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The compact archipelago of Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory comprising around 40 cays and islands, but there are also nearly 300 smaller, uninhabited islets, and some of these make for scenic, tranquil day trips where visitors can enjoy pristine turquoise waters, a touch of solitude and exotic marine life and aquatic species. Located 464 miles south-east away from Bahamas; set among 170 square miles of tropical, coral-rich water, Turks & Caicos’ strident nautical heritage continues to infuse this charter-friendly region with an attractive mix of international influences.
However, with a resident population that barely exceeds 30,000, it remains a sparse and special place. Aside from the genteel clamour of well-to-do resorts springing up along Providenciale’s beach, it feels wonderfully unaffected by the rest of the world. Even the nominal capital, Grand Turk, is a case study in quiet colonial elegance. Turks & Caicos is certainly a less obvious charter destination than its famous neighbours, but for those in search of purist Caribbean yachting, it is the quintessential desert island venue.
Providenciales, or more commonly known as “Provo”, covers an area of 38 miles and is the most developed island in Turks and Caicos. Surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, Provo has been ranked Best Beach by Conde’ Nast magazine and by the World Travel Awards for several years running. Found on the western end of the island chain, Provo hosts stones engraved by shipwrecked sailors that can be found on the hilltop overlooking the now abandoned Marina Inn near Chalk Sound and Sapodilla Bay. If you like old ruins that are not too difficult to get to, visit two sites of plantation houses built by Loyalists, Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill. “The Hole” at Long Bay is a deep and wide Limestone chimney with a mysterious depth of salt water at the bottom.
Local legend purports that female pirate Anne Bonny camped out here in the 1720s, lending the original name – Pirate Cay. This 1,000 acre island now hosts the ultra luxurious and very private vacation hideaway Parrot Cay Resort and Spa, called by some the world’s most exclusive resort. Movie stars enjoy the solitude and anonymity. Beachfront homes have been built for the rich and famous including famous US actor Bruce Willis and Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards.
It is here that Christopher Columbus first made landfall on his initial voyage to the New World in 1492, and almost 500 years later, US astronaut John Glenn “discovered” Grand Turk himself, after he became the first American man to orbit the earth. Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, its historical heartbeat: Cockburn Town is the center piece of the island with a wonderful selection of historical buildings and a rustic charm that is unforgettable. But Grand Turk is the next paradise for divers: here is an outstanding protected coral reef, which drops to 8,000 feet and is close enough to shore for beach dives!
Many believe that Sleepy Salt Cay is the best kept secret in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This quaint island, a mere 2.5 square miles, is the ultimate get away from it all! The real charm of visiting Salt Cay is the overwhelming sense you will get of being transported in time. Centre of the Bermudian Salt Industry, from the late 1600’s, the island nurtures a lingering presence of the Salt Industry. From the proud olden wind mills that guard the mournful Salinas, to the stately White House which is still owned and preserved by descendants of the original Bermudian Salt Rakers, Salt Cay has an awesome story to share.
French Cay is easily accessible and makes for a great half of full day trip. Indeed this small island is fantastic for exploring and for learning a little bit of history. French Cay, though it is a quiet and serene wildlife sanctuary today, was a refuge and hiding place for many infamous pirates who would use the tiny and well-hidden cays as hideouts as they waited for Spanish galleons and treasure ships to attack! Fascinating marine underworld awaits divers for some very exclusive journeys.