Associate editor Kimberly Scholz sampled the sunny side of the
Turks & Caicos and found it to her liking. Here is her
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos -- For sun, sand and sea,
this is the place to be.
But if it's museums and attractions you're after, go
OK, so Provo, as locals call Providenciales, does have the
world's only conch farm. Beyond that, the pickings are slim.
I didn't mind. The beaches gave me plenty to do.
I caught up on my reading, I felt sun on my face, and I was
mesmerized by the blue sky and the turquoise sea.
I did not spot JoJo, however.
He's an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and perhaps the most famous
resident in the islands.
JoJo has been swimming in the Grace Bay area for the past 12
years and is very much at ease with humans.
He even has a project named after him, which studies his
behavior and environment and protects him from harm.
To protect me from the sun, I ventured off the beach in search
of sunscreen and activities.
Most of the latter revolved around the water and included
sailing to Parrot Cay, a private island with a spa-equipped resort,
and shelling on the shores of Fort George Cay.
My land activity was a visit to the Caicos Conch Farm, which
proved more interesting than I thought it would.
A word to the squeamish: Conches aren't pretty, despite their
pink outer shells. The body inside is a mass of black slime and
The guided tour included the egg farm, the hatchery, nursery
ponds and food-raising tanks.
Hatching takes place in the summer, when the eggs are
transferred from one vat to another and can be seen by the naked
eye. At that point, the eggs are about two centimeters, the size of
The farm has a small gift shop selling empty conch shells and
and related items.
I headed back toward the beach and Leeward Marina, the departure
point for fishing excursions, sightseeing tours and ferry services
to other islands in the chain.
The trip to Parrot Cay took about 30 minutes by high-speed
Parrot Cay is home to a resort of the same name, complete with a
spa, an infinity-edged pool and one of the prettiest white sand
beaches I've ever seen.
Several travel publications have tagged this stretch of beach
one of the most beautiful in the world. I agree.
A sand bar in front of the resort stretches out for what seems
like miles, with water no deeper than mid-calf.
Shells that collect in this area tend to be unbroken and make
The Asian-themed Shambhala spa offers body wraps, scrubs,
facials and massages for individuals or couples.
Phone: (800) 628-8929 or (649) 946-7788
Fax: (649) 946-7789
E-mail: [email protected]
Leeward Marina also is the jumping-off point for Sand Dollar
Cruisin' sightseeing excursions.
A five-minute jaunt from the marina is Little Water Cay, also
called Iguana Cay after the 50,000 scaly inhabitants that roam
freely in the nature reserve there, part of the 150-acre Princess
Alexandra National Park.
The rock iguanas especially like red toenail polish, according
to Allen Ray, owner of Sand Dollar Cruisin'.
"They think the polished toenails are berries, one of their
favorite foods," he said.
Half-day excursions visit Little Water Cay and then sail on to a
snorkel spot at the barrier reef that surrounds most of
Snorkel equipment, drinks and snacks are included in the
After snorkeling, we stopped at several uninhabited islands to
shell and gather sand dollars (a form of sea urchin), which Ray had
promised us we would find.
"I guarantee that everyone on my tours leaves with at least one
sand dollar," he said. "That's where we got our name."
Fort George Cay, a tiny island between Water Cay and Parrot Cay,
is a great place to shell. I found shells on the beach and in
shallow water in all shapes, sizes and colors, from bright reds and
purples to muted variations of pink and orange.
Guests should be prepared to bring their own bag or bucket to
stash their collection of shells.
Sand Dollar Cruisin' also offers a secluded island getaway, a
Middle Caicos cave tour and a North Caicos scooter trip.
Rates start at $35 per person for the boat trips and $140 for
the cave and scooter excursions.
Sand Dollar Cruisin'
Phone/Fax: (649) 946-5238
E-mail: [email protected]