Getting to Turks and Caicos
The travel day to Turks and Caicos was one to forget, but the island is one to remember. Well, I guess the travel wasn’t that bad…only significantly long. We left the house at 2:45am, took our first flight at 5am after waiting in the long, non-TSA precheck line because it didn’t open until 4am. At 4am, we got in the TSA precheck line only to follow a bunch of people who didn’t want to wait in the other line and got turned away. Then three people pretended not to speak English and cut in front of us as we were waiting to put our bags through X-ray. Next the train on either side decided it didn’t want to accept passengers. But, the flight was on time! As was the next one out of Dallas…so that was a plus!!
Eventually we got on the Inter-Caribbean flight from Providenciales, but not until after we had to dump our water to wait in the gate area with nowhere else to go for over an hour before we boarded. Apparently the flight attendant told everyone they could sit wherever they wanted, so we lost our exit row seats and had to cram into the very back of the plane. It took all our might to fit our backpacks between the seat-backs in the row in front of us and our seats. The leg room in our row was less than other rows as the seats were extremely, irregularly spaced.
None of that was too bad, as it was only a 20 minute flight to Grand Turk. But I have to say after waiting in the hot airport for my dive bag and not getting it after 12 hours of travel, I was getting a little cranky. They wrote down my name along with two other passengers on a piece of paper and said they’d come tomorrow. They run out of room on the plane and just send them another time.
Fortunately I had a change of clothes, toothbrush, and flip flops in my carry-on. It was not by first rodeo with island time. The resort sent a shuttle for us. The taxi driver picked up a friend from the airport too. We were going about ten miles per hour, and I thought to myself, why are we going so slow, I just want to enjoy the evening at the resort. I looked out the window to see a car with a GIANT red L in the back window. Really, we got behind a learner driver in Grand Turk! Eventually, he passed the driver only to take a detour through town and to stop and say hi to someone else on the island. Any day now!
Bohio Dive Resort
We were greeted at the Bohio Dive Resort by no one. I was a little bummed as I was ready for a “Welcome” rum punch at this point. Eventually someone wandered by and handed us a key to the room. And later I found someone to explain the diving procedures for the morning. We were definitely on island time now. Our room had a nice view of the beach with wild donkeys on it! After cleaning up, we tried the hotel’s famous restaurant, and it was fantastic! So was the wonderful breeze that kept most the mosquitoes away and cooled the warm night. We tried to stay up for the Caribbean movie Cocktail, but neither of us could keep our eyes open. I think we were asleep by 9pm and didn’t wake up until 7am the next day.
Pillary Deep Dive Site
We purchased the all inclusive package which included breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu included nice choices like bacon and eggs and granola and fruit. The first dive usually goes out at 9am, but since only one other person was diving with us, they asked if she minded waiting until they retrieved my bag from the airport. No problem. Fortunately, my bag came on the morning flight, so Jaz got her fins and got all my gear and we hopped on the small boat with Ollie and headed to our first dive site, Pillary Deep, some five minutes away or less.
Jaz has a Jr. Open Water Certification which, according to the dive master, limited her depth to 40 feet, but that was OK because it was her first dive in the ocean. She was great! She floated along like a pro keeping her hands locked in front of her. She stayed a little distance away from the reef, but I don’t think she wanted to accidentally touch the coral. I was so nervous for the first dive, I didn’t even take the camera. We saw a small moray eel, tons of garden eels, three rays, feather dusters and a variety of reef fish.
Anchor Dive Site
We came back to the resort for our hour surface interval. It was kind of nice to pre-order our lunch and rest in a lounge chair until our next outing. The next site, another 5 minutes away, on the 3rd largest reef in the world, was called Anchor. We dove with Julie and Ollie again. We stayed up near 40 feet while they dropped a bit lower. It was another nice dive…Jaz started getting interested in the coral and looking in the crevices. She came up with a big smile, especially after spotting a turtle! She was hooked.
Grand Turk Inn
We still weren’t quite recovered from our travel, so we napped a bit this afternoon. We decided to walk into town for dinner. We passed by the museum and several store kiosks which were always closed unless a cruise ship came to town. A cruise ship came today, but left by 2pm, so we enjoyed a quite stroll as the sun set. Eventually we made it down to one of the restaurants on the south side of town, Grand Turk Inn. It’s a historic place too. The restaurant’s patio strung with lights along with a garden fountain provided a lovely atmosphere. The menu was mostly Asian though it included some other choices as well. Our meal was good. We were told to try the key lime pie, but were too full, so we promised we’d leave room for it tomorrow. The walk back took 20 minutes or so. After a quick stop for wi-fi at the lobby, we turned in.
McDonald’s Dive Site
The next morning seemed to come early. We got our breakfast and prepped for our dive. We had seven on the boat plus Ollie this time. It wasn’t crowded, but it was a big increase from yesterday. We dove a sight called McDonald’s due to an arch at the beginning. To stay near 40 feet, Jaz and I didn’t swim through it, but the others did. She really liked this dive and the openness of it. All the dives are on the wall, but we ended up hovering above the top of the reef as it starts near 40 feet. The sand beds were home to rays, garden eels, and this time a shark. I didn’t get Jaz’s attention fast enough for her to see it, but hopefully there will be another chance. We did spot another turtle, which we both really like.
She had a few challenges with her mask fogging and booties unzipping. Mine do this sometimes too, and I don’t really like it. She handled it like a pro. Even when her tank came unhooked, she just looked at me, tapped behind her and turned around. Underwater, I was trying to hold the tank up with one hand so that the regulator didn’t get pulled out of her mouth and strap it in with the other hand. Fortunately, Mark came over and helped.
Mark was an interesting guy…once a ballerina and lead dancer for Siegfried and Roy, then traveled in show business for Spellbound (a magic and illusion show), and is now a bounty hunter. I learned so many things I never knew, including I’ve probably flown on a plane with a tiger underneath me!
After our morning dives and lunch, Jaz talked me into making a pretty bad sandcastle, or if Jaz likes to say a pretty good 5 minute sand castle. We got bored quickly and moved on to a short kayak and some snorkeling. Sea biscuits peppered the shallows near the beach.
For dinner we decided to try one more night away from the resort. We walked to the Sand Bar at the recommendation of the hotel staff. It is located on the beach south of town. Along the way, we passed historic homes that were once owned by salt barrons and such. We also stopped at the site where it is believed Columbus first found land. This is where a dog followed us all the way to the restaurant and rested on the beach while we ate. I think I may have liked the walk better than our dinner. Food is pricey here, and while it costs more at the resort, it is not that much more, especially for the quality. Not to mention, the Sand Bar is cash only. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem, but it would have been nice to know! Bohio is the place for dinner.
Coral Gardens and Gorgonian Wall Dive Sites
The following day, we had another nice morning of diving. We spotted a few more eels, one that was larger and free swimming and lots of reef fish. And we got to dive deeper today, because as a 15 year old, some of the limits we thought applied, didn’t. The second dive included a significant amount of current. We got our workout in for sure. Enough to be lazy on the lounge chair for the afternoon. So far Jaz’s favorite fish was the fairy baslet, a small purple and yellow fish. Mine is still the queen angelfish. We saw both this day. After our offsite attempts for dinner, Bohio called our name. We just ordered appetizers as the selection was so appealing and we weren’t disappointed!
Alpine Meadows and The Library Dive Sites
Our next day of diving was our best so far, in particular the second dive at the Library. The wall of sponges and coral was spectacular. Ollie speared two lion fish on the reef as they are bad for the coral in the Caribbean. He fed one to a grouper and the other to an eel. The eel shot up out of its hole so fast as it struck the fish that I barely got the picture. It was awesome! And I thought this would be the highlight of the dive, but for me it wasn’t. We tended to finish up the dives beneath the boat with time to spare before we needed to surface, so we explored the top of the reef. While the sand beds and bleached coral on the top weren’t as pretty as the wall there were still lots of nooks and crannies to investigate. We found a lobster and finally an anemone with some tiny shrimp (these are few and far between here).
I was swimming toward Jaz when I saw something move. It was an octopus! Spotting one in the day is rare and exciting, but this sighting was just incredible. It was tucked in its lair next to at least eight hermit crabs, and they weren’t dead yet! They were just crawling around right next to this octopus. I thought to myself, you guys are lunch. I hadn’t seen anything like it. I was so excited, I rounded up the whole group. What made it even better, was Jaz had said just the night before she wanted to see an octopus. She doesn’t know how lucky she was!
BBQ at the Bohio
The storms came for the afternoon so we just hung out in the open-air lobby and enjoyed some of the Olympics! The Bohio Dive Resort holds a BBQ with live music every Saturday night, so we chose this for our entertainment. It was a little different from a regular BBQ. We had a choice to order fish, lamb chops, ribs, jerk chicken and more. We got our choice of meat and then could add any sides that were available…salad, corn, potatoes, pasta salad,etc. We got a ton of food!
Black Forest and Fin Bar Dive Sites
Our final day of diving didn’t disappoint. Again, the wall was beautiful!. We found two more small eels and were entertained by a balloon fish that shuffled from spot to spot as we stared at it (this is Jaz’s new favorite fish). We also found another anemone with shrimp as we played around beneath the boat. My battery died on my camera for the final dive so I don’t have pictures to show for it, but I didn’t feel like I missed out. In fact, I’m not sure everyone would like the diving here as most everything was small, with the exception of the enormous barracuda. It was interesting to dive here in the Caribbean and notice how there weren’t many anemone’s or large eels like in other islands in the Caribbean, but the barracuda were prolific!
I gave paddle boarding a try this afternoon. I still don’t find it too exciting. The wind has been so strong this week that I waited to try after it seemed like it had died down a bit after the huge storm last night. While lighter, it still blew offshore, so I was always having to paddle on one side to keep from going out to sea. I didn’t really like that feeling since I knew I would tire, so my afternoon jaunt didn’t last long! The lounge chair called our names. It’s amazing how tiring diving can be eventhough it only requires floating!
Due to not being able to fly 24 hours after diving, we spent our final day on the island on land. We thought we would walk to town to look for souvenirs when the cruise ship came in, though none were scheduled for Monday, so we changed our plan. We decided to try our luck with the Hobie Cat at the resort. All the water sports except diving were free for resort guests. I hadn’t sailed in probably 20 years and had only sailed mono-hulls. Jaz hadn’t sailed for a couple years, and she had only sailed Sunfish. The tiller on the Hobie Cat was much harder for me to steer with two rudders attached on the Catamaran. In addition, the waves and ripples coming into shore make it appear like the wind was coming from the southwest, but it was really blowing offshore from the east. I felt a little uneasy while Jaz sat serenely with the mainsheets thinking it was fun. Of course, she wasn’t the one trying to figure out how we were getting the boat back to shore.
Tour to Gibbs Cay
For the afternoon, we took an excursion with Captain Meat to Gibbs Cay. We got to motor around the south side of the island to an area in 15 feet of water where we free dove for conch. Jaz forgot her booties, so I let her wear mine so she could slip on her fins, as I figured she had a better chance of getting a conch than I did. I was right! She dove down a brought up a five pound conch. The other couple that joined us couldn’t do it. I didn’t try because I didn’t have a way to put on my fins.
Upon arrival at Gibbs Cay, stingrays came swimming to the boat. They have been fed so much, they come visit when they see the boat. I’m terrified of stingrays, because I watched someone step on one and get slashed by the barb when I was a child. Generally, they aren’t dangerous, so I stood long enough in the water for it to swim over my feet, but that was enough. We snorkeled a little too.
There was a small, sand trail to the top of the island, which was a five minute walk. We walked over the hill to the other side and came back to the beach for a demonstration of how to remove a conch from its shell. Captain Meat hammered a small hole in the cone of the shell, inserted a knife to cut the connecting tendon, and then we got to remove the meat from the shell. He cut off the claw used by the conch to move around and trimmed off the intestine.
We each tried the clear worm before he prepared conch salad. It was really fun to learn how to do this and to learn more about conch. Pink pearls come from conch. He has found two in all the years he has been free diving and providing meat to the local restaurants. He could also tell the approximate age of the conch. Jaz’s conch was around twelve and as such the shell was very thick compared to the younger conch Captain Meat retrieved for us.
We spent one final night at the resort that I would highly recommend. The staff was super friendly and somewhat quick for island time. Ollie was an excellent dive master. He just floated…hardly kicked. I told Jaz to immitate him. It was a really great place for easy diving, good food, and other things to do. We went during the off-season, so it was rather quiet as well, though I don’t think it is always like that. We enjoyed a great dive vacation. ETB