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Day Trippin’

img1168You don’t have to travel far to find adventure.

Story & Photos By Ramona Settle

Floating on top of crystal clear, turquoise waters on the deck of a boat, I had the feeling I was suspended in air. The water was so clear, I could see fish swimming near the ocean floor, 30 feet down. My family and I, part-time Providenciales residents, had decided to take several day trips to explore what the nearby islands and cays had to offer. We discovered that each was quite distinctive, with a personality all its own.

For our first get-away, we had the crew at Silver Deep drop us off at Half Moon Bay on Little Water Cay, to have our own “Survivor” experience. It was easy to do, as the tour operator provided us with an umbrella, lounge chairs, food and drinks, and left us on what seemed like a perfect little “Gilligan’s Island” all to ourselves. If my husband and I weren’t already married, what an ideal place it is for a proposal!

Our plans had been to discover a new spot to escape to and de-stress. Little did we know it was going to turn into an adventure! At first, we marveled at having this gorgeous beach all to ourselves, and we frolicked in the shallows, hunted for shells and soaked in the sun. Then the clouds started rolling in. They were in a straight line heading towards us; Provo, of course, was clear. They turned into a full-blown squall, complete with high wind and downpours. We huddled under the umbrella and held on for dear life so it wouldn’t blow away. The squall lasted about 25 minutes, followed by the sun coming back ever-so-brightly, almost mocking us.

Feeling exhilarated, we decided to use our newfound energy to explore the island. We spied on the famous Turks & Caicos Rock Iguanas (unique to the country, as well as an endangered species), watched a pelican dive for fish and strolled leisurely on the beach. Occasionally we saw a boat slide by. We were so relaxed that we were sorry when our captain came back to pick us up. It’s ironic how during the squall we couldn’t wait to get back to Provo; now we didn’t want to leave.

img1214Later in the week, my daughter and I decided to explore North and Middle Caicos. With the new and efficient TCI Ferry Service from Provo to North Caicos, it’s an easy and convenient hop between the two islands. (If the waters of Grace Bay are choppy, the ferry takes you the “back” way, gliding along the Caicos Banks, shallow waters with an aqua-green sheen.) We passed by Half Moon Bay, Pine Cay and Parrot Cay on our way to the marina at Sandy Point, North Caicos. The trip itself reveals a face of the Islands some people never see – wild, untamed sun, sand and sea. And our arrival felt like stepping back in time, to a slower-paced, calm and peaceful way of life. We had made arrangements for a rental car, and, as luck would have it, the person we rented from was going back on the ferry to Provo.

At about 40 miles long, North Caicos is a large, sprawling island and some of the side roads are quite bumpy. You would think that with one main, paved road, it would be easy to get around. Not so for me, with no sense of direction and an eager six year old in tow. Of course, having “no direction sense” doesn’t help when you stop to ask the way. It all sounded the same! “I’ve heard of that hotel, it’s just down aways.” “There will be a sign on the road on the left.” Of course, I never saw signs, nor knew how far left I had to go.

On the way to not finding anything, we stopped at Flamingo Pond and actually saw flamingos. Unfortunately, they looked like dots scattered in the pond – note to self: next time bring binoculars! We stopped to check out Pelican Beach Hotel and Ocean Beach Condominiums, both rustic and relaxing, with old-time Caribbean charm. The beaches were expansive and deserted; the pace was slow, what a great escape!

However, when we stopped at the Silver Palm Restaurant, proprietor Karen Preikschat and chef Henry Butterfield were cooking lots of food and actually looking stressed. “For who?,” we wondered as we had seen only a handful of people all day. Later on, when we came to the St. Charles Resort at Horsestable Beach, we discovered it was packed with people, there for a government meeting. The food was for their (and, now, our) delicious lunch.

img2828Later on, we met local schoolchildren walking home after school. My daughter begged me to stop and say “Hi!” They all smiled and giggled together, equally happy – ahh . . . the island life! Next, we visited Bottle Creek Lodge, where my daughter met the owner’s two children. The multi-colored buildings set against the background of lime-tinted aqua water in the creek made for a gorgeous sight.

We wanted to investigate the new causeway connecting North Caicos and Middle Caicos, and explore Middle Caicos too. As we drove along the historic roadway, there were a couple of people bonefishing on the flats. We visited the fascinating Conch Bar Caves in Middle Caicos, where Taino Indians used to worship, pirates used to hide and bats currently use to “hang out” on the ceiling. After that, we went to Mudjin Harbour, one of the most spectacular beaches in the country. The waters were rough that day. We stood on the cliffs at Blue Horizons Resort, watching waves crash on a “T” formed by corals out on the water; it took our breath away. We took a short hike on a portion of the Crossing Place Trail, a graded walkway tracing the traditional path from Middle to North Caicos. All too soon, it was time to go back to the ferry and return to Provo.

img3200For a third day trip, we decided to make reservations for lunch at The Meridian Club on Pine Cay. Hotel staff picked us up at Walkin Marina in a comfortable new boat and we traveled across the Caicos Banks to the dock on Pine Cay. One of the first things we noticed is that, in a country graced with stunning beaches, Pine Cay boasts has one of nicest and least trafficked. The Meridian Club is a quiet, secluded hideaway. The only vehicles allowed on this private island are electric golf carts. The resort has just 13 beachfront hotel rooms, a large club house with a restaurant and a pool – relaxing has never been so good! And the food – superb – was surpassed only by the setting.

We made reservations for lunch at Parrot Cay the next day. Other than several exclusive villas belonging to celebrities, Parrot Cay Resort is the only place to stay on the whole island. This is the place to go to be pampered! Yet another awesome beach to explore, combined with one of the best spas in the world. Tucked away into a hillside, the Shambala Spa pampers all of your senses, with tranquilizing views of the shallow banks, the “white noise” of a waterfall and, of course, the best in spa services, from massages to treatments. One thing we noticed about Parrot Cay was a tantalizing lemon-grass scent that seemed to follow us everywhere we went. If someone wants to live like a movie star for the day, it can’t get better than this!

Later in the week, we rented a boat to explore the deserted cays that stretch like a string of jewels east of Providenciales. We stopped at Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, being home to thousands of rare and endangered Turks & Caicos Rock Iguanas. We climbed the small limestone cliffs and took in the views. We searched for cannons under the water from a shipwreck. We snorkeled at Sand Dollar Point and saw something I had never seen before – a sand dollar actually moving along the bottom of the ocean! At Fort George National Park, we searched for shells and sand dollars on the beautiful, secluded beach. A couple of years back, Fort George is where we first spotted Jo Jo the dolphin, one of Turks & Caicos’ most beloved mascots.

With so many islands and cays to explore close by, you can not only enjoy the elegant accommodations, dining, shopping and casinos on Providenciales, but also experience a quiet, secluded getaway only a short journey away. You’ll find state of the art amenities on bustling Provo; simple, old-Caribbean charm elsewhere. With the world’s most beautiful water as a backdrop, it’s time to explore.



3 Comments

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Laura Willey
May 12, 2009 11:22

love this photo and story to go with it…she seemed to capture some true island adventures with both words and photos…
bravo 🙂

Mona Nag
May 12, 2009 12:22

Wonderful article that describes the ‘other’ cays in the Turks and Caicos. Makes me want to book a ticket now.

Larry and Beth Sulak
Jan 17, 2010 16:52

Dear Ramona,

Great article. We failed to connect this time on Provo. We’re next on island March 5 to 15. Any chance of getting together at Villa Camilla then?

All the best,

Larry and Beth
617 293 4610

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