We are often asked is ‘which is the best charter?’ and especially what the difference is between staying on the North side or heading South.
The most obvious difference is time and distance. North shore charters run along between the north side of Providenciales, including Grace Bay and along the islands including Water Cay, Pine Cay, Fort George Cay, Dellis
Cay and Parrot Cay that lie between our base in Leeward on Provo and North Caicos. This also includes the Rock Iguana territory of Little Water Cay and Half Moon Bay. Convenient dive sites and shallow snorkel reefs parallel these cays about a half mile offshore. Almost all visitors to the TCI will spend some time on or under the water around the stunning beaches of the North shore.
From our base in Leeward, the travel time is minimal. It takes minutes and thus is perfect for our half-day charters or snorkel eco-tours The North side should not however be underestimated for a full-day
charter. Chilled out charters on White Sands or Serenity are extremely popular and provide ample time to explore the coast, snorkel the reef and enjoy a long lunch with local beer, ice cold rosé or a cocktail or two.
Our smaller boats, the power cats, often venture a bit further inside the shallow lagoon if you’re looking for new adventure – like east and north past Parrot Cay to the beaches of North Caicos or west to Blue Hills and the North-West Point of Provo. Both offer cool opportunities for a seafood lunch at local waterside restaurants offering a very different island/ boat experience.
South side charters are longer. But there are always less boats and people. Which is one of the reasons we love going. West Caicos or French Cay are about 45-60-minutes from the Big Blue base.
French Cay lies 15-18 miles south of Provo and is a small island surrounded by turquoise seas. It is a protected bird sanctuary but offers some great snorkeling and amazing diving nearby. This stretch of the wall runs east to west and has the steepest gradient found anywhere in the entire Turks and Caicos archipelago. The wall descends into the deep channel that separates the Bahamas from the Caribbean. This channel runs eastward into the Puerto Rico trench, the deepest section of the Atlantic Ocean. Remote but shallow reefs along this southern edge of the Caicos Banks can provide some of the best snorkeling in the region. (link to French Cay in destinations on web) West Caicos is a long uninhabited island about 7 miles from the south-west tip of Providenciales.
There are beautiful beaches on the north and east coasts. However, it is its stunning western coast, characterized by a long line of cliffs and rocks affectionately known as Ironshore, that defines this island. During easterly prevailing wind directions this coast is well protected and provides rousing hues of blue as the waters rise from the deep to shallows over the edge of the wall. Snorkel, cliff jump or dive along its entire length; there are many reasons why West is one of our most popular charter destinations. (link to West in destinations on web) Feeling adventurous? There are two different hikes, both easy, that Big Blue guides love to tackle on West Caicos. The first is a shorter and relatively easy walk inland to see the ruins of historical Yankee town and the shores of Lake Catherine. Lake Catherine is a seemingly land locked body of water, but it is saltwater lake that connects to the ocean via a network of underground passages. The turquoise chalky color is reminiscent of glacial lakes found high up in the mountains and this one is often home to pink flamingos and a variety of different shore birds. The second hike is a more energetic walk from one side of the island to the other. It’s only 1.5 miles but the terrain can be a little challenging, and it takes about 90 minutes to complete. Start the hike in the morning and the boat will drive around to pick you up on the other side to enjoy the reefs and coastline for the rest of the day.
Read more about this adventure in our Lake Catherine Hike and Reef Adventure.
So, what is our favorite charter destination? It’s almost impossible to say. All the areas described above can be sensational for different reasons and it can often depend on the wind and sea conditions. It is well known among the Big Blue guides that scuba diving at French Cay can be at its best during windier surface conditions and that a slow north swell can bring exceptional visibility on the north shore snorkel sites. Talk to our team, rely on our expertise, and have a little flexibility so that we can help you make the most out of your time in the Turks and Caicos Islands.