A British Overseas Territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands are comprised of eight islands and 40 cays. They lie at the south-eastern end of the Bahamas chain, 575 miles southeast of Miami and 90 miles north of the island of Hispaniola. The islands are generally flat, with rolling hills. The highest elevation is on the island of Providenciales, which rise to approximately 250 feet.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are comprised of two groups of islands, the “Turks islands” and the “Caicos islands”. These two groups are separted by the Turks Island Passage, a 22 mile wide, 7000 feet deep water channel. The land mass, covering an area of 193 square miles, is surrounded by a continuous coral reef, one of the largest in the world. Of the 40 islands and cays that comprise the TCI, only nine are inhabited. They are Grand Turk, Salt Cay, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Pine Cay, Parrot Cay and Ambergris Cay.
Grand Turk: The nation’s capital. It is believed that Christopher Columbus first made landfall here in 1492. This island, where Bermudan colonial architecture can still be found, houses the national museum which preserves the country’s history as well as the legend of the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck yet to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere. Grand Turk is also home to a 140-plus year old lighthouse built in the UK.
Salt Cay: As the name suggests, this island was once used for solar salt production up until the 1960s. This island is a living museum with artifacts from the salt production era still around.
Middle Caicos: This is a picturesque island with towering limestone cliffs, secluded beaches of emerald-blue water, above-sea-level caves, and an abundance of wildlife. The ruins of Arawaks and the Lucayan Indians villages can be found here, as well as ruins of the plantation era. About 270 people live here in the villages of Conch Bar, Bambarra and Lorimers.
North Caicos: This is the greenest of all the islands with exotic fruit trees and wild flamingos. Wades Green was one of the most successful plantations of the Loyalist era, the ruins of which is preserved. The swampland and tidal flats on the southern side of the island is home to scores of birds and other wildlife. The population is concentrated in four settlements; Sandy Point, Kew, Whitby and Bottle Creek.
Parrot Cay: A private island which is home to a beautiful five-star resort and spa, reachable only by boat.
Pine Cay: A private island decorated with a small number of privately owned homes and the prestigious Meridian Club Resort. This island can best be described as a nature reserve with miles of trails and pristine beaches. The island is void of telephones, television, and automobiles.
Providenciales: Provo as it is commonly called, is the country’s most developed island and the tourism Mecca. Provo is largely recognized for its 12 mile Grace Bay Beach and 18 hole championship golf course. Provo is home to the world’s only conch farm and the famous Bottle nose Dolphin named Jojo. Provo is also the focus of most real estate activity with dramatic increases in land value and a flurry of commercial development on the way.
South Caicos: This was once a salt producing island, however, today it is famous for its fishing and its natural deep water harbor. South Caicos is the center of the country’s fishing industry, exporting thousands of pounds of seafood (including conch and lobster) annually. South Caicos also offers world-class diving which is known for clear visibility in water depths from 20 feet “dropping off the wall” to 7000 feet and its fantastic array of corals and fishes.
Ambergris Cay: Ambergris Cay is a 1,100-acre privately owned island in the South of the Turks & Caicos chain. It is bounded on the east by the deep Columbus Channel and on the west by the shallow flats of Caicos Bank. From its 450-acre nature preserve, sugar sand beaches and mangrove lagoons to high bluffs, historic ruins and soothing blue seas, Ambergris Cay is both an adventurer’s paradise and a sanctuary.