While I have been fortunate enough to explore many parts of the world these past few months, this past weekend I was finally able to explore some of with my family. My family of four went down to Providenciales, an island in the northwest Caicos Islands, part of Turks and Caicos. My brother has been studying to get scuba diving certified, and the islands of Turks and Caicos are continually ranked as some of the top places to explore the underwater world, making it a perfect place to get certified. While my brother and dad went about helping my brother get certified, my mom and I went off on our own, exploring the island in our own way.
The first day consisted mostly of getting to the island. The flight wasn’t terribly long, although that could be in part because I’m so used to flying longer distances by now. We had a short layover at Miami’s airport, and I had a window seat on the flight so I was able to see some pretty stunning view from above. Even better was the fact that the timing of our flight was perfect, with us managing to arrive just in time for dinner. We quickly checked in, and headed out across the island to a restaurant recommended to us, Bugaloo’s Conch Crawl, a local restaurant known for it’s conch recipes.
Bugaloo’s was great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to try out some island food. Conch is a popular food in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a food I only knew existed because I had read Lord of the Flies, so I was excited to try something I had never even considered eating before. It also made sense to try it on the island that has an annual competition to see which restaurant can make the best (or most interesting) dish revolved around conch. I had coconut cracked conch, the most popular conch dish Bugaloo’s served, and while it wasn’t my favorite food in the world, it was certainly worth getting while in Turks and Caicos. On top of the good food, the view was absolutely amazing, and it was relaxing watching the sun set over the ocean.
Later that night, after we had settled in and had some free time, we walked along the beach outside our hotel, helping me to understand why Providenciales is such a popular place to visit. The sand was insanely soft, the ocean’s water was surprisingly warm and incredibly clear, and I could see so many stars, many more than I can in Boston or at home in Pennsylvania. Overall, it just absolutely beautiful, living up to claim as being paradise.
The next day we separated, with Chris and Dad starting Chris’s scuba diving training, while Mom and I started exploring the island. Mom and I started our day snorkeling at Coral Gardens, a small section of coral right in front of a beach resort right down the road from us. Although we didn’t get to go too far out, I was amazed at how much coral was so close to the shoreline. We spent a significant amount of time swimming around the coral garden (it was roped off so people don’t hurt it) and checking out the fish weaving in and out of the coral. I am still amazed by the sheer amount of exotic looking fish and types of coral that are present so close to the shoreline, no where else I’ve been to are you able to see such remarkable ocean views so easily.
After snorkeling we went and explored other close attractions. We decided to check out The Bight Park Botanical Gardens, a small local park near our hotel. The park in whole includes beach access, picnic tables, and the botanical gardens, but we just explored the gardens. The garden was pretty small, taking us roughly ten minutes to walk through completely, but that could be in part because only about half of the plants were blooming. Some areas, like the cacti exhibit, as well as the section of ‘useful’ plants like wild cotton, were very interesting to take a look at, but sections titled ‘red’ and ‘blue’ didn’t live up to the name, as no flowers of that color (or any really) were there. I would love to be able to see what the garden looks like in the spring, and not early August when the heat is overbearing, as the sections dedicated to colorful flowers must be absolutely gorgeous.
Mid-afternoon the guys got back from their scuba diving, which Chris loved, with stories upon stories of all the cool things they saw while diving. We sat around the hotel’s pool for a bit while they told us about their adventure so we could get cool off, but soon we headed to the beach. Chris and I decided to try paddle boarding, which turned out to be much harder than it looks. Chris picked it up quickly, but balance is a big proponent of paddle boarding, and I unfortunately lack the talent to stay upright. Nonetheless it was fun falling into the water over and over (and over and over…) again because it was nice to have some quality time with my family.
That night we tried another restaurant recommended to us, the Somewhere Cafe and Lounge. Out of all the places we went to for dinner throughout the entire vacation, this was my favorite. We ate outside, had a local musician playing live music, and the food was fantastic. I ordered a steak fajita, and it was potentially one of the best fajitas I have ever had (a local place, La Tolteca, near home still being my favorite). The singer was very good as well, and although the volume in the restaurant was very loud at the beginning of our meal, by the end when more and more people left, it was perfect.
Because snorkeling was so fun the day prior, Mom and I decided to do it again, this time going farther out and seeing more of the ocean. We did a tour through Caicos Adventures where you are boated out to West Caicos Island where the coral is even more beautiful than it was the day before. On the boat ride over our guide talked to us about the culture of the island, which I found absolutely fascinating, and we also were able to see the famous JoJo the dolphin. JoJo is one of eight dolphins in the world known to seek out human companionship, so it was very fun to see him and four of his family members. Our guide even went to swim with them which was fun to watch, I was jealous I wasn’t able to join in.
Even just the snorkeling itself was more interesting than the day before. We went to three different locations, two of which were coral reefs spanning what seemed to be miles, and the other was a drop off (“The Wall”) which is where the ocean floor plummets from 35 feet to 7,000 feet. Some people were lucky enough to see a shark while swimming around the drop off, but I was too far away at the time to see it, something that I’m still not sure if I’m glad about. On one hand I’m disappointed I didn’t get to see a shark up close and personal, and on the other I’m not sure if I would have been comfortable seeing a shark that close, even knowing that they are supposedly more scared of me than I am of it.
The coral was stunning as well. There were so many types, my personal favorite being the brain coral, but overall everything was very intricate and colorful. To me what was even more fun was swimming around with different types of fish. I came across a large school of colorful blue fish, and decided that it would be fun to follow them wherever they wanted to go. It was intriguing how at first they just wanted to swim away from me, but how after a few minutes they got used to me and let me join them in their travels. I absolutely loved seeing so many different types of fish and coral, I would highly recommend taking the time to go out further to see more, because while the coastline was cool, it was nothing compared to being right around reefs with an overwhelming amount of coral and fish.
We went out for an early dinner that night, as snorkeling and scuba diving wore the four of us out pretty quickly. We decided to drive into the town to eat at Lupo, an Italian restaurant right in the middle of the Grace Bay region. The restaurant was very small but very cute, with a small interior and outside region lit by string lights. The food was fantastic, and although it wasn’t food traditional to the island, it was definitely delicious.
I had read about a dessert bar called Melt, and it turned out to be right down the road from Lupo, so we decided to check it out. I’m thankful we did, as it was absolutely amazing. The interior was part restaurant, part lounge, part knick knack shop, filled to the brim with bright pops of color. The menu had sketches of all the different types of ice-cream, champagne, food, tea, and fancy cocktails available, and the staff was not only hilarious, but kind as well. The ice-cream was delicious, I had a brownie chocolate cup (or part of it before my mom swiped it from me to eat herself), my brother had a cookies and cream milkshake, and my dad had a few scoops of banana ice-cream. I could not have asked for a sweeter last night to our vacation.
While the last day of our vacation consisted mostly of getting home, an important lesson was stressed: get to the airport early. One would imagine that with the Providenciales airport being so small, you wouldn’t have to get there as early as you would at a different airport. That type of thinking would have made you miss your plane. We arrived roughly three hours early, thankfully, as it took us nearly two hours to get through security. The lines were long, the majority of the time we were waiting in the heat, and it was nearing lunchtime we people were getting hungry (and testy!). Thankfully I’ve had experience with inconvenient traveling so this wasn’t too annoying for me, but I can imagine someone getting easily frustrated or starting to panic about not making their flight. The flight itself was nice and short, and although it’s nice to be home, I miss our four day getaway immensely.