Most people would say that the mesmerizing marine blue waters and crystal-fine sand are what make Turks and Caicos special – and they are correct. We are proud of our pristine landscape and know that this is an essential component to enjoying that perfect – yet often elusive – Caribbean vacation. However, there’s more to Turks and Caicos than just a pretty beach. Fuzzy cacti, endangered reptiles, a friendly dolphin and slightly-spicy rum are just some of the one-of-a-kind treats that will make your visit to our islands unique.
One of the stories behind how the Turks and Caicos Islands got its name involves a cactus that grows wild and in abundance here. The distinctive Turks Head cactus has a spiny red cap that resembles a fez – the iconic hats that were worn by the Ottomans in Turkey. Hence its name – Turks Head. These hardy plants are found only in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Along with the cacti, rock iguanas used to be pervasive on all the islands in the Turks and Caicos. These miniature dinosaur-like creatures were the first true islanders. When livestock and domesticated animals arrived on the islands, these gentle creatures became prey and their population decreased dramatically. Now, they are confined to small, uninhabited cays and the species found here is critically endangered.
The Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana is one of nine species of lizard and can be found nowhere else in the world except for here. It’s estimated that between 2000 and 3000 of these animals live on Little Water Cay -just off the tip of Providenciales. To help protect them, Little Water Cay has been designated as a nature preserve and is managed by the Turks and Caicos National Trust. If you’d like to encounter these friendly, harmless creatures in their natural habitat and support preservation efforts it’s easy to book a trip to see them. All the local diving companies offer excursions such as Big Blue Unlimited, which includes a visit to Little Water Cay in its Princess Alexandra Kayak Adventure and as part of its half or full day private boat charter.
Another potential nature encounter exists just off the shores of Grace Bay beach. JoJo is a unique Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin who has been living and playing in the Turks and Caicos Islands since 1980. He is one of the few dolphins around the world that voluntarily interacts with humans in his own natural habitat. JoJo likes to swim in the shallow waters of Grace Bay beach. So, if you stay at the Alexandra Resort you may be lucky to get a glimpse of him, as he is often spotted during dawn or dusk cruising along Grace Bay beach. Look for a slightly-bent dorsal fin on your next beach walk, especially if there is a small watercraft nearby (JoJo has a special affinity for boat motors). Or, if you really want to increase your chances of a siting, book a trip with Caicos Dream Tours and you may be able to post similar pictures of JoJo on TripAdvisor! The full story on JoJo and his connection to the Turks and Caicos has been well-documented on various websites and in numerous articles. But, the best way to learn about JoJo is by visiting him in his home here. Many tourists have had the excitement of meeting him and they all say it’s an experience to savor.
Speaking of savoring moments, what Caribbean vacation is complete without a sip of local rum to seal in the memories? Bambarra Rum is as unique as the Turks and Caicos Islands. Named after the picturesque beach in Middle Caicos, where an African slave ship (Trouvadore) made landfall accidentally in 1841, Bambarra Rum is blended and bottled by hand, here in Turks and Caicos. The Bambarra collection includes four varieties – from a sweet Coconut flavor to the well-balanced 15-year old reserve – all of which capture the quality and heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands in a bottle.
To bring home some of the flavors of the Turks and Caicos Islands be sure to visit FOTTAC in the Regent Plaza shopping center. Along with Bambarra Rum, you will find a variety of related products like rum cakes, and condiments such as hot sauces, jerk rubs, jellies and jams, that can only be purchased in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Now you know that there are more just great beaches waiting for you in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We hope our one-of-a-kind experiences will entice you to come for a visit.