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

5 Best Kept Secrets About the Turks and Caicos Islands

17th February 2018 1:51 pm

It’s no secret that the Turks and Caicos Islands constantly makes the list for articles like “best travel destinations of 2018,” “best beaches,” or “top Caribbean getaway.” The beautiful beaches, awesome dive sites, and luxury resorts makes the Turks and Caicos a top contender for any of these lists.

 

However, just because the Turks and Caicos are already on many people’s bucket list, it still holds a few secrets that not every travel or beach enthusiast will know.

 

Here are 5 best kept secrets about the Turks and Caicos Islands that will make you want to bump them up on the priority of places you want to visit.

#5: Premier Kitesurfing Destination

The Turks and Caicos Islands have some of the best conditions on Earth for kitesurfing. Because of the unique island formations, the waters along and around the shore are generally calm and serene. And because the shore is so shallow, you can actually keep your feet on the sand as you wallow dozens of meters from the beach.

 

But it’s not all about the water. The Caribbeans is perfectly situated in the middle of strong and—more importantly—constant tradewinds. The most predictable and consistent wind on Providenciales is the east southeast trade winds. The islands typically experience this wind on and off over the year, but it’s usually a bit more pronounced and regular in the winter months. When the season is right (Usually November to May) and the breeze picks up, it’s consistent and more predictable than most winds.

 

Turks and Caicos is a kiteboarding mecca. It’s easy to find PASA and IKO certified kiteboarding instructors with decades of experience who can train both and teens.

#4: Ecological Wonder

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a biodiversity hotspot. The islands have many endemic species and others of international importance, due to the conditions created by the oldest established salt-pan development in the Caribbean.

 

The variety includes a number of lizards, snakes, insects, plants, and marine species found nowhere else on the planet. In addition to the unique native species, the islands are also a crucial breeding area for countless seabirds, and the surrounding seas are an important water highway for humpback whales.

 

The U.K. and Turks and Caicos Islands Governments have a joint focus and responsibility to conserve and preserve the natural environment. Due to the combined effort of both governments, the islands are on the United Kingdom’s tentative list for future UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

There are many special eco-tours that take you out to mangrove channels and national parks to see delicate ecosystems that support the nesting birds. The guides accompanying these tours are informative and certified to ensure that all safety precautions are taken. Guides will point out turtles, sharks, stingrays and any other sea animal that pass by.

#3 Beautiful Dive Sites

Much of the Turks and Caicos biodiversity can only be found in and beneath the waves as it is also home to one of the larger barrier reefs on the planet. While snorkelling and diving enthusiasts may already know this, much of the general population of visitors who come to the island usually aren’t aware of this “known secret.”

 

Because the beaches and resorts are so beautiful, it’s so easy to forget the wonders of life under the sea. There are countless number of great sites, and you should choose your site based on your experience, skill, and whether you snorkel or SCUBA dive.

 

Snorkelling is definitely one of our recommended activities on Providenciales. The Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef are the two main snorkelling sites accessible from the beach. The Bight Reef is easy to access, but the more difficult to find Smith’s Reef offers much more to see. Snorkelling on a boat cruise can be excellent and better than the beach reefs, but it depends on where your captain takes you. A dedicated snorkelling trip will usually give the best underwater experience.

 

If you’re trained, you may want to opt for a diving trip. The Turks and Caicos is renowned for miles of exquisite barrier reefs, walls, clear waters and abundant wildlife. Many of the dive sites accessed off Providenciales are located in protected areas, mainly in the Princess Alexandra National Park, Northwest Point Marine National Park, and the West Caicos Marine National Park.

 

Providenciales has the advantage of being within access to over 70 miles (112km) of barrier reefs and walls. Because of this, there’s a huge variety of marine life and corals at the dive sites.

#2 You Might Run Into Your Favorite Celebrity

It’s no secret that the Turks and Caicos is popular. However, some of the visitors and vacations may wish it wasn’t! The TCIs is a popular getaway for many celebrities, some of whom, actually have vacation homes built here.

 

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Tony Parker and Eva Longoria, and Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld all famously married or honeymooned here, and if you’re lucky, you might see A-list celebs like Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Beyoncé, LeBron James, and Paul McCartney enjoying the beach.

#1 Interesting History

The Turks and Caicos has a rich history that many history buffs will appreciate. While the sun is always shining and the beaches are always beautiful, it wasn’t always paradise. The arrival of Europeans in the 1500s sparked the decline and eventual extinction of the aboriginal people and culture. Then came Bermudian salt collectors who settled the Turks Islands around 1680. For several decades around the turn of the 18th century, the islands became popular pirate hideouts.

 

The Turks and Caicos Islands also had a strong U.S. presence. From 1950 to 1981, the United States had a missile tracking station on Grand Turk island. In the early days of the American space program, NASA used it. After his three earth orbits in 1962, American astronaut John Glenn successfully landed in the nearby ocean and was brought back ashore to Grand Turk island. (Not a bad place to land, huh?)

The Secret Is Out—Book Your Trip!

Turks and Caicos excursions are very popular and spots fill up fast. It’s important that you book early so you can secure your favorite activities. Because if a tour operator is down to one spot, you know who will get that last seat if it’s between you and Matt Damon.

Contact Big Blue Collective to learn more about what activities you can do while you’re in Providenciales or go ahead and book your adventures today.


Filed under: History

A brief history of the TCI’s

27th November 2017 11:40 am

Present day Turks and Caicos is still strongly influenced by its history, even after becoming one of the top Caribbean destinations. You may know of it for its pristine beaches, beautiful luxury resorts, and thriving tourism industry, but the TCIs had humble beginnings.

History of the Turks and Caicos

Pre-Christopher Columbus

The original settlers of the islands were Taino and Lucyan Indians and their heritage of seafaring, salt raking and farming, and use of conch in their diet still persists and continues to play a significant cultural role today.

Even the name of the country comes from these early cultures. “Turks” is a reference to the indigenous Turk’s head cactus and “Caicos” is from the Lucayan term “caya hico,” meaning string of islands.

Post-Christopher Columbus

Some scholars believe Christopher Columbus’ first New World landfall was on Grand Turk in 1492. At this time, the Lucayan civilization had already disappeared and the islands were only sparsely populated.

Turks and Caicos 1600-1800

The Turks and Caicos was a popular place even in these times. From 1600s to the 1800s, the islands have passed from Spanish to French to English/Britain control. However, no settlements were established by any of these countries.

Instead, the Turks and Caicos islands were a common hiding place for pirates. Spanish treasure galleons were often attacked on their routes between Spain and Central America.

Bermuda (under British rule) was the Turks and Caicos first colonizers in the late 1600s, establishing the first permanent settlement on Grand Turk Island. Salt was a major commodity at this time because of its use in food preparation and preservation, and salt  was more easily raked in the TCI than Bermuda. Salt became the backbone of the Turks and Caicos economy for the next several hundred years. Bermuda’s colonization established British dominance that is still in effect today.

In 1706, the French and the Spanish briefly captured the Turks & Caicos Islands from the Bermudians. Four years later, the British reclaimed the islands for Bermuda.

After the American Revolution, displaced British royalists were granted land on the uninhabited Caicos Islands where they established plantations to grow cotton. Unfortunately, the soil of the islands was ill suited for growing cotton and the royalists left when cotton stopped being a viable crop. However, the royalists’ plantation slaves remained and their descendants are today’s local inhabitants.

Modern Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos became a British Crown colony in 1962. In the early 1980s, the Turks and Caicos (with Providenciales in particular) began its road to becoming the Caribbean tourist powerhouse today when Club Med Turkoise Resort opened.

Since then, the TCI government began pouring more money into its tourism industry and infrastructure development.

Turks and Caicos Tourism

There are so many Turks and Caicos  resorts and villas that now cater to family getaways that you’ll have plenty of options in choosing a place to stay. You can easily find entire homes or private villas that offer private pools, balconies, grills, and recreational equipment, including snorkel masks, flippers, and bikes.

There’s also a plethora of things to do when you visit the TCIs, including stand up paddleboard (or SUP), kayaking, snorkeling, kiteboarding, and more.

However, you can also visit various historic sites with out-island eco tours to see the roots and culture of the Caicos Islands on North, Middle & South Caicos.

Inspired By Turks and Caicos History?

Turks and Caicos excursions are very popular and spots fill up fast. It’s important that you book early so your guide can help customize the trips to specific interests.

Contact Big Blue Collective to learn more about what eco-friend activities you can do while you’re in the Turks and Caicos or go ahead and book your adventures today.


Filed under: History
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