Turks and Caicos

Earlier this month, we spent a few days at Turks and Caicos, specifically at The Sands, a . This was the first time we had been to the Caribbean; we went with Grace’s friends, Aurora and Sonny.

I’m not a beach person, but Grace Bay has fantastic beaches. You know that desktop image that comes on Windows XP, with the turquoise water surrounding a deserted island? The water looked just like that. I went snorkling for the first time. I can’t really swim — I can float on my back in calm water — but this wasn’t a problem, as the waters were as calm as any swimming pool. We went on a snorkling excursion (Captain Bill’s Ocean Outback) where the reefs were in 15′ deep water, and I was fine with foam floatation around my waist. Grace said she actually had to drag me out of the water.

The food was pretty good. Our flight in was late, and most of the restaurants had closed by the time we checked into the hotel, but we had a decent late-night snack at a faux Irish pub. The following nights, we had a good meal at Aqua near Turtle marina near downtown, and a very good meal at Grace Cottage in the next condo/hotel development over east of ours. Fresh grouper is good. Conch — there’s a conch farm on Provo island — tasted like a firmer abalone and was also good.

I took a walk around downtown Providenciales while Grace, Aurora and Sonny attended Easter services. The bulk of the economic activity on the island is on the north eastern side, along Grace Bay, not in downtown, where it seemed that every other store was a car wash or hair salon. It was Easter, so most of them were closed.

We had thought of renting a car at one point, but found the Gecko Bus, which runs a circuit around the main hotels on Grace Bay and a few points of interest towards downtown, in particular the IGA supermarket, which appears to be the main grocery store on the island. Day passes for the Gecko Bus aren’t expensive, and can be bought at the hotel.

Capt. Bill’s excursion was the highlight of the trip. We had wanted to do a sea kayaking eco-tour, but all the slots were booked, and the description of the Ocean Outback tour sounded good. A taxi picked us up in the morning, and there was a certain sketchiness about the drive down to the boat. We had thought we’d be departing from the main marina on the northeast tip, but the taxi drove towards the middle of the island and south, on rough roads and past rock quarries. Capt. Bill’s boat was at a small beach at the end of a unpaved road. Our first stop were reefs near Turtle Rock, 15′ deep water, but you could see the bottom as clearly as if it were a bathtub. There were a couple reef formations near the rock, as well as a passage through the rock itself. There was also a large metal box of mysterious origins; it’d been there for decades, and had wildlife growing throughout it.

The next stop was a pirate cave. Capt. Bill put on a kitshy pirate show, mainly for the entertainment of the kids on the boat. On this pirate island, there were rock etchings carved centuries ago by bored pirate lookouts. A few of the etchings were “treasure maps”, e.g., initials underlined with a series of dots, where the line of dots indicated direction, and the number of dots indicated the distance. Another “treasure map” consisted of someone’s name, with a stylized letter in that name that pointed in a direction. Somewhere else, there’d be another pointer, and the intersection of the lines would be where the treasure is buried.

The last stop was a small, secluded beach. I think this was all on the less populated western part of the island, away from the kayakers, the para-sailers, etc. Capt. Bill put together a good barbeque on the boat while everyone relaxed on shore or in the shallow waters. At 3PM, we head back to that small beach we sailed from, though our boat might have had some engine trouble on the way; Capt. Bill was in the back, keeping the engines running, while the pilot brought us back.

Here are the photos. We had one of those disposable underwater cameras for the in-water shots. I had the Nikon with me, but was nervous about taking the camera out in the sand and saltwater, so there are probably fewer shots than there should be. Arguably, the landscape isn’t as interesting as Alaska — it’s kind of flat — so there probably were fewer good shots anyway. We tried to get sunset shots on the last evening there, but for some reason there was a plume of smoke right were the sun went down, which spoiled the shots.

Turks and Caicos pictures

Update: If you have Google Earth installed, here’s the KML file for the resort. It’s partially under clou
d cover, but you can see the various swimming pools, as well as the little shelters on the beach in the satellite p
hoto. I don’t know where the snorkling and pirate cave were. I think they’re on the western end of the island, but I don’t know for sure.

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