Providenciales, Turks & Caicos -- 10/97

 

Turks and Caicos National Seal

Turks & Caicos Map Turks & Caicos has been on my Caribbean Hit List for some time. The 1997 World Open Underwater Photography Competition held from May through October provided the catalyst to plan a ten day trip to this small group of islands due east of Cuba.

Research for our trip was performed entirely on the Internet. Information on the island's attractions, features, diving and accommodations is abundant and for the most part, accurate. We chose to stay at Ocean Club and dive with Art Pickering's Provo Turtle Divers.

Ocean Club is located right on the beach with beautifully landscaped paths surrounding two swimming pools. Sixty four condominium style units contain amenities such as full kitchens, satellite television, laundry facilities and large screened balconies - definitely no roughing it here! The property has two bars (one with a grill) and the Gecko Grille Restaurant which unfortunately was closed during our stay.

Provo Turtle Divers has a dive shop on premises and my expectation was the dive boat would depart from an Ocean Club dock. Instead, a complimentary cab / van shuttled us ten minutes to the dock at Turtle Cove Inn - a minor inconvenience.

Over the course of my seven days of diving, two of Provo Turtle's dive boats were used; the first a 42 foot custom dive boat (Chuck's Honey) with fresh water showers, camera table and spacious pilot's deck, a very nice vessel. Group sizes ranged from 10 to 20 divers and were comfortably accommodated. Days with less than 10 divers were spent on "Chuck's Other Honey", a much smaller diver boat that served the purpose but lacked the space and amenities of the 42 footer.

The captains and dive masters of Provo Turtle Divers were friendly and knowledgeable. Pre-dive briefings were thorough and informative. Guided dives were offered but not mandatory and divers were able to "dive their computers" with a requested maximum depth of 130 feet.

Most dive sites require a 45 to 75 minute run and the weekly three tank trip to West Caicos takes a little longer. Visibility averaged 60 - 80 feet and the water temperature was a very warm 85 degrees.

Turks and Caicos scuba diving   Dive from Provo Turks and Caicos
West Caicos provided, in my opinion, the best diving of the week. The walls were dramatic and the corals healthy. The reefs were busy with an abundance of small colorful reef fish as well as schools of Jacks, Grunts and Barracuda. One site in particular, "Land of the Giants" was remarkable for the quantity of Flamingo Tongues on the reef. Any direction I looked, dozens of theses striking mollusks were visible, clinging to purple soft corals and sea whips.

Most of our dives were at Northwest Point, a very quiet and picturesque location. Sharks were sighted almost daily and we were treated to several close-up encounters. Southern Stingrays, schooling Spade Fish and Barracuda were also commonplace.

   
Surface intervals were spent lounging at Tiki huts abandoned 3 - 4 years ago by the producers of a French survivalist television game show, snorkeling or just walking on the long, deserted stretch of white beach. This end of the island is a government preserve without development.
On one day we headed east and dove Pine Cay which has more sloping walls. Our second dive for the day was done in Grace Bay where the reef viability was off due to the tidal movement but cleared at the wall to offer views of Nurse Sharks and an adult Spotted Drum.

After diving, we took time to explore the island by jeep. Due to its relative small size and population, attractions are limited. None-the-less a $6 tour of the world's only Conch farm provided a fascinating close-up encounter with the mollusks.

An exciting four-wheel drive excursion through the Northwest Point Territory to the Tiki huts was rewarded with a private beach, blue waters and the shade of the abandoned compound.
Only a short walk from "downtown" is the ruins of the Cheshire Hall Plantation, built around 1800 by Loyalist and Settler Thomas Stubbs.

When not exploring, just relaxing on the beautiful white beaches watching Jo-Jo, the resident dolphin swim past remarkable sunsets was fine with us.

In summary, we enjoyed our visit to Provo, Turks & Caicos thoroughly. Diving was typical of the Caribbean, with a little longer than average boat ride than other locations. Very limited shore diving is available since the reefs and walls are offshore by a good distance.

Food and accommodations are excellent and the island has a good infrastructure. The natives are warm, friendly and seen well educated and hard working even if on "island time". Crime is minimal and though we explored the island extensively, we never felt at risk.

Ocean Club and Provo Turtle Divers are winners and were a good choice for our trip. More economical and convenient lodging (close to the Provo Turtle Divers departure dock) may be had at Turtle Cove Inn which was reported comfortable by fellow divers staying there.

For us, Provo, Turks & Caicos will be a repeat destination though not regularly. I believe the island country will develop rapidly and become a major dive vacation spot. I'll gladly return for photographic assignments and competitions or other specific purposes.

 

Trip Report Update: Click Here for 1997 World Open Photography Contest Results!

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1997 John Petrak