Explore South Caicos for its natural beauty, rugged coastline and vibrant wildlife. It is located on the eastern side of the Caicos Banks adjacent to the Turks Island (Columbus) Passage. Some of the best snorkel and dive reefs in the country are found in the region of South Caicos. There are also some beautiful beaches on South Caicos itself but the real gems are found on in the cays that lie just to the north. These islands and nearby snorkel reefs are accessed on a boat excursion arranged through Amphibious Adventure Travel.
Visit South Caicos for its historical charm and delightful ambiance. Its remote location and salt producing heritage provide more of a laid back Turks Island feel. Small scale commercial conch and lobster form the mainstay of the local economy today. Tourism in South Caicos was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s and is now making a comeback. South Caicos is not a sophisticated island but new resorts and a massive upgrade to the airport are set to change that.
If you’re looking for a more unique visit to the TCI you may find South Caicos just the ticket. Amphibious Adventure Travel provides for both private day trips and multi-day adventure packages. The island is 20 minutes by air or 90 minutes by boat. Read on to discover what to do and where to stay on South Caicos.
WHAT TO DO ON SOUTH CAICOS
Stroll through the historical old town
Despite the ramshackle nature of some the dwellings, the Bermudian architecture of the vibrant salt raking era still shines through. There is an unmistakable charm to the sleepy, walled lined streets of Cockburn Harbour. Flanked either side by the salt ponds and the turquoise waters, a delightful part of a visit to South Caicos can be spent taking a stroll through the old town.
Bird-watching in the salt ponds and wetlands
Great bird sightings can also be seen in the salt ponds so be sure to bring a pair of binoculars. Reddish and Great White Egrets, Plovers, Sandpipers and the Greater Flamingos are common. The extensive wetlands to the north of South Caicos provide habitat for numerous bird species. Ospreys can be counted at regular intervals along the coastal cliffs and stand like sentinels watching over the water below. The Magnificent Frigate birds often circle overhead, especially in the harbour when the fishing boats return.
Explore the coast and cays on a boat excursion
1. Long Cay is part of the Admiral Cockburn National Park and Nature Reserve and lies just across the harbour. Dove Cay guards the approach from the deep blue water to the south-east. The reefs here are healthy and teem with life although currents and waves can be strong. At the right time this area serves up some of the best snorkeling in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The sheltered beach on Long Cay provides a great pit-stop and a short walk to the top of the cay offers awesome panoramic views.
2. McCartney Cay is the last in a series of beautiful islands that runs between South Caicos and East Caicos. The northern tip of McCartney Cay is separated from East Caicos by a shallow tidal channel that is truly mesmerizing. The leeside of the islands is an expansive mangrove wetlands which can also be explored by shallow draft vessel or kayak. This uninhabited region feels like the final frontier of the Turks and Caicos Islands. South Caicos day trips include a 3-hour boat cruise of this area. Longer trips can include exploration of this area and Long Cay in the south
The center of activity is at the waterfront where the fishing boats come in. The sheltered harbour is overflowing with vessels locally known as a ‘Conch Glory’. These small home-made boats ply the waters in all directions to search for fish, conch and lobsters. Between two and four in the afternoon this is the place to be. Watch the fishermen bring in their catch and with lightning speed and efficiency unload and clean it all. Their catch is recorded by the dock-master and hauled off to one of the adjacent warehouses. Here men and women toil to skin the conch, descale the fish, and remove the lobster’s generous tail.
You will also find a restaurant that epitomizes the South Caicos hospitality. Darrell Forbes and his patrons could not be a friendlier and more welcoming bunch of Turks Islanders. Keen to talk about the life and times of South Caicos and ‘shoot the breeze’ over a cold beer. Darrell’s reputation also extends to his cooking skills and the restaurants fresh seafood dishes come highly recommended.
|SOUTH CAICOS PRIVATE DAY TRIPS
Priced for 1-2 people. Dependent on preferred boat excursion option. Charter flights also available for increased flexibility.
WHAT TO BRING
WHERE TO STAY ON SOUTH CAICOS
Amphibious Adventure Travel multi-day packages include a selection of activities plus accommodation at the Ocean and Beach Resort or East Bay Resort. The Ocean and Beach Resort’s cliff top location boasts spectacular harbour views and a sunset vantage point to savor. It is an authentic locally hotel managed by the enthusiastic and sociable Cleo Cox. The newly opened five floor East Bay Resort offers a more luxurious experience and higher end amenities. It is located directly on the beach in East Bay providing very convenient access for kite-boarding, beach sports and sailing.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOUTH CAICOS
The only settlement on South Caicos is Cockburn Harbour. It was named after Sir Francis Cockburn, the Bahamian Governor who officially visited the island in 1840. The interior is dominated by large salt ponds. These were engineered for salt production in the early 19th century and before long were producing more salt than on Salt Cay and Grand Turk combined. One notable advantage on South Caicos was the use of a natural underground ocean hole that connects the interior of the island to the sea. This was engineered to provide a predictable flow of water right into the middle of the salina. Today, this ‘Boiling Hole’, so called because of the bubbling of the water on the incoming tide, is a protected historical site and can be reached by a short walk starting behind the cricket ground on the edge of town.
While salt production put South Caicos on the map and it was also important for its bountiful fishing and as a convenient fueling station for airplanes flying north and south across the Caribbean. French world champion free-diver Jacques Mayol, famous for being the subject of the popular motion picture ‘The Big Blue’, had a home on the shores of Bell Sound and used to enjoy diving off the deep walls near the island. He explored the region with local fisherman Timothy Hamilton and even brought Japanese tourists to visit the islands during the 1980’s.. No one can say that ‘Big South’ does not have a colorful past.
In 1966 Queen Elizabeth famously visited the small island with her husband whilst on a tour of the Caribbean. They presided over a donkey race and were honoured with a sail-by from the fleet of local sailing boats in Cockburn Harbour. It was this spectacular event that launched the famous South Caicos Regatta that is held each year in May. In 1973 Prince Charles was serving aboard HMS Minerva when it called into the Turks and Caicos. The heir in waiting played a game of cricket against Norman Saunders’ XI who handsomely beat the Royal Navy team.
VISIT SOUTH CAICOS
The first impression of South Caicos is of an island that is past its prime. But a serious South Caicos comeback is in motion. The residents can feel that their time is nigh and the welcoming friendliness and anticipation are palatable. The beds are ready and more are on the way. South Caicos is destined to take its place as a real and deserved jewel in the Caicos archipelago. So look beyond Provo’s shores and take a chance on South. You will be pleasantly surprised. Your conundrum is whether or not to let the secret out of the bag.