Can you visit the Turks and Caicos as a budget traveller?

29th December 2018 11:56 am

There’s a prevailing idea that the entire Caribbean is only a playground for the rich- but nothing could be further from the truth. Today, the Big Blue Collective will be showing you that the Turks and Caicos is an excellent travel destination for everyone, including budget travellers, and how to make the most of a budget-conscious holiday in the TCI.

Know your seasons

The Turks and Caicos, like all popular holiday destinations, has peak and off-peak seasons. This doesn’t have as much to do with the weather-which is pretty glorious all year long, although the summer season sees a little extra rain here and there- as it does with the ebb and flow of visitors to the island. Naturally, prices are at their lowest during the off-peak season, and this is the perfect time for the budget-conscious traveller to swoop in and enjoy. You will probably want to eye the main islands of Provo and Grand Turk for best results, as the smaller islands are less populated and so have less scope for you to sniff out a great deal. That’s no hardship, though, as these vibrant islands have so much to offer everyone.

In the TCI, the off-peak season is sometimes referred to as the ‘hurricane’ season, as it’s the time of year they are most likely to occur. However, the Turks and Caicos are more sheltered than other islands, and hurricanes (while possible) occur only rarely and seldom without any warning. Very rarely, you may have to have some flexibility on your travel dates, but these interruptions tend to come with plenty of warning. The general weather at the off-peak time of year (the summer and autumn seasons) is gorgeously hot, more so even then during peak season.

Scoring a great deal from your airline

As the TCI is an island destination, flights can take up a decent portion of your overall budget, so it’s always a good idea to start looking for deals here. The Turks and Caicos are serviced by a range of airports from the US mainland so it’s pretty easy for some careful searching to net you a great deal on travel. Flights to the TCI have increased in recent years, which has generated a pleasant drop in prices with the extra availability, and you shouldn’t be afraid to consider flying from a smaller airport (we recommend Fort Lauderdale) rather than a larger one, as this will often save costs too.

Sign up to a few of the best-known booking sites and even directly with your favourite airlines, so you’ll always be poised to snag a super deal the moment it flashes through your inbox. Subscribers typically get first dibs on the best deals! If you can afford to be a little flexible on your travel dates so much the better. It’s highly likely you can find a full return trip for under $300 pre-tax.

Make sure to choose your booking site carefully, however, as you don’t want to get stuck with rigid, inflexible policies should you need to alter anything about your travel plan. Typically airlines are very gracious about assisting with changes driven by any potential of hurricanes or inclement weather during the rainy season.

How to find budget accommodation in the TCI

Your next largest cost will, of course, be a place to stay in the Turks and Caicos. It’s usually best to contact villas and resorts directly if you want to score the best deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little internet-sleuthing first too! It’s always good to have an approximate idea of their usual fees. However, by dealing directly with them, you’ll often net some savings because there are no other listing fees to pay.

One of the best things about the Turks and Caicos is that nowhere is really that far from a beach. Even accommodation advertised as ‘in-land’ will typically only be a block or two from gorgeous views of the beach and sea, and these will be priced attractively low compared to those with beachfront access. If you are renting a car (which we recommend you do) then nowhere will be too difficult to access. Otherwise, simply pay a little attention to the location to make sure you can access everything you need easily. You also have the option to explore ‘homestay’ or apartment rentals to keep costs low. If budget is particularly tight, lodgings towards the west half of Provo can often be found for a steal, but are the furthest from typical amenities.

Getting around the TCI on a budget.

The TCI is a small and intimate place. Bar the western outskirts of Provo, most places on the island are a ten-minute drive (maximum) for anywhere you will want to explore. Taxis can be a pricey proposition, however, as it’s common to charge per distance and passenger on the islands. Jitneys, which are the most common transport for permanent islanders, are a touch hairy for the average tourist, and the fares can add up too. This makes a hire car the best option for most travellers. With the 2 large car hire firms on the island offering a unique car class, comprised of small, older but strictly checked and perfectly safe cars, you can access rental cars cheaply and easily- for less than the cost of scooter hire!

Bicycles can be a great alternative on resorts and for the wilder areas of the island- but you may find the local driving skills a little discouraging if you plan to hit the main roads on a cycle. It’s also a little hot to spend all day in the saddle. Off of Provo, however, the situation is different, and walking and riding will offer a serviceable, cheaper alternative to car rental on the smaller islands.

Keeping other costs low on the TCI

With all the savings you’ve already made, you hopefully have a fun budget open to you. Even better, many of the best places to visit on the islands are free to enter, and so are the fantastic beaches! The offshore snorkelling sites are also free to access, though you may want to put some money aside for a boat trip a little further out, where some supremely gorgeous sites can be found.

For watersports like diving, boat cruises and kitesurfing, booking a package deal will help you keep your budget tight without sacrificing a second of fun. Many resorts also offer day-passes to allow you to use the facilities even if you aren’t staying there. Food costs can be kept tame by cooking some of your own meals (though spare a little cash to enjoy the fantastic island fare in the bars and grills too), and you are also free to bring some food from home with you, as there are no restrictions.

Visiting the Turks and Caicos on a budget is more than feasible with a little smart planning. The Big Blue Collective is always happy to answer questions about our beautiful island home, as well as help you create a scintillating wind-and-watersports package to suit your budget, so feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Filed under: Tourism

Is there surfing in the Turks and Caicos I can enjoy?

18th December 2018 11:55 am

If you’re considering a holiday surfing in the Turks and Caicos, or if even if surfing’s not your style and you’re worried about what else there might be to keep you occupied, then look no further- the highly experienced Big Blue Collective is here to answer all your questions, and help you shape the watersport holiday of your dreams.

Can I go surfing in the Turks and Caicos?

Surfing may be the iconic Caribbean water sport, but the generally placid conditions around the Turks and Caicos don’t provide too much excitement. The gorgeous barrier reef that lies off two of Provo’s coasts can be held accountable for the generally calm waters- it brings so much beauty and diversity of life to the area we can’t even be sad at losing the breaks that would otherwise come inshore. There are some opportunities for catching a good break, mostly off the remote west coast of Providenciales, but they can be a little tricky to access due to their remote nature. Fortunately, there is a small beach break near Leeward Beach, but the waves there are more suited to stand up paddle boarding then surfing. Most clean waves are pretty small, only ranging higher when the weather conditions are generally unsuitable for outside activities.

That said, winter does bring up some opportunities for our dyed-in-the-wool surfers willing to bring their own boards along, and the Big Blue Collective are happy to help you find the perfect spot that conditions will allow for. While there isn’t much challenge to be had for surfers in the Turks and Caicos, we can guarantee the experience and wealth of other sports open to you will be well worth it regardless.

What can I do instead of surfing in the TCI?

Don’t feel dispirited at the lack of big waves in the TCI! There’s a ton of alternatives to surfing in the Turks and Caicos for you to explore, and you’re sure to go home with at least one more favourite watersports to add to your list! Stand Up Paddleboarding offers a fantastic alternative that’s a little gentler and has a lower learning curve for most people, too- and we at the Big Blue Collective happen to be experts at SUP in the TCI!

Sometimes called stand-up paddle surfing, this exciting new water sport shares a lot of similarity with surfing. You will find yourself perched confidently atop a large surf-style board, able to propel yourself wherever you wish to explore thanks to a long paddle. With the calm, flat seas of the Turks and Caicos beckoning you to explore, and the fascinating mangrove channels and marshes calling you to come and play, it’s the perfect way to pack in a little exercise, a little sightseeing, and a lot of fun, all in one easy package. All you need is a basic level of fitness, and even older kids are sure to enjoy the challenge. And if a super-tempting wave does hit, you’ll be able to use your board to ride it too!

Stand up paddle boarding is one of the very best ways to experience the local sea life. Because of your angle over the board, you have a superlative view through the clear water, and the paddle is both quiet and causes minimal water disturbances, so local critters are more likely to carry on about their business than scarper to hide. Expect to see tiny lemon sharks, turtles, the iconic conch fish and much more fliting below you, as well as the birds that feed through the wild areas of the islands.

What about kayaking in the Turks and Caicos?

In the rare event the water is choppy, kayaking is the perfect alternative sport. With a shallow draft and quiet nature, you will be free to explore the gorgeous natural channels and backwaters of the TCI, again without disturbing the local wildlife unduly, giving you a unique peek into the lush natural habitats and the unique creatures that make their home here from the water’s level. Take it to the new heights with one of our specially tailored eco-tours, and uncover the true heart of the Turks and Caicos off the beaten trail. We have a wide-ranging infrastructure and quality equipment to place at your disposal, so there are no limits but your curiosity. Whether you want to gently paddle in the bay around your villa, or head out on an epic, multi-day kayaking trek, we can help you craft the ideal kayaking experience.

How do I take surfing in the Turks and Caicos to a new level?

If you’re still looking for something closer to the racing adrenaline of riding the waves, then take ‘surfing’ in the Turks and Caicos to dizzying new heights on your trip. The Big Blue Collective has the perfect treat for you- it’s time to embrace the exhilarating sport of kiteboarding. Also called kite surfing, the Turks and Caicos offer the perfect backdrop- warm water, pristine empty beaches, and crystal clear water at the optimum depth. Plus, of course, our friendly, reliable South East trade wind ensuring you have all the wind you could want. Both beginners and more experienced kiteboarders will find plenty of excitement- plus you will have the full force of Big Blue’s extensive experience and encyclopaedic local insight and guides to make the experience even richer.

As you can see, there’s much more excitement waiting then just surfing in the Turks and Caicos, and we can guarantee you won’t be sorry you came! Why not plan your dream watersports holiday in the TCI today? The Big Blue Collective are eagerly waiting to hear from you!

Filed under: Surfing

Even whales love the Turks and Caicos!

5th December 2018 11:53 am

Whale watching in the TCI is one of the most spectacular sights you could imagine. The Caribbean whale migration is an annual event that will thrill even the most jaded heart, bringing unparalleled views and experiences with these gentle giants. Today the Big Blue Collective takes a closer look at the best time to see whales in the Caribbean waters of the Turks and Caicos, as well as why these unique mammals love the area so much.

Is whale watching in the TCI really annual and predictable?

Imagine the moment. You’re exploring a gorgeous dive site, snorkelling a reef, or enjoying some time on the deck of a boat. Suddenly, a huge plume of water erupts in the near distance, closely followed by one of the most majestic sights on earth- a whale breaching, erupting from the crystal clear water playfully. Perhaps you can hear the unique, yearning song of the rest of its pod. Heart doubtless in your throat, you watch as it playfully slaps the ocean before sinking gracefully back out of sight.

It’s one of the most incomparable experiences you will ever have, and thanks to the annual humpback whale migration through the Caribbean, it’s one that blesses the Turks and Caicos every year. These magnificent beasts set off every year on a massive trek across 5000 km of water, taking themselves between their regular feeding grounds and the warmer waters where they prefer to calve and play with their young ones. It’s the world’s longest migration of any mammal, and it happens almost by clockwork.

Why do the whales come to the TCI?

Humpback whales, you see, prefer to feed near Antarctica in summer, taking advantage of rich layers of plankton and krill, their preferred foods. As the waters grow colder in winter, however, these populations die off. It’s not strictly a problem for the whales, who are able to store vast amounts of ‘food’ in the form of thick layers of fat, called blubber. It’s no place to raise a family, however, and these unique creatures have an amazing bond with their pods. Instead of suffering through the dwindling food supplies, they set out on their epic journey to the Pacific and its warmer, friendlier waters. This makes their time here the very best time to see whales in the Caribbean. Here they will spend the season breeding, calving and playing in the kind, warm environment before heading back for another summer’s feed.

Right about the time they hit the TCI, a unique geographical quirk ensures the experience of a lifetime for lucky observers. The area between the islands, plus the shelf on which they lie, creates a natural funnel, forcing them to pass through a relatively tiny area of ocean to reach their ultimate destination. This makes for the chance of unparalleled sightings. Coinciding with mating season, the whales are unusually active, with males making good use of impressive tactics like tail-slapping and breaching to attract a mate.

When is the best time for whale spotting in the Caribbean?

The migration of whales to the Caribbean typically brings them to Turks and Caicos shores as we cusp into December. The Big Blue Collective, busy as we are in the offshore waters, are often among the very first to spot them in late December, a true Christmas treat! The first two to three months of the New Year will then be packed with exciting sightings and encounters; with snorkelers, divers and other busy folks all eagerly sharing where the latest activity has been spotted. It’s a season where it pays to watch the water carefully.

Is whale watching in the TCI guaranteed?

Of course, as with all things in the natural world, you can never guarantee anything. As the whales migrate to the Caribbean in their own family pods rather than en masse, it’s not unusual to have flurries of activity interspersed with periods of quiet until the next pod passes. If you’ve come specifically for whale watching in the TCI, the key is to be ready to hit the water the second word comes in. The beaches at Provo, and the calm seas of Salt Cay, both make great spots to watch out for them coming in. Your best chances of a sighting will always occur on sunny days with flat seas, when they- and you- will be in the mood to play in high spirits.

While they are a huge draw at this time of year, it’s important to remember that the whales are enigmatic, wild animals. We at the Big Blue Collective draw on the expertise of Philip Shearer, with decades of responsible, ethical whale experience under his belt as part of the Aggressor fleet under the renowned Captain van der Walt. Using the Silver Banks guidelines of the Dominican Republic, we are proud to operate around our massive cousins with sensitivity and respect, a tactic that has built us a wealth of unique, intimate encounters that do no harm and leave no marks.

No two experiences of the whale migration in the Caribbean are ever the same. With a guide who understands them, the magic goes a little deeper. Gentle handling allows for closer, friendlier encounters than aggressive pursuit ever will. We’ve had a host of utterly unique whale encounters over our two decades of operation, with visitors left in awe of these mighty giants at play. However your particular encounter shapes up, we can guarantee you will leave your whale watching experience in the TCI forever changed by the memory. Even the lucky locals who live here year round are never able to resist the lure of them gracing our shores.

Whale watching in the TCI is one of the best ways to experience the annual whale migration to the Caribbean, and the best time to see whales here is undoubtedly now, while December fades gracefully into the New Year. Why not get in touch with the Big Blue Collective today, and allow us to help you maximise your chance of a unique whale encounter of your own?

Filed under: Whale Watching

A taste of the seasons in the Turks and Caicos

12th December 2018 11:51 am

Any smart traveller (like yourself) knows that the weather can make or break a holiday experience. Spending dreary days stuck in a hotel room, or being unable to participate in exciting activities you booked yourself, is a recipe for frustration. Fortunately, the Big Blue Collective is here with everything you need to know about the weather in the Turks and Caicos, year round!

Weather in the Turks and Caicos: Forecast is Fantastic!

First things first, let’s take a look at the overall annual weather. While people talk of the off-peak and peak seasons in the TCI, and indeed the traditional winter, fall, spring and summer seasons as well as wider ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ seasons, it’s important to realise there’s very little overall fluctuation in the Turks and Caicos weather.  It’s consistent, pleasant and welcoming year round. The ocean is always warm, and the sun is always strong enough for you to need to take the standard beach precautions of sunscreen and a hat. Outside temperatures are typically between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 29-32 degrees Celsius), creeping a little higher at the end of summer. The water will typically be between 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, and 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. That’s 28-29 degrees Celsius and 23-26 degrees Celsius respectively. As you can see, the difference is remarkably tiny!

Almost year-round, we have the welcome cooling breezes of the east-south-east trade wind to keep the air fresh and balmy. Wind speeds can reach 12-18 miles an hour (19-29 kph) but are often very welcome. Not only do they keep the atmosphere fresher and cooler then it may otherwise be, this steady, predictable wind make the TCI one of the very best places in the world to enjoy sports like kitesurfing. Pair it with the sheltered bays and generally calm waters, and you have a winning combination for watersports of all kinds. Very occasionally a storm will shift the wind direction, but our steady old friend will soon be back.

While there are some subtle seasonal differences that the expert eye will read in the Turks and Caicos climate, the net result is an island chain that is wonderfully welcoming all year round. After all, we can claim 350 days of sunshine a year, and that’s pretty impressive!

What can I expect from fall and winter?

While some of you sun gods and goddesses may not agree, the rather warm temperatures of the islands year-round make the fall and winter seasons the ‘peak’ seasons for visitors rather than the summer. Strictly speaking, this is the ‘cool’ season and runs from November to April. At this time of year, you can flee the cold, snow-covered lands of home, and instead soak in the sun, fun and surf in the gorgeous TCI. While the cooler season is only a few degrees cooler than summer, it’s a difference that stands out, and you’ll feel more up to exciting water sports, exploring the back islands on eco-tours, drinking in the ambience of the many fascinating historical sites, and more able to enjoy walks and cycling trips with the slight reduction in heat.

If you’re visiting in the cool season, it’s highly unlikely you will experience any rainfall. You may get a quick, surprising shower if you visit in late April, but the chances are very low.

What can I expect from spring and summer?

You may be used to thinking of spring and summer as prime holiday months (and don’t get us wrong, they’re still great), but here in the TCI they’re classed as the off-peak season. They’re a touch less predictable then winter (but only just), and the temperatures will climb a little higher too. Plus, of course, it’s likely the most beautiful season for you back home too! We see the bulk of our visitors in the TCI cool season. The hot season, however, still has its charms for the visitor, and you can score many delightful discounts if you travel during this time too.

May to October are the official “hot” season months, with your highest chances of rain occurring in April through July. These showers are typically short, however, and certainly not common. As an island chain, it’s common for the Turks and Caicos to get most of its scanty annual rainfall in just one or two downpours during the hurricane season instead. When showers do occur, they are often most welcome as they refresh the air, and typically are over within an hour or two, so don’t pack up and head back to the hotel automatically if you encounter one.

What about the ‘hurricane season’?

The official hurricane season in the TCI runs between June and November. This may seem a terrifying idea, but don’t worry too much- we actually don’t see too much hurricane activity, unlike some other Caribbean islands. This is when we receive most of our rain, however, in one, sometimes two torrential downpours. Very occasionally roads will flood, but the sun soon dries out the excess water and business goes back to normal. Hurricane Irma is the only serious hurricane to have passed through our waters in a decade, and the number of hurricane warnings that result in landfall the Big Blue Collective have seen can be counted on one hand. If you are very concerned, however, the bulk of ‘major’ hurricane activity for the TCI has been seen in the end-August to early September period.

Do remember, however, that while we are relatively quiet and sheltered and those already on the island will still be able to enjoy themselves, your flights may be impacted by other hurricane activity or warnings in the Caribbean at this time of year. We are very lucky to have excellent predictive services working in the area keeping everyone safe, but it will occasionally lead to flights being rescheduled for hurricanes which do not actually materialise or make landfall. Try to plan flexible holiday dates and opt for airlines with a good track record of helping you reschedule your trip if travelling at this time of year.

As you can see, the weather in the Turks and Caicos is great all year round, so why not let the Big Blue Collective help you make the holiday of a lifetime in the TCI come true today?

Filed under: Weather