparable cultural threads, from Providenciales and its modern hub of luxurious development, North and Middle Caicos with wild dramatic scenery, to of course, Grand Turk and its roots steeped in fascinating history. Therefore venturing to other islands is a pre-requisite for anyone looking for a well-rounded experience of the Turks and Caicos Islands, explorers, photographers, naturalists, bird watchers, what are you waiting for?
• • SOUTH CAICOS • •
South Caicos is off the beaten path, even more so than North or Middle Caicos. Once the centre of shipping and commerce in the Turks & Caicos, its’ nickname, The Big South, was well deserved. Today it is a sleepy island populated by fishermen, their families, and a handful of hopeful and determined resident businesses breathing a great new feeling in the Big South.
The Government is finalising airport improvements, East Bay Resort has opened phase one, the island restaurants are busier, classes at the School for Field Studies are fully booked, the fish plants are processing and exporting, and the Big South is still the bonefish capital of TCI.
The 8.5 square mile island is shaped roughly like a closed fist, palm upward, with the index finger jutting to the north. That finger is a peninsula of prime real estate where views encompass both the ocean to the east and the shallow, turquoise banks and Bell Sound to the west. The ball of the thumb is a fairly level plateau overlooking the ocean, where the remains of Highland House stand guard and donkeys wander at will.
The only settlement is called Cockburn Harbour after Sir Francis Cockburn, a Bahamian Governor officially visited the island in 1840. The town lies on the south west coast, on the largest natural harbour in the country. A small fleet of fishing boats return each day with lobster (in season), conch and scale fish. Three fish processing plants adjacent to the harbour prepare the daily catch for export to the other islands, Haiti, the DR and the United States.
South Caicos is well known in the diving community for clear visibility, water depths from 20 feet dropping “off the wall” to 7000 feet, with a fantastic array of corals and fishes. Bird watching enthusiasts will find the best variety of subjects at the Highlands Estate. East Harbour, is host to our Sailing Regatta each May. HOW TO GET TO SOUTH CAICOS By Air: From Providenciales and Grand Turk via interCaribbean. Several flights each day. Visit www.interCaribbean.com. Or travel with Caicos Express Airways Fridays and Sundays.
By TCI Ferry: twice a week, leaving from Walkin Marina, Heaving Down Rock.
A SAMPLE DAY TRIP* FROM PROVIDENCIALES (PLS) TO GRAND TURK (GDT)
Some businesses, shops and galleries are only open while cruise ships are in port, check schedule before planning your trip: www.grandturkcc.com/port-schedule.aspx Turks and Caicos National Museum: www.tcmuseum.org
8am flight: Arrive at 8:30am in Grand Turk. Rent a car or golf cart. If you’d like to see the whole island with time to spare, a car is advised.
9am: The Cruise Ship Terminal. Enjoy frozen margaritas at the Caribbean’s largest Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, which also houses duty-free shops and a cabana-clad swimming pool.
10:30am: Visit the Turks & Caicos National Museum, or take a walk along historic Front and Duke Street.The museum is a curation of TCI’s past, depicted with artefacts and intriguing historical information. Situated in Guinep House. Open one hour after cruise ship arrival, closes one hour before cruise ship departure.
11:30pm: The Gallery on Duke Street houses creations by local artists from natural resources like sea glass, shells, coral and wood, from jewellery to paintings and sculpture. Find local goods like Salt Cay salts and fanner baskets.
12pm: Enjoy lunch or cocktails at one of the quaint restaurants housed in historic inns or seaside along picturesque Front and Duke Street.
1pm: Either take a boat trip to see stingrays at Gibbs Cay, go horseback riding on the beach, or visit the Lighthouse.
4pm: Make your way to the airport for the last flight at 5:40pm. Optional day activities: Whale watching: From January to April Humpback Whales pass by these shores.
Snorkel, swim or scuba diving packages: The west coast of Grand Turk is Columbus Landfall National Marine Park, superb for beachcombing, snorkelling or swimming, with fine beaches and unparalleled water clarity. Diving is optional only if staying the night, as flying is not recommended immediately after.
*This is a sample day trip / rough guide. Timings and activities may vary.
• • • GRAND TURK• • •
If you haven’t already visited Grand Turk, the home of our Nation’s Capital, it is time you made a side trip. A brief 30 minute flight from Providenciales.
Spend the night beachfront at Bohio Dive Resort, Osprey Beach Hotel or seconds from the beach at Manta House or the Turks Head Inne. All have a bar and restaurant onsite.
Back in town you will find Blue Water Divers whose owner, Mitch, regularly plays music at the Osprey Beach Hotel. Oasis Divers is just up the road, and you can book a variety of diving and snorkelling excursions with any of the dive shops. From January to April, you have a chance to see Humpback Whales as they migrate. Gibbs Cay trips, to see the stingrays, and picnics are popular here.
The Turks and Caicos National Museum is another reason you should visit. Collections include artefacts on loan from The Smithsonian. The Botanical Gardens are located adjacent to the museum. In association with the museum, there are two Self-Directed Bird Tours, which can be undertaken with the help of guide books purchased from the museum for $5 each. The Museum is open only when cruise ships are in port.
Further south, broad, beautiful Governors Beach, within the Columbus Landfall National Park, is the perfect place for a picnic lunch.
When a cruise ship is in port, the Cruise Ship Center is a whirlwind of activity and shops. It is home to the Caribbean’s largest Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, complete with an enormous swimming pool, waterslides, cabanas, souvenir shopping and more.
The Lighthouse has undergone restoration, and the original lens is on display at the Museum. The high bluff where the lighthouse stands guard, provides one of the most beautiful panoramic views on the island.
Horseback Riding is a great way to pass a couple of hours. Ride along the beach and into the sea.
HOW TO GET TO GRAND TURK
Several flights each day from (PLS) Providenciales via interCaribbean. For information visit interCaribbean.com or call 946-4999 for reservations
• • NORTH CAICOS • • •
North Caicos is often referred to as the “Garden Island” of the Turks & Caicos, and has 2500 permanent residents. The ferry will drop you at Sandy Point where you will pick up your rental car from Al’s, Easy, Nick’s, Scooter Bob’s or Pelican Beach Car Rental. Then stop at the Green Island Café for refreshments. As you leave Sandy Point you’ll pass Cottage Pond on the right. The pond is actually a very deep vertical cave and is home to several water birds. Just past Cottage Pond you will come to a T intersection. A right will take you into the village of Kew and beyond, to Wades Green, the ruins of a 1789 Loyalist plantation. Take a guided tour by pre-arranging with one of our eco-tour guides, or take a self-guided tour with the help of pamphlets purchased from the National Trust.
If you turn left at the T intersection, you are on your way to Hollywood Park. Another left at the next intersection, beside the park, will take you into the seaside village of Whitby. Directly on Whitby Beach, find the Barracuda Beach Bar at the Pelican Beach Hotel. West of Whitby follow a series of roads, to snorkel at Three Mary Cays. Or turn east and you’ll find Horsestable Beach.
Returning to the main road, where you will find gas stations, you will come to Flamingo Pond Overlook. The flock can reach about 1000 members. You need strong binoculars to view the birds.
Further east, just before Major Hill settlement you can make a pit stop at My Dee’s Restaurant (946-7059) open seven days a week. Further along Bottle Creek is a picturesque village overlooking the water. At the far end of Bottle Creek the Last Chance Bar & Grill (232-4141 closed on Mondays) is a great stop for a cold one, lunch or dinner, and home to Gibbs North Caicos Outfitters. They offer DIY fishing kayaks and SUP rentals. East from Bottle Creek you cross the causeway to Middle Caicos.
GETTING TO NORTH CAICOS
From Providenciales, pre-book a spot with TCI Ferry Service 649-946-5406. To catch the (passenger only) ferry, head for Walkin Marina at Heaving Down Rock
• • • MIDDLE CAICOS• • •
Middle Caicos is about three times the size of Providenciales, but has just 300 permanent residents. Ten minutes after you cross the causeway from North you’ll reach Mudjin Harbour. Turn left off the main road into the Blue Horizon Resort, head up the drive and park by the cement path to the beach. Enjoy lunch or drinks at Mudjin Bar & Grill (946-6141, closed on Sundays). If you plan to hike Crossing Place Trail, bring sturdy shoes and lots of water.
On the way to the village of Conch Bar, stop at Indian Cave. There are great photo ops in this easily accessed cavern and no guide is needed. Your next destination is the Conch Bar Caves National Park, the largest above water cave formation in the Caribbean. Stay on the paved road and do not turn left into Conch Bar Village. Continue straight ahead, across the airport parking area, and onto a rough road leading into the bush. Suddenly the gates at the cave entrance emerge. Bring a flashlight and wear sturdy shoes. Tours are M-F 9-3. (Gate: 247-3157) Best explored with a pre-arranged, knowledgeable eco-tour guide.
Pass through Conch Bar Village and take the last turn left. If you reach the pond you’ve missed the Middle Caicos Co-op. Clustered by the sea, a trio of pale yellow buildings with teal trim is a great spot to take a break, watch whales in season, and shop the largest collection of authentic TCI handicrafts in the country, at your fingertips.The Valentines Day hand-carved model sail boat fleet is on display. Artisans are onhand for demonstrations. Daniel’s Cafe is open by reservation only, available for large groups and special events.
Back on the road, head east to Bambarra Village, staying on the paved road, which curves right and heads up a hill into the village. As you head back down the hill toward the sea, leaving Bambarra, just after the curve left, take the dirt road to the right and find yourself on the graceful expanse of Bambarra Beach.
The most easterly beach on Middle is called Wild Cow Run. It is way off the beaten path but well worth the trip. Head over the hill going through Bambarra and turn left onto Lorimers Road. About 20 minutes and one left turn later, just before Lorimer’s Village, look for the sign for the entrance to the Haulover Plantation Ruins. Carry on past the ruins, across the salina and turn right at the T junction. You will find yourself on an expanse of beach that extends south and overlooks East Caicos. It’s unlikey you’ll be sharing this beach with another soul.
MIDDLE CAICOS INFORMATION
Take the ferry from Providenciales to North Caicos. Rent a car to drive across North Caicos to the causeway which takes you to Middle Caicos.
• • • SALT CAY• • •
With less than one hundred folk (and nearly that many donkeys), Salt Cay’s vibe is a result of the diverse population. Turks & Caicos Islanders, Americans, Filipinos, Grenadians, St. Lucians, Europeans, Dominicans and Haitians all live and work on this little 2.5 square mile, triangular shaped island. Although inhabited by Lucayan Indians when Ponce de Leon arrived in 1512, Salt Cay was uninhabited from about 1520 until Bermudians arrived in the 1600s. The island then enjoyed a period of prosperity as one of the world’s premier producers of salt. In the 1920s and 30s the salt trade came to a halt in the TCI.
Many Salt Cay visitors come for the annual migration of Humpback Whales, who cruise through the Turks Island Passage every year from January to April. It’s possible to have in-water ‘soft’ encounters with the whales, or go on whale watching excursions. The diving is fantastic, and Salt Cay has access to some of the best snorkelling in the Turks Islands. You can go bonefishing, without a guide, right off shore (with just a fishing license easily purchased at the Dcs Office).
Salt Cay is popular with bird watchers, as several rare seabirds are spotted here regularly. You can also do a bird excursion from Salt Cay to Great Sand Cay. For history buffs, The White House, built by salt-baron Alexander Harriott, stands next to the last remaining boat house and salt shed on Salt Cay. Boats still shelter here after a day of fishing. The Brown House (Sunnyside), is another historic salt plantation home on Salt Cay. Government House is being restored. The Salinas are impossible to miss. Once shallow bodies of brackish water, they were converted to saltpans. The hand laid stone dykes and canals are impressive. One of the windmills, once used to push saltwater into the drying pans, has recently been rebuilt.
HOW TO GET TO SALT CAY
Salt Cay can be reached via Caicos Express Airways ($180. RT). Or via interCaribbean flights from PLS to Grand Turk (as low as $70 RT) plus a ferry to Salt Cay ($8 one way).
SALT CAY INFORMATION
Porter’s Island Thyme - www.islandthyme.tc Salt Cay Divers - 649-241-1009 www.SaltCayDivers.tc
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