Turks and Caicos Islands

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Map of The Turks and Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands is the third country I’ve lived in since becoming a PADI scuba dive instructor (and fifth country in my lifetime) with the others being The Bahamas and The Dominican Republic.  Considering its direct proximity to both countries, I didn’t have much expectation of it being such a different experience; however, this country’s islands fascinate me in both history, culture, and especially in nature…The country’s tagline is “Beautiful by Nature”, which is true in every sense.  Although Turks and Caicos doesn’t have the lush landscape of the Dominican Republic, the ocean surrounding the island is more alive, abundant, and vibrant than what you could find in both The Dominican or The Bahamas.

In total there are 8 main islands and 299 smaller islands with 2 main island groupings.  The Turks islands are separated from The Caicos islands by the Turks Island Passage and include Grand Turk, which is where the capital, Cockburn Town, is located.  The Caicos islands include the largest island called Middle Caicos (although almost barely populated at only 170 inhabitants) along with Providenciales, which is the most populated island at approximately 24 000 inhabitants.  Turks and Caicos Islanders are called “Belongers”, which is a term I hadn’t really seen used before in my travels to describe descendants of a country.

Historically speaking, the islands were settled by the Taino’s somewhere around AD 500 – 800 who came from the islands of Hispaniola, Cuba, and The Bahamas.  Like many Caribbean islands, these local inhabitants were captured and taken for slaves under the encomienda system in the 1500s by the Spanish and were ultimately decimated until the 1600s.  Over the next several centuries the islands came under rule by the French and British as well as the Spaniards, but no settlements were established other than by rogue pirates.  Industries such as cotton and especially the export of sea salt were developed and managed by slaves brought from Africa until the abolishment of slavery.  Within the last century, Turks and Caicos Islands have had various affairs overseen by other British colonies such as Jamaica and The Bahamas until its independence was gained in 1976.  Most recently a number of challenges stemming from political corruption has called for a re-instatement of British rule and the Islands are now officially a British Overseas Territory.  After living there for almost a year now, I’ve observed a concerted effort (almost on the verge of propaganda) to attempt to redefine the identity of the country and cleanse the political system and move forward in a positive way.  I look forward to seeing how things progress!

The Turks and Caicos Explorer at the dock in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

Caicos Marina and Shipyard, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands


Click to read about the scuba dive sites off of Providenciales, West Caicos, French Cay, and West Sand Spit!