The Turks and Caicos are two groups of about 40 islands (eight inhabited) in the North Atlantic Ocean, between the Bahamas and Haiti. They are low, flat limestone, with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps. The highest point is Flamingo Hill at 48 meters (157 feet), on the fourth largest and uninhabited island of East Caicos. The main environmental issue is limited natural freshwater resources; for instance, private cisterns are needed to collect rainwater. The name “Turks” refers to the Turk’s Cap Cactus, a green cactus that looks like it’s wearing a red fez.
According to the Protected Areas Division, Department of Environment & Coastal Resources, two national parks account for as much as 90 per cent of all recreational water sport activities. On Providenciales, the vast majority of diving, snorkeling, parasailing and boating activities take place in the Princess Alexandra National Park. On Grand Turk, virtually all guest activities take place in the Columbus Landfall National Park. National parks on other Islands attract many visitors, as well. Two of the most popular are the Conch Bar Caves Nature Reserve on Middle Caicos and Ft. George Land & Sea National Park in the Caicos Cays. Wilderness camping is permitted in approved areas within Turks and Caicos’ national parks and protected areas.
Since Turks and Caicos lies at the southern end of the Bahamian archipelago, their Caicos Bank forms part of the world’s third largest barrier reef. The Turks and Caicos Reef Fund was established to help preserve and protect the marine environment of the islands. Every winter, between December and April, North Atlantic humpback whales migrate through the Columbus Passage that separates South Caicos and Grand Turk. Salt Cay Pirates Hideaway Guesthouse operates the Turks and Caicos Whale Watching website. Crystal Seas Adventures operates whale watching tours out of Grand Turk and Salt Cay.
Horseback riding is a popular activity on Providenciales, available from Provo Ponies and Caicos Corral. With two locations on Providenciales, Big Blue Unlimited is the main outfitter for adventure sports, such as kayaking. Windsurfing is available from Windsurf Provo. Both KiteProvo and ProvoKiters do kiteboarding. SUP Provo specializes in Stand Up Paddle surfing. The professional natives at Talbot’s Adventures offer various kinds of charter services. Island Snorkeling Adventures is the snorkeling and boat tour division of Caicos Adventures dive shop. Dive Provo and Ocean Vibes are other Providenciales dive shops. There is Blue Water Divers on Grand Turk, and Salt Cay Divers on Salt Cay. The Caicos Caves Project, mapping underwater cave systems, is described by Amphibious Adventures. The Dean & JoJo Story describes Dean Bernal’s friendship with a wild dolphin called JoJo, officially declared a national treasure of the Turks and Caicos in 1989.
- Ambergris Cay
- East Caicos
- Middle Caicos
- North Caicos
- Parrot Cay
- Pine Cay
- South Caicos
- West Caicos
The islands were part of the UK’s Jamaican colony until 1962, when they assumed the status of a separate crown colony upon Jamaica’s independence. The governor of The Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands remain a British overseas territory. In 2009, due to improprieties by then chief minister, Michael Misick, the Crown suspended self-government in the islands.
There is a Turks & Caicos National Trust. The Turks and Caicos National Museum partnered with the UK Oversees Territories Conservation Forum to establish bird-watching tours throughout Grand Turk, especially along the many salt ponds. The Middle Caicos Co-op promotes local artisan handcrafts. Interesting, historical places to stay include the British Colonial Salt Merchant’s Home on Salt Cay. Turks and Caicos epitomizes so-called “sun, sand and sea” tourism, and is generally considered a destination for affluent travelers, since virtually everything is imported; conch is one of the very few things not imported, see Caicos Conch Farm. As of 2012, developers of new highrise beachfront resorts were pushing the government to allow them to exceed the successful seven story limit, mandated in the National Development Plan, by up to four times.
- Belonger Perceptions of Tourism and Its Impacts in the Turks and Caicos Islands by JB Gatewood & CM Cameron, 2009
- Tourism trap? Unpaid bills from Turks and Caicos patients lead to suits by CM Cameron, 2009
- Beyond sun, sand and sea: the emergent tourism programme in the Turks and Caicos Islands by CM Cameron & JB Gatewood, 2008
- The Potential Impacts of Tourism: The Case of South Caicos by G Breslau, 2008
- Caribbean Tourism: Foundations of a Turks and Caicos Islands Sustainable Tourism Action Plan by KS Ishida, 2005
- Tourism Education And Training In The Turks And Caicos Islands by JM Skippings & L Musgrove, 2002