Where When How May/June 2017 : Page 68
Watersports and KAYAKING THE MANGROVES WITH BIG BLUE UNLIMITED 68 • • • • • MAY/JUNE 2017 “Where When How -Turks & Caicos Islands”
••• ACTIVITY NEWS BULLETIN •••
As the already toasty temperatures get slightly hotter in May and June, there’s plenty of things to do to either cool you down, chill you out or keep you occupied. Watersports and excursions on the water are no doubt the island’s specialty, with everything from wakeboarding to kayaking, sailing tours and private charters on tap for you to enjoy.
Our activity features include embarking on a paddleboard tour with Surfside Ocean Academy on page 88, the latest fishing news from Captain Geoff on page 92, and a definitive list of island activities on page 80.
If you want to stay low key and doing nothing but relax, our cover story on page 54 features spas, offering a round up of some of the treatments available on the island, as well as a guide to the typical price ranges you can expect.
Regarding getting around, it’s all about the open top transport… there’s some fun rentals and tours to be had on four wheels: Dune buggies, Mini Mokes, ATV buggies. On water, enjoy paddleboats and kayaks, paddleboards and jet skis to name a few. Remember to ask about specific tours as well as rentals; they’re a good way to see a lot of the island’s best spots in a relatively short time.
Do remember that our sunny weather places extra demands on your body. Always use a sunscreen during any outdoor activities and drink plenty of water. Popular sports drinks are a great way to rehydrate.
Diving for beginners: There’s a sport on island called SNUBA that’s related to its counterpart, SCUBA. However, with SNUBA, the individual is not self contained, but the tank floats on a raft at the surface. No certification is needed, and you can enjoy Snuba from the beach or from a boat. As a SNUBA participant you’ll be one of a small group exploring Provo’s fascinating Bight Reef on the north shore. The reef is teeming with sea life, including turtles, rays, and countless colourful fish.
SNUBA boat tours are now available to our wild and isolated neighbouring cays. SNUBA is absolutely perfect for the family that wants to try something entirely new, available to age 8 and older.
DSD - Discover Scuba Diving
Booking a Discover Scuba Diving course (DSD), or Resort Course, is a simple matter. Just contact a PADI Dive Shop while you’re here in the TCI. No matter what your physical condition, a qualified instructor can teach almost anyone to dive. The Discover SCUBA course can be conducted in a pool, off the beach or from a dive boat. It’s a great way to test-drive the sport without a huge commitment. You’re taught theory and practical exercises on how to breathe under water and with the DSD being a PADI approved course, it can be counted towards your certification, should you choose to continue on to the Open Water Diver course.
During a DSD you spend the first part of the day learning theory and important technical details. You’ll also learn useful signals for things like “My ear hurts” and “I’ve run out of air.” (Be assured this is incredibly rare and should never really happen, but still a good signal to learn.) Once you have the signals, you jump in the pool and don your gear.
Normal equipment consists of: a wetsuit, a Buoyancy Control Device (or BCD, which is a vest you inflate and deflate via couple of buttons. It’s a flotation device on the surface and a buoyancy control device as you’re diving), mask, snorkel, fins, a weight belt, an air gauge and compass and the all important tanks and regulator.
The bonus of the DSD is that it includes a beautiful boat ride in paradise. In the same vein, not every site is suitable for a Discover Scuba Diving course as you are limited to a 40 foot descent depth. If you have your heart set on a wall dive, you can complete your full certification in a few days and be ready to go. We advise contacting a dive operator before you hit the island to get started with bookwork online.
When 25-30 foot shallows surrounding the TCI banks suddenly drop to around 6,000 feet (2.1km), ‘The Wall’ forms, an underwater cliff, and along with it, coral walls and sealife in abundance. TCI has world-class wall diving, ask your concierge for more information on certification and dive excursions, or contact your nearest dive operator.
Snorkelling is the all-rounder of island activities. Suitable for all ages, the warm, shallow waters allow coral reefs to flourish just metres off the shore. Sunbathe and snorkel simultaneously, at multiple locations.
This hot new sport exploded on the Providenciales scene several years ago and now, the waters off Long Bay Beach have become a Mecca for boarders from across the globe. Usually a kite from 9-12 metres, is attached to a harness worn around the waist, with two feet strapped onto a board. Wind propels the kite, which in turn, propels you. A variety of kite sizes means you can board with next to no wind, or very high wind, depending on your level and confidence. Several watersport businesses offer lessons and equipment hire for all levels, on Long Bay Beach.
For novices and sailors, the most peaceful way to explore the cays and deserted beaches of the TCI is from a comfortable seat aboard a sailing yacht. Cruising multihulls are available for hire and private charter daily. Whether your entire family wants to go, or just you and your partner are looking for a romantic sunset, one of our sailing charter companies will have a package for you. Most sailing companies provide snorkel gear and some beverages and snacks. On a private cruise you can expect something more elaborate, so if you are looking for a unique experience, check out sailing charters. Not an armchair sailor? Rent a Hobie Cat and take in the action on Grace Bay. These sporty little unsinkable catamaran sailboats are quick, responsive and easy to sail. You can take lessons if you wish; most get the hang of it in one to three hours of instruction, or give it a go on your own. Depending on the size, they can handle up to four persons. The boomless mainsail makes it a lot safer for novices. Many of the resorts along Grace Bay offer these popular crafts to their guests, so don’t be shy.
Parasailing is a favourite for all ages. Each flight lasts about 15 minutes and will take you up as high as 450 feet. From there you can look out over the islands, or look down and catch glimpses of rays and turtles swimming through the crystal clear ocean below. You can even ask to be dipped in and out of the water during the flight. One, two or three people at a time can go up, and those from 15 months to 96 years have flown. They offer private bookings so that only your family is on the boat. Call ahead to arrange a pick-up with one of our licensed and insured parasail operators.
A small sail is attached to the front of the kayak and controlled by a bungee cord, with the idea being to use all your energy on the outward journey and use the sail power for the return. Contact Big Blue Unlimited if interested.
Sea Kayaking is popular around the world and the TCI is no exception. The usually calm waters of Grace Bay, the mangrove lined cays of Leeward Going Through, and Chalk Sound are popular paddling grounds.
The wetlands of North Caicos are fabulous. Bottle Creek, between North and Middle Caicos, is also an excellent spot where you can even hire a kayak customised for fishing to go after those wily bonefish. Bell Sound on South Caicos and the shallow Banks between South and East Caicos are perfect for paddling. Solo and tandem kayaks are available for rent on every inhabited island, you can arrange to go with a group or on your own if you’re experienced.
Luxury Boat Charters
Many are easily led to describe their island experience purely on what lies within its landlocked parameters. But what about the coastal water landscape and surrounding cays? Cruising the ocean opens up an entirely new way to see the island, lending a new perspective of paradise to your peripherals. Enjoy cruising for two, or your private group on large comfortable boats designed for your safety. Simply contact the concierge at your resort and they can assist you in making arrangements or call our tour operators direct.
South Side Excursions
A sight often relished from the plane, the turquoise waters surrounding the south coast of Providenciales are what is known as the Caicos Banks. Large tidal flats give way to shallow water and rich sea life, before dropping approximately 7,000 feet to the deep. Harder-to-get-to spots for snorkelling are accessible through excursions and custom charters.
When conditions permit, snorkelling tours can offer greater visibility, more varied coral formations, and a bigger range of sealife than onshore snorkelling. Ask the boat operator for the specific snorkelling areas you’ll explore before you book.
Take a Pontoon Boat Tour across picturesque Chalk Sound National Park. Your private group of four to 12 persons will enjoy a calm, two hour cruise across the sound. Beer, water and sodas included. Bring your own snorkelling gear. Pontoon Boat Cruises are $70 per person. To book call Las Brisas Restaurant at Neptune Villas on 946-5306. Ask about a Sunset Cruise.
Small Boat Rentals
Due to our shallow waters and treacherous coral heads boats are most often rented with a licensed captain.
By the day, half day or hour, 20’ up to 23’ sport boats are available for exploration - with or without a captain - from Sun and Fun Seasports. In the Sapodilla Bay area 16’ and 22’ boats are available from Ocean Outback to explore our deserted southern shores only accessible by boat.
Undersea Explorer Semi-Submarine
The rich density of coral reefs in the TCI archipelago is a spectacle, and with the help of a certain semi-submersible, it doesn’t have to just be enjoyed by snorkellers and divers. The Undersea Explorer delves five metres below the surface revealing an extensive amount of reef fish, and if you’re lucky, Lynsea the mermaid - a great sight for the little ones. There are two types of tours: The Turtle Reef Adventure and Mermaid Tour. Private charters are available upon request. Call Undersea Explorers at 649.432.0006 or book online at www.CaicosTours.com
Jetski Personal Water Craft (PWC)
Why not take a watercraft safari aboard a jetski? It’s exhilarating. These sporty personal watercrafts give you access to the warm shallow coastal waters and allow you to travel to other islands. With or without a captain or guide, visit Dellis or Pine Cay or your favourite beaches on the southern shore of Providenciales. All day or hourly tours are available. Take a special watercraft safari to Bugaloo’s, via Sea-Doo or Sport Boat, complete with lunch coupon for this favourite island eatery. Enjoy yourself out on the water on these great PWC, but do not forget they are not to be ridden in our protected, national marine parks.
Between January and late March, the migration of Humpback Whales marks one of the most phenomenal natural events to pass by the TCI shores. Travelling directly through the 22-mile wide Turks Island Passage separating the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands, sightings are most often off Grand Turk and Salt Cay, but have been seen off Providenciales. Whale watching tours allow you to watch the whales up close, and if circumstances permit (but not guaranteed), the rare chance to snorkel with them.
Turtle Cove Marina is Lynsea’s home, and she spends a lot of time entertaining friends aboard the Undersea Explorer Semi-Submersible. Enjoy her company by your pool or on the beach. Guided ecosnorkels for the entire family are offered. Call Caicos Tours to arrange at 432.0006
For the little ones, programs range from teaching about the island environment, including marine life, plants and animals, to teaching children how to be safe in and around the water. There are special courses available to keep your teens challenged and entertained, while eco-adventures offer fun for the entire family.
(SUP) Stand Up Paddleboarding
Who knew paddling a board could provide such access (and exercise) to some less accessible areas of the coastline. Paddling standing up means you don’t only get a core workout, but a stellar vantage point from which to observe marine life. Quiet and discrete, marine life is left undisturbed. Rentals, instruction and guided tours are on offer.
Provo Golf Club
Provo Golf Club opened in 1992. This 18- hole (par 72) Championship course has mature landscaping with a combination of lush greens and fairways, rugged limestone outcroppings and freshwater lakes kept verdant by 300,000 gallons of desalinated water daily from its state of the art irrigation system. A four tee position system offers a formidable test for professionals and amateurs alike.
Green fees run from $95 to $180 pp for 18 holes with a golf cart included. Premium TaylorMade rental clubs are from $30 to $60. Packages, twilight and afternoon rates are always available and the CPGA Pros will work with you to get the best deal possible. There’s a great, fully stocked pro-shop chock full of golf accessories, logoed sportswear and great souvenirs. Professional instruction and tennis are also on hand.
Your island pony or horse will carry you along quiet country roads, back bush trails, down our fantastic beaches and into the sea. And what do you need? Absolutely nothing, including riding experience. You can join in if you’re six and up, accompanied by a parent. All the saddling is done for you and helmets and instruction are provided. Group and private rides offered. Call early during your vacation to arrange your ride.
TCI Safari Tours
Take a land tour around Providenciales with TCI Safari Tours. Day tours 9am to 2pm include Pelican Beach, Long Bay, The Hole, Blue Mountain, Da Conch Shack with seafood platter and Sapodilla Bay. The Sunset Tour six days a week, runs for about four hours ending with sunset over Sapodilla Bay. On Thursdays, join our Fish Fry Tour; explore the island ending up at the Fish Fry, seafood platter included. Private tours available for up to eight persons. All tours will pick up and drop off at your resort. Call 649-343-8688 to book your safari.
Vespa Scooter Tour
Hop on one of these sporty little scooters and take off for sights unseen. Join an informative guided tour to see most of our island in a few hours and have lunch. To head out on your own, pick one up at Grace Bay Plaza. Free lessons are available.
Taste of TCI Food Tour
Spend three hours visiting different scenic areas of Providenciales and tasting island cuisine at its best. Your tour guide will arrange comfortable, air-conditioned trans portation around the island, to various native restaurants which have prepared tastings and drinks just for you. It’s the perfect way to orient yourself at the beginning of your visit. Call for tour days 331.7004.
What better place than our warm, clear, turquoise waters to give your children the gift of confidence in the water? Several watersports operators teach swimming, and offer classes for three year olds and up, in a pool or the ocean. The exquisite waters of Grace Bay also make it one of the best places in the world for open water swimming. Try a unique open water Swim Safari and Shore Swim to take full advantage of this spectacular aquatic environment. Programmes are specifically designed for triathletes, swimmers preparing for an open water event, for those who wish to stay in shape, or want to have a fun workout while on vacation.
Try a Day Pass to an All-Inclusive
Beaches Turks & Caicos offers day passes for those who wish to explore this expansive, well-equipped resort. Between their 20 restaurants and the 45,000 square foot waterpark, I doubt you’ll run out of ways to entertain yourself. Take advantage of all activities on site: pools, kayaks, Hobie cats and water bikes, with the exception of diving. The arcade is packed with an array of video games that will even keep Mom and Dad amused. You might want to meet up with one of the Sesame Street characters who are part of the Beaches Family. Food and drinks are included for the day. Pass holders must be 18 years or older, or be accompanied by an adult. Give Beaches a call for specific details. 649.946.8000
Discover North & Middle Caicos
It’s easy to spend a day visiting North Caicos or Middle Caicos, or both. Companies which specialise in just that, will arrange your transportation by sea and land, book your lunch and the tour guides. Visit Mudjin Harbour and Dragon Cay, our most photographed scenic coastline, or the famous caves at Conch Bar or the Indian Cave on Middle Caicos. Purchase locally woven baskets at the source. On North Caicos see the flamingos, walk through Wades Green Plantation, or relax at a beachfront bar. History, beautiful beaches and friendly people await you in a setting very different from Providenciales.
Visit the Caves
Middle Caicos boasts the largest above water cave system in the Caribbean. The Conch Bar Cave network, 15 miles of underground caverns, is beautifully ‘decorated’ by mites. The caves are home to four species of bats. Hundreds of tourists take the guided tour each year, to explore this amazing system, formed over thousands of years, by the persistent drops of rain on limestone. Reserve in advance 247.3157.
There are so many ways to get to know this country’s historical past.
On Providenciales be sure to visit Sapodilla Hill, where there are rock carvings that are said to be left by sailors on watch. This protected historical site overlooks the turquoise Caicos Banks, South Dock Port and Chalk Sound National Park. A footpath to the summit leads from the long driveway to the disused Mariner Inn.
You can also roam through the ruins of a Loyalist cotton plantation at Cheshire Hall. There are signs erected by The National Trust to explain about life here during the late 1700s through the mid 1800s. A nominal $10 entry fee helps to “Preserve our National Heritage.”
You might also enjoy a visit to the Providenciales campus of the National Museum. Located in the Village of Grace Bay, it’s close to most resorts. The outdoor exhibit, Caicos Heritage House, is a traditional Caicos dwelling, with a typical native garden and outdoor kitchen. Guides here have a wealth of knowledge on farming, boat building, cooking and bush medicine; traditions that formed the foundations of modern day island life.
TCI Fishing DEEP SEA FISHING
Blue water fishing in the Turks & Caicos is widely considered to be the best in the Caribbean. The Atlantic’s premiere big game trophy fish –the blue marlin- is plentiful year round, but caught in record numbers during the summer season. Most of the fish are 100 to 200 pound males, but have been caught at weights of 400 pounds. Sailfish and white marlin scout the edge of the reef from November to April, which are also the best months to catch wahoo, tuna and mahi mahi. Barracuda are large and plentiful year-round, while yellowfin and blackfin tuna hang around Providenciales well into the summer.
An advantage of fishing here is the proximity to the deep sea. Just 15 minutes stands between leaving the dock and reaching ocean deep enough to trawl. As many as six lines are rigged and set from the boat, with some skimming along the surface, and others aiming to lure fish from below. Once a fish is hooked, the catch is quite a spectacle and, though exhausting for the angler, thrilling for the spectator.
Sailfish and marlin tend to leap several times from the water, while wahoo sometimes launch from below the surface, at speeds of up to 60mph. Mahi Mahi are also solid members of the high-flying clan, with Mackerel less so, however Mackerel tend to swim in schools so two or three may take bait at once.
BOTTOM & REEF FISHING
Yearning for more catch-a-minute fishing? Bottom and reef fishing cultivates smaller fish but in greater numbers, from the prized snapper and grouper families, including pot, grey and mutton snapper, to strawberry and nassau grouper. Yellowfin and parrotfish are among other reef browsers. Depending on the guide, as well as the weather, site and preference, the final net can range from a dozen, to 50 or more, with fish in the five to 15 pound weight range not uncommon.
Using a fly rod or spin casting technique, bone fishing is a ‘catch and release’ sport that aims to lure small, silver bonefish, recognisable by their short mouth and deeply forked tail. Their habitat resides on shallow flats, often near mangroves. The mud flats, situated a short distance away from Providenciales, are all part of the Caicos Banks; hundreds of miles of shallow feeding grounds. Find rays, sharks and sometimes schools of more than 2000 bonefish, creating mile-long mud clouds in the water. Here, engines are cut upwind of the school to increase the likeliness of drifting into them with a spin caster, baited with artificial lures. If you hear the drag pulling, you must let it run or they’ll pop your line, they’ve got the power! The skill is to maintain rhythm and put some oomph into your cast.
While spin casting, anticipate a haul of some 10-30 fish in a day, while in slightly deeper waters the skilled fly fisherman among you will have the opportunity to search for larger prey.
• A licence is compulsory for anyone who wants to fish in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
• Fees: 1 Day: $10 1 Month: $30 1 Year for a non-belonger: $60
• Fishing licences are available (and often included in your fee) if you are booking a fishing excursion with one of our many operators. If not you can purchase one from Turtle Cove Marina.
• Please note that fishing licence or not, fishing within national parks is strictly forbidden, so make sure you’re in a fishing approved area before casting.
Turtle Cove Marina . . . . . . . . . . . . . .941-3781
DEMA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .946-4017
OCEAN OUTBACK ADVENTURE CRUISE
DO YOU HAVE JUST A BIT O’ THAT PIONEERIN’ BLOOD IN YOU? HOW ABOUT THE LUST FOR A PIRATE’S LIFE - AT LEAST FOR JUST THE DAY? Well, Ocean Outback has the answer.
Unlike many jaunts leaving tourism central (Grace Bay) Ocean Outback’s “Adventure Tour” boat leaves from Sapodilla Bay to cruise the calm and protected Caicos Banks. You leave civilization behind with the first stop being some spectacular snorkelling in four to six feet of water.
From there you head into shore past Osprey Rock. Perched out on this isolated point is a family of Ospreys keeping a watchful eye on all that passes by. You might also be lucky enough to spot migrating Flamingos or the Long-Tailed Birds of Paradise, a gull type bird with foot long tail feathers.
The Captain takes you ashore just past this point to explore a local pirate’s lair. In a nearby cave, you’ll see 300-year old stone carvings linked to the island’s past. Pirates sailed these waters until the late 1700s, leaving their actual treasure maps etched into cave walls. Try your hand at deciphering the code. You’ll also see etchings left behind by shipwrecked sailors. The Captain will fill you in on all the details!
Then some time to crash on Bonefish Point Beach, search for sea shells and enjoy the seclusion of miles of beach per person. No cell phones, no watches please! Enjoy BBQ lunch and snacks with plenty of sodas and water for all, unlimited beers and (original recipe) rum punch for any sea dog that’s so inclined!
Added creature comforts? Two decks, one for shade; a bow ramp for easy beach access; restrooms on board; and it’s a catamaran at that, so it’s more stable than any single-hulled vessel. The glass bottom boat is also available for private charters to the island of your choice.
“It’s truly good value because it’s just a blast and everyone had so much fun!” We recommend this one. Why not? Go for it. Call 231-0824 or 941-5810.
HOW TO SNORKEL
The joy in visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands is the accessibility of its underwater world. The shallow plateau of the Caicos Banks means coral communities and fish are brought closer to the surface, and with it, the opportunity for visitors not to miss out if scuba diving isn’t for them. Snorkelling, provides a lens into the life below and with the right gear and a little practice, this part of nature is accessible to everyone.
1 . Relax! Even if you’re not a strong swimmer, our very salty water will help keep you afloat.
2 . Find a mask that fits properly. Without the strap in place, fit the mask to your face, pulling all of your hair out of the way. Inhale. The mask should seal and stay in place. If it does not, try another mask.
3 . Pull the strap over your head and adjust it to a snug, not tight, fit.
4 . Attach the snorkel tube to the strap. Insert your rubber mouthpiece and bite down. The tube should stick by your ear and feel comfortable. Practice breathing through your mouth in shallow water.
5 . You will need to treat the mask so it doesn’t fog up. The most effective way is to spit into the mask (yes…really), rub it around the glass and rinse in water.
6 . Putting fins on can be a comedy. This is best accomplished in shallow water if you are approaching your snorkel site from the beach. Otherwise you may have to walk backwards to the water’s edge.
7 . Practice breathing and clearing water out of your mask and tube. If water should enter the tube, blow it out like you are using a peashooter!
8 . Whatever you do, use protective sunscreen while snorkelling. Sunrays are magnified and in turn can be very harmful when your body is semi-submerged in water.
Now you are ready to enjoy our stunning underwater world. While you can snorkel anywhere, you will see the most interesting creatures over coral heads (darker areas in the water) and along jetties. One of our most popular snorkel sites is The Bight Reef on Penns Road. Your excursion operator can take you to coral heads by boat.
Guide books and cards are available from dive shops and the Unicorn Bookstore to help you identify the various fish, turtles, rays, corals, sponges, gorgonians and seashells you will encounter.
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