T and C Day 3: An Overview of the Islands

Our day 3 was pretty uneventful, mostly because my stomach was bothering me.  Not Montezuma’s revenge, the water here is fine, but something I ate.  Our highlight of the day was going to the grocery store.  The store was quite nice, similar to a whole foods market.  Besides this, I spent most of the day in the room, while Heather spent some time on the beach.  So this is a good time to give an overview of the islands.  Most of my info comes from quick reads online and in travel magazines, so don’t count on 100% accuracy here!

Turks and Caicos is a group of 40 islands and cays that is basically a continuation of the Bahamas to the east.  Btw, the Bahamas apparently comprises around 3,000 islands and cays!  My dream would be to take a sailboat and sail around to all the islands, but if you hit 2 a day for 300 days per year it would take you 5 years to hit them all!  No wonder this area has been such a great place for pirates to hide out.

Back to T&C– the islands are about 620 miles mostly east from Miami, and a little bit south.  While there are 40 islands/cays, there are really 7 main islands.  There is Turks, and then there is South, East, Middle, North and West Caicos, and Providenciales or Provo if you’re into the whole brevity thing.  Provo is the main tourist island and the one we are staying on.  Grand Turk is the capital. The Turks islands are separated from the Caicos ones by a 7,000 foot deep channel, which is pretty interesting given that so much of the ocean here is shallow, and Grand Turks is only about 15 miles from East Caicos.  Apparently this makes for great scuba diving given the sudden plunge.  It’s called an ocean wall and apparently is great to see all the fish that are there.

Provo is about 10 miles long and 5 miles at its widest, and most of the other main islands are similar in size.  For comparison, I believe Maui is about 40 miles wide by 20 miles so considerably bigger.  The islands are relatively flat, and have more of a desert flora.   Or is it fauna?  Mostly rocky soil with lots of squat cactus, palms and other shrubbery.  There is great snorkeling as they islands have one of the largest reefs in the world, and the reefs are largely un-damaged.  I am looking forward to checking them out!

The islands were originally populated from Mexico, but then the Spanish came and shipped all the first inhabitants off the island to be slaves in Hispaniola, which is 90 some miles to the south.  There is some speculation that Columbus landed on Grand Turks in 1492, but that is debatable.  After the Spanish came, the islands were largely uninhabited until the 1700’s.  It eventually became a holding of England, which is interesting in that I don’t believe there was slavery on the islands (if you don’t count the original inhabitants being kidnapped and shipped into slavery).  There is a story of a slave ship that crashed off the islands and the slaves that survived became free people and inhabitants of the island (divers may have recently found the wreckage of the ship).  The people of African descent that comprise the majority of the population of the island are known as “belongers”.  The population of the islands is around 45,000, with over half of those on Provo.  Some of the bigger Caicos islands are unpopulated.  Middle Caicos has the largest cave system in the Caribbean (mom, you would enjoy that!).  There is also Parrot Cay which is an exclusive resort of the rich and famous.  Heather is trying to setup a lunch for us there so we can see how the other half lives.

While the islands are British, there has been talk of independence.  There has also been talk of becoming a Canadian territory (that note is for you Emily!).  The islands are on the eastern time zone, English is the primary language, U.S. dollars the currency, but people do drive on the wrong side of the road.  That took a bit getting used to on the first night when I thought we were going to be hit by a car coming at us.

The beaches here are pretty amazing, if you can’t tell from the pictures yet.  The one we are on is around 15 miles long, and is consistently voted as one of the top beaches in the world.  I am no expert on worldwide beaches, but you would get no argument from me.  It is hard to sit here and write this from our patio while seeing the beautiful beach in front of me.

Well that’s it for today.  There is your overview of the islands.  Now it’s time for us to get out there and experience them firsthand!

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