North Caicos, Turks and Caicos
While Providenciales is the resort center of the islands, and Grand Turk the financial center and capitol, there are other places to see that are just as beautiful and very interesting in the Turks and Caicos. We did a trip this year to North Caicos which proved to be very interesting and gave me an opportunity to see what the islands of the T&C might have looked like before all the resorts. North Caicos is reached from Providenciales by a short boat ride diagonally across Grace Bay, and one lands at the one developed area of North Caicos, the Marina. We toured the island with a local Guide who showed us the development as it is beginning, and as we motored in our van, he’d comment on the changes he’s seen since his childhood on the island and on development in general. North Caicos has a single strip runway, mainly used for medical flights, but in general the island is much as it has been for generations.
The history of the Turks and Caicos is on full display on North Caicos, and it is a history full of both interest and pain. Columbus probably saw Providenciales and North Caicos on his 1492 voyage, and had he landed, he would have found indigenous people living on the islands. In the 1600’s, salt mining (gathering the salt from drying ponds where salt water could be evaporated leaving behind the sea salt) and guano mining took place, but the chief financial boost came in the 1700’s. Just after the American revolution, the displaced Loyalists looked for places to go, and a group from Georgia and the Carolinas came to the Turks and Caicos. Wade Stubbs, a Loyalist grantee, began a cotton plantation in 1789, which meant he also had slaves. The plantation, known as Wade’s Green was located on North Caicos in the village of Kew. It thrived until the three-fold impact of hurricanes, soil depletion and the British end of slavery made the growing of cotton not financially possible. The plantation can be toured today, and it is one of those eerie, sad yet interesting sights that comes with the history of a very harsh time. The main roadway into the plantation is still very much in evidence, the road lined by hand-cut limestone walls. The old buildings are partially standing, some more intact than others, and to their credit, the Government has left the place much as it was when abandoned, instead of making a modern “interpretation. It is a powerful, if painful, glimpse into the past. Like the rest of the Turks and Caicos, there is also much beauty on North Caicos. We stopped at an overlook and saw flamingos in the distance in a pond where they congregate, and we saw numerous beautiful beaches and foliage. People can grow citrus, bananas and even avocados on the island, which means the home gardens are often quite interesting. We stopped at a local diner (Frank’s) and had a wonderful meal of smoked ribs and cracked conch, eating like the locals in a marvellous home kitchen feel. North Caicos is a wonderful place to spend time, far less crowded than other spots in the T&C, and it really does give one a sense of island life.
Photography on a day trip like this is challenging as you want to bring gear that works for what you might see, but you don’t want to be weighed down by the bulk of a huge backpack or bag. I took my Nikon d800e and 2 lenses on this part of the trip – a 50mm and a 24mm lens – and it worked very well for the most part. If I’d had a 70-200 and my 1.4 tele-converter, I might have gotten a fuzzy picture of the flamingos, but there is the weight and size issue as those two items alone would add several pounds to the outfit. I must say, I do like my Think Tank Streetwalker backpack – it is small and can hold all that I’d want to schlep around for such trips. On other occasions I have taken my d800e and the 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms, but since this particular day also involved bat caves on Middle Caicos, I went with the two f1.4 lenses I own. The bat caves story is for next week!
Wade's Green Plantation
Slave Quarters on the Plantation
The Old Kitchen Building of the Plantation
The Flamingo Ponds Lookoff
North Caicos, Turks and Caicos