Built on Salt: Turks and Caicos’ remarkable forgotten history

30th May 2018 3:29 pm

When you think of the TCI, you’re probably imagining the soft powder-white sands and blue beaches, or maybe some heart-thumping action adventure. However, there’s a rich history behind TCI tourism, and the things to do on Turks and Caicos extend far past the beaches, too. Today, Big Blue Collective takes a walk through time with you, exploring the area’s unique history- and its impact on the islands today.

Built on Salt: The ‘white gold’ of TCI tourism

Wherever you roam on the islands, especially on the less inhabited ones, you’ll spot the remnants of the salt industry. Whether it’s the salinas of Grand Turk, or an in-island excursion through the salt-enriched history of South Caicos, you can’t miss the impact that the European salt boom left on the TCI. Take any Turks and Caicos tour, and you’re bound to spot the shallow seawater ‘pools’, man-made to help the water evaporate quickly and leave the precious salt behind. There’s even evidence of this in prehistory, when the original TCI natives- the Taino- would travel to the area on salt gathering expeditions. However, as the Bermudas rose in prominence in the 17th century, so did the area’s salt industry, under the watchful eye of European settlers. In the most advanced areas, you’ll spot gates, pumps, split levels and more, all designed to help the early settlers extract the ‘white gold’ from the local sea. If you’re looking for things to do in the Turks and Caicos, let us help you craft a salt tour to explore all these fantastic relics, and help you learn more about this unique industry and the people who staffed it.

A legacy of…well…guano

Alongside salt, the TCI once had a short-lived but earnest export industry in bat guano, or ‘cave earth’. Rising to prominence in the late 1800’s, several of the large caves of East Caicos, as well as the more famous Conch Bar Cave and Indian Cave of Middle Caicos, were the site of guano ‘mining’. This product was then shipped to the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean to bolster soil fertility. Despite no longer being the most prominent of the islands, you’ll spot the remnants of a somewhat sophisticated rail system on East Caicos which was tied to this unique method of making money. The wild donkeys you will spot on your in-island excursion can also thank the industry for their ancestors, who would assist miners in pulling the rail carts.

Plantation Fever

Salt wasn’t the only commodity the early settlers wanted the TCI to give them, though. The larger islands, with thicker vegetation, were seen as a great source for the cotton and sisal industries. Many Turks and Caicos tours will take you to the still-famous sites to explore them for yourself. From ruins which have literally been flattened, to plantation houses that almost look like you could move in today until you look closely, there’s a rich history for you to explore- Provo, North Caicos and Middle Caicos all have fantastic sites to visit. While Provo may well be the most urban island in modern TCI tourism, in ironic history the ‘plantation islands’ were never as people-heavy as the salt producing islands.

The plantation ruins on some of the more isolated islands are also accessible through Big Blue Collective Eco-tours, too.

Settler’s remnants

Of course, many of the brave souls who ventured to the islands faced hard lives of work and struggle- TCI tourism wasn’t really a thing back in this era, after all! As they settled on the islands, they tried to add a touch of home to the wilds surrounding them. Be it the quaint British Bermudian Colonial architecture of Grand Turk and the other ‘salt’ islands, the proud lighthouse still protecting the water, or the small graveyards that litter areas of each island, the long history of settlers to this area will be discovered. In some areas, the land surrounding these graveyards was also used to quarantine the sick and save the healthy from the water-borne diseases the settlers couldn’t yet understand. Explore the stories of these buildings– and the people who once called them home- with our in-island tours and excursions.

The mists of prehistory

If you’re looking for things to do in Turks and Caicos, you may be hoping to take your historical revue even further back in history, to the original and somewhat mysterious inhabitants of this Caribbean paradise. There are a few sites in the islands where evidence of the Taino natives who once inhabited the chain can be found, but they are limited and not developed to a ‘tourism’ scale. However, they make an excellent in-island excursion to add to Big Blue Collective’s many eco-tour packages, so if you have a particular interest in this are do be sure to speak to us.

Modern influences

While by far the most of the modern interest in the Turks and Caicos was driven by TCI tourism, from action-adventure water-and-wind sports to indulgent beach holidays at Provo’s many fantastic resorts, there’s still some modern influences at play on the island. You can explore both South Caicos and Grand Turk for U.S Naval and Coastguards stations, abandoned now for several decades. While not perhaps part of the standard Turks and Caicos tours, these abandoned and somewhat eerie facilities make a perfect exploration point for spelunkers, thrill-seekers and those who love the beauty of these old buildings, as well as those interested in the U.S military history in the area.

 

If you’re looking for exciting things to do in the Turks and Caicos, be sure to add a little history to the mix- you’ll be captivated and fascinated by the many different stories you can uncover.


Filed under: History

Your ultimate guide to enjoying Cockburn Town

25th May 2018 10:16 am

Did you know that Grand Turk houses the capital of the TCI territory, Cockburn Town? Anyone visiting Turks and Caicos would be forgiven if they’d formed the opinion that Provo was the capital of the territory- it is indeed one of the most urban and populated islands in the chain- but the quaint charms of Cockburn Town are sure to win your heart once you visit. Today Big Blue Collective clues you in to all her secrets, to make the experience all the more fun.

Why should I visit Cockburn Town?

Grand Turk is actually the largest, although not the most populated, island in the chain, lying only 90 minutes by air from Miami. Cockburn town is a draw for anyone visiting Turks and Caicos for its stunning Bermudian architecture dating from the 1700s and 1800s. Imagine a landscape of narrow streets, quaint wrought iron street lamps and beautiful facades to the buildings. It’s been the seat of the TCI government since 1766, and was founded by those in the salt trade who made their base here. Local legend claims Cockburn Town occupies the exact spot where Juan Ponce de Leon first landed on the island. Slow paced, relaxed and gorgeous, the whole Grand Turk Island is a must-see for any visitor. Make a day trip to the area with a flight or ferry ride, and spend a fun-filled day exploring her quaint alleys and beautiful beaches for yourself.

 

As with all the islands in the TCI, Cockburn Town and Grand Turk have a warm, beach-friendly climate that’s hot all year around and sees very little rainfall, so you’re guaranteed powder-soft white beaches, crystal-clear waters and the occasional trade wind to help you cool off.

What do I need to know before I visit Grand Turk?

Cockburn Town makes an ideal visit from the Americas, speaking English as the predominant local language and using the US dollar as her currency despite being part of the British Overseas territories. There is a small airport on the island, although most international flights typically head into Provo’s international airport for convenience.

 

If you’re considering a private charter to visit the island, be aware the only convenient anchorage for Cockburn Town is Hawk’s Nest Anchorage as the town sits smack-bang in the middle of the island. It’s advised that you only enter here in good light, as the same reefs which lend the ocean here her idiosyncratic beauty can be a headache otherwise.

Cockburn Town attractions you can’t miss

While the entire area makes a beautiful, restful exploration for visitors, there’s a few sights you should make sure to take in. Here’s our list of Cockburn Town’s top attractions.

The National Museum

Swing by this colonial-era mansion on Front Street, supposedly built from the scraps of shipwrecks in the area, to learn more about the unique history of man’s visits to the Turks and Caicos. There’s even a collection of shipwrecks, including the 1505 ‘Molasses Reef Wreck’, the oldest known shipwreck in the Americas. You can also take a walk through the ‘Message in a Bottle’ collection, spanning 4 decades of messages that have washed up on the island. Learn about everything from the salt and slave trades to the TCI’s part in the Space Race before taking a stroll through her beautiful gardens to round out the trip.

The Prison

The formidable TCI prison on Pond Street dates from the early 1800’s, operating right through to the last decade of the 20th century. Her bell tower makes for an iconic photographic shot for visitors, while a tour of the facilities offers a sobering look into the history of misbehaviour in the area. Don’t forget to round the trip off with a visit to the monument marking the first spot that Christopher Columbus set foot on the island on April 12, 1492!

Other sights

Be sure to visit the iconic Lighthouse which has been guarding the town for centuries, as well as the historic homes of Duke Street such as Freeman House and the Turk’s Head inn. There’s also the Caicos Conch Farm for you to explore.

Other places to visit on Grand Turk

With tons of sunshine and hot temperatures throughout the year with little rainfall, you’ll probably want to schedule a little time to cool off at nearby Governor’s beach when you visit the Turks and Caicos. It’s a great spot for snorkeling as well as sunbathing, and the water is calm and friendly for sunbathing. The beautiful coral reefs just offshore are perfect for exploration! There’s also Gibb’s Cay to explore, and another shining coral reef. Snorkelers will find much to enjoy, and you can even meet the local stingray population up close and personal!

Do remember that the entire Turks and Caicos territories are a haven for those who love water sports. From diving, snorkelling and swimming right through to stand-up paddleboarding, kitesurfing and kayaking, there’s tons to keep your adrenaline pumping. There’s even the chance to spot whales and dolphins at play in the turquoise waters from the deck of a private charter or dive tour. Experience one of the friendliest, calmest and spectacularly beautiful areas of the Caribbean, and head off the beaten track in the TCI.

 

Cockburn Town is just one of the spectacular destinations waiting for you when you visit the Turks and Caicos. Speak to Big Blue Collective today to secure yourself your dream Caribbean experience, and tailor every aspect of the trip to suit you.


Filed under: Activities, Tourism

5 must-see animals of the Turks and Caicos

21st May 2018 10:16 am

Whether you’re on the hunt for whale watching in the Turks and Caicos, keen to hop on a dolphin tour, want to know what exciting things to see and do there are in TCI, or are just fascinated by the wildlife of the unique Turks and Caicos territory, you’re in the right place! Today, Big Blue Collective walks you through 5 spectacular animals you can visit during your stay, and the best ways to enjoy them with us.

Whale and dolphin watching in beautiful seas

Where else could you have a front row ticket to the annual humpback whale migration, hassle free? These towering mammals come to the warmer, safe waters near TCI to give birth, mate and cavort with their young, allowing visitors an unparalleled chance to spot them at play. The channel between the Turks islands and the Caicos islands naturally funnels these magnificent beasts through the area, making a sighting close to guaranteed. This is the undoubted highlight of the Turks and Caicos wildlife calendar, and one of the things to see and do on Turks and Caicos that no one can miss. The whaling season opens in November, with most early sightings happening in late December and peeking through the next 3 months. Whale watching in the Turks and Caicos is immensely rewarding- every year we see guests mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty of these unique mammals.

 

Whale watching in the Turks and Caicos isn’t the only spectacle you can expect, though. We also offer our dolphin tours, allowing you to meet one of the most playful members of the wildlife of the TCI up close and personal. Be entertained by the antics of the friendly local pods, and take home memories you will treasure forever. Our dolphin tours allow you to learn more about these truly unique animals, the local legends and the famous ‘faces’ you’ll find in the pods.

Glow in the dark with glow worms

One of the very-best kept secrets of the islands, the nearby waters are home to glittering swarms of glow worms. This is a truly unique way to experience the wildlife of TCI, and a must on any list of things to see and do on the Turks and Caicos. Properly known as Odontosyllis Enopla, these tiny worms typically put on their most spectacular display 3-6 days after a full moon. The best spots to enjoy the show do vary, so be sure to check with us for where they are showing off at the time of your trip. Why not opt for a private charter- or add the trip to a personally-crafted dive charter itinerary- to make something truly special of the occasion and see these little critters up close? It’s a mesmerising and fascinating sight, and the perfect touch for any romantic trip to the islands.

Head to the Middle Caicos Crab Festival

Why not add a little spice to your life? The iconic Middle Caicos Crab festival is one of the most exciting things to see and do on Turks and Caicos, and it typically hits the sands at the end of June every year. Celebrate the community and culture of Middle Caicos [and its twinned North Caicos] with delectable cooking, while you learn more about the cultural heritage of crab catching, the local dishes and the people who shape them. The land crabs which call this area home emerge from deep burrows when the limited spring rains hit, typically from the end of May. The empty beaches of Middle Caicos call to them, so the area is usually their island of choice. The Great Blue land crab is the most common crab species in the Turks and Caicos, hatching in something of an ‘invasion’ their numbers are so high. Inhabitants face a few weeks of damaged gardens and upended pot plants when the crab season peaks!

 

Of course, delectable eating isn’t all the festival offers. Have fun in the water, sip drinks on the beach, and enjoy the local entertainment while soaking in the vibe around you. Come say hi to the Big Blue Collective team while you’re there- we’re always around to help celebrate, entertain and keep the crowd safe.

Be entranced by Iguana Island

The Turks and Caicos rock iguana is a native of the area, and you’ll find a huge population on the tiny island of Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island. Lying only a short distance from Provo, a visit can easily be incorporated into a quick day trip or even a kayaking water tour of the area. You’ll also have a chance to explore the saline wetlands of the island, and get up close and personal with the unique wildlife of TCI.

Swim with stingrays

The pristine, uninhabited shores of Gibbs Cay hide a snorkeler’s paradise, complete with a friendly and gentle local population of stingrays. While the spectacular colours of the coral reef fish swirl around you, you’ll have a chance to see these beautiful animals up close in the shallow water of the area. These fascinating creatures can sometimes be seen in the sand along the many beautiful Turks and Caicos beaches, or visible in the crystal-clear waters of the TCI, but will typically flee if you try to come too close. While the population surrounding Gibbs Cay may be the most people-friendly in the islands, these fascinating creatures can be found throughout the island waters, and make a spectacular addition to your dive charter adventure, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled so you get your bragging rights!

 

No matter what you want from your trip, we highly recommended availing yourself of one of our spectacular dive charters. Whether you opt to take one of our dolphin tours, head out specifically for whale watching in the Turks and Caicos territory, or want to combine everything into a longer dive package that takes in the many spectacular walls, holes and reefs in the area, our guaranteed small diving groups offer you an unparalleled chance to get to know the marine wildlife of the TCI, under the careful eye of our experienced instructors and with the full knowledge of our dedicated dive team helping you create the best dive experience moment by moment.

 

The list of things to see and do on Turks and Caicos grows and grows, and the spectacular diversity of marine and land wildlife the island chain boasts is a huge part of that. Let Big Blue Collective help you craft the perfect wildlife adventure today!


Filed under: Tourism

Behind the scenes secrets of Turks and Caicos’ top beaches

9th May 2018 7:10 am

One of the biggest draws for the beautiful shores of the TCI is how off-the-beaten-track much of the island archipelago is for a Caribbean island chain. It’s perfectly possible for you to stand on one of the beautiful beaches that litter the islands’ shores and be the only person in sight- where else in the ever-popular Caribbean can you say the same? Today Big Blue Collective is spilling the secrets of the very best beaches of the Turks and Caicos- and why you absolutely have to visit them for yourself.

  1. Grace Bay Beach

No list of the best beaches of the Turks and Caicos would be complete without adding Grace Bay Beach- often ranked as the world’s best beach. It’s also one of Big Blue Collective’s home beaches, and the ultimate spot to practice kitesurfing in the Turks and Caicos- you can’t say you’ve kitesurfed until you’ve done it here. Grace Bay is convenient to access from almost all of Providenciales’ guest accommodation, as most of the area’s resorts cluster around its spectacular sights. It’s the epitome of Caribbean perfection- soft white sand and deep blue sea. Even better? It’s one of the best spots for accomplished kitesurfers to pit their skills against the wind, partly due to the surrounding reef. It’s also easy to access other top beaches of the Turks and Caicos from Grace Bay, as well as allowing you to hop back into town for a tasty lunch, or to shop the sights. Be sure to start any trip to Provo with a visit to this breathtaking beach.

2. Mudjin Harbour

Speaking of breathtaking, Mudjin Harbour simply has to make the list too. Cradled by towering limestone cliffs, with aching white sand to tempt you, this site is truly spectacular. Dragon Cay lies in the distance, while you have easy access to the spectacular caves of Middle Caicos to explore. Don’t miss out on Conch Bar Caves!

 

Mudjin Harbour started life as ‘Bermudian Harbour’, reminding sailors of sights from the Bermudas, but was quickly adopted by the locals and morphed to its current name. This whole area is beautiful for a day trip, offering unparalleled wildlife and exquisite scenery. Why not pair it up with a private charter in one of our top-of-the-line powerboat fleet? Whether a gentle cruise or major exploration is the theme of the day, nothing screams ‘relaxation’ and ‘luxury’ like some time spent on the waves. We’ll make sure you’re fully kitted out with snorkel gear, and you can opt to take a guide along too- as well as all the watersport equipment your heart could desire. Kitesurfing more your thing? We offer a variety of ‘surfaris’ to the other TCI islands, allowing you to break away from the ‘Provo is the only kitesurfing island’ mentality and explore the beauty of the surrounding area fully.

3. North Bay Beach

North Bay beach is one of the forgotten beaches of the Turks and Caicos, despite being a perfect location for snorkeling and stand up paddleboarding. Nestling gently into the sides of Salt Cay, the dearth of visitors is one of its major attractions, leaving you alone to explore her smaller reefs for yourself without anyone else disturbing you. Where else in the Caribbean could you experience such beauty in an air of quiet and peace? You can make a trip to Salt Cay for the day from nearby Provo, but there’s nothing quite like arriving on your very own charter boat for a day of play and relaxation, so why not consider combining a trip to forgotten North Bay Beach with a charter package?

4. Long Bay Beach

When it comes to the beaches of the Turks and Caicos, nowhere is more synonymous with the sport of kite surfing then Long Bay Beach, also on Provo. Powerful easterly trade winds make the conditions just perfect to indulge in this exciting sport, and it’s a gentler beach for kitesurfing in the Turks and Caicos than many others, making it more accommodating for novice kitesurfers. If you’re more of the curious type, there’s also the wreck of the La Famille Express to explore. This freighter hit difficulties in the Hurricane season of 2004, leaving her abandoned hulk for you to explore. She’s a common stop for island hoppers and private cruises, too. If you want to try something a little different, this is also a popular spot for horseback rides in the TCI.

5. Sapodilla Bay Beach

Another of the smaller beaches in TCI, Sapodilla Bay offers calm, placid waters that may fool eager kitesurfers into ignoring it- however, it provides the perfect finish to an exploration of Chalk Sound and a great way to celebrate the finish of a successful run. Chalk Sound can be tricky to launch in, but once you’re going you find yourself surrounded by nature’s most spectacular vistas, flying over turquoise water. Explore the small rocky islands of the area, and round the trip off with some time on calm and exquisite Sapodilla Bay beach. The curious can venture up to Sapodilla Hill, with its ancient inscriptions, too, and explore a tiny piece of the TCI before the salt trade came, too.

No matter where you venture in the chain, the beaches of the Turks and Caicos are truly magnificent. Offering the classic combination of soft white sand and aching blue sea, you’re spoilt for choice in this staggeringly beautiful locale. Spice up the trip with some exciting kitesurfing to get your blood pumping, or make use of Big Blue Collective’s top-end charter fleet to explore every nook and cranny of this special corner of the world.


Filed under: Beaches