Providenciales and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos -- 9/98

 

I met my friend and frequent traveling companion, Chris in Miami and we arrived in Provo, Turks & Caicos mid-September. We planned to spend four days diving on the busier island of Providenciales and then proceed to the smaller, more laid back quaint island of Grand Turk for another week.

  The assignment - The Second World Open Underwater Photographic Competition. I had won two of eight places last year and besides having the winning images used as postage stamps for Turks & Caicos, the prizes included a return trip to participate in this year's event.  

Unfortunately, our timing was poor and Hurricane Georges approached the Caribbean just prior to our departure. Undaunted, we elected to proceed with our trip and though the diving was affected, the hurricane veered away from Turks & Caicos at the last minute and we lost only several days of diving for high winds and seas.

Having been to The Turks Islands before, I am familiar with Provo and know my way around this small Caribbean destination. See the 10/97 Provo Trip Report for island details.

None-the-less, September is the slow season, factor in a hurricane threat and what happens? All tourists there leave, those coming cancel and half the local businesses board up and leave the island. Translation ~ nobody home, nothing happening, no services, absolute quiet!

We stayed at the Turtle Cove Inn, very convenient access to Provo Turtle Divers but rustic, poorly maintained and fairly typical of older Caribbean Island accommodations. As usual for this style of accommodation, we were left to fend for ourselves for most everything except the threatening hurricane. For this event, we were issued a candle and a book of matches while the office was closed and boarded up.

We dove the Northwest Point region and Grace Bay for several days with Provo Turtle Divers who were very pleasant and provided us good service on a well equipped 48 foot Newton dive boat. We lost several days diving while the hurricane passed by and spent the days walking about the island looking for something to do.  

We made our transport to Grand Turk luckily via a last minute switch to a six passenger plane (Sky King) when our booked carrier (Turks & Caicos Airways) cancelled our flight for lack of a plane.

If Provo was slow, then Grand Turk was dead! Clearly, never known for night life or entertainment, this week in particular was QUIET! Many businesses has closed for either the season or the hurricane and were also boarded up.

We stayed at The Sitting Pretty Hotel and dove with Mitch of Blue Water Divers. Both arrangements were courtesy of the Turks & Caicos Government as part of the consideration for last year's winning entries.

The Sitting Pretty Hotel's best attribute is location. It's right on the beach and is close enough to the center of town to be walking distance. Other than that, it is a fairly run down property, currently under renovation but I'm sure one can do much better on the island. The Sitting Pretty was flush with thumb sized cockroachs, a toilet that functioned once per day and cold running water. The Salt Raker Inn might bear a look at but like most everything on the island, is a quaint property.

On the other hand, Mitch of Blue Water Divers went above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate Chris and me. An eighteen year veteran of Grand Turk, Mitch is quite a fixture of the island, running one of three dive operations during the day and playing guitar and singing at the Salt Raker Inn's bar Wednesday and Sunday nights.

Besides taking us to his favorite dive sites and assuring us the best diving the island could offer, Mitch generously offered us rides for shore diving, took us to eating establishments we would not have found left to ourselves and spent the time to get to know us.

We saw many uncommon and unusual sea creatures such as the Lettuce Leaf Nudibranch (top left) and Fingerprint Snail (top right) and even had some very special interactions with the ocean residents (below)!

All too often, the dive industry forgets whats attracts some of us. For me, its personal interaction and the small island feeling as opposed to the large island resort that I travel for.

After a week on Grand Turk diving with Mitch Rollings of Blue Water Divers, I know that when I return, I'll be welcomed as a friend and have a place and people I'll look forward to see.

Overall Grand Turk is a sleepy little place, a wonderful one if you want a true Caribbean experience. Be prepared for "island time", insects, a scarcity of goods and services and as well as perhaps, a case of island fever.

If you think these things might deter you, go to Provo or Grand Cayman. Personally though, I enjoyed Grand Turk for what it is, a small local island community with nice close diving and interesting local eating and drinking establishments to be experienced. A very nice way to lose a week or two. Good enough for me!

 

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1998 John Petrak