Mar
23
2012

Cruising for conch in Turks and Caicos

Adventurers and foodies can discover a bounty of underwater sights and delights

A protective barrier reef surrounds Providenciales—the most populated island in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)—making for superb diving and swimming in calm turquoise waters. And there are also the pristine beaches of Grace Bay: although the majority of the resorts and hotels are here, the beach isn’t crowded. No building is higher than seven storeys along Grace Bay Beach.

Many expats, including Canucks and celebs, vacation and live in Turks and Caicos. I was hoping to bump into Prince, who bought a house in Provo last year, however, I only managed to spot JoJo the Dolphin, arguably the most famous celeb in Provo, on an island boat excursion.

For snowbirds, sun and sand is TCI’s magnet. But, being surrounded by ocean, it’s inevitable that Turks and Caicos draws foodies here for the seafood, especially conch. As Shervington Dean, a.k.a. Captain Pop, of Caicos Dream Tours says: “No conch, no lunch.” He says you can always find conch because these waters aren’t over-fished. Take the company’s Snorkel and Conch Cruise and board at Alexandra Resort and Spa. Cruise around Grace Bay Beach and then head out to the barrier reef for some of the best snorkelling in the world. Dive for conch near Caicos Bank South, just east of Provo, and blast over to Mangrove Cay for sunset.

Scan most of Provo’s restaurant menus and you’ll find conch sliced and diced ceviche style, curried or sautéed. And you heard it here first—any day now, somebody’s sure to serve up conch carpaccio as an amuse-bouche.

Little Water Cay

Cross the Leeward Channel to Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island. Stroll this nature preserve where iguanas scurry through the brush. Boardwalks keep visitors from stepping on iguana nests.

Spot JoJo the Dolphin

Since the 1980s, this wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has been following boats and visiting people near Grace Bay Beach. Almost on cue, JoJo will appear alongside your boat. The government has declared JoJo a national treasure.

Snuba Diving

Snuba—in-between snorkelling and scuba-diving—is safe, easy and allows you to drop seven metre below the water’s surface without certification. Sign up for lessons at Windsong Resort and an instructor will guide you as you practise in waist-deep water along the beach. (windsongresort.com)

Infiniti Bar at Grace Bay Club

Sidle up to this oceanfront bar's 27 metre-long infinity bar and sip a red-berries mojito or a "Rasta" punch. Nearly all the resorts host a lively happy hour, and many have bars smack on the beach. (gracebayresorts.com)

Da Conch Shack

Snag a picnic table and sip a cold brewski while staffers at Da Conch Shack knock open conch shells, clean and cut up the tender meat, then store it in pens near the beach. Start with a basket of fritters, the most addictive of conch cuisine. (conchshack.tc)

Coyaba

Reserve seats on the garden patio where thousands of twinkling lights adorn the flora. Some tables allow diners complete privacy, making it a celeb favourite. Order the Tandoori mahi-mahi and the banana caramel phyllo dessert with homemade vanilla ice cream. (coyabarestaurant.com)

Lemon Café

This restaurant features Mediterranean-Moroccan fare and Casbah décor, from the tented ceiling to the authentic Moroccan light fixtures. Go for the grilled octopus and chorizo on watercress and the stuffed poblano pepper with goat cheese and pine nuts. (lemon-cafe.com)

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