West is Best.
Who doesn’t love West Caicos? This uninhabited gem has always been one of our top adventure destinations in the Turks and Caicos for scuba diving, snorkeling, and any blue water adventures. After years of exploration, we are now proudly offering a couple of short and exciting inland hiking options to the interior of West Caicos to reveal another side of this stunning island.
Located on the western edge of the Caicos Banks, West Caicos covers about 9 square miles and offers so much in the way of incredible wildlife, clear water, and accessible coastline. In the middle of the island lies Lake Catherine, a large saltwater lake almost 2 miles long and consistently home to the flamboyant pink flamingo and a flock of elusive black cormorants. With the rise and fall of the tides, strong currents flow through a labyrinth of subterranean passages that connect the lake with the sea and this influx of nutrients supports a myriad of unusual marine life.
Today the area around Yankee Town and the Lake makes for a short but very pleasant excursion inland. For more hardy explorers, an excellent way to start a day of adventure is with a guided cross-land hike that traverses the tropical dry forests, salina, and the Lake Catherine causeway. The 1.5 to 2-hour walk also passes through Yankee Town and finishes along a rocky shoreline comprised of unique fossilized coral reefs and ancient sand dune beds dating back to an era of higher sea level.
A Brief History.
On some old charts, West Caicos is referred to as “Belle Island” because it was considered to be the most beautiful of the islands. There was, however, a lot of wasteful expenditure on the island over the years and it has a murky but colorful history. It is rumored that Delvin’s cove, a rocky inlet on the leeward coast of West Caicos commonly locally known as “Boat Cove”, is where an 18th century pirate of that name used to hide his vessel using trees and shrubs tied to his masts to conceal the ship.
In 1849 a company of Grand Turk salt proprietors sought to expand their salt production on West Caicos, and 18 acres were put under cultivation at a spot now known as Company Point. They did not prevail but a few years later, the government sold over 200 acres of salina along the eastern boundary of the island and even dug a saltwater canal to help facilitate further salt production. Investors subsequently built an impressive causeway and railway track across Lake Catherine to connect the salina with the deep-water access on the west side of the island. Facilities, including two water catchment tanks, were built to house workers and the settlement became known as Yankee Town, but after spending over $30,000 the venture collapsed due to the financial conditions brought about by the American Civil War.
Then in 1891 The West Caicos Fibre company was incorporated during the sisal boom and Yankee Town was declared a port of entry. The latest machinery, including a hefty Burrell steam traction engine, was imported to the remote island and Royal Mail steamers started calling for sisal on their voyages to England. Inevitably as the sisal market slumped, financial difficulties and mismanagement led to decline in the early 20th century. West Caicos was abandoned again in 1906.
A rough airstrip was constructed on the island in 1972 although it is not entirely clear why. It was possibly in anticipation of an oil refinery deal with Esso International that was later abandoned, or an attempt by Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo to purchase the island as a hideaway before he was later assassinated. H.E. Sadler records in his detailed history book, Turks Island Landfall, that “in 1973 it was discovered that West Caicos and South Caicos were being used to refuel in-transit drug planes when the police raided the island and captured an American seaplane loaded with narcotics and 15 automatic weapons”.
Thankfully most of the leeward coast of West Caicos was declared a National Marine Park in 1984 and it still offers some of the most stunning snorkeling and diving in the Turks and Caicos Islands. As the light waters fade to darker shades of blue, it is possible to see all host of marine life including schools of fish, wild dolphin, rays, turtles, and the transitory winter humpback whales. The clear water surrounding the island is nothing short of spectacular. While the west side of the island provides some low cliffs to jump off and numerous sheltered turquoise anchorages to enjoy, the long, beautiful beach on the east coast is often overlooked.
A trip to West Caicos is always a fascinating and enjoyable day out. At Big Blue Collective we continue to offer exclusive guided adventures to West Caicos on our private boat charters. Our Edge of the Banks snorkel safari will often visit the island to enjoy the reefs, coves, and exciting wall. Please contact us for more information or book a full day southside charter through our website.