What’s the Best Way to Island Hop the Turks and Caicos?

29th January 2018 10:51 am

The Turks and Caicos is a Caribbean archipelago made up of eight islands and dozens of smaller cays. Every island is unique in its own way and each can be a destination in and of itself. However, if you have varied interests and are up for experiencing the country in its entirety and all of its Caribbean beauty, island hopping the Turks and Caicos is going to give you an experience unlike any other.

Why Island Hop the Turks and Caicos?

How you want to enjoy your Caribbean holiday will greatly influence which Turks and Caicos island you want to go. For example, if you like scuba diving, there are some excellent dive sites near Grand Turk island. Or if you’re a history buff, you might be more interested in the Middle Caicos island where you can explore the abandoned plantations and salt flats.

Here are some ways you can choose which Turks and Caicos island to add to your island hopping itinerary.

How to Choose which Turks and Caicos Island to Visit

You want an Instagrammable beach

If you’re going to be in the Caribbean, you almost HAVE to reserve some time in your schedule to just lay on some of the finest, white sand in the world. The beaches of Providenciales Island (or Provo) are world renowned and consistently earn top marks and being among the top beaches in the world.

You have kilometres of beaches that gently slope into the some of the most startling blue waters you will ever see. Some would argue that you don’t know the true color of turquoise until you’ve visited Grace Bay Beach.

Every picture you post on social media is so perfect that you can always tag the photo with #nofilter.

You are a nature lover

The Turks and Caicos isn’t a paradise to just humans. There are scores of aquatic, marine, land, and flying animals that make their home on the islands. While you’re here, you have a great opportunity jump from island to island to watch animals in their native environment.

 

For example, you can take kayak or stand up paddleboarding eco-tours to explore and learn all about the serene mangrove habitats, various nursery grounds, iguana sanctuary, marine life, island birds, and coastal ecology.

If you want to get closer to life under the sea, then you basically have your pick all around the Turks and Caicos. The waters around the islands blooms with life as the reefs and sea walls are natural havens for countless number of fish, sharks, turtles, and coral.

Some of the best islands to experience nature include Providenciales (so you can paddle to Little Cay—also known as Iguana Island), North Caicos, Middle Caicos, and Caicos Cays.

You’ll go wherever the wind blows—literally

The Turks and Caicos is the premier destination for kiteboarding, because it is situated in the crossroads of year round trade winds. Long Bay beach on Providenciales is a great destination for the sport because it allows riders to travel for kilometres.

You want to experience the history and culture

The cultural centre of the Turks and Caicos can be found on North, Middle, and South Caicos. With Providenciales taking the lion’s share of resorts and tourism, these islands are able to retain their history and preserve a non-tourist-centric lifestyle.

If you island hop to these islands, you’ll see remnants of the cotton plantations and salt industries.

Grand Turk Island is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago and is home to Cockburn Town, the capital city. Here, you can visit museums and historical sites.

How to Island Hop the Turks and Caicos?

Island hopping the Turks and Caicos Islands can be an incredible experience and make for a memorable holiday. You’ll get to try a little bit of everything that makes the Turks and Caicos such a popular Caribbean destination.

Island hopping the Turks and Caicos by plane

Unfortunately, not all Turks and Caicos islands have commercial airports, so flying can only be a part of your island hopping strategy. However, there are many flights to and from the larger islands.

Providenciales International Airport (PLS) is the Turks and Caicos largest airport and has many international departures and arrivals. Providenciales island is the best place to start your island hopping adventures.

The other international airport in the Turks and Caicos is the Grand Turk JAGS McCartney International Airport (GDT).

There are other airports around the islands that will help in your island hopping itinerary. You can fly charter or private flights to these airports, which include:

 

  • North Caicos Airport (NCA)
  • Middle Caicos Airport (MDS)
  • South Caicos Airport (XSC)
  • Salt Cay Airport (SLX)
  • Pine Cay Airport (PIC)

Island hopping the Turks and Caicos by boat

Charter flights can give a fantastic view of the islands, but boats are definitely the best way to truly experience the Turks and Caicos.

If you’re arriving internationally by boat, you’ll have to pass through a port-of-entry—there are several on Providenciales. If you’re island hopping Turks and Caicos in your own craft, you will need to apply for a one-week permit or a longer 90-day Cruising Permit from the harbourmaster.

You can also schedule your own private charters to explore the Turks and Caicos. Depending on your boat captain or charter company, you can go practically anywhere.

Many charter companies even have fleets that carry their own snorkeling, diving, or kayaking equipment so you can jump into the water whenever you need some freedom.

Ready to Island Hop Turks and Caicos?

Turks and Caicos charters and excursions are very popular and spots fill up fast. It’s important that you book early so you can secure a captain or guide to help you customize your itinerary specific to your interests.

Contact Big Blue Unlimited and start booking your island hopping adventures today!


Filed under: Fleet, Private charters

Just Passing Through? Issue #90 KiteWorld Magazine

26th January 2018 10:30 am

The latest issue of KiteWorld Magazine is out and features Big Blue Head Honcho Philip Shearer discussing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Turks and Caicos Islands

 

THE AFTERMATH

We also spoke to another kiter, Piti Gutierrez who, alongside his fellow Puerto Ricans, recently faced a battle against the elements when Hurricane Irma devastated the island leaving scores of people dead and unaccounted for. In KW 90 he gives us an idea of the savagery of the storm which he experienced first hand as well as the challenges the island and its inhabitants now face as the cleanup operation continues. We also spoke to a forecasting expert from Surfline.com to find out more about why hurricanes have been getting more ferocious in recent years.”

See the Issue here. 


Filed under: Hurricane Irma

Iguana Island in Turks and Caicos

23rd January 2018 8:13 am

Little Water Cay, or Iguana Island as it is more commonly known, is a popular attraction on the Turks and Caicos Islands and a must-see destination for all visitors to the area. This former low-lying island is situated a short hop away from the main island of Providenciales and is easily accessible either by a pre-paid excursion, or by kayak.

This unique area is home to a small population of Rock Iguanas, who are native to the islands. Their population was once healthy and flourishing, however due to the introduction of domestic pets, particularly cats and dogs, the population rapidly declined and the species became endangered.

As part of large conservation efforts to not only protect the Rock Iguana, but allow them the opportunity and safe habitat to repopulate, Iguana Island has become a well-protected, eco-friendly environment. It is both a safe home for the iguanas and also a popular visitor destination where tourists can see the animals in a safe, non-harmful way.

How to reach Iguana Island

The island is a very short distance (just 456 meters) away from Providenciales and can be easily reached in one of two ways. Firstly, visitors can take part in an excursion, which will also usually include the cost of the entrance fee to the visitor park. Secondly, it is also possible to cross to the island on a kayak, which can be rented from Big Blue Unlimited, and paddle across to the island independently.

Depending on which method of transport you take, you may either arrive at the north or the south of the island. It is possible to start your journey from either side of the island.

Seeing the island

The island has two sets of loop boardwalks, where you can explore and see the iguanas without harming the environment and their habitat. Looking after the iguana’s habitat is extremely important to their continued survival and fight against extinction and eco-friendly tourism is one of Big Blue Unlimited’s principal causes. All of our excursions have minimal or no impact on the local environment and we educate our guests on how to enjoy the beautiful islands of Turks and Caicos, without leaving a trace. The boardwalks at Iguana Island keep visitors at a safe distance and avoid the trampling of habitats. Furthermore, there are no litter bins on the island, all litter must be taken back to the mainland, to avoid attracting predators which may threaten the iguana population.

While exploring Iguana Island, visitors can observe several natural habitats including areas of mangrove and buttonwood communities, hyper-saline and tidal flat areas, coastal coppice and coastal scrub. In addition to the flora, eagle-eyed visitors can also spot a range of birds such as osprey, brown pelicans, and bananaquits. Other wildlife which may be spotted includes hermit crabs, southern stingrays, and lemon sharks. However, the rock iguanas that inhabit Little Water Cay are certainly the star of the show.

Seeing the iguanas

The species native to Turks and Caicos is the Cyclura Carinata species of rock iguana; reaching up to 30cm at full size, they are relatively small compared to their distant relatives. They can live up to twenty years and females can lay up to nine eggs each year. With the right protection, this species has had the fighting chance to grow their numbers significantly over recent years.

Generally, visitors will have no problem spotting the iguanas, as almost 5,000 are present on the island. Their color can vary from green to brown and they usually have dark markings on their scales. The males are much larger than the females, weighing almost twice as much! During the day they enjoy rocky environments and at night they retreat to their burrows in the sand to sleep and rest. These sand burrows and nests are one of the most important reasons that visitors are not permitted to stray from the boardwalks, as this can easily cause accidental but large-scale damage to their habitat.

Visitor tips

There is little shade on the island to escape from the sun, so we recommend bringing plenty of water (remember not to litter!), a hat to protect your face and neck and a good quality sunblock, preferable bio-degradable, which is a must if you are also participating in Big Blue Unlimited’s water sports activities.

The admission price to enter the island is $10 for a short trail or $15 for an extended trail. If you are seeing the island with the help of a tour operator such as Big Blue Unlimited then the cost of your entry is often included in the overall cost of the excursion, but be sure to check this before departure. The recommended visit time to enjoy the island at your own pace is around 2 to 3 hours and although amenities are limited, there is a visitor center with a small shop where you can purchase local crafts and gifts as a reminder of your visit.

Cooling off after your tour

After a few hours of exploring the island and soaking up the unique experience, it’s likely that you’ll want to cool off in the crystal clear waters that surround Turks and Caicos, so why not combine your morning visit to Iguana Island with an afternoon snorkeling excursion with Big Blue Unlimited and see what fascinating wildlife the islands have to offer below the shore. The shallow reefs are teeming with stunning fish and coral that can be explored easily with the help of our knowledgeable guides, who will provide you with the best equipment and teach you how to explore the warm waters while respecting the marine life and reef environment.

To arrange your visit to Iguana Island and visit this once in a lifetime destination, contact the team at Big Blue Unlimited today to book an excursion. With a wide range of activities and tours on offer for visitors to Turks and Caicos, the team can also advise on how to make the most of your trip and see everything that the islands have to offer. Contact us today to start planning your adventure!  


Filed under: Activities, Eco adventure

The Legend of Joe Grant The Frisky Dolphin

18th January 2018 6:48 pm

With over 2.3 million views on you tube over the last nine years, Frisky Dolphin   has garnered a lot of interest. With the surge of Instagram and Facebook it seems this video goes viral more and more frequently across many of the different platforms.

 

Most of the time the 2-minute long video excerpt is taken out of context but also wrongly attributed while commonly played back and recycled at a higher frame rate distorting the reality. At the same time it’s sister video EAST CAICOS DOLPHIN  has all but been entirely ignored with only 10k views in the same time period.

 

Setting the record straight.

The event in question took place in May 2008 during a Big Blue Unlimited team day out. The weather that day was amazingly flat and allowed us to head out to the very far northeastern side of the Islands along the north shore of East Caicos.

We pulled into Big Cut off Middle Caicos mid morning, around 9 am after an early start and were pleasantly surprise to find a companion effortlessly riding our bow wave and wake as we cruised the length of Wild Cow Run beach to then anchor right off the beach of Joe Grant’s Cay, easily one of the most beautiful locations in the entire archipelago. As soon as we dropped in, the girls jumped in to join the dolphin while the guys who scrambled the Cay joined them shortly. As seasoned divers, freedivers and snorkelers with countless wild dolphin encounters between us some of were perhaps a little blasé until we realized this dolphin was not leaving us in a rush.

Little did we know that this young male had, in all likelihood, already heard us partying long before we saw him and simply wanted to join us in our fun. In water no deeper than perhaps 8-10 feet this dolphin gave every impression he had no intention of leaving and quickly became the center of our attention, a role he obviously reveled in.

For well over an hour both dolphin and swimmers entertained and excited each other. The close proximity and uniqueness of this lone encounter was very similar to the ones with JoJo during his own youthful heyday. To put it plain and simple – THIS was awesome! The longer it went on the better it got.

What became apparent as many of us left the water, cold and prune fingered, to those of us left in the sea, was how frisky and over excited this young male was becoming. The permanent smile and playful nature of these mammals often belies the fact that they are in fact highly successful powerful apex predators.

At some point the dolphin began taking a real shining to one of our female guides. The ironic role reversal was completed, as she became the center of his excited testosterone fueled attention.  What was initially amusing started to become more and more bizarre and uncomfortable as the dolphin’s determination, agility and focus to seemingly want to “mate” with our guide made intervention harder and harder. Bottom line – he wanted his girl. JoJo used to do the very same thing to female guests staying at Club Med back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

While this dolphin was not becoming aggressive, he was becoming more forceful and eager. As much as it amused us, to those of us still in the water freediving, watching and filming it gradually became obvious that our dolphin’s “crush” should get out of the water. Her exit coincided with an almost immediate calming down. One by one we all got out, tired, amused and exhilarated. Obvious questions and jokes of pregnancy were bandied about but the simple fact was this dolphin boy simply fancied a girl. The raging hormones of adolescence had simply got the better of him. While for us this day would never be forgotten.

We named the young dolphin Joe Grant, after the Cay and the encounter and thus the Legend of Joe Grant was born. We often wonder where he is now. Truth is nine years later he could be anywhere. We just hope he is safe and sound. 

Team BB


Filed under: Beaches, Eco adventure, Tourism

New Boats for Big Blue Unlimited

5:52 pm

The tail end of last season saw some major developments take place off the water. Reinvigorating an aging fleet is no mean feat especially here in the islands. However, with thousands of trips and miles on the clock, the wear and tear of adventure was in evidence on many of our much-loved vessels, including Yes I, Rocking Time and Starfish. These boats and YES I in particular had been instrumental along with LIVE & DIRECT in shaping and pioneering not only the Turks and Caicos catamaran revolution but also our own unique small group adventures over the last twenty years.

YES I especially has pretty much seen and done it all. She’s been everywhere in the Caicos Islands, literally. She has also been the “go to” vessel in training all our captains, guides and crew of where to go and how to do it. She is a legend in every sense of the word.

boating turks and caicos

However, every river runs its course. Over the course of last summer whispers of the quiet evolution were beginning to take shape in the form of three absolute beauties now sitting dockside at Big Blue.

The arrival of Little Chil in early August, a brand new 2017 World Cat would become the ideal partner for the beautiful Lady T. Together these two 30 footers have replaced the roles previously played by Yes I and Rocking Time while also upgrading the guest experience in comfort and space. Ideal for 6-8 guests wishing to chill or explore these vessels are also set up for 4 guests wishing to dive privately.

little chill 2

 

Meanwhile tucked away in the shipyard, four brand new 300 horsepower engines were being rigged and harnessed for Serenity our magnificent 48’ foot Intrepid Yacht. While Hurricane Irma may have delayed her arrival at Big Blue, this stunning luxury vessel was finally cut loose in October ready to explore the Caicos Banks. With cruising speeds well in excess of 30 knots, Serenity is able to cross the waters of the islands in comfort, in style and with speed. Places like French Cay, West Caicos and even South Caicos are now only an awesome boat ride away. This gem of a boat is made for classic Big Blue adventures.

serenity yacht to hire big blue unlimited

Last but not least, the arrival of MV White Sands just prior to the Hurricane season completed a full turnaround of our ageing fleet. This 42’ Africat power catamaran takes space and stability to a whole new level. One hardly feels the ocean under foot as she slices the water between the cays. Perfect for 8 – 16 guests, she is made for chilling and cruising. With ample shade, a fore, top and aft deck, White Sands is our latest and last edition in our new five strong boat fleet.

White sands catamaran turks and caicos

The excitement amongst the captains, guides and the sales team has been palpable. Now we want you to join us in the next chapter of our adventures near and far across the Turks and Caicos islands.

Bring on 2018. First in, last out.


Filed under: Fleet, Private charters

When is Hurricane Season in Turks & Caicos?

15th January 2018 11:47 am

Due to the nature of archipelago islands and Turks and Caicos’ position within the tropical Atlantic, the islands are at risk of tropical cyclones during the hurricane season. Although they are relatively uncommon, hurricanes have been known to affect the island and are something that travelers should bear in mind when arranging their trip to the area.

Most recently, Turks and Caicos was hit by the two extremely powerful category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, within a number of days of each other in September 2017. In this month the whole Caribbean suffered devastating effects of one of the worst hurricane seasons on record. It is understandable that for this reason, travelers to the region are taking measures to learn more about the hurricane season and how it could affect them in the future.

It is important to note that despite 2017’s events, hurricanes are still relatively uncommon in Turks and Caicos. On average, the islands are directly hit by one hurricane every seven years, and one passes nearby around every two years. When the islands are affected by tropical storms, recovery is undertaken quickly and infrastructure repairs, where needed, progress rapidly to restore the islands to normal working order.

Something that visitors will notice when traveling to the region, is the level of pride and care that the residents have for their islands, how hard they work to preserve them and nurture them again following adverse weather. The team at Big Blue Unlimited are no different and we hold the beauty and nature of our islands in the utmost regard. That’s why we arrange eco-friendly trips and activities to help protect our beautiful environment.

When is hurricane season?

Hurricane season occurs in the summer months in Turks and Caicos. Between June and November is typically the rainy season on the islands, and this is also the season which is most at threat of hurricanes. According to historical data, the risk of experiencing a hurricane peaks in September, and three out of four of all hurricanes will occur between August and October.

Tropical storms and hurricanes can affect all countries in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the most powerful hurricanes are known as Cabo Verde hurricanes, as they originate off the coast of Africa and pass westwards across the Atlantic Ocean. Although most eventually disappear over the sea, some reach the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

On average, there are generally around 12 tropical storms each year in the Atlantic region. Of these 12, 6 will evolve into hurricanes and of these, 3 will become major hurricanes. It is important to note that of all the hurricanes experienced during each season, most do not make landfall on the Turks and Caicos Islands.

What classifies as a hurricane?

The term ‘hurricane’ occurs when a tropical cyclone surpasses sustained wind speeds of 73mph. The severity of the hurricane is rated according to the Saffir-Simpson scale as follows:

  • Category One: 74 – 95 mph
  • Category Two: 96 – 110 mph
  • Category Three: 111 – 129 mph
  • Category Four: 130 – 156 mph
  • Category Five: ≤157 mph

Between 39 – 73 mph, cyclones are known as a tropical storm and may further progress into a hurricane. Likewise, hurricanes can downgrade into a tropical storm before they reach land. All tropical cyclones begin as tropical depression, where low pressure areas are accompanied by thunderstorms, and produce a circular wind flow which can turn into a cyclone.

What effect do hurricanes have on Turks and Caicos?

Despite what you may initially think, the most damaging effect of hurricanes on the islands is not the high wind speeds alone, but instead the storm surge which occurs as a result of the tropical weather. Almost half of Turks and Caicos land is low elevation, as the islands are made up of many wetlands and saline flats which are close to sea level. There are no mountainous or high-elevation regions on the islands and as a result, the effects of flooding on Turks and Caicos can be severe.

However, one of the natural forms of protection for Turks and Caicos is the level of the ocean floor surrounding the islands. Sitting on a plateau, they are protected from the occurrence of extreme storm surges, which are more common on other Caribbean islands. This natural barrier means that waves do not reach the huge heights that they may do in other regions and the effects of the weather are reduced.

Should you travel in hurricane season?

Even during hurricane season, the occurrence of this type of weather is still very uncommon and many people still travel to Turks and Caicos within the summer months. This season is also known as the rainy period on the islands; the annual rainfall is around 27 inches which, when compared to over 59 inches in Florida, does not seem that much. Most of this rainfall comes from passing tropical storms, as opposed to standard rainfall that inland territories experience.

During the summer season, temperatures peak at around 95⁰C and 35⁰C. Due to the hotter, damper weather and risk of hurricanes, many tour operators and hotel resorts offer largely discounted rates to tourists in the summer, with prices reduced by up to 40% compared to peak season. Thanks to the cost effective travel options, many travelers still choose this time to explore Turks and Caicos, to beat the crowds of tourists and to enjoy quieter beaches and resorts. At Big Blue Unlimited, we experience great visitor numbers all year round, and the summer is no exception. We have a number of activities available that can help you enjoy everything the islands have to offer in the summer.

When the islands are at risk of tropical storms, the American Red Cross app is one of the many resources that can be used for advice and it provides storm updates for travelers and residents. Generally, tourists will have at least one week’s advance warning of any storms that are due and air operators will put on additional flights out of the area to return visitors home before the weather affects the airports.

If you have travel insurance, it is worth checking for a ‘cancel for any reason’ (CFAR) clause in your agreement, which could mean that you can rearrange your trip for another time in the year. If you have not yet taken our travel insurance, you may want to consider including this option to be on the safe side.

What else should you know before travelling in hurricane season?

One of the most notable annoyances about travelling in hurricane season is, in fact, the increased level of mosquitos. Due to high level of rainfall and potential flooding, travelers in the summer months will be prone to bites from mosquitos and no-see-ums. It is therefore advisable to bring a strong bug repellent spray, and carry it on you to top up throughout the day.

Furthermore, due to the hotter temperatures experienced during the summer months, travelers should bring high protection sun block and ensure that they spend time in the shade to protect their skin and take a break from the sun’s harsh rays.

Overall, travelers that wish to visit Turks and Caicos during the summer months often have an enjoyable and relatively cheap vacation, away from the crowds and enjoying beautiful weather. It is important to remember that the risk of hurricanes is relatively low, but suitable precautions such as adequate travel insurance should be taken. To find out more about traveling to Turks and Caicos in the summer months and how to make the most of a vacation to these stunning islands, contact the team at Big Blue Unlimited today.


Filed under: Hurricane, Tourism, Travel

Turks and Caicos Weather in January

10th January 2018 3:19 pm

People from all over the world enjoy escaping to Turks and Caicos in the New Year, to escape the January blues and colder climates for a relaxed, warm and beautiful holiday destination.

Turks and Caicos weather in January

The weather conditions on the islands further improve from the already enjoyable month of December, and January has a daily average of 11 hours of sun. The air temperature is consistently warm and ranges from 75 – 79 degrees, while the sea temperature is also a pleasant 75 – 77 degrees, making it a great time to enjoy watersports and swimming.

With only 2 rainy days in January, it is a great time to shake off the winter blues and relax on the golden beaches of Turks and Caicos.

Turks and Caicos in January

Due to the favorable weather conditions, January is in the peak season for visitors to Turks and Caicos and as a result the beaches and hotels are busier than some of the summer months that fall in stormy seasons.

As well as the fine weather, one of the most popular reasons to visit the islands in January is due to the start of the humpback whale season, where visitors can take whale watching trips to spot these majestic creatures on their migration from around the world to the Caribbean, where they mate and give birth in the shallow banks near Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic.

Mosquitos

Visitors to Turks and Caicos don’t need to worry about high mosquito levels during January, as this is generally one of the best months of the year for low mosquito activity. January is well away from the hurricane season, which sees flooding and tropical cyclones that can stir up mosquitos. What’s more, they’re particularly less common after the windy months of November and December, as the strong winds keep them at bay.

We recommend travelers come prepared with bug repellent, but overall January is a great time of year to enjoy the environment without the nuisance of mosquitos.

Activities

Turks and Caicos is known for its pleasant climate all year round, but January in particular is one of the best months for a host of different activities. The sea is calm and warm, so fans of swimming, sailing and water sports will not be disappointed. Here’s some of the things you can get up to in January:

Stand up paddle boarding

If you want to get involved with the fastest growing watersport in the world and like the idea of paddle boarding across the clear, pristine waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands then a January getaway is just what you need.

The wind speed across the ocean can start to pick up around this time, which can make the waters a bit choppy, however the shallow waters are still protected and provide a calm surface to enjoy the sport safely, and see the ocean floor below.

Kayaking

The warm temperatures and still waters surrounding the archipelago make great conditions to explore the many winding channels and tidal creeks across the islands. You’ll spot a host of wildlife in January, as they enjoy the mild and calm weather, you can even take your kayak straight into the nature reserves and explore at your own pace. To make the most of your experience, why not camp overnight; Big Blue Limited can help you plan your kayaking adventure, contact us today to discuss the different options.

Snorkeling and Diving

The tropical reefs that surround the Turks and Caicos Islands are phenomenal sight that should not be missed when you visit the islands. Snorkelers can see up close the beautiful species of fish, coral and wildlife that call the reef home, and explore the area safely and respectfully with the help of Big Blue Unlimited’s guides.

With calm, warm and clear waters in January, snorkeling is a very popular activity at this time of year, but the added excitement of spotting a migrating humpback whale is definitely the icing on the cake. Our dive teams watch out for the movements of the whales, and when spotted they alert any upcoming snorkel trips for the best place to go to encounter the beautiful creatures up close.

Those visitors who want to explore even deeper can take diving trips with the expert Big Blue Unlimited dive boats and instructors. Unlike other dive operators, our team continually dive all of the five major dive areas around the area, covering Grace Bay, Pine Cay, North West Point, West Caicos and French Cay. We also have an excellent track record of diving in the right locations to encounter whales and dolphins, including the humpback whales which can be spotted in January.

Events

One of the most notable January events in Turks and Caicos is the Junkanoo Jump Up, a celebration which happens as the clocks strike midnight for New Year. A sea of islanders in colorful masks and costumes celebrate in the streets, with traditional African dance and music that goes on until the early morning. Visitors can expect impressive firework displays to bring in the New Year and an enjoyable carnival atmosphere.

With the great weather and a host of exciting activities available, it’s easy to see why visitors enjoy spending January on the Turks and Caicos Islands. The team at Big Blue Unlimited can help you make the most of your time here and explore the breathtaking islands in a number of ways. Whether its paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling or diving, our instructors and guides have everything you need to take to the waters and see the beautiful ocean wildlife and nature up close.

We can also arrange inland walking and biking trips to venture off the beaten path and uncover the hidden history of the island, with remnants of the very first settlers to the islands just waiting to be explored. Contact Big Blue Unlimited today to talk to our friendly and helpful team and find out how to plan your perfect getaway to Turks and Caicos.



Back Country Kayaking

8th January 2018 11:37 am

If you’ve not been kayaking in the Turks and Caicos you’re missing out. The islands, and its extensive wetlands in particular are a kayaking haven. And quite frankly it’s really the best option to access vast areas of the islands that are just too shallow, tidal, and pristine to reach any other way. Kayaking TCI

Since Big Blue’s inception in 1997 we’ve been running kayak tours through the wetlands around Provo and these continue to be some of our mostly popular eco-tours. We’ve explored the nature reserves in the interior of North Caicos with many a guest, and ventured to Joe Grant’s Cay and East Caicos with more intrepid paddlers. For many years we have also kept a handful of kayaks based on North Caicos and South Caicos to access the creeks and coastline there too.

canoe turks and caicos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent 3-day expedition to South Caicos was exceptional in many ways. In order to use some specialized single touring kayaks from our Provo base we loaded these and a kayak trailer onto our adventure boat Live & Direct and sped eastward across the banks a few days in advance. Our friend and local fisherman Tim Hamilton provided our land transport and boat support on South Caicos for the rest of the trip.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guests arrived via charter flight from Provo and we settled in at the East Bay resort. We were the first official guests after the autumn hurricanes had caused damage and temporary closure but you wouldn’t know it. They had done a phenomenal job cleaning up the beach and grounds, and apart from a few quirks the accommodations were as clean, comfortable and functional as always. The service and food was of a high standard, and all the staff went out of their way to facilitate our needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast was greeted with an inspirational dawn over the Turk’s passage. Omelettes to order came quick and scrumptious, and with packed lunches in hand we were quickly off on our day’s adventure. We drove ourselves and kayaks to the northern tip of the South Caicos peninsula where a launching point known as Jerry Camp is a pretty as any spot in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In fact you could spend all day in this area and be in heaven. The turquoise waters flow past tidal sand bars and small cays with jaw dropping beauty. Red mangroves and white sandy beaches line the shorelines providing shelter for birds and marine life. Snorkel, kayak, swim, kite and enjoy. But for once we didn’t linger here, we had come to kayak the interior wetlands and islands to the north and it just gets better and better.

 
Timing the tide is essential in this region of the Caicos Islands and we’d done this perfectly. The spring tides were still rising as we set off in three Epic kayaks to explore the leeward side of the islands. These super lightweight performance kayaks are a hybrid construction of fibreglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar. Strong and durable but not indestructible as I was to find out later in the day. Before long we were gliding through 12 inches of calm water under blue skies admiring the oyster catchers, reddish egrets and royal terns. Fishing this region has been rife for years and several large piles of discarded conch shells line the shoreline. Soon Plandon Cay was behind us and Middle Creek Cay was in our sights. Relatively deep channels separate these islands, funnelling considerable volumes of water between the ocean and the interior. Heavily eroded rocks and limestone headlands guard the entrances and the fast moving water and wave action requires careful passage.

More conch piles, more mangroves and then another channel crossing over to McCartney Cay which is where it really starts to get interesting. We stopped to admire two beautiful egrets interacting in a mangrove bush. Both were reddish egrets, but one was the rare white phase of this entertaining bird which was a special treat. We also spooked some bonefish has we passed through the shallow and sheltered waters. These can be hard to spot if you’re not tuned into their colouration and movement as they blend in so well with the white sandy bottom.

We’d made good time so rather than take a pit stop on McCartney Cay’s southern beach we continued around the lee side and further into the interior. The mangrove habitats start to become denser here and the concentration of wildlife increases. This is the beginning of a wetlands area that stretches up the entire west side of McCartney Cay, into the interior of East Caicos, and over to Hog Cay. It’s a truly vibrant and unspoiled environment.

Once we had penetrated about half way up the length of McCartney Cay we turned around and caught the now ebbing tide back out to deeper waters. Kayaking the ‘ocean side’ of the islands is geographically correct but a bit of a misnomer as the water remains shallow, almost standing depth in most places. As we kayaked up the coast of McCartney Cay we admired the beaches, cliffs and force of the hurricane on the large casuarina trees. These introduced species had lined the beaches in many places but all had been stripped of their leaves and the sand eroded from around their roots. Most had been pushed over and are unlikely to recover but fear not, the much smaller and compact native vegetation had fared very well and continue to cover the crests of the limestone cays.

As we approached the northern end of McCartney Cay I heard a loud thud at the back of my kayak. My first instinct was that an eagle ray had jumped and landed on the back on my kayak by accident, such was the extent of the noise. But on closer inspection it seemed that a needle fish of some variety had slammed head first into the side of the kayak. The little blighter had managed to put a small hole in the side of the vessel right at the water line. One should never leave home without a pump and some duct tape!! On this occasion I had to make do with surgical tape from the first aid kit but it did the trick and stemmed the small steady flow of water coming into my stern hatch. I was not in danger of sinking, the bow and stern hatches are separate watertight compartments, but any added water would certainly slow me down and make me work harder.

We spent some time enjoying the northern tip of McCartney Cay. This area is a gem and one of our favourite locations and beaches in the Turks and Caicos. This is a major outlet to the vast wetlands area previously mentioned. The tidal waters flows in and out creating what feels like a river, lined by mangroves, flowing all the way to Hog Cay. The channel is very clear, wading depth and although fast flowing is fun to swim in. Sand bars become exposed are low tide and limit access by boat. Snorkeling along the edge of the mangroves is decent and you’re going to see some small barracudas and juvenile sharks as well as the usual fish and invertebrate species associated with the mangrove nurseries. The gorgeous beach on McCartney Cay circles around the point and down the west coast of the island. The vegetation made a good place to stash the kayaks for the night and Tim took us back to the East Bay Resort for an afternoon snorkel and welcome sundowner.

Picking up where we left off the previous day we continued down ‘Hog River’, one of the highlights of the circuit. The turquoise channel is just mesmerizing. It’s about 250ft (75m) across and lined by thick red mangrove habitat. We more or less followed this channel for 5 miles until it spat us out near the southern end of McCartney Cay again. There were some memorable encounters along the way.

We followed two narrow side channels off of this main artery. The first opened up into large shallow tidal wetlands that backed onto the dry land of East Caicos itself. And there, resting in a large mangrove bush were five Rosette Spoonbills, not only beautiful but rare too. I’d only seen them in the islands once before and that was in the same area a few years before. Our unexpected arrival startled them and they took off to circle around overhead until we’d moved on and they settled back again in the same bush. It was important to remember the way into this area. There is a small tidal window before you’re left sitting on the mud and it’s easy to get trapped if you get turned around and can’t find the exit. Upon exciting we spotted a Peregrine Falcon in flight another rare find in the TCI.


A good way further down the channel is an old plantation site that likely dates back to the early 19th century. It sits on the shore of Hog Cay in a very picturesque location. Its remote site likely accounts for the fact that it is still standing. The characteristic plantation chimney is intact, and a square wall surrounds the property. It’s still a good paddle back across the flats to reach the eastern cays again and by now the tide was well on its way out. Some walking was required across a gorgeous sand bar as even 2 inches of water is not enough for these super lightweight kayaks.

We kayaked back to South Caicos along the ocean side of the cays enjoying the waters and exposed sand bars around Jerry Camp once again. Carefully strapping the kayaks to the trailer we headed back to town along the bumpy and muddy track. What a great couple of days kayaking. We’d covered a distance of about 18 miles. Most of it was through incredible terrain with the tide and wind in our favour. There were some sections that were a slog, particularly over shallow water with the wind blowing against the tide, but the rewards were worth the effort. We saw no one else along the entire route and nor would we expect to save for passing fishermen in deeper water on route to their hunting grounds off East Caicos.


Although we were using specialized kayaks for this trip, our regular fleet is more than capable of making the journey. On our last day on South Caicos we decided not to kayak but went snorkeling and hiking along the Long Cay National Park instead. We’ll save the tale of that adventure for another day. Needless to say that the wildlife thrives on this side of the Caicos Banks and it’s a fun location no matter the activity. Big Blue runs custom scuba diving, snorkeling, cultural and of course kayaking trips to South Caicos. Please contact us for details and pricing.


Filed under: Kayaking

High-Resolution 3D Multibeam Survey of the Caicos Platform Margin November 2017

10:22 am

Introduction

A prestigious team of Geo-scientists from the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas has been studying the shape, geometry, and variability of the Caicos platform. Of particular interest is the shelf margin that has been modified by sea-level changes which have occurred over the past 400,000 years. During glacial maximums (times of global sea level lows), it is believed that significant wave cut notches developed along the shelf margin at depths of -80 and -125 meters below current day sea level. These notches may be linked to the collapse of large reef blocks that can be observed at recreational dive sites along the leeward margin of the Caicos platform (e.g., Coral Stairway west of Amanyara).

 

In November 2017 they collaborated with us at Big Blue to conduct a multibeam survey from the north-west point of Provo along the western edge of the banks down to West Caicos and then along the southern edge of the banks to French Cay and onto West Sand Spit. An amazing amount of high resolution data was collected over this 70 mile stretch.

 

The objectives of the study included:

  1. Creation a high-resolution 3D bathymetry of the steep-walled rim along an approximately 70 km long survey from North West point to West-End Spit;
  2. Integrate the shelf margin with the platform that was mapped by the previously acquired airborne Topo-bathymetric survey by the University of Texas at Austin;
  3. Enable detailed characterization of the upper 400 m of the slope and steep-walled reef margin within the survey area;
  4. Improve the understanding of the dynamic between shelf margin geometry and sea-level changes.

 

The Equipment

Multibeam echosounder surveys utilize the same technology as commercial fish finders, but the instruments used by the research team, the Reson model T-50 multibeam echosounder and Edgetech Sidescan sonar, sent a wider signal to enable surveying a swath of the seafloor in 3D down to 400 meters. Our dive vessel Live and Direct was rigged with the echosounder on a fixed arm that transmitted and received data while traveling 4-7 knots along the edge of the shelf boundary. It took 6-days to cover the distance and collect the data. We were blessed with some favourable weather and the data collected was exceptional.     

 

The Results

Post-processing of the date was conducted at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of Drs. Chris Zahm and John Goff. The dataset was combined in a 3D triangulated surface to enable detailed mapping characterization of the shape and geometry of the shelf margin. Here are some of the initial bathymetric maps of West Caicos, Sandbore Channel and the North-West Point areas. There are dynamic ranges of topography on West Caicos (0 to 18 m above sea level), and bathymetry on the shelf (0 to -25 m below sea level), the wall (-25 to -150 m) and slope (-150 m to -350 m). What is very interesting to note is how deep the vertical walls go.  These maps show that the vertical walls descends to almost 400ft/120m which supports data on the extent of the sea-level fall during glaciation. The preliminary map of West Caicos is obtained from the raw data of an individual sounding from the multibeam and includes horizontal contours placed at 120ft/36m. It shows us that as recreational divers we are really only seeing the very top of the wall. Subsequent maps combine data from different runs to provide a more accurate image and we’re grateful for a better understanding of our famous walls. Does this get you excited for your next dive in the Turks and Caicos?


Filed under: Uncategorised