There is nothing better than discovering new places in the Turks and Caicos and after 16 years of exploring these islands we thought we’d covered most of it. But on Christmas Eve, whilst on a full-day adventure to West Caicos onboard our new luxury vessel, Luna Del Mar, we anchored in a sheltered cove along the leeward coast of West Caicos and discovered something exciting.
It was a beautiful location where the seafloor quickly dropped down to a coral shelf at about 25ft in depth and then continued onto the sandy plain that runs out to the deep wall. The water was very clear and there was healthy amount of fish swimming along the edge of the shelf. I noticed an open slot in the limestone and swam down to investigate.
With my legs vertically above me I poked my head down through the hole and was very excited to see a largish cave or tunnel extending under the rock to a beautiful opening about 30ft away. The cave itself was clearly providing shelter to a number of fish including a family of surgeon fish. The roof and sides of the cave was a wealth of invertebrate life including sponges, feather-dusters and various miniature corals.
We spent a fun hour free-diving down again and again to see the cave and view its inhabitants.
One of our guests, a gutsy 10 year girl, was an excellent free-diver and managed to build up her courage to make it through the cave unassisted. Not a bad feat at 25ft of depth. J
The atmosphere was electric as the family members of the Enable Passion Atlantic Crossing kite boarding team climbed aboard our new vessel, ‘Luna Del Mar’, on Tuesday morning. They were chomping at the bit to get out there to the welcome the riders and see their loved ones again.
We drove up the coast to rendezvous with the kiterboarders and drop off a Big Blue pilot aboard their mother-ship, Double A, a Lagoon 500 sailing cat, in order to run communications and help guide them in to the Blue Haven Marina on Providenciales.
The celebrations began even before we maneuvered alongside. Flags were waving, horns were blowing, and everyone was cheering madly. The riders themselves were clearly pumped to be nearing land for the first time in nearly a month and of course for seeing their families after their epic odyssey.
The rain came and went but as the wind picked up we peeled away and watched with admiration as the adventurers launched their kites for the last time from the stern of their boat. It is a skill that the team had clearly honed over 27-days of non-stop relay kiting across an entire ocean.
And they kept at until all 6 riders were in the air by which time the fleet of Turks and Caicos resident riders had sailed out into the deep blue to join the fun. At this point we were all about 2 miles outside the reef somewhere off North Caicos. It was an impressive sight and heart felt welcome from fellow kite boarding enthusiasts although most had never ventured this far from land, let alone out into water this deep.
And then the wind disappeared and there was no choice but to help the other Big Blue rescue boats fish all the Enable Passion and TCI riders out of the water. This was a shame but the Enable Passion riders and their families couldn’t have been happier.
Sooner than expected they were able to consummate their euphoric reunion and girlfriends, brothers, and mothers leaped off the boat into the sea to a warm embrace. We eventually got everyone back aboard and the kiters, beaming from ear to ear, congratulated each other with high fives and hugs all around; they had done it!!
They had completed their 3750 mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean, following the same route and passion of Christopher Columbus 500 years before them on a voyage of self-discovery and ultimate adventure. It was a privilege to witness these scenes and to be part of the Big Blue Unlimited and Blue Haven teams that welcomed them to the shores of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
One month ago we were invited to help create a local on the water kiting event to welcome The Enable Passion kiters. The trans Atlantic kiteboarders had yet to leave Fuerteventura and their arrival was supposed to coincide with the Grand Opening of Enable Passion’s sponsors, Blue Haven Resort and Marina, on the weekend of 6th-8th December. 48 hours after their successful Atlantic Crossing, I’ve had time to reflect on what was a real high point and learning experience for our local kiteboarding community.
The idea was perfect, meet Enable Passion riders on the water and ride down wind with them to land at Blue Haven’s beach. Truth be told, the reality was always going to be tricky, fraught with potential hazards and disasters. However, its not everyday that kiteboarders cross an entire ocean. The last time such a famous feat ended in the Turks and Caicos was 521 years ago, under the guidance of Christopher Columbus.
The fact that these riders were coming to Leeward and Blue Haven made the invite to participate impossible to turn down. For those who don’t know Big Blue’s “Rebel Base” is on the water in Leeward. We have been diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and kiteboarding this area for over 15 years and some of us over 30 years. We had to at least try and guide Enable Passion through this stunning area of natural beauty.
Early emails were sent to the local kite community and only but a few responses came back. Bad news, I thought. No one’s interested. Early into their venture, Enable Passion’s Double A had lost not one but both propellers to the deep blue sea and were forced to head south of their proposed route to the Cape Verde Islands. A week or so later, with new propellers, they headed back to sea but their course stayed southerly. Here in the Turks and Caicos most, myself included, thought that they’d never regain their intended North westerly course in order to make landfall. No doubt this was to blame for the lack of initial interest. However, once those trusty trade winds kicked in, as they have for sailors across the centuries, Enable Passion’s dream started to look like a distinct reality.
This time last week we called a safety meeting at Blue Haven’s Salt Bar & Grill. The ultimatum was set. Don’t come and you don’t get to ride.
I had already briefed our Big Blue team about the increasing possibility of this event but had not wanted to get too detailed as their arrival dates kept changing. That evening at Salt, I had no idea if 5 riders would show up or 25. Much to Ingo’s and my surprise local riders kept on arriving. Minutes before seven that evening Ingo introduced the Enable Passion dream and updated the TCI riders on their position. They were less than 100o miles away. A recorded on board video of Filippo and Erik brought their arrival into sharp reality and with it a genuine level of excitement.
A detailed safety briefing highlighting the variables and pitfalls of open ocean riding had most of our local riders on edge.
As the weekend passed and Enable Passion drew closer, local riders checked their gear, honed their self rescue techniques and continuously monitored wind reports on windguru. Tuesday’s arrival date was looking grim. Light wind, got lighter. NE switched to E and was threatening ESE. We ran procedures over again and again. The what if’s, the worst case scenarios, the ideal scenario, a sleepless night. A dummy run on the Sunday by team rider, Hope and myself, proved it was doable and that it would be exciting. It was exhilarating in fact. Blue water sailing, windsurfing or kiteboarding is a rush. But it was no joke. We both knew it. Safety was all that mattered. No heroes, no special cases. All that mattered was to follow protocol.
Cometh the day, cometh the hour. Big Blue was a hive of anxious activity.
A buzzing excitement enveloped our office as waivers were signed, kit was passed out, uniform collected, media, cameras, interviews, timing, skippers checking and rechecking their boats, kiters discussing wind while Enable Passion sailed their way to our open water meeting point. Skippers and crew, Paul, Blue, Dave, Mark, Ben, Elvardo double checked their roles while Hope, Mark, Roberto, Jess, Julien, Tom and I conferred on any potential hazards.
Another safety briefing and lifevests!
The launch site. Kites, boards, lines everywhere. A dark cloud, light wind. No wind, some wind. Laughter and a great team spirit.
The final briefing. Reminders. Self rescue. Keep it simple.
Hope and Philip head off and out to sea…………………………..
The riders head out………
The wind dies……… ;0(
The smiles that will forever say thousands of words. What a day, what an experience.
A BIG BLUE Thank you to the TCI riders. You are top sports! Following all safety instructions to the letter. A special mention to guides, Mark K, Hope, Roberto, Jess, Julien, Craig and Tom and skippers Paul, Dave, Mark P, Ben and Blue. You lot ROCK and were and are awesome. Thank you. Philip x A big shout out to Ingo and the Blue Haven team for bringing Enable Passion to Leeward!
Big Blue Unlimited and our kiteboarding team have been asked to support and provide safety for a Turks and Caicos resident kiteboarding party to meet and greet the six riders crossing the Atlantic. The six riders will be met in the open ocean by a group of resident riders who will welcome them home on their last leg of their epic journey!
Expert Big Blue kite guides, Philip and Wes, will lead the six riders to their final destination – the beach in front of Blue Haven resort, right next to Big Blue’s base in Leeward.
The six riders will be riding non stop, 24hours a day, in 2-3 hour shifts. Their journey starts on Wednesday 20th and leaves from Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. If winds and currents co operate they should arrive in the Turks and Caicos Islands sometime between the 7-15th of December.
Big Blue will be ready and waiting and so will Turks and Caicos and the rest of the kiteboarding world.
During the second week of November Big Blue’s expertise was called upon to help the Catlin Seaview Survey complete their tasks in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The mission of this 5-year global project in conjunction with the University of Queensland in Australia is ‘to record, research, and reveal the world’s coral reefs to all in high resolution, 360-degree panoramic vision.’ Big Blue provided staff, vessels and logistical support across the entire Caicos Islands for the survey team who visited the north shore reefs, West Caicos, French Cay and South Caicos.
A team from Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet series also flew down to film a short documentary about the Catlin project and they too turned to Big Blue to aid them with local advice and diving support. Look out for this production in the coming months.
The final piece of the jigsaw and not to be underestimated; the financial backers for the whole project is the Catlin Insurance company. The CEO Mr. Stephen Catlin brought down two groups of corporate guests for a little luxury treatment and using our new vessels, a 40ft Hinckley motor launch and a 44ft Manta Cat, along-side our ever versatile ‘Live & Direct’ adventure cat Big Blue delivered once again. We introduced 14 of the guests to the delights of Scuba over two days, facilitated a demonstration with the reef survey team, and conducted one of our signature ecological education eco-tours around the reefs, cays and mangrove ecosystems along the Caicos Cays. If we were able to impress the suits and help keep the Catlin sponsorship and interest alive then our mission was accomplished.
It was a fascinating week and we will closely follow the Catlin Seaview Survey on their continued global quest. The equipment that they are using is state of the art 3-Dimensional filming equipment with technology supplied by none other than media giants Google. The camera also uses a hybrid of facial recognition software to identify coral diseases and thereby aid in the documentation and standardization of coral reef surveys around the entire planet.
Big Blue Unlimited help land the BEST kitebaording team and photographer, Quincy Dein, 5 magazine covers. All images were taken here in the Turks and Caicos in Big Blue’s kite boarding back yard. Big Blue’s very own local expert and waterman, Philip, helped scout and locate for every session.
Check out the second of two videos “change”
The covers below bear testament to the fact that Big Blue are leader in Turks and Caicos kiteboarding.
After the resounding success of the last 3 years, Big Blue’s season was again kick started by hosting our annual 2013 Turks and Caicos Kalama Kamp. Dave Kalama and John Denney teamed up with Philip, Jason and Wes as eight stand up paddlers converged on the Turks and Caicos Islands to learn the finer points of stand up paddle boarding while getting to a little bit more about the waterman’s lifestyle.
Dena, Mark, Mike, Curt, Larry, James, Joe and Colin woke up early every morning to take part in Dave’s daily beach work out. The all action dawn wake up call highlights the core concepts of why and how Dave stays in shape for not only his big wave surfing but also his grueling long distance paddles.
A hearty breakfast was followed by a trip to Big Blue to strip down the essentials processes that make up a solid and effective paddle stroke. With video, demos and on water critique, Dave, John and Philip help rebuild everyone’s stroke from a solid foundation.
With this in place the Kalama Kampers were treated to amazing down winders, mangrove excursions and reef safaris. When the waves did kick up….well you can guess what happened. Excitement and mayhem. Dave’s outstanding teaching ability and wave riding demos helped one and all catch either their first waves of make the next one better.
Another classic week, where we laughed, played, paddled, learned and surfed a little. Bring on 2014. See you there.
We, at Big Blue Unlimited, are all delighted to continue our Eco tourism commitment in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since December 2012 Big Blue has sponsored a local artisan Stacia Arthur to work on a daily basis at the Middle Caicos Artisans Studio and Outlet in the village of Conch Bar. Stacia is on hand to offer information, answer questions and demonstrate the traditional handcraft techniques for tourists visiting the co-op. The Middle Caicos Co-op forms an integral part of the experience offered by Big Blue on our Heart of the Islands eco-tour to North and Middle Caicos.
In addition, a vivid and attractive display within our base at Leeward introduces our guests to the handcrafts of North and Middle Caicos even if they chose not to visit these islands. This helps the Middle Caicos Co-op realize its goal of bringing income to the island artisans and showcasing the traditional handcrafts which are all made from sustainably harvested local grasses and palmtops. It additionally encourages visitors by increasing their awareness of the local handcrafts available.
Long recognized as a true force preserving TCI’s traditional handcraft and culture, the Middle Caicos Co-op is a not for profit organization established in 1998 with only 6 artisans – Today over 60 artisans and volunteers work together to promote the cultural heritage of the TCI. Big Blue Unlimited is proud to sponsor the artisans and volunteers who keep the Middle Caicos Co-op alive and we hope this helps to provide confidence and resources to continue in their work and goals.
Big Blue Unlimited was once again proud to support and be the main sponsor for the 8th annual Turks and Caicos Windvibes event. What started as a kite event is now billed as a family beach event with kiteboarding, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking and swimming races. Windvibes is the perfect platform to showcase the best of these sports and thus the Big Blue experience and Windvibes have become perfect partners.
Every year our team rider and Windvibes organiser, Hope LeVin, puts hours of effort into pulling togther this excellent celebration of the watersports lifestyle. On the day she was joined by nearly all of the Big Blue team who bring with them dozens of kayaks and stand up paddleboards. While Long Bay beach filled up with kites and kiters ready to race it also became centre stage for SUP, kayak and swim races. For those who wanted to stay dry Windvibes organized tug of war, log throwing and the all new concha wonka contest.
As Hope MC’d the event she was able to rely on Ray, Ben, Jason, Wes, Elvardo, Philip, Nicola and Mark to organise and supervise the different events.
Over 60 participants young and old, boy or girl, either kiteboarded, paddled, kayaked, pulled or swam. The beach was one big colourful festival and celebration of beach and water life in the Turks and Caicos. Windvibes gets better every year and this year was the best so far. We look forward to being there next year. See you on the beach!
Big Blue opened up the world of watersports to the kids of the Turks and Caicos Islands by hosting what will be the first of many kids kamps. Through the entire month of July children between the ages of 10-12+ were treated to week long adventures and education stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, kiteboarding, boating, hiking and scuba diving. Children would arrive each week and be split into diving and non diving groups. Those learning to scuba dive would be taken poolside by Tanya, Tom and Lizzie and go through their open water drills. The others meanwhile would head out under the guidance of Blue, Ray, Jason and Elvardo to explore the mangroves, reefs and beaches in the Leeward area.
While our junior open water scuba divers plied their books, answered their knowledge quizzes and performed their newly learned open water skills, the others were learning about the maritime reef and mangrove ecology. Adventures by SUP and kayak were interspersed with trips to the reef to snorkel and introductions to flying trainer kites with Wes.
Emphasis was always on having fun and every Friday with 6-8 newly certified junior open water divers and 6-8 eco warriors, Team Big Blue would jump on Live & Direct and head to West Caicos to party. Diving, boat jumping, cliff jumping, exploring and plenty laughs. We certified 22 junior divers and made over 35 children very happy.
Big Blue continues to led the way kiteboarding in the Turks and Caicos Islands. No surprise then that the BEST kiteboarding crew joined forces with our team to video, photograph and location scout for what has become their highly successful 2014 product photo shoot. World champion, Your Zoon, extreme kiteboarder, Ruben Lenten, Sam Medesky (Canadian champion), Mike Schitzhofer (Austrian champion), Gisela Pulida (9 x female world champion) and Chris Bobryk (USA) were out on the water everyday with photographer Quincy Dein and videographer, Miguel Willis all under the guidance of Big Blue’s very own veteran local waterman, Philip Shearer. The days were long but the rewards were amazing. Check out the 2 videos below.
Killer shots, great footage and great vibes. Philip and Big Blue took the BEST kiteboarding team to some of the best spots in the Turks and Caicos Islands, only accessible by boat. For almost two weeks we had wind and amazing weather, perfect for kiteboarding and photography.
2013 was not only amazing for whales, dolphins and sharks but this season we had 4 mind blowing whale shark encounters. Every season Big Blue has a blessed lucky charm. Big Blue had 4 encounters. The first was sighted off North West Point by Tom and Lizzie during a regular 2 tank dive. The second by Mark off East Caicos while exploring on one of Big Blue’s custom full day Eco adventures. The best encounter was saved until last which Tom, Lizzie and Brent enjoyed for over an hour as a 30+ foot whale shark made continual passes around the vessel. The whole of their surface interval at North West Point was the best entertainment and amazement one could ask for.
The 2013 winter whale season was epic. In fact is was ALL TIME. Our first encounters started in late January and continued all the way through until late March. Every one of our team had encounters on almost a daily basis. While North West Point and Pine Cay were the hot spots, French Cay, West Caicos and Grace Bay all saw plenty action. Excellent diving and snorkeling conditions meant that all trips could run on the north side with the general rule being that any plans went out of the window with a whale sighting. Big Blue’s facebook pages are littered with dolphin and whale sightings.
Our well honed practice of “soft in water” encounters culminated in Philip getting Paul, Mark and Tanya out of the office and into the water for an encounter with a mother, calf and escort that last for four hours! The journey started just outside the reef of Little Water Cay and took them all the way to North Caicos. The three whales even had time to play with our Captain Dave and our divers on Live & Direct during their surface interval.
As always all boats stayed in communication with each other and the office to make the most of any opportunity of a whale encounter.
The excitement is already building for this season and Big Blue is ready to get out there and in the water with the arrival of the returning migrating humpback whales of the North Atlantic. Get in touch and join us for another exciting whale season.
SUP YOGA RETREAT
From January 31st – February 5th Big Blue will be co-hosting our first SUP YOGA RETREAT, led by Jana of Ananda Yoga. Price per person $1442.50 (prebook $1342.50) not inc. flights. The week includes:
• 5-night accommodation in beach front villa
• 2x healthy meals per day (breakfast and dinner)
• 2x SUP Yoga classes per day
• 1x daily meditation
• 1x Sunset Sailing excursion
• Beach Yoga
Optional extras include:
Reiki Energy Healing
Thai Body Massage
Kite boarding lessons
Contact: email@example.com and 978-361-5394
After and long and hot summer our season kicked off with the hugely successful Kalama Kamp 2012. 5 paddlers were joined by world renowned Big Wave surfer, Dave Kalama, John Denney and Big Blue guides, Philip and Ray. Our plans for epic down winders and backcountry SUP safaris were scuppered by a week of awesome waves. Dave’s focus on technique was tuned on the waves and our new paddlers sought to catch their first waves ever. Needless to say it was an epic week. Dave and Philip have already decided to organise Kalama Kamp 3 for October 2013. Stay tuned. It is so worth it.
CORE FUSION FITNESS SUP
Days later the Exhale Core instructors, Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito brought down there crew and worked their cores in the winds of a tropical storm. Led by Mark and Ray who managed to find some protected flat water the Core Fusion group displayed their strength, balance and flexibility.
We had an amazing and productive day exploring new territory in the wild wetlands of North Caicos on Tuesday. Big Blue’s local kite phenom Hope Le Vin is back from the UK celebrating her graduation with friends and was up for an adventure. Tuesday’s tides were ideal so we set off just before lunch with a full complement of kayaks strapped to the sides and roof of the boat. We had planned a trip into a previously unexplored area and we were keen to connect as many of the main channels as possible. That we did and more, and further than anticipated. After approximately 3-hours of paddling down countless mangrove channels, dead-ends and long meandering detours we completed a 4-mile loop through the mangrove labyrinth Good job girls, what a great day.
A last minute booking by John Bingham and crew got them a couple of great days of diving with team Big Blue, Lynn and Dave and guest what….they saw 2 mantas as well as plenty sharks and turtles! Not bad for trying your luck to see if we had any space on the boats.
The boys U11 team from the Turks and Caicos ‘Footballing School of Excellence’ has been coached by the dedicated and experienced Philip Shearer, captain of TCI mens Team and of Big Blue Unlimited for the past 2/3 years. The team played their last game of the season against a much larger and stronger National U14 Girls Team on June 29th. Some truly inspirational football was witnessed, and the boys, who played a passing a moving game with a footballing maturity beyond their years triumphed an impressive 6 goals to 2. Bring on next season. We can’t wait and are honored to support this talented group of young stars!
In mid-June Big Blue helped organize the end of year camp to South Caicos for grade 6 from the Provo Primary School. The kids received a huge welcome and amazing support from across the small island community. A thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all, especially our own Mark Parrish who joined them for a few days and supervised a raft building adventure to see if the young castaways could escape an deserted island using only what they found on the beach. They did, although we wouldn’t fancy paddling all the way back to Provo!!
A pod of 6 dolphins greeted Laura, Brent and guests first thing this morning. The water was mill pond flat, perfect for a day’s diving at French Cay. After their encounter they did their first dive at the stunning site of “double d” with sharks and eagle rays to boot. The second drift dive was off the charts! 2 huge Eagle Rays interacting with each other, followed a few later mintues by a 5ft Nurse Shark. On the way back they found another dolphin. another stellar day with Big Blue in the TCI!
My amazing day on the north shore consisted of just about everything. A mother dolphin and her cute little calf, (which I had seen twice this week already) just outside our office in the Leeward Channel followed by some really great snorkeling at Leeward Reef. I guided a lovely family around and we spotted all kinds of fish and also an octopus and a school of about 20 reef squid. This afternoons charter brought on a reef shark and a hawksbill turtle at Ft George reef. Cant wait to show up for tommorow!!
Diving at North West Point at eagle garden, 22 mins in and around 45ft deep Dave and guests had a great hammerhead shark slowly cruise up the reef towards, a beautiful sight and such a long encounter……
It had to come. The wind has finally arrived. It started last w/e with a solid 20 knots and died. But that was only a sign of things to come. This evening Wes and Philip skipped out for a 2 hour evening session fully maxed on 11’s and 12’s. Big time hang time was had if only to prepare for tomorrow’s 25-30 knot and 6-9 foot day. It promises to be EPIC! The small kites are at the ready. Bring it on.
March starts with a bang! Our dive instructor, Mario and his group get off to flier. Its hard to describe or beat seeing a 10-12 foot great Hammerhead first thing in the morning in 15 foot of gin clear water.
Mark and Philip took their good friend Andy on a birthday boat ride today to show him some whales. Well February has not disappointed and nor have the whales. Within minutes of leaving the dock we found our whale. True to form, we had to work hard to keep our eyes on him in the swell. We lost him for 30 minutes and picked him up on the way to Parrot Cay. Both Andy and Mark managed to get a full frontal underwater view as he passed by. Not once but 4 times! How many people do you know get to see a for the first time whale on their birthday and then board a flight 90 minutes later? Only at Big Blue……..
We can’t wait for March. See you down here.
Mark and Philip were joined by an old friend and long time Big Blue client, Andy and sneaked out on the Natural Mystic to find some new SUP and Kayak territory close to home. The fact is we hit bull’s eye! New and extended range trips coming soon. We are super stoked to find this new stash. Keep an eye out for our new trips.
What a season! February is not even finished and nearly the whole Big Blue team has had multiple whale sightings and encounters! Our Stand Up guide, Ray was able to get his first in water encounter as well. Needless to say he is jumping for joy. Get down here and give us a call!
Mark spent a long weekend over in South Caicos exploring new kayaking heaven. Miles and miles of channels and mangroves deep into the heart of East Caicos. Watch this space for more information. Very exciting indeed!
Whales at Water Cay, whales at Pine Cay, whales at Leeward, whales all over!!
let’s not forget the diving has been pretty spectacular too…West Caicos had multiple sharks, eagle rays and turtles and our friendly grouper who we haven’t seen for the longest time swam by for a kiss, cuddle and belly rub.
CAPTIAN LYNN : “after diving the Football field we had a call from Ben on Worldcat telling us to look out for a whale just beyond Eagle Ray Pass….we spotted him straight away as he was constantly smacking his fluke down on the surface of the water….as we got nearer he was waving his pectoral fin at us before rolling over to show off his belly…..I jumped into the water not knowing where he had gone but looked down to see him at about 25ft below me just chilling out….he hung out there for about 20 minutes for us all to see, then rose up gently before swimming off. We then headed to Aquarium where we heard a whale on the dive and Laura saw him from the surface while on the boat”.
Imagine doing your first ever dive, a DSD in fact and while your instructor is demonstrating skills you see and 40 foot humpback behind her. Well this is what happened to Laura and her student. EPIC. Stuff of dreams. The whale check the two of them out and then headed over to the wall to say hello to our dive group cruising the wall. UNREAL!
2012 whale season has well and truly kicked off! It seems like all our trips are coming back with whale stories and encounters. The best encounter so far has to be Captain Dave and Laura with their guests while diving at Pine Cay’s football field. The singing could be heard as soon as the divers got in the water. Indeed it was so loud everyone knew the whale was close by. After the dive the singing could be heard while standing on the boat! Our divers then managed to get in the water and watch the whale sing in the head down position. Brilliant.
Our second major sighting of the season follows hot on the heels of those seen 2 days ago. Lynn and her guests managed to get in the water to see 3 of them! Few more were spotted on the surface. TCI is the place to be. February looks promising.
After much anticipation the Humpbacks finally arrived in the last week of Jan! Brent and Lynn were the first to see them as they left Leeward on the way to North West Point. The excitement level is growing.
The Big Blue Expo 2012 was the perfect start to our year. Our event was held at the OPUS bar and grill. The Expo showcasing our team and products and our BIG BLUE SHORT FILM, it was well attended by our friends and partners through the islands and across the tourist sector. Prizes for contributions towards ECOTOURISM were awarded to our unsuspecting partners from the sister islands of North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Parrot Cay. Susan Butterfield, Lawrence “Big Mac” Campbell, Cardinal Arthur, Danny Forbes & Sara Kaufmann (middle co-op), JD Thomson and Parrot Cay resort and spa. Many of you who have been with us know our team up north and their awards were well earned through their hard work and dedication.
Captain Lynn and Captain Brent were greeted by 20 odd dolphins first thing Monday morning. Closer inspection revealed 6 PILOT WHALES as well. A perfect start to any week! dolphins on the way to northwest point
Chris and his private charter group took the opportunity to venture further afield to west sand spit and scored big time. Not only did they have outrageously good diving with excellent visibility and animal life, sharks, eagle rays and tons of fish but they were treated to a pod of bottlenose dolphins in flat calm seas between dives as well and 2 pilot whales on the way home. needless to say all were thrilled!
Captain Dave and his team scored big time at the Gulley at West Caicos. Loads of reef sharks, a massive school of horse eye jacks and eagle rays was trumped by a 10-12 great hammerhead cruising through the group, up over the wall and toward the shallows. EPIC.
Jo-Jo the Dolphin does the rounds and continues to delight visitors and residents of the Turks and Caicos. On a cold and wet day last week Jo-Jo surprised our intrepid snorkelers by making an appearance at French Cay, a tiny coral island 18 miles south of Provo (see Trip Advisor Report 20th March 2011). The very next day Jo-Jo is back in Grace Bay and trailing our boats up the coast to Fort George and all the way back to our dock. Even our office guru Tanya was caught squealing with delight. A very thoughtful visitor, sadly not on one of our eco-tours, was kind enough to send in a collection of Jo-Jo photos including the one pictured. This was taken on the 15th March.
The Humpbacks are everywhere. Our Team has been seeing and hearing almost everyday. Eager to get in on the action “Style & Fashion” aka Paul and Philip slipped off for what was supposed to be an hour and came back 5 hours later after hanging with 3 whales and 3 dolphins!
Both Stella’s have their groove back.
Get on and come out on the water with us. March should be epic!
Its official. If you don’t already know. Small groups rule! Laura (our dive instructor) and Jay Noddle and friends (Big Blue guests) were diving off Grace Bay on Aquarium and were closely eye balled by 2 large Bottlenose Dolphins. THE PERFECT DIVE!
When not teaching Wes (our kite instructor) is out there riding the perfection that can be found in the TCI.
Last week 20 + knots blew in from the south east and opened up a whole host of stashes. The second Go Pro is on its way and soon Wes and Philip will be coming at ya from all angles.
Big thank you to Wes Matweyew (kite), Norma, Cardi (boat captain) and Calroy (kayak guide) for helping to collect the garbage that was left behind and drifted onto Leeward Point and Little Water Cay.
We will continue to try to keep these areas as clean as possible. So we build up piles and collect them when we have the time.
Last weekend I (Mark Parrish) had the pleasure of diving with two old friends. One was my old colleague and technical diving buddy John Garvin and the other a long time guest and visitor to the islands Jay Noddle. We had two excellent dives in Grace Bay with plenty of great marine life encounters but the most exciting find was a Leopard Flatworm cruising over the seafloor like a hovercraft, its long dark body standing out clearly against the white sand. With much excitement we sat mesmerized as this large, 4” Leopard Flat Worm then proceeded to swim upward towards a coral head, its body gracefully undulating through the water. What a treat.
The joint expedition to assess the wetland areas of the Turks and Caicos continued through the week with visits to North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Grand Turk. Mark Parrish of Big Blue caught up with the team to help lead a trip to the vital wetland areas between South Caicos and East Caicos. Initial findings and observations were then presented to an open meeting of stakeholders and interested parties at the National Environmental Centre. Aspects of the proposal that will be submitted to the Darwin Initiative later in the year were discussed including the designation of particular wetlands as new RAMSAR sites, the ‘wise use’ of these areas, and available international cooperation for RAMSAR sites. Ralph Higgs of the TCI Tourist Board invited Wesley Clerveaux, Director of the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) to a joint meeting with the TCI National Trust to assess cross department cooperation and use of resources. Dr. David Stroud suggested that the TCI might be the first country in the world to have a network of managed RAMSAR sites and explained how RAMSAR protection can be applied to mangroves, coral reefs, sea-grass beds and Karst or underground wetlands. This is set to be an ongoing project of significant importance to the environmental health of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Big Blue Unlimited has joined forces with the Turks and Caicos Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) and together with UK partners from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) are assessing management plans and expansion of RAMSAR sites in the TCI. Several areas across the Turks and Cacios Islands are being visited this week. Currently there is one RAMSAR site in the TCI and this comprises the wetlands and mangroves on the southern parts of North and Middle Caicos. It is hoped that a number of other sites, some already exisiting National Parks and Nature Reseves, can be lifted to the lofty status of RAMSAR protection. Successful management and stewardship of these areas by all stakeholders will help protect valuable fish and invertabrate nurseries as well as irreplaceable habitat for numerous birds including the pelican, flamingo and heron/egret families.
Adopt a Mangrove
Mother Nature and Human Nature working together – for a change.
Big Blue has set out to help the “Adopt a Mangrove” campaign in its efforts to support local conservation initiatives. It also provides an
opportunity for visitors to the Turks and Caicos to take part by donating time and money to this valuable program.
The Adopt a Mangrove Campaign is a conservation initiative to restore impacted areas and to reduce climate change by planting mangroves. It will act as a major campaign for Turks and Caicos Islands residents to unite in reducing the affects of climate change. Most importantly, community support of this endeavor will show our governing authorities and the world that the citizens of the TCI are serious about
preserving our Protected Areas, protecting our environment, and banding together to reduce climate change.
At present, there are 200 small mangroves now thriving on “Star Island” with another 200 seedlings in the nursery system being readied
for the transplant stage. For a donation of $25 you can adopt your very own mangrove and plant it on Big Blue’s Kayak Ecotour! On the guided kayak ecotour you will explore mangrove channels, learn about their ecological importance, and then stop at the planting grounds to plant your very own seedling!
Once “Adopt a Mangrove” has received your donation, you will be sent an e-certificate and your name will be added to the list of supporters. You will also have the option of receiving adopt a mangrove’s e-mail updates that will detail the annual growth and survival of our Star Island mangroves, as well as the new planting projects that they intend to undertake as the program and the mangroves grow.
For TCI residents, the adoption program can include plantings along the canal sustems and other backyard wetland areas where appropriate.
Private homeowners can protect and stabilize their waterside properties with mangroves and feel good about reducing their own
The Big Blue kayak expedition to the eastern side of Caicos Islands at the end of November was a huge success. Despite some logistical hurdles the 3-day trip ran smoothly and an incredible amount of wildlife was recorded. Perhaps of greatest interest was the varied nature of the terrain that was explored and the long circular route that was established including a short potage.
Big Blue’s high performance Valley Sea Kayaks were shipped to South Caicos in advance of the expedition. Transport by air for the team members was provided by TCI helicopters and offered the opportunity to survey the dense network of mangroves, cays and tidal channels from above. This research proved to be immensely valuable although potential routes seen from the air can be much harder to determine from kayak level on the water. Tides also play a huge role in determining what and where you can access. The tidal range is not huge, 50cm or so on spring tides, but timing it correctly is essential.
The first day explored the small cays to the north of South Caicos and paddlers interchanged between the rougher ocean side and the sheltered leeward sides. The islands, barely solidified sand dunes, are covered in coastal plant including various palms, cacti, sea grapes and casuarinas which give way to vast colonies of red and black mangroves on the water’s edge. The ends of these cays offer some surprisingly spectacular cliffs, sweeping turquoise channels, and gorgeous sheltered beaches; perfect locations to stretch cramped legs, cool off with a swim, and enjoy a well earned picnic lunch. Almost every Cay seemed to be home to a different osprey family and associated nest.
The majority of the time was spent exploring the mangrove channels and interconnecting waterways. The bird population; herons, egrets, sandpipers, kingfishers, and flamingos, was very healthy. The fish life consisted of large schools of mojarra, baby barracuda and bonefish. The occasional juvenile lemon or nurse shark and turtle were also spotted. The most noticeable aspect of the trip was the solitude and total wilderness. There was no one around, there was no development, and the wildlife unused to seeing people. At the end of each day kayaks were left on the nearest beach and a motorboat transported the guests back to South Caicos for the night. Accommodation and memorable seafood was enjoyed overlooking the Harbour at Cox’s Hotel.
Using a GPS and photographs taken from the air a circular route through the mangroves and out to the coast on the southern tip of East Caicos was established. Another longer route via Hog Cay has been tentatively identified and partly explored. It will have to be completed on another expedition. Big Blue offers customized small group exploratory kayak expeditions throughout the Caicos Islands. Please contact Mark for more information and prices.
Dave Kalama’s STAND UP PADDLEBOARD Kamp was an instant hit here in the TCI. Together with Philip from Big Blue, Brody Welte (Dave’s partner) and John Denney, 8 participants from first timers to experienced paddlers tasted the best the TCI had to offer. Perfect waves, learner waves, downwinders, mangrove excursions and even a moonlight paddle as well as excellent snorkeling. Each morning was started with Dave’s scaled down version of his big wave preseason beach work out, followed by instruction in paddle techniques. 18 different Naish SUP boards were used in the Big Blue fleet with everyone enjoying a variety of different conditions and performance.
This camp was so successful we are already planning the next one! Dates will be confirmed before the new year, cross fingers.
The expertise of Dave, Brody and John proved invaluable while Philip’s local knowledge and passion helped make this Kamp fun, safe, flexible and adventurous.
“This is a great location,” Dave said, “this is perfect – there are so many factors to it that create a very adventurous experience for people.”
Brody added: “For us to be successful it’s essential that we partner with people like Philip and Big Blue – we would not exist without him.
“It’s essential to have someone that’s well established in the community and who let’s people come in and have their experience but leave no trace on the environment.”
Laura Ricketts had us all green with envy by coming back with a huge grin on her face telling us all of her whaleshark encounter while diving with students at North West Point.
The encounter lasted 10-15 minutes and as for her students, well it would be safe to say they have been spoiled for life.
This diving season has proven excellent. As the water temperature drops the larger pelagics like eagle rays and sharks really come out of the woodwork.
Bring on 2011. We can’t wait.
Staff from Big Blue Unlimited (CHESTER, JACKIE LYNN AND LAURA) were out tagging turtles for the Marine Conversation Society (MCS) & Department of Environment and Coastal
Resources (DECR). Following a presentation at the DECR, coral heads around Turtle Cove and Coral Gardens were searched for Green and
Hawksbill sea turtles last weekend in hopes of catching them to support research about the local turtle populations.Turtle sizes were measured, samples from the skin and shell (Hawkbill) were taken, then numbered tags were place on both front flippers. 3 turtles were caught in total. Their DNA is compared to other turtles around the Caribbean to give an indication on where they originated from
and to see their migration routes. 60% of Green Turtles in our waters were born in Costa Rica! Many thanks to Amdeep for getting us involved – we hope to help out again in the near future! Check out more of the research at MCS here: www.mcsuk.org
Long term Big Blue Unlimited team member Lynn Robinson goes bald to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Lynn let her actions speak louder than words in more ways than one by shaving her hair off to raise cash and awareness for breast cancer.
Lynn is a diamond boat caption and scuba instructor. We are proud to call her one of our own and this year she raised the bar. Congratulations Lynn!
Dave Kalama, legendary waterman, Brody Welte and Big Blue Unlimited have teamed up to host the first International Kalama Kamp at Club Med Turkoise.
The Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) clinics will focus in instruction, Dave’s pre-big wave workouts, and showcase Big Blue Unlimited’s eco adventures.
For those who don’t know Dave, he with Laird Hamilton (another legend) opened the 007 “Die Another Day”. Check it out.
Downwinders, snorkeling to the outer reef and mangrove adventures will be interspersed with fun filled evenings.
15 spaces are available. They will go quickly. Book now!
Basic cost not including flights will run from $3300 double to $3600 single.
contacts us to confirm your spot on this unique adventure. A first for the Turks & Caicos.
The hurricane season is here for sure. Earl breezed by, put out some 30+ knot winds. Enough for about an hours worth of serious hangtime!
But that was about it. Fiona is on her way.
Instruction to resume late October/ early November.
Book now for some airtime.
Kiteboarding Instruction will resume normal operation in the last week of October 2010.
Our last lessons will take place through until 20/8/10.
Safaris/ downwinders will still be available.
Reservations for the 2010/2011 season are highly recommended.
TCI media house, Turks and Caicos FreePress has rated Big Blue Unlimited’s Stand Up PaddleBoards as the top tip for August. We could not agree more. Great weather, flat water are ideal for Stand Up PaddleBoard missions in and around the Princess Alexandra National Park.
July 10^th 2010 was Providenciales’ first annual Race for the Conch 1 mile eco sea swim. There was a huge turnout on Grace Bay beach near Flamingo Bar, with international and local participants. Big Blue Unlimited were a proud sponsor of the race, providing kayak and
paddleboard support during the race, complimentary biodegradable reef-safe sunblock for competitors, and had staff competing in the race.
Staff member Lynn Robinson manned the Big Blue tent and photographed the event, while members Ben Zirin, Cardi Ewing and Will Pollock supported the swimmers from the water on their kayaks and stand up paddleboards. Big Blue racers included Laura Ricketts, Jackie Walker and Alizee Zimmerman. Next year’s race will include both a 1 mile and 2.5 mile event, training begins now!
Wes, Big Blue’s very own kiteboarding instructor and Philip, owner, had 3 of the most epic kite sessions during the summer solstice. The stars aligned. We had massive high tides during the evening as the full moon rose. Winds at 20-25knots meant that we could boost some insane air over cays and mangroves way past our bedtime!! The thrill of getting high never ceases to inspire. Call us, join the fun and come kite boarding here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Islands 2010 annual kiteboarding/ kitesurfing event, Windvibes held this May was a huge success. With more kiteboarders and spectators than ever before, the 2 day event had great winds (even if the 2nd riding day was postponed), great events and great winners. The event was organized by sponsored local rider, Hope LeVin (BLUE, BIG BLUE and NAISH) with main sponsors BLUE, THE SURF SHOP and BIG BLUE UNLIMITED providing prizes, time and event organizers/ helpers. Hope’s dedication and love of the sport ensured that next years event has a lot to live up to. The event comprised of course racing, freestyle and for the first time with the aid of THE SHADOW BOX (a 3D GPS) highest jumps and fastest rider categories.
All the Big Blue riders featured and while Hope and Philip did not participate on the final day, the events were dominated by Big Blue Unlimited’s very own pro rider and instructor, Wes Matweyew, who won the freestyle, high and speed categories. Well done Wes! Will Pollock who only started late last year, had an excellent showing and came second in the course racing! Nice one Will.
The event which took place on the south side on Long Bay beach worked out beautifully. Lots of different folks helped to make it a success and the spirit that it created and the interest that it generated only confirmed to us why Big Blue is dedicated to the growth of the sport and has a clear vision to lead this sport in the TCI.
Another great day in the mangroves south of Bellefield Landing, North Caicos. The protected RAMSAR wetlands site continues to offer world class kayaking and birdlife. Ian Cross, legendary Australian wildlife documentary filmmaker & owner of Pilot Productions joins Big Blue together with his son for an afternoon of exploration. The lower tides brought hundreds of fish out from their hiding places including small barracudas (10-20cm in length) and an assortment of Mojarras. The reddish egret we had seen the week before continued to resolutely guard her nest and we were careful not to disturb her. The highlight was probably the flock of Sandpipers that scouted the way for us all the way up the mangroves, showing off their beautiful wings and making plenty of noise. To top off the day we even saw a small group of elusive Wimbrals and a spectacular yellow crowned night heron.
This week’s Good Friday “Edge of the Banks” snorkel safari had a special and rare guest. A 25 foot whale shark off Molasses Reef. Moving to our second stop at the end of Molasses Reef, Lynn spotted what she thought at first were dolphins then realised it was much bigger and actually a whale shark, about 25 ft long. Jackie and a few of our guests snorkeled with it for a short while before it swam away. Cruising along the edge of reef while looking for it again Lynn was just about to give up when she saw it out of the corner of her eye on the far West end of the reef….Lynn and Jackie got in along with a couple of other guests and got some amazing video footage (on Facebook already!)….they followed it for quite a long time…..all the guests got in to snorkel with it…..bloody amazing!!
Check out the video!
Good Friday Whale Shark on Molasses Reef.
The cooler waters of the winter season have brought exceptional pelagic encounters. With lots of reef sharks and eagle rays seen daily the recent highlight had to be a Great Hammerhead, 12 foot long, off the Gulley at West Caicos. Both Lynn and Chris caught sight of this beauty on separate days and it goes without saying that their ancient and perfect symmetry is spelling binding. Guests and dive masters were left buzzing!
Today, after one month we sadly said our goodbyes to Betrand Fleurry (Wainman Kites) and Ian Alldredge (Naish Kites). They had come down with top female rider Tuva Jansen (Takoon Kites) and one of the sport’s leading photojournalist teams based out of Mauritius, Stephane Fournet and Leena Ballack who had left last week, to write and record a kite surfing story in the Turks and Caicos.
They were led by Philip Shearer (Big Blue) and Big Blue’s top instructor and wily pro Wes Matweyew (Cabrinha Kites). Hope Le Vin, our 16 year old local team and sponsored rider (Naish, Big Blue and Blue) was ever present with her enthusiasm and skill as was local rider Stephane Gaudet.
To say we had fun is an understatement. Even if the weather for the month of February was bizarre (with winds blowing out of the south and west for much of the time) and stacking the odds against us for that perfect cross off shore wave, we still managed to score some great sessions both in the flats and in the waves. That said a tremendous of hard work has gone into this story by all involved both in front and behind the camera.
The team were based in Leeward near Big Blue’s base and would venture daily to find waves and wind. We traveled from West Caicos to East Caicos and everywhere in between.
While we wait for the story and images and DVD to be released it is safe to say we enjoyed each others company and vibe a lot. Betrand, Ian, Tuva, Stephane and Leena were welcome guests. We learned from all of them. Stephane and Leena: your patience and professionalism. Tuva: getting the ball rolling. Betrand: great sense of humour and of course a brilliant rider thanks to Wainman Kites. Ian: natural skill and flair with a bit of “I don’t mind, whatever works” thrown in. Hope: infectious passion. Stephane: perfectionist. Wes “handy me my skimmy please” Matweyew: persistent all rounder. Philip “island time” Shearer: the art of self landing a kite!
Thank you one and all. We look forward to seeing you back here for some more cutbacks and sliders!! Safe travels. Philip.
The Humpback whales of the North Atlantic have returned. The last week of January saw the first big wave of their annual migration. Numerous sightings were made on the surface between North West Point, Grace Bay and Pine Cay. By far the best encounter had to be Jim and crew from the Yukon, who marked his return to the TCI and to Big Blue after 8 years with an stunning in water encounter on scuba at the Football field off Pine Cay! Welcome back Jim. More recently Chris, one of new our instructors and captains, has had the rub of the blue on arriving in the TCI with numerous sightings and then coming face to face with 4 whales at G-Spot off French Cay on Wednesday. Epic! The season is in full swing and the whales should provide us with encounters right until April.
In November 2009, Aaron Sales of Kiteboarding Magazine, Sam Light, the UK # 1 and top watersports photographer, Bill Doster joined our team for 10 days on a memorable adventure over and under the water. What we got was magical. Even though the wind was un cooperative, through sheer persistence and hard work we nailed the cover shot with Sam on it and an 8 page spread in the magazine. Big shout out to Wes, Hope, Jackie and Philip for a strong team effort. Pick up the Kiteboarding magazine Feb/ March Issue.
We have added the ultimate beach escape to our guests this year. Live out your dream of being on a deserted island with your love one. We will drop you off on a deserted beach, leave you to it and pick you up later. For more information see Beach Escape under Private Charters.
The Turks and Caicos have a new Spotted Eagle Ray Monitoring Program and it has recently been extended to the island of Providenciales. Jackie Walker of Big Blue Unlimited is coordinating the project. Check out the latest issue of ‘Times of the Islands’ magazine or www.spottedeaglerays.com for more information.
Big Blue sadly looses the talents of Niki Flowers, a great instructor and Lizzie Foster, our on island concierge. We are grateful to have had them work with us and would like to thank them for their hard work, dedication and commitment. We wish them all the best for their futures. Thanks very much you two.
Our first official kiteboarding safari down winder was an instant success. Lead by Philip and Wes with local Naish and Blue Rider Hope Le Vin in the mix. We were joined by David Zingg of MA, John Lalley of Ca, Marc of…and Jim Welsh of the Yukon. Leaving North Caicos at around 9am with a good eaterly breeze we arrived at Leeward 3-4 hours later. No hitches no snags. Beautiful smooth water all the way. The stoke factor was huge. We look forward to seeing our guests back again.
This season also sees us bring Stand Up Paddle boarding to the islands. A fast growing sport the world over, Big Blue is perfectly located to offer our guests adventures through the mangroves guided or unguided. An awesome work out, they are already attracting lots of attention.
We are extremely excited to bring Kiteboarding Instruction and Safaris to our adventures this year. Our PASA Instructor, Wes, is the island’s most accomplished and experienced rider having been in the sport since day one. With top of the line equipment available (Naish, Cabrinha, F-One, Mystic and Dakine) we will get you on the water riding in no time. Advanced riders need to check out our downwind safaris.
Big Blue Unlimited through her affiliation with Blue, The Surf Shop proudly announces her new sponsors BILLABONG, DAKINE, OAKLEY AND REEF who will be providing uniform to our team for the forthcoming season.