Things to Do in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Where When How - Turks & Caicos Islands - January / February 2017 magazine cover.Where When How Turks & Caicos Islands January / February 2017

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A HOLIDAY?

Story By Sophie Newstead
Photos Provided By Our Advertisers

R&R: the official status of rest and recuperation, allowing a portion of unsupervised guilt-free time to switch off, check out and prep for recharge. It’s fair to say this is a universally agreed upon state, which every holidaymaker aims for, but what exactly this entails; that is, where you go and what you do once you’ve flashed that passport and stepped out of the airport, is widely subjective. One person may be seeking a holiday to find relief from everyday busyness, in which a ‘feet-up’ affair is their idea of paradise; the other may be on a path to live out lifelong ambitions, where adventurous pursuits comprise the break they longed for.

A photograph of deserted beach, Wild Cow Run on Middle Caicos, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.A totally deserted beach on Middle Caicos. Photo by Lisa Adara Photography.

Even if there is no sole objective, it’s down to mere personal preference whether easy-going activities, high-octane sports, something in between, or doing absolutely nothing is your unique joie de vivre. Everyone is unified in wanting to ‘take a break,’ but pinpointing exactly what it is that gives unwind to your time off, turns a holiday, into your holiday. On scouring the shorelines of Providenciales, taking into account that one man’s beach is another man’s ‘too much sand,’ we’ve rounded up three different types of vacation to help the discerning holidaymaker unwind at their pace, on their watch.

A photograph of Whale Watching in the Turks and Caicos Islands.January to March give Whale Watching a try. Photo by Philip Shearer, Big Blue Unlimited.

LOW-KEY LAXIN’

No one understands the happy marriage of warm tropical weather with laidback activities quite like the Caribbean. The boom of tourism in Providenciales in the 2000s, meant a world-class roster of relaxation facilities followed, and with it, a stellar selection of spa treatments, excursions and high-end restaurants.

If some spa R&R is high on the agenda, mobile massages are a great way to relax from the comfort of your own place. Whether mobile or in-spa, services include individual massages and packages, offering everything from Reflexology and deep tissue massages, to Swedish massages and hot stone therapy.

Should you want to venture offshore there are some definite perks to going water-bound for R&R. Luxury charters combine pampering on the water with cruising the coastline, with additional trips venturing further afield to places like French Cay and West Caicos. The day’s agenda and boat facilities are purpose-built for comfort and relaxation. Drinks and food are generally provided, and many charters can be tailored to your preference. Sunbathing champagne-in-hand on the deck? Wandering along a secluded beach? Exploring remote snorkelling spots? It’s up to you.

A photograph of jet skis, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Explore the south side of the islands on a jets tour. Photo provided by Caribbean Cruisin'

When it comes to land-based relaxation, Provo Golf Club is an ideal way to spend a leisurely afternoon. It has something for everyone: a round of 9-holes, 18-holes, a sit-down lunch on the veranda, or watching sports in the air-conditioned clubhouse. The tropical landscaping is superbly designed, interspersing lakes and fairways with well maintained greens.

By way of beachside sunbathing, there’s no shortage of powder soft sand and tropical waters here, you can practically reach a beach from any point within about 10 minutes. Grace Bay Beach is the seven-mile strip of sand lacing many of the island’s hotspots, and has been voted the world’s best on numerous occasions. For those wanting a more far-flung beach experience, select boat operators offer ‘secluded island drop-offs,’ which take you to a remote beach with nothing but two beach chairs, a cooler and a parasol, and leave you in peace until you’re ready to get picked up.

A photograph of luxury cruise to French Cay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Let Panoply plan your luxury cruise to secluded cays. Photo provided by Panoply Luxury Tours.

Other low-key activities, include shopping the duty-free and independent boutiques, tasting the native conch and lobster at local restaurants, booking a sunset glow-worm boat tour and, if you’re trip coincides with 18th February 2017, visiting the Valentine’s Day Cup in Middle Caicos. Should you want to take home something beautiful, natural and local, conch shells are available to purchase in different shapes, sizes and species, from select local shops and restaurants.

For the kids, stay dry while plunging under the surface in Caicos Tours’ Semi-Submersible Explorer, a great way for children to take a closer look at the coral and sea life, as well as getting the chance to meet Bella the mermaid.

A photograph of fishing, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Grand Slam will take you Deep Sea or Bottom Fishing. Photo provided by Grand Slam Charters.

HIGH-OCTANE

It’s fair to say the land/water ratio here is largely in favour of the ocean. So it comes as no surprise that the residents here are well-seasoned experts at making the most out of the blue stuff. Where there’s vast open water, there’s motorised capability, and where there are motors, there’s speed and inevitable adrenaline-fuelled things to do. Jet skiing, wakeboarding, diving, parasailing, fly boarding, you name it, TCI’s probably got it. Activities don’t need a motor to be high energy either; kiteboarding and sailing harness the TCI’s consistent wind that combined with the other sports, render TCI as one of the best watersport hubs in the Caribbean.

For the adrenaline-inclined, jet ski rentals are a great way to gain access to cays, remote beaches and waterways between Providenciales and North Caicos, areas that are inaccessible by conventional boats. Jet skis can be rented by the hour with operators often including pick up and drop offs in the Grace Bay area.

A photograph of snorkeling, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Kids Camps are fun and educational. Photo provided by SURFside Ocean Academy

Half or full day charters offer group watersports, and can include anything from wakeboarding behind a speed boat and water-skiing, to going high-speed on ringed inflatable known as ‘Tubing.’ Excursions can be customised to preference, with beach pick-ups regularly available.

Should you want to absorb coastline views at altitude, Parasailing works by towing two people at a time behind a speedboat in a harness connected to a parasail, at around 500 feet above the water. Operators can often be found along Grace Bay Beach.

A photograph of Pontoon boating, kayaking on Chalk Sound, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Drive over to Sapodilla Bay and take a Pontoon Cruise or kayak on Chalk Sound. Photo by Lisa Adara Photography.

Long Bay Beach is TCI’s kiteboarding mecca. For those who haven’t heard of the sport it works primarily by riding on a board whilst holding onto a kite, using the wind for propulsion. You don’t have to be strong, of a certain age or have any experience. The consistent trade winds and miles of shallow water, means learning and advancing skills are both accessible and enjoyable. A number of operators located on Long Bay Beach offer lessons for beginners, and excursions to secluded kite spots for more experienced boarders.

Fancy a day of deep-sea fishing? Catch some of the surrounding water’s most powerful fish, including marlins, tuna and mahi-mahi, aboard a vessel purpose-built for some serious hook and reelin’. Food and drink is typically included, and charters can be customised, with options to fillet and even cook what you catch at the end of the day.

A photograph of Parasailing on Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Enjoy the view with Key to the Sea Parasail. Photo provided by Key to the Sea.

A LITTLE SOMETHING IN BETWEEN

Sometimes too much of one thing just won’t do. If you’re looking for something in between low-key and high-octane, there are plenty of activities for the discerning middle-of-the-roader.

Approximately two-thirds of the Caicos Banks are too shallow for conventional boats, comprising sandbanks, mudflats and interspersed cays. Therefore the best ways to explore such areas are by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, fins, or snorkel, either with your own party or on an eco-tour. Coral Gardens and Smith’s Reef pose some fantastic beachside snorkel spots on the island, with as little as five metres between the reef and the shoreline, so you can sunbathe and snorkel simultaneously. Common sightings include turtles, eagle rays and reef fish, spanning patterned Groupers and colourful Parrotfish. Should you want to go further out to sea to snorkel, many operators offer just this, with select operators offering the latest craze ‘Snuba,’ which allows you to explore deeper than snorkelling, but without committing to depths of scuba diving. For a post-snorkel sundowner, beachside restaurants dotted along Grace Bay Beach are perfect for a touch of frozen-margarita-inclined sunset watching.

A photograph of Land Tour, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Hit all the hot spots, take a tour of Providenciales. Photo provided by Turks and Caicos Safari Tours.

TCI’s nature reserves and national parks, along with their resident mangrove communities and native wildlife are beautiful, and Chalk Sound National Park is no exception. Here, a natural lagoon intersperses hundreds of rocky islands with fluorescent blue water, making a great area to explore by kayak or paddleboat. Rentals are available by the hour.

There are more ways than one to explore the coast onshore, and horseback riding offers a novel alternative to perusing the beaches. Choose to ride on the beach, in the shallows, on a guided tour, or privately (for the more experienced riders).

There are a multitude of reasons why TCI attracts visitors worldwide, but there are three notable breadwinners that keep its world-class flame from burning out. One; is Grace Bay Beach, voted on multiple times as the best in the world. Two, are the dive sites, circumnavigating the staggering 7,000ft underwater wall surrounding the TCI. Lastly, is the North Atlantic Humpback Whale migration, marking a spectacle that many islanders regard as the highlight of their whole year.

A photograph of Turks Head Brewery Tour, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Take a Turks Head Brewery Tour and Tasting. Photo by Lisa Adara Photography.

The divide between the Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands is marked by a 22-mile water passage, that from January to April, acts as an oceanic highway for The North Atlantic Humpback Whale; one of the world’s largest mammals. Catching a glimpse of these extraordinary animals while on migration to The Silverbanks off Dominican Republic, is an opportunity to bear witness to one of nature’s most spectacular events, and is an absolute must-see if you’re in the region at this time. There are multiple ways to watch these incredible creatures in action, from private charters to dive trips and snorkel trips (see page 48 for our feature on whale watching.)

Deep water surrounds our entire geographical coordinates, and what characterises this extensive underwater world is a 7,000ft vertical wall skirting the TCI’s parameters. The wall reaches the same depth as the Grand Canyon that when envisioned under water, conjures a landscape so dramatic that shallow and deep marine life are brought into the same scope; making for world-class diving. Dive operators on the island offer certification for beginners, as well as an advanced certification for already-qualified divers, and an extensive range of excursions.

A photograph of Semi-Submarine Tour of Smiths Reef, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Take the Undersea Explorer Semi-submarine Tour over Smiths Reef. Perhaps sea Lynnsea the Mermaid. Photo provided by Caicos Tours.

THE LAST WORD

So what’s your idea of a holiday? Low-key relaxing, high-octane activities, a little something in between, a little of everything? One man’s beach really is another man’s too much sand, so with so many ideas on how to unwind, make sure you’re clear on yours. R&R can only truly be reached… when you personalise your paradise, through the right activities, enjoyed at your own pace.

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