Resort Report

Like a Phoenix

Grand Turk’s Bohio Dive Resort triumphantly rises after Hurricane Ike.
By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos By Claire Parrish
Perfectly positioned on a sinuous curve of pristine Pillory Beach, Grand Turk’s Bohio Dive Resort has long prided itself on offering “simple elegance in paradise.” Offering an unmatched combination of beautiful natural surroundings, friendly, personal service, superb diving, a variety of other activities and a gourmet restaurant and lively beach bar, the Bohio stands out as the only “all in one place” vacation option in the nation’s capital. However, as owner/managers Kelly Shanahan and Gerhard Hurst can attest, restoring the property from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ike just one short year ago has been a life-changing challenge.
After spending years working as an information technologist in London, Kelly Shanahan knew it was time for a career change. Self-described as a “mad keen diver,” the plan was to sell the house in the UK and buy a tiny dive operation, preferably some place suitably exotic. Her search for the perfect location took her to Grand Turk and through one of those quirks of fate, she bumped into another interested investor on the dive boat! By December 2005, it was a “done deal,” with several family members and friends coming on as partners to purchase the former Guanahani Hotel on the beach where some believe Columbus first set foot in the New World.
Although Kelly had virtually no experience in running a Caribbean dive resort, she took the “giant stride” and stepped in with confidence, determined to create a top-rate property of which she could be proud. She explains, “I was very naïve at the start of the project . . . what was I thinking of taking on the challenge of running a hotel, a restaurant and a dive operation? But it was that naïvety that made it possible.” Kelly wisely surrounded herself with experts, included her now-partner Gerhard, a South African gold and silver trader who came to “help with the books” as a friend of a shareholder. He is also a PADI-certified dive instructor and never left!
One of Bohio Dive Resort’s many assets is the lovely, pristine, white sand beach along which it is stretched. Elegantly shaded by casuarina pines, it offers guests the simple luxury of relaxing beside the jeweled colors of the sea and the chance to snorkel among a marine wonderland just steps away. Kelly explains, “The snorkeling in the natural bay in front of the resort is often as good as diving on the reef. You’ll see juvenile fish and critters in the rocky ledges, nurse sharks, rays and turtles who come in for a rest . . . guests spend hours sightseeing.”
Although off the beaten track, Grand Turk is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top diving destinations and Pillory Beach among the best diving beaches . . . both for good reason. Grand Turk’s amazing wall (the Grand Canyon of the Caribbean) is only 1,000 feet from the beach, with the best dive sites minutes away. With the western shoreline protected as a marine reserve, divers have access to rare black coral, giant manta rays, turtles, sharks and dolphins. Historical shipwrecks are close-by too.
One of Kelly’s initial goals was to offer “Caribbean diving/beach holidays with a difference,” and to complement the superb diving, she says, “We’re definitely not a ‘boot camp’. We try to be very flexible about schedules and divers’ needs. All you have to do is step out of your room onto the boat, where your kit is already loaded and ready to go. We are a certified PADI facility and have PADI instructors for all levels of divers.”
Not coincidentally, Bohio Resort’s most typical visitors are hard-core divers, primarily from North America, and many are repeat guests. They enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and clean, comfortable rooms (only 16) with private terrace ocean views  — along with the staff’s goal of “making your experience as happy and hassle free as possible.” At day’s end, guests are eager to join locals around the beach bar for a famous Green Flash cocktail or at the beachfront Guanahani Restaurant — known island-wide for its excellent and imaginative fare. Kelly explains, “Another priority when I arrived was to elevate the quality of the meals served here and make them interesting for our guests and Grand Turk residents, who have a limited selection of dining choices.”
Enter Executive Chef Jorika Mhende, a recent gift of Hurricane Ike (her previous employer has since closed). Kelly explains her blessing, “With years of experience cooking for African hunting camps and running her own restaurant and catering business, Jorika understands the challenges of maintaining top quality on a small island with limited resources and I love her can-do attitude! She just created a new menu which makes local food ‘smart’ . . . it’s made quite a splash on the island and our reputation draws tourists from the cruise ship port.” Every Thursday the restaurant hosts “A foreign á fare”; cuisines recently highlighted include Indian, Spanish, Greek, Italian and Thai. Dinners are complemented with an extensive wine list, cappuccinos and fine Cuban cigars to close.
Other ways to play at Bohio include sailing and kayaking, boat trips to nearby Gibbs Cay to hand-feed the stingrays, deep sea fishing trips, whale-watching excursions (during the winter months) or simply taking a bicycle and exploring Grand Turk’s fascinating blend of natural beauty and historical intrigue. There’s also a volleyball net on the beach, a lovely pool around which to sunbath and the popular sunset yoga classes, which, Kelly admits, often welcome as many men as women! Massages, manicures and pedicures can also be arranged at the local spa or in the comfort of your room.
When I visited the resort in July, 2009, Kelly and Gerhard had just returned from a well-deserved vacation off-island. They looked refreshed and so did the resort and its grounds. This was all the more amazing after I heard their personal Hurricane Ike story.
As most Turks & Caicos aficionados know, Category Five Hurricane Ike slammed into the Islands in early September 2008, close on the heels of water-logged Hurricane Hannah. What Hannah didn’t swamp in her rain deluge, Ike tried to blow away with 155 MPH winds. Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos bore the brunt of the storm, with many estimating that 80% of the properties on Grand Turk were damaged. Kelly and Gerhard woke up “the morning after” to find both roofs lifted from the guest suites buildings and the dive shop washed away, with many of the trees and bushes either uprooted or leaning precariously. (In fact, the only thing unaffected appears to have been the reef itself. Because the storm hit from due east, it was spared any damage.)
Kelly explains, “We had to make the decision to either pack-up and head back to the UK or rebuild.” Their determined spirit took over and Bohio was to “rise again.” Thanks to the efforts of a devoted team of Filipino builders, supportive shareholders, lots of “sweat equity” and even some loyal guests who came to volunteer in repair efforts, rebuilding began. Kelly recalls, “It took 22 men five days just to clear the debris from the resort. We had to do all the rebuilding with generators, as power to our area was not restored until November 28. It was a life-changing challenge that I’m not sure I want to face again in a hurry.”
However, by December 1, the first tourists arrived and Bohio and its staff were ready. The roof design on the guest building was improved, resulting in airy vaulted ceilings in the second floor rooms. The beach bar was rebuilt using downed power poles and christened “The Ike and Donkey” (the latter term referring to the island’s four-legged inhabitants, remnants of the once-thriving salt industry.)
There’s no doubt Bohio is back in business. Kelly reports solid bookings for late 2009/2010, as divers and holiday-makers look for a reasonably priced, intimate, friendly beachfront resort. It’s also becoming a popular place to have a wedding, with on-site wedding planners and spectacular crimson sunset backdrops on Pillory Beach.
Incidently, the name “Bohio” comes from the native Taino Indians’ word for “home.” Kelly and Gerhard have certainly earned the right to call it their own.

Grand Turk’s Bohio Dive Resort triumphantly rises after Hurricane Ike.

By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos By Claire Parrish

The Bohio Resort on Grand Turk sprawls along secluded Pillory Beach.

The Bohio Resort on Grand Turk sprawls along secluded Pillory Beach.

Perfectly positioned on a sinuous curve of pristine Pillory Beach, Grand Turk’s Bohio Dive Resort has long prided itself on offering “simple elegance in paradise.” Offering an unmatched combination of beautiful natural surroundings, friendly, personal service, superb diving, a variety of other activities and a gourmet restaurant and lively beach bar, the Bohio stands out as the only “all in one place” vacation option in the nation’s capital. However, as owner/managers Kelly Shanahan and Gerhard Hurst can attest, restoring the property from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ike just one short year ago has been a life-changing challenge.

After spending years working as an information technologist in London, Kelly Shanahan knew it was time for a career change. Self-described as a “mad keen diver,” the plan was to sell the house in the UK and buy a tiny dive operation, preferably some place suitably exotic. Her search for the perfect location took her to Grand Turk and through one of those quirks of fate, she bumped into another interested investor on the dive boat! By December 2005, it was a “done deal,” with several family members and friends coming on as partners to purchase the former Guanahani Hotel on the beach where some believe Columbus first set foot in the New World.

Although Kelly had virtually no experience in running a Caribbean dive resort, she took the “giant stride” and stepped in with confidence, determined to create a top-rate property of which she could be proud. She explains, “I was very naïve at the start of the project . . . what was I thinking of taking on the challenge of running a hotel, a restaurant and a dive operation? But it was that naïvety that made it possible.” Kelly wisely surrounded herself with experts, included her now-partner Gerhard, a South African gold and silver trader who came to “help with the books” as a friend of a shareholder. He is also a PADI-certified dive instructor and never left!

One of Bohio Dive Resort’s many assets is the lovely, pristine, white sand beach along which it is stretched. Elegantly shaded by casuarina pines, it offers guests the simple luxury of relaxing beside the jeweled colors of the sea and the chance to snorkel among a marine wonderland just steps away. Kelly explains, “The snorkeling in the natural bay in front of the resort is often as good as diving on the reef. You’ll see juvenile fish and critters in the rocky ledges, nurse sharks, rays and turtles who come in for a rest . . . guests spend hours sightseeing.”

Although off the beaten track, Grand Turk is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top diving destinations and Pillory Beach among the best diving beaches . . . both for good reason. Grand Turk’s amazing wall (the Grand Canyon of the Caribbean) is only 1,000 feet from the beach, with the best dive sites minutes away. With the western shoreline protected as a marine reserve, divers have access to rare black coral, giant manta rays, turtles, sharks and dolphins. Historical shipwrecks are close-by too.

One of Kelly’s initial goals was to offer “Caribbean diving/beach holidays with a difference,” and to complement the superb diving, she says, “We’re definitely not a ‘boot camp’. We try to be very flexible about schedules and divers’ needs. All you have to do is step out of your room onto the boat, where your kit is already loaded and ready to go. We are a certified PADI facility and have PADI instructors for all levels of divers.”

Not coincidentally, Bohio Resort’s most typical visitors are hard-core divers, primarily from North America, and many are repeat guests. They enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and clean, comfortable rooms (only 16) with private terrace ocean views  — along with the staff’s goal of “making your experience as happy and hassle free as possible.” At day’s end, guests are eager to join locals around the beach bar for a famous Green Flash cocktail or at the beachfront Guanahani Restaurant — known island-wide for its excellent and imaginative fare. Kelly explains, “Another priority when I arrived was to elevate the quality of the meals served here and make them interesting for our guests and Grand Turk residents, who have a limited selection of dining choices.”

Enter Executive Chef Jorika Mhende, a recent gift of Hurricane Ike (her previous employer has since closed). Kelly explains her blessing, “With years of experience cooking for African hunting camps and running her own restaurant and catering business, Jorika understands the challenges of maintaining top quality on a small island with limited resources and I love her can-do attitude! She just created a new menu which makes local food ‘smart’ . . . it’s made quite a splash on the island and our reputation draws tourists from the cruise ship port.” Every Thursday the restaurant hosts “A foreign á fare”; cuisines recently highlighted include Indian, Spanish, Greek, Italian and Thai. Dinners are complemented with an extensive wine list, cappuccinos and fine Cuban cigars to close.

The Bohio's oceanfront pool is the perfect place to relax.

The Bohio's oceanfront pool is the perfect place to relax.

Other ways to play at Bohio include sailing and kayaking, boat trips to nearby Gibbs Cay to hand-feed the stingrays, deep sea fishing trips, whale-watching excursions (during the winter months) or simply taking a bicycle and exploring Grand Turk’s fascinating blend of natural beauty and historical intrigue. There’s also a volleyball net on the beach, a lovely pool around which to sunbath and the popular sunset yoga classes, which, Kelly admits, often welcome as many men as women! Massages, manicures and pedicures can also be arranged at the local spa or in the comfort of your room.

When I visited the resort in July, 2009, Kelly and Gerhard had just returned from a well-deserved vacation off-island. They looked refreshed and so did the resort and its grounds. This was all the more amazing after I heard their personal Hurricane Ike story.

As most Turks & Caicos aficionados know, Category Five Hurricane Ike slammed into the Islands in early September 2008, close on the heels of water-logged Hurricane Hannah. What Hannah didn’t swamp in her rain deluge, Ike tried to blow away with 155 MPH winds. Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos bore the brunt of the storm, with many estimating that 80% of the properties on Grand Turk were damaged. Kelly and Gerhard woke up “the morning after” to find both roofs lifted from the guest suites buildings and the dive shop washed away, with many of the trees and bushes either uprooted or leaning precariously. (In fact, the only thing unaffected appears to have been the reef itself. Because the storm hit from due east, it was spared any damage.)

Kelly explains, “We had to make the decision to either pack-up and head back to the UK or rebuild.” Their determined spirit took over and Bohio was to “rise again.” Thanks to the efforts of a devoted team of Filipino builders, supportive shareholders, lots of “sweat equity” and even some loyal guests who came to volunteer in repair efforts, rebuilding began. Kelly recalls, “It took 22 men five days just to clear the debris from the resort. We had to do all the rebuilding with generators, as power to our area was not restored until November 28. It was a life-changing challenge that I’m not sure I want to face again in a hurry.”

However, by December 1, the first tourists arrived and Bohio and its staff were ready. The roof design on the guest building was improved, resulting in airy vaulted ceilings in the second floor rooms. The beach bar was rebuilt using downed power poles and christened “The Ike and Donkey” (the latter term referring to the island’s four-legged inhabitants, remnants of the once-thriving salt industry.)

There’s no doubt Bohio is back in business. Kelly reports solid bookings for late 2009/2010, as divers and holiday-makers look for a reasonably priced, intimate, friendly beachfront resort. It’s also becoming a popular place to have a wedding, with on-site wedding planners and spectacular crimson sunset backdrops on Pillory Beach.

Incidently, the name “Bohio” comes from the native Taino Indians’ word for “home.” Kelly and Gerhard have certainly earned the right to call it their own.

For more information or reservations, call 649 946 2135 or visit www.bohioresort.com.



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Photographer Marta Morton was enjoying another spectacular sunset when she spotted this lovely scene—a picture-perfect clump of Old Man Cacti and the pastel colours of what she later learned were crepuscular rays (see page 18). For more of Marta’s images, turn the pages of this issue and visit www.harbourclubvillas.com.

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