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Vacation trip to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands, British West Indies
by Chuck Kruger, February 1997

Linda, Casey, and I left Boston via GWV charter on a Sun Country Airlines B727-200, arriving at Provo late on a Saturday evening.

The Island: basically flat like most of the Bahamas (which are 30 miles to the north), covered with scrub vegetation, coconut palms, and cactus, and surrounded by pristine white beaches. It is still in a relatively undiscovered state by virtue of the fact that there are no direct scheduled flights there, and no major marketing to vacationers. It is well-along insofar as the planned developments go -- we saw countless lots laid out and served with utilities and awaiting million$-plus homes to be built. I noted an unusual number of abandoned projects, suggesting that the government, the island building contractors, or both have some nasty surprises in the post-investment stage. At any rate, there are some magnificent views, thanks to the proximity of neighboring islands and the shape of the archipelago.

The Resort: We stayed at the Turquoise Reef Resort (809-946-5555), the largest resort hotel on the island with 210 rooms. Built by Ramada in 1990 and currently in receivership, it is a perfectly acceptable property. A great pool, 12 miles of uncrowded beach, 3 restaurants, complete array of watersport activities, etc. which you can book from either the dive shack (which will rent everything from boogie boards and snorkel/dive gear to windsurfers and outboards, plus still and video camera equipment) or a desk in the lobby. The guest rooms are modest but clean and well-maintained (the entire resort has been recently painted), most featuring 2 double beds, air conditioning, phone, cable TV, bath with shower, and small balcony. Our quiet 3rd-floor room had a great view of Grace Bay. The food was good but not quite great; a copious breakfast buffet cost $12.00 (half-price for Casey who might have been a year younger in island years). The service was typical of the islands: eventually you get pretty much what you requested. Those who get huffy about service in the Caribbean need to adjust their expectations. Also at the Turquoise Reef is the Island's only Casino, which is not a whole lot bigger than my office. I never saw it crowded, though we never went in, satisfying our need to throw money away by blowing about $7.50 in one of the four slot machines located in the hotel lobby. I would return to this resort, though if I had a few grand more I wanted to spend, I might choose the Ocean Club, or one of the new Grace Bay properties just now under construction that look to be pretty high-end.

Activities: I recommend taking several snorkeling trips with tours of the many miles of empty beaches. We enjoyed our trips on 24' open fg boat/ big outboard engines through J&B Tours. The reefs here are a bit like those I remember in Virgin Islands in the late 70's: dying but not dead. There are many good spots for snorkelers, some (such as Smith's Reef in Grace Bay) where you can walk down the beach and get pretty good reef without using (or paying for) a boat. A "don't miss" is Little Water Cay, a marine sanctuary where, upon beach landing, you'll be greeted by 3' long friendly Iguanas who approach you, begging for food like dogs. A bit like a dry-land StingRay City off Grand Cayman. We took a day-long sail aboard 65' ketch Caicos Sol to French Cay, 13 miles away. This day there were 25-knot winds which made for exhilarating sailing, some fairly good rollers, many queasy stomachs, and a few white-skinned touroids heaving over the rail. The Cay was absolutely devoid of human presence except us, and a 10 year-old shipwreck on the beach that hosts an Osprey nest. The Cay is also a breeding ground for several species of birds, and is a popular stop-off on the migratory route for some kind of pure white tern whose name I missed. At the east end of the island is a graveyard for conch shells that literally cover the beach like a carpet for several hundred square feet. Speaking of feet, those water shoes that sell for $6.00 at Wal-Mart are absolutely great footwear for these islands. Tres Fashionable, practical, and cheap - don't leave home without them, because they'll cost you $25.00 bucks when you get to the islands.

Kids: Casey made pals among a small group of other kids in his age range at the resort. Especially popular was pool volleyball. Nothing much else for teens (is there anywhere?) but Casey had a great trip and we had some good times together that our home schedules wouldn't have allowed. There are organized activities for little kids that looked great, but I didn't join in despite the cool pirate hats.

In all, three of us got round-trip direct charter flights from Boston, plus 6 nights at the resort, for about $2600.00. That's pretty reasonable, especially factoring in the low-stress travel. I would recommend this destination to anyone seeking relaxation and good swimming on a great beach over nightlife and hot action. Bring a couple of good books.

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