The Turks and Caicos are waiting for you… and so are their ponies. And puppies.
He said, “Facebook it, Twitter it, whatever it is you all use, use it. Turks and Caicos is open and ready for business. People don’t know we’ve recovered. Show them we have!”
Those were the words of Ian McLeod, Operations Director of Ocean Club Resorts in Turks and Caicos, to a group of travel writers (myself included) in December. He’s not wrong in his criticism. We’re living in a time where reporters mix up Bermuda and Barbuda on national television, so it can be understandably difficult for cruisers to know which islands in the British West Indies and the Caribbean have recovered from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and which have not.
McLeod encouraged our group of writers to extensively document everything on our visit to show how well the island had weathered and recovered from the unprecedented storms of 2017. “There was no electricity on the property, so I made my way to the airport to check on the flight status to get guests off the island. And all of a sudden, here they come,” he says, referring to the British aid and recovery workers, who arrived at the Providenciales International Airport. “It was an incredible thing to witness.”
I must admit, I was taken aback at how green and abundant the landscape looked as I took my initial taxi ride across the island of Providenciales, known locally as Provo, to Ocean Club West. My perceptions prior to arrival were as McLeod had feared. I had assumed I’d be traveling to a decimated island ruined by hurricanes. I asked our driver, Virgil, of Virgil’s Taxi Service, if all the vegetation had been destroyed during the
storm. “Most everything was gone,” he said. “It was brown or it was blown away.” But less than three and a half months later, the greenery and life have returned to the small island chain. Now, Turks and Caicos are just waiting on the return of visitors and tourists,
and when they do make the inevitable return, they will find a haven of relaxation at both of Ocean Club Resorts’ locations on the island.
“We’re unique in that you can stay at one resort but enjoy the amenities of two,” said Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Rigby, Ocean Club West’s Resident Manager. He would know—Nat started
his career at the original Ocean Club before moving to Ocean Club West when it opened in the late 1990s, and he’s been there ever since. It’s easy to see why he stayed on. The two Ocean Club properties are located directly on picturesque Grace Bay Beach, just a 15-minute walk apart on one of the friendliest islands in the Caribbean.
The suites at Ocean Club Resorts are also unique. With full suites of varying sizes and configurations, you’d be hard-pressed to find an accommodation ill-suited to your needs. Each suite comes fully equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette and a washer/dryer combo. The airy floor plans provide sweeping views of the beach, pool or gardens, and innumerable windows let in ample sunshine that bounces off whitewashed ceilings. Accommodations include studios as well as one-, two-, and three-bedroom layouts. With
approximately 90 units per property, the overall feel is intimate and friendly without feeling small. The flowing layout of the pools and gardens offers an experience akin to your own private oasis, and the sprawling expanse of beach ensures you’ll always find a place to relax under a signature pink umbrella.
More than one location also means more than one place to eat. Ocean Club West boasts Solana, an alfresco dining experience complete with a sushi bar and rotating menu. For those who see no reason to leave the comforts of your beach towel, beachside service is
available during lunch. Order the Drunken Lobster while you relax in the sun.
The dinner menu changes, and you’ll find an Asian-fusion vibe, carefully crafted by restaurateur Ajay Vyas, who also manages three other island restaurants. Solana standouts include the grilled lobster tail and the seared grouper, but save room for the mango cheesecake.
If you’re feeling up for a ride, borrow a complimentary beach cruiser from the lobby of Ocean Club West and bike over to The Cabana Bar and Grill at Ocean Club for lunch. Cabana Bar and Grill offers an open-air dining experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a more formal setting, take the free shuttle to Ocean Club and dine at Opus Wine Bar & Grille. Treat yourself to a bottle of one of the many fine wines and a menu chock-full of seasonal Caribbean flavors. You won’t be disappointed by any of locally sourced seafood dishes or the atmosphere; trees wrapped in string lights cast long shadows to create
an ethereal dining experience.
The warm, clear waters of Turks and Caicos practically beg to be explored. Leave your boat in the slip and, instead, climb aboard the S/V Atabeyra for sailing, snorkeling and island hopping. First stop is to Princess Alexandra National Park, a conservation area off Provo’s northern coast. You’ll see plenty of fish in the preserve and dolphins if you’re lucky. Captain Matt and his crew have been sailing Atabeyra for several years and provide you with all the necessities for a day on the water: snorkel, fins, and rum punch. From there, it’s off to explore the island chain meandering up the coast and the shallow waters of Fort George Cay. Wade for sand dollars, search for sponges or collect shells. You’ll end the day salty, sandy and happy.
You’ll be equally as salty and happy if you choose an excursion at Provo Ponies, a local horse rescue turned trail ride. Provo Ponies started rescuing island horses more than 15 years ago and once they regained their strength, a business was born. Group rides are offered twice daily or you can opt for a private outing. Ride the ponies to Long Bay Beach and prepare to get wet; the horses love to get in the water to cool off.
Post-ponies, quench your thirst at Da Conch Shack—really more of a large beach bar than a shack, imbued with rum and relaxation. The menu is extensive, but who are we kidding? Get a pitcher of punch and order some cracked conch, conch salad, and the island’s best conch fritters. You’ll be invited to the weekly “Hump and Bump” party and if at all possible, you should attend to mingle with visitors and locals alike.
Salt Mills Plaza is the place to buy your requisite Turks and Caicos souvenir t-shirts and jewelry, but it’s also home to Potcake Place—a puppy rescue. Potcakes—a local term for the old food baked into the bottom of pots and pans—are a mixed-bag breed of local dogs. When litters are found roaming, locals call the not-for-profit rescue, which takes them in to find them homes. Tourists and locals can visit the (adorable) puppies, take them for walks on the beach and ultimately adopt them. Now, there are numerous potcakes in the U.S. and Canada, brought by local couriers from the island to their new homes.
On our last night on the island, a writer in our group recalled an earlier conversation about the way the island had recovered from the hurricane so well with the help of the British government. “Well, maybe,” Nat said, sipping his Campari and soda. “But really it was the locals. The way they came together and helped to rebuild, I’ve never seen anything like it. If you needed ice, if you needed fuel, someone would help you out.”
I wouldn’t have expected anything less from the people of this island community, who are intent on rehabilitating ponies, puppies, and as it turns out, each other.
Cruiser Resources for Turks and Caicos
Blue Haven Marina
An official port of entry, open for both short- and long-term berthing in Turks and Caicos.
Leeward Settlement TKCA 1ZZ
118 Grace Bay Road
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
Ocean Club West
54 Bonaventure Crescent
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
32 Dolphin Lane, Providenciales
Salt Mills Plaza, Grace Bay
Leeward Settlement TKCA 1ZZ
Da Conch Shack
Blue Hills Road, Providenciales
Story and Photos by Erin Brennan, Southern Boating February 2018