By Bill Vanderford

Shelling Along a Provo Beach - Photo by Bill Vanderford
As the morning sun began to caress the windblown sand along the deserted beach, its warming rays refracted hundreds of white objects. With every degree the sun rose, they glistened more – an expanding spectacle that for shell seekers would be like finding the treasures of a Spanish galleon.

Of the more than 40 islands that make up the Turks & Caicos, only a handful are inhabited. The largest is Providenciales or “Provo” as it is often called, and it is here that you come to realize just how integral shells are to local way of life, and most predominantly, conch shells. These giant snails thrive in the surrounding part swamp-part tidal flats that shimmer around most island shores, and their shells not only contribute to jewelry and artwork, their meat is an ingredient in hundreds of food dishes. Provo has even started to export this resource as a delicacy, and runs the only conch farm in the world.

Eco Adventures
But Provo has many more treasures than shells, and is better known as a premier destination for snorkeling, scuba diving and bonefishing. For these activities, Catch the Wave Charters is locally owned operation that’s hard to beat. Having boated these waters for two generations, these folks have a sixth sense as to the best fishing spots, and know the most remote island beaches for a romantic BBQ. Big Blue Unlimited is another quality outfitter; they offer eco-oriented kayaking excursions through the mangrove waterways, to intriguing beach-combing shores and a stop at Little Water Cay. This arid spit of sand and vegetation is sanctuary to more than 3,000 rare and endangered rock iguanas that are exclusive to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Where to Stay

Grace Bay Beach at Ocean Club - Photo by Bill Vanderford

Although there are many, diverse lodging options, the Ocean Club Resorts are the best for overall service and amenities. Both the original Ocean Club and the newer Ocean Club West are situated on the beautiful, expansive, white sands and tranquil, turquoise waters of famous Grace Bay, which is within easy sight of the waters breaking over the protective coral reef. Located within a mile of each other, a shuttle operates between these two very distinct properties so guests can enjoy the services of both. These include the Cabana Bar & Grille, and Gecko Grille at the Ocean Club, and the Seaside Café at the Ocean Club West.

Island Time Dining
Be aware, though, that restaurant service throughout the Turks & Caicos moves on ‘island time’ … somewhat slower and certainly more laid back that many North American or European visitors might appreciate. Forewarned is forearmed; the wait is invariably worth the tangy, flavorful cuisine. Away from the resort area, the casual approach to service is even more apparent though at Da Conch Shack, one of the authentic, local diners that is a must-visit. It’s an open-air eatery right on Blue Hills Beach where just caught seafood and conch done every which way is dished up island style. That’s means loud music, plenty of flies to swat away, balmy breezes, sand underfoot, palms overhead, and plenty of smiles. And smilin’, is what these tropical islands are all about.

If you go:

Turks & Caicos Tourism:
Ocean Club Resorts:
Catch the Wave Charters:
Big Blue Unlimited:

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