Turks and Caicos Islands are an Island Bazaar
and Caicos Islands lie just beneath the Bahamas. Turks and Caicos
are made of eight islands, with 40 small cays dispersed throughout.
There are two main island groups that lie separated by the Turks
Island Passage. You have West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos
and Grand Caicos, all to the west of the passage, and the historic
Turk group with Grand Turk and Salt Cay to the east of the passage.
If you once wanted to be a marine biologist this is the place for
you! Turks is named after the Turks head cactus plant prominent
on Grand Turks. This is a great indicator of the islands tendency
towards a unique and diverse ecological land. The islands are made
of coral rock and limestone banks teeming with marine life. Bivalves,
sea cucumbers, sea urchins, mollusk, lobsters, and conch abound
within the banks. The lobster and conch are huge exports for the
Americans can look towards the islands for an education in American
history. Grand Turk is arguably the island where Columbus 1st touched
down. Even though it might be hard to uncover one of Columbus
accessories, archaeologists have been tremendously successful at
uncovering remains and revelries of the Lucayans, the first inhabitants
of Grand Turk back some 1,200 years ago. A mother-of pearl
pendant, conch shell tools, shell beads and human bones, and most
importantly, a wooden paddle dating from A.D. 1100 have been discovered
in the northwest corner of the island. The Turks and Caicos National
Museum is a cozy home for these important artifacts. You can visit
East Caicos to study the cave petroglyphs of the Lucayans.
The island thrived in the 17th century as the salt trade boomed.
The Salinas, or salt ponds, strewn across the islands of Grand Turk,
South Caicos, and Salt Cay, were a perfect spot for slave laborers,
managed by Bermudan settlers, to drudge feverously for salt. The
Bermudan settlers made sure of that.
Soon, the salt from Turks & Caicos was being used generously
in America. George Washington used it to preserve food for the troops
of the Revolutionary War. Fishing fleets of American and Canada
were salting down their catches with it.
The salt industry in Turks and Caicos failed, ultimately. In the
1920s and 30s several factors came in to play to dramatically
thwart the export efforts of the salt makers, including mismanagement,
competition, costs, and very shallow harbors. By 1964 the salt industry
was shut down and the Salinas abandoned. Now, visitors to the Salinas
are likely to be thrilled by the presence of horses and donkeys
running wild across the sands. The donkeys are family to their 17th
century ancestors use for hauling salt loads to the ships in the
harbor. There is even a donkey sanctuary on the north shore.
Despite the death of the salt industry, Turks & Caicos has
managed to stay on the forefront of the exporting business. The
queen conch is one of the Turks & Caicos most stable exports.
The Caicos Conch Farm is working towards exporting a million conchs
a year, of the nearly four million supply on the islands. The conch
remains a Caribbean diet staple.
Turks & Caicos is a diving paradise that lures divers back
time and time again. The diving is extremely convenient. Immediately
off the shores of Grand Turks there is a 7 mile long wall that plunges
more than 7,000 feet without hesitation. This means that most of
Grand Turks significant diving is 10-15 minutes from the shoreline,
making it extremely easy for tour operators to get visitors to where
they need to be, quickly. You can dive to the H.M.S. British 18th
century warship off of Salt Cay.
Bob Payne, travel writer for Islands magazine, says, During
the time I spent underwater, I experienced 200-foot visibility,
which in diving terms is almost infinity, and saw nearly undisturbed
coral gardens that were teeming with marine life.
Adventure.coms outfitter in the Turks and Caicos, offers
fantastic dive trips, with an experienced staff, and stays at some
delightful small hotels and inns.
are many opportunities to view wildlife around Turks & Caicos.
January through March is a likely time to see migrating humpback
whales around the beaches of Salt Cay. Off of the largest island,
Grand Caicos, in the archipelago of Turks & Caicos, you can
also view the migrating whales on their way to breed. Grand Caicos
is a fantastic area to bird watch. Within the quiet cays, youll
have a chance to spot the frigate bird, sooty and roseate terns,
Audubons shearwater, and brown noddy. Look towards the waters
once again to encounter four species of sea turtles. The hawksbill,
green, loggerhead, and leatherback inhabit the waters and the beaches.
In addition, and thankfully, bottlenose dolphins are prevalent in
the blue waters near Grand Caicos. You can also snorkel with and
hand feed stingrays on Grand Turks, or dive for conch in anticipation
of your lunch conch salad. Little Water Cay is a popular
day trip destination for the viewing of the rock iguana species.
Turks and Caicos boasts the largest population of iguanas in the
world, at approximately 50,000.
In the garden center of the country, North Caicos,
you can visit the East Caicos Nature Reserve, which is one of the
largest protected areas in the Caribbean. A wilderness of
tidal sloughs, mangroves, mudflats, and saline ponds, this important
wetland zone links the dry uplands of the island with the turquoise
banks. Submerged banks, creeks, and lagoons provide critical nursery
habitat for flamingos, lobsters, conchs, turtles, and other marine
species, describes National Geographic. The reserve also works
to protect the West Indian whistling duck and frigate birds.
arent there any parties in Turks & Caicos, you might ask?
Well, theres the Annual Conch Carnival. Coming up in June,
the Conch Carnival on Grand Turk offers a variety of unique activities,
such as the Conch Cook-off, and Night Dives with Beach Bonfires.
Dale Barker of Oasis Divers says "The Iron Divemaster competition
is the highlight of the Grand Turk Conch Carnival. Both local divemasters
and guest compete in a variety of events to prove who is The Iron
Divemaster. The most exciting event is the tank lifting, where the
winner last year held 13 scuba tanks at one time. That's one strong
divemaster. We also have equipment set up, kayak racing and much
more. Another fun event is the block party. Everyone gets a chance
to sample local food favorites and listen to some great local music.
We can call it an Island Bazaar. Turks and Caicos, with its many,
many islands, and its plethora of biological components, there are
so many choices for the curious traveler in the Turk & Caicos
Islands. Which island will you choose? For additional information
and more details on where to go and what to do, search through our Turks
& Caicos destination page, where you can explore the opportunities
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