From as far back as 1917, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden had an eye for the appealing sun and sand, and he suggested that Canada should annex the Turks and Caicos Islands which would provide a lovely winter retreat indeed. Accordingly, over the years, several politicians from various parties have vainly tried to bring this proposal about, and the province of Nova Scotia went so far as to formally invite the Turks and Caicos to join the province should the islands ever become part of Canada. Alas, this scenario has not taken place. Once governed by the Bahamas, the islands are now part of the
Bahamian archipelago but self-governed today, although falling under the protection of Great Britain.
Directly north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the islands lie at the crossroads of the Caribbean and the Americas. The much-desired area and archipelagos are comprised of 40 low-lying and mostly undeveloped white powdery beaches with
excellent diving, decent
accommodations and gourmet
restaurants. Most of the diving takes place off of the Turks, where wall dives are rated exceptional, and along the West Caicos and Provo.
Sport fishing is also a big draw, and the mangrove salt flats offer a prime habitat for bonefish.
There are 362 km (224 miles) of beautiful beaches here, some stretches of soft white sand running surprising lengths while others are much smaller and tucked away into quiet coves.
Providenciales or Provo is the tourism hub that features Grace Bay with its 19 km (12 mile) stretch of soft sand. Here, bird watchers armed with binoculars exult in acres of inland lakes frequented by white herons and pink flamingos.
Nearby North Caicos is awarded the most rainfall, making it much greener with tall trees and extremely lush vegetation. The southern part of North Caicos is swampy, with broad estuaries that are home to a vast colony of West Indian flamingoes.
On Middle Caicos, a local guide will lead you to a settlement called
Conch Bar where a labyrinth of caves house limestone formations and resident bat populations that will trouble your sleep.
Uninhabited West Caicos and East Caicos are superbly lined with virginal beaches accessible by boat, and South Caicos was once a salt-producing island. Today, it has a fishing port and a yachting centre, along with miles of deserted beaches.
Although no longer the financial and business hub of the island nation, having lost that position to Provo, nonetheless, the capital and centre of government remains east of the Columbus Passage on
Grand Turk, where visitors can tour several restored churches and the Turks and Caicos National Museum. From January to March, tourists attend to nearby Salt Cay to watch mighty humpback whales on their annual migration to the Silver Banks off Hispaniola.
Unfortunately, Grand Turk suffered a devastating direct hit by nasty
Hurricane Ike in September, 2008, which left 95% of the island's structures damaged or destroyed, including some of the island's most historic properties. On the mend, many of the island's lodgings are open for business, and the surrounding
coral reef and undersea "Wall" remain in tip-top shape, good news for divers and snorkelers who gather from around the globe to explore Grand Turk's spectacular marine waters.
Governor's Beach is great for swimming and watching the massive cruise ships that steam in over the horizon to dock like floating cities at the
Grand Turk Cruise Center.
1. British Airways fly from Gatwick via Nassau in the Bahamas to Providenciales (PLS). Connections are also available via Miami and New York with American Airlines and via Jamaica with Air Jamaica Express. There are two other
local airports: Grand Turk (GDT) and South Caicos (XSC).
4. Nightlife: discos, nightclubs, dinner/dances, live music, casino and festivals throughout the year.
Courtesy of Caribbean Tourism Organization
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.