T and C Day 7 and 8: A Great Boat Trip and Home Again

Well unfortunately all good things must come to an end, so this will be my last post of our Honeymoon trip.  Hold on while I go and grab a tissue.  Actually the trip overall has been great, so I’m going to stay focused on how amazing it was and not that we’re sad to leave!

For this post we took a bunch of pictures with an underwater camera, but won’t have those photos to post until we get them developed.  So I apologize for the text heavy post.  I’ll get them added later and send an update.

Day 7 arrived for me with a great amount of excitement.   Our boat tour was leaving at 1pm, and I was looking forward to it.  This was my big chance to go snorkeling to the wall and see what type of wildlife I could see.  I even had a bit of trouble sleeping.  The good news is it was a beautiful, sunny day which meant good visibility for snorkeling.  We decided to hit the beach for the morning and do some SUP.  We got on down to the water and it was nice and calm, and both boards were available so a great omen for our day.  I told Heather I’d carry the big board down since it was heavier, but this was really my sneak attack to take it out and stick her with the short one.  I got down to the water, jumped on the board and took off.  It was great to be on the big board where it really feels like you can jump around without it tipping over.  When she came down I asked if she wanted to switch.  She said she’d try the small board.  I was secretly amused knowing how much fun I would have watching her fall after her having the big board all the time.  Well, wouldn’t you know it?  She got up on it and did just great!  I don’t think she fell at all.   She even liked the increased maneuverability.  I think it was just because the water was especially calm today 😉

We paddled around for a while and the water was just beautiful.  With the sun hitting it, it really looked like a swimming pool.  That is the beauty of this beach, it is like combining all the best of a pool, lake and ocean (unless you want to surf).

We were hanging out in the water for a while and started talking to a couple from Vermont that were there along with their father.  The dad, who was named Bob, wanted to try the paddle boards, so we gave him a quick coaching lesson, and then he tried getting on.  Well after Heather had shown me up on the small board, my fragile psyche was rewarded by Bob not even being able to get up.  Okay, just kidding, but I was surprised how hard it was for him.  Come to think of it seemed tough for other people who tried it.  Maybe Heather and I were lucky to pick it up so fast.  We did a lesson in Maui, so maybe that is the key, taking a lesson your first time.  We visited with the family for a while longer.  He had gone to UofM in Ann Arbor, so we bonded over that.  It was interesting in our trip, we met and talked with quite a number of people and we didn’t meet one person from the west coast, all east coast or from other countries.   It really isn’t that much further than Hawaii from the west coast, especially if you do a connection to Hawaii instead of direct.

We then headed back to the room to get ready for our trip.  The tour we did was with Caicos Dream Tours and they were top rated on Trip Adviser (we would agree after the trip was over).  The boat just pulls up to whatever hotel you are staying at to pick you up.  They actually have two boats and are yellow pontoon style boats.  We had around 20 on our boat plus the captain and one crew person, though the boats could probably fit 30.   They counted us off carefully, which if you’ve ever seen the movie Open Water, you’ll appreciate how important a step this is (the movie’s the true story of a couple who got left behind on a scuba trip and were never found).  A number of the guests were either elderly, or out of shape, or both, so I quickly realized this was not going to be an extreme trip.  Well we got everyone loaded up and headed on out on the water and took off to the east part of the island.  This is one of my favorite things to do, cruising on the ocean, so I was as happy as a clam.  Or a conch.  As we cruised along, Heather and I were talking and both thought that Grace Bay is the coolest beach we’ve ever been to.  That’s not saying too much from me, but from Heather who has been to Costa Rica, Cancun, Cabo, Jamaica, and of course, Hawaii, that’s saying something.

So we had a nice cruise along the beach to Provo.  We passed the resorts and got to the houses/mansions that line the beach.  You can rent these as vacation rentals which would be a pretty cool experience as the beach was pretty much empty here.  The captain said that one of them, the Cotton House which looked amazing, is around $2,500 per night and has six bedrooms.  That means we will be looking to round up 5 other couples to go with us next year and share the place!

We then headed on out to the ocean.   We went through a break in the reef where the water actually is only 2 feet deep!  We went past this point and anchored in about 12 feet of water.  I would guess we were a mile or 1/2 mile from shore?  I quickly got into my gear and got in the water.  They had thrown some food in the water so there were a couple of schools of fish by the boat, but I was a little less enamored with the fish, as I quickly was amazed by the reefs and the coral.  It was probably around 500 feet between where the boat was and where the water got to the shallowest which was facing shore.  In between there were small canyons that went through the reef.  On top of the canyons there were these amazing bright green and bright purple fan corals.  Around all of these, in and out of the small canyons, were all different kinds of fish, just going about their merry way through the reef.  The fish were all different colors from bright yellow, to blue/green, to purple, to red and even black.   And the sun was shining down through the water providing a play of light through the coral and the water.  It really was amazing to me, like being in an enchanted forest.   I raced back to the boat to get Heather to come check it out, but she isn’t crazy about snorkeling (or more specifically about having fish all around her), so she stayed in the boat.  I proceeded to stay out in the water for the full 30 minutes.  I decided it was time to check out the wall, the part where the coral ends and there’s a wall that goes down 4,000 feet, but as I started that way one of the crew called me back to stay on the other side of the boat.  It looked kind of scary with none of the small fish over that way, so I wasn’t too upset.  I spoke with the captain later and he said you need to scuba anyway to get deep enough to see anything but that it’s pretty amazing.  I have made a note to myself to do that next trip.

Well after around 45 minutes of snorkeling, everyone got back on the boat and we took off over to Water Cay, which is an island just to the east of Provo.  Before we hit the island, we hit another spot to dive for Conch.  The captain, a native belonger, swam on out and found Conch shells for us.  They like the sea grass better.  I dove down and brought up the first one (I about popped my eardrums in the process, I still haven’t figured out to regulate my ears).  Heather braved snorkeling this time and got one as well.  When you get the Conch and turn them over, you see a sliver of brown looking creature and these two googly eyes staring out at you.  After everyone had gotten a shell, we then headed over to the Cay so that we could have them in Conch salad.  Each couple had one shell between them and we threw the rest back.

We got to the island and drove the boat on up onto the beach on Half Moon Bay (this is very different than the one in California).  We had said that Grace Bay was the most amazing beach we had seen, but this one may have topped it.  The island is deserted and the beach and water are just amazing.  I hope the pictures do it justice when they are developed.

Now it was time to get the Conch ready to eat.  I was curious about how this process worked, and figured I should know this since I had been eating so many while on the island.  I think it’s good to know what an animal goes through to end up on your plate.   I have got to say after learning the process and more about Conch’s, I feel somewhat bad about the poor little dudes.   So the first thing you have to do (here’s where my vegetarian friends may want to jump to the next paragraph) is you have to knock a hole in the top end of the shell with a sharp hammer.  What I didn’t know is that the Conch actually creates the shell that is their home, which is pretty amazing considering how massive the shells get.  It takes them about 4 years to get to the size of the ones that we caught.  They are attached to the inside of the shell, and it basically is impossible to pull them out.  They really have the absolutely perfect defense system for anything living in the ocean as I don’t think any creature could suck them out and their shell is like an impregnable little tank.  Unfortunately for them, they have a terrible defense system against humans, you can just swim down and take as many as you want.   Anyway, so the crew guy gathered us all around and explained that you have to cut where they are attached to the shell to get them out.  He proceeded to stick a knife in the hole of the shell and cut the attachment.  Then he handed it to me and said to grab the hard claw like foot and pull out the conch.  I proceeded to do so, and out popped the weirdest looking alien thing you can imagine.  It also was considerably bigger than I thought, probably around 18 inches long.  It really does look like an alien, part brown, part white, with a couple of eyes on the end of stalks and a nose.  The crew guy pointed those out and then proceeded to cut them off!  Brutal.  He then cut off everything but the white part and then cut it into pieces and let us try them.  I hate to say but it tastes great, pretty similar to Abilone if you have ever had that.   He then got to work cutting all of them up for the ceviche style salad they were preparing for us.

While this was going on, it was time to explore the island.  The island is unique for two reasons, 1) it’s got iguanas living on it, and 2) the island is very narrow where we had stopped.  You basically go up the beach, cross some sand and rocks and after about 100 feet you’re at the other side of the island which is another beautiful sand beach.  The captain said you can walk out miles on this side of the island into the ocean as it is part of the Caicos bank.  Well the water on this side of the island was what I had anticipated for the islands before I got there, it was really like bath water.  Heather and I proceeded to walk around in the water, and we found a spot with mud sand.  It looks like sand but you sink into it like mud.  It is actually a cool feeling, probably something people would pay a lot to experience in a spa.  Heather proceeded to plop herself down in it and relax.  I guess since we didn’t get a couples massage this was the next best thing.  Anyway, after a bit we decided to head back to the boat as the water was actually too warm.  We saw a couple of iguanas along the way, probably around 3 feet with their tail.  I photographed one of them and he spit in the air, probably trying to intimidate me which actually kind of worked (I didn’t get any closer).

We got back to the boat and I headed out for more snorkeling while Heather just hung out in the water by the boat and the beautiful beach.  The snorkeling was really cool here as well, though not as spectacular as the previous location.  I was out for a while and then got back just in time to see a stingray swimming by very close to shore and our group.  We then had the Conch salad, which I thought was great, and then it was unfortunately time to head back.   We got back to the hotel, and I decided to get in some more snorkeling.  I felt invigorated after our trip, so I figured I would try and catch the barracuda that was preying on the poor little school of fishes.  Unfortunately, they weren’t around, but I did see the same stingray that I had seen multiple times at the beach.  Then while I was watching him, a massive stingray came swimming in and burrowed into the sand, along with another one.  And I was nervous about the small one stinging me?  The big one looked mean so I kept plenty far away from him.  After about an hour of snorkeling, I called it a night and headed up to the room.  The day had been just great, the only bummer was I had gotten pretty red on my back.  I had put on sunscreen a couple times and it had said it was waterproof, but must not have been salt water proof.  Anyway, moral of the story is if you’re snorkeling to either get an SPF protected swim shirt, or apply many multiple times throughout the day.  Since I was now burned, we decided to stay in the hotel room and spend our final evening there.  There was live band playing down at the restauarant so we enjoyed the view, weather and music from our balcony before heading to bed.

Our last day arrived as probably the nicest since we had been there.  Hardly a cloud in the sky.  It seemed like the islands were trying to tempt us to stay an extra couple of days and we looked into it but decided we had to get back.  I wish there was some interesting things to relate from our getaway day, but there really wasn’t much.  We got packed up and had a checkout at 11, with about 3 hours to kill before we needed to head to the airport.  Unfortunately I was burned enough that laying on the beach didn’t sound like a good option.  So we caught a taxi over and did some shopping and then came back and had lunch (fyi Dana, I had the chicken panini, and Heather had the chicken sandwich which according to her was “as good as Burger King”, very high praise!).  From there we went on to the airport and got checked in about 2 hours ahead of time, which was about an hour too early.  The Provo airport is small and it is not air conditioned, and of course, all flights try and leave at the same time on Saturday which meant the waiting room was jam packed and very hot.  They are just starting a project to double the size of the airport, so you may want to delay your trip until it’s supposed to be complete in 2014.  Well after our wait, we were one of the first to board (thanks Elden & Nancy for the priority access!) and this was one of the few times were I was very excited to get on the plane as it was much cooler.

Our flight home was pretty uneventful (which is always a good thing).  I was amazed by the Bahamas, and what I think is the Bahama bank.  This was an area that is just miles and miles of the most amazing turquoise blue water.  I think the Bahamas would be the next place I would want to visit in the Caribbean.  While I was busy checking this out, Heather was busy reading The Hunger Games.  I don’t think she put the book down once during our first flight to Dallas, and then again on the flight to SF until she finished it about an hour or two in.  That means she really enjoyed it!  Our stop in Dallas was a bit of an adventure as we had to go through customs, get our baggage, recheck it, go back through security, then discover our flight was on the complete other side of the airport requiring a tram ride (Dallas has a huge airport).  What went from being a two hour layover where I thought we would have plenty of time to grab dinner and relax, turned into a mad rush where we barely made the connection.  We fortunately caught it and landed in a perfectly clear SF close to midnight.  We got home and to bed around 4 am island time.  There’s always something great about sleeping in your own bed and we were happy to be back!

Well I guess that concludes this vacation blog.  Thanks to everyone that has followed along, and thanks to everyone that made a contribution to our honeymoon!  We had just an awesome, amazing trip thanks to everyone’s generosity and we didn’t have to spend anything at all.   Here’s a big, hearty, somewhat blurry “Thanks”, complete with conch shells and a lizard (from the exit at Da Conch Shack):

Finally, if you had to ask if I would recommend a visit to Turks and Caicos, I would have to give you a resounding yes, as would Heather.  The islands really have almost everything you would want to experience, with the possible exception of volcanoes.  You could spend your whole trip never leaving Grace Bay staying in a five star resort and be just as happy as could be, or you could make it a grand adventure and visit other of the islands and stay in a more authentic island hotel and get in scuba and exploring.  Speaking of hotels, we thought ours, the Alexandra, was great.  It has very nice suites, though of course it helped that we had the best room (top floor on the beach), and it is a great location on the beach without being too packed.   You can’t beat the amazing experience of a vacation in T&C, or as our boat captain kept saying any time something good happened on the trip: “that’s what I’m talking about”!  We hope to see you soon and hope you are doing well.  Cheers,

Kelly and Heather

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