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BEAUTIFUL BY NATURE - GETAWAY TO THE TURKS & CAICOS
 
(2012 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: MELANIE REFFES



With breezes that are reliably warm and water temperatures never chillier than 23 C, the 40 islands and cays in the Turks & Caicos (TCI) are sparkling stretches of sun, sand and sea.

Easy to navigate with cycling the transportation of choice, TCI exudes a gentle British vibe.  Here, welcoming English-speaking locals or “belongers” eagerly roll out the red carpet for Canadian visitors.

From the main tourist centre of Providenciales, or Provo, and the sister islands of North and Middle Caicos to the historic capital of Grand Turk and tiny Salt Cay with just one quaint hotel, TCI is a multicultural treasure chest of environmental excellence, luxury resorts, gourmet eateries, electric-blue water and secluded strands of silky sand. “The TCI star continues to shine in the region,” said Ralph Higgs, Director of Tourism. “We are encouraged and excited about the upcoming 2012 season and we urge residents and local businesses to embrace all the opportunities associated with the tourism industry.”

For nature buffs, 12 cays are protected breeding grounds for rare birds while on tiny islands such as Little Water Cay and Big Sand Cay, the endangered iguana reigns supreme. Grand Turk with its centuries-old churches, aromatic salt ponds and wild donkeys is also home to the lighthouse that stands guard over the northern tip of the island.

Buckle Up

As of February 16, Air Canada is offering weekly service from Halifax to Providenciales—one of eight weekly flights during high season including five from Toronto through April, weekly service from Montréal on Thursdays and from Ottawa on Mondays. Air Canada offers year-round service from Toronto on Saturdays and Sundays while WestJet flies four times weekly from Toronto until May, with Saturday and Monday flights continuing year-round.

All Aboard

Brand new and very funky, Island Rhythms Tours are a must-do aboard a bright green flatbed truck. With guides called “Ambassadors,” tours stop at Lake Victoria to see the salt pond, Cheshire Hall where the 200-year-old tradition of growing cotton is celebrated, and Sapodilla Hill revered for the inscriptions that date back to the 18th century. “We are informative, inspiring and innovative,” says O’Brien Forbes, Manager. “The other guys just get you there; we make it worth a million memories.”

Savour the Spread

With a staff so friendly you’d swear you’d met them before, Pelican Bay, under the watchful eye of Master Chef Peter Redstone, excels with mains like a succulent lobster so fresh it’s still angry. Ask for the house pepper sauce to take home as a souvenir more memorable than a fridge magnet or a T-shirt.

South Beach meets the tropics at Vino Tiempo, a hip-and-happening wine bar in the swank Regent Village. Owned by wine connoisseurs Tony Garland and Murad Mohamad, the bar pours fine wines, minty mojitos and Bambarra rum cocktails. “Canadian wines will make a stellar addition to our menu,” says Tony Garland whose knowledge of wine is legendary. “I’ve sampled the wines from the Niagara region, which we’ll soon be offering to our guests.”

Crazy for Conch

With the only conch farm in the world, it’s no wonder TCI hosts an annual Conch Festival that salutes the ocean delicacy in fritters, ceviche, crêpes and chowders. Conch-philes arrive early to sample a variety of dishes while esteemed judges award top honours. With plenty of fun for the kids, the festival entertains with live bands, conch-blowing lessons and conch-knocking competitions. “Every year the festival gets bigger and better,” says Dick Bain, president, Blue Hills Conch Festival Association. “It’s an ideal way for our visitors to get a sense of our history, culture and diverse tourism offerings.”

Home Suite Home

At first glance, the blue waves outside the two Ocean Club Resorts match perfectly with the blue of the sky. Along the talc sands of Grace Bay, the twinned resorts not only boast some of the best views in Provo, but also gigantic suites with modern kitchens, gratis pink beach umbrellas and bikes to explore the island.

Across the street, Comfort Suites may be the best bargain on the island. With nightly rates as low as US$119 through April, the comfy hotel provides shuttle service to the beach in a golf cart. “We offer a resort feel without resort prices,” explains David Crofts, Manager. Originally from Vancouver, he knows what Canadians want in a vacation splurge. “We serve Miss William’s famous triple-layer coconut cake, which I know appeals to our friends from up north,” he smiles.

It’s a beach bonanza at Seven Stars Resort with bonfire parties and complimentary sunglasses cleaning. At Villa del Mar, the penthouse suite is delightfully spacious and a romantic favourite for newlyweds. A short stroll from Grace Bay Beach, the modern hotel is elegance without pretention and luxury without the price tag.

With no hotel on either side, The Sands at Grace Bay sits on the widest point of the beach with unobstructed views of the turquoise water. “Families book adjoining suites, couples enjoy total privacy and everyone else just has a grand time,” says Raymond Yip, Director of Revenue.

Chic Sleep

A COMO resort, the super swishy Parrot Cay is a private retreat revered by celebrities and renowned for the holistic healing massages in the spa. “ParrotCay is where you forget the world you’ve left behind,” says Grant Noble, General Nanager. 

Beet Mojito

(served at Ocean Club West)

 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

 A few sprigs of mint

 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

 Ice

 1 tablespoon beet purée   

 1 ounce rum

 Sprite

 Garnish with fresh mint, lime wedge and sugar cane stick

In a tall tumbler, muddle lime wedges with mint and sugar until crushed and juicy. Fill glass with ice. Add rum and beet purée. Stir well. Fill glass with Sprite. Stir, garnish and enjoy.

Travel Planner

For more information on the Turks and Caicos Islands, visit turksandcaicostourism.com. To book your Air Canada flight, log onto air canada.com.

Additional information on other venues is available at: Comfort Suites: comfortsuitestci.com

Conch Festival: conchfestival.com

Island Rhythms Tours: islandrhythmstours.com

Ocean Club Resorts: oceanclubresorts.com

Parrot Cay: parrotcay.como.bz

Pelican Bay: pelicanbaytci.com

Seven Stars Resort: sevenstarsgracebay.com

The Sands at Grace Bay: thesandstc.com

Villa del Mar: yourvilladelmar.com

Vino Tiempo: vinotiempowinebar.com

 
 
 
 
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