I had been to the Caribbean islands and the more well-known haunts of St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and even the smaller more intimate islands like Nevis which have kept so much of their island charm, but nothing had prepared me for the sensuality, beauty and individualism of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Called Turks and Caicos, the name Turks is derived after the indigenous Turk’s Head ‘fez’ cactus, and the name Caicos is a Lucayan term ‘caya hico’, meaning string of islands. While there are some 40 plus cays that make up the Turks & Caicos Islands, only eight of them are inhabited by people. The Turks & Caicos natives are called “Belongers” or “Turks Islanders” and are either descendant from African slaves who were originally brought over to grow cotton on the island of Providenciales or have emigrated here from the Bahamas back in the salt raking days. The local population mixes harmoniously with a large expatriate community of British, American, French, Canadian, Haitians, Dominicans and Scandinavians, giving the islands an international influence and unique culture. The people here – both Expats and Belongers – are relaxed and friendly and generally operate on “island” time, resulting in a low-key, slow-paced environment.
Stepping off the BA flight from London which had touched down briefly in Nassau, giving us a glimpse whilst skimming over turquoise waters and white sandy crescents of what was to come, we breathed in the evening air and scent of frangipani. Whisked through a tiny airport with a modicum of fuss our bags were spirited away, we were transferred to the dock where the Parrot Cay launch awaited us to take us to our final destination. Half an hour later after slicing through water drenched in the hues of a magnificent sunset, I was introduced to my butler Jonson who within a short three days of my life changed my eating habits, overall picture of life and simply became the magic elf that made the sun shine each day that much brighter.
Arriving at Parrot Cay
Comprising of 40 islands and cays, the Turks & Caicos Islands offer many different experiences and in the week we were there I was to savour the charm of Parrot Cay, the vibrant hotels of the famous Grace Bay and the hidden gem Amanyara tucked away overlooking the pristine reefs of the Northwest Point Marine National Park.
Parrot Cay by Como is wrapped in swathes of white powdery sand, waters that alternate from turquoise, aquamarine, azure to cobalt blue – gin clear water that laps the beach by day and lulls you to sleep at night. It was incredible to think there were over 1,000 unspoiled acres of wetlands and a mile long powdered beach which wraps around the property stretching from the magnificent private residences and villas down to the last remaining beach house at the other end of the property. Our home was the most heavenly white washed beach house with romantic four posters with billowing white ‘nets’, a cathedral vaulted living room in cool white washed teak which opened onto a warm teak deck yards from our private pool and the exquisite colors of the sea beyond. Waking up in the morning to that view and the privacy the two bedroom beach house offered was to be Robinson Crusoe – but with Jonson providing the elf like touches that only princesses dream of.
Two Bedroom Beach House Parrot Cay
Our breakfasts of fresh fruit and any other delectation Jonson could dream up started a perfect day – as I completed my early morning dip to sit and savour the delicious food that Parrot Cay is renowned for. Had you wished to have saluted the sun yourself, there are yoga classes, endless trails you can walk or bike through manicured gardens, beautiful shrubs and flowers with always a glimpse of the ocean close by.
I cannot remember how the days passed but they slipped by in a blur of smiling faces, delicious and healthy food, fresh grilled lobster one night with a private BBQ in our glorious beach house, cool Mojitos in the bar as Caribbean music gently competed with the background sound of the waves. I was lucky enough to experience the total out of body experiences at the hands of Mara in the Como Shambhala Retreat. The Como Shambhala facial took years off my face or perhaps that was the dreamless sleep I fell into having sat as long as I could by my pool staring at millions of stars strewn across a black velvet sky.
Lunch was taken by the endless shimmer of blue in the hotel’s main pool reflecting prisms of light as you ate deliciously prepared lunches in ‘Lotus’ surrounded by emerald palms. Whether you chose to eat in your own villa or beach house, in the ‘Terrace’ Mediterranean style restaurant or in ‘Lotus’ by the pool, the food is a wonderful concoction of simple dishes offering an explosion of taste and freshness. Whether your taste is for the best Wagyu beef, local fish, fresh lobster or a salad so colorful it seems a shame to eat – Parrot Cay can offer it all. Barefoot chic and days of long lazy rhythm is what Parrot Cay is all about. If you want the bright lights and bustle then our second stop in Grace Bay would be for you.
Saying our tearful goodbyes to Jonson and our happy team we slowly let the island disappear as the boat propelled us back to civilization, cars, people and real life! Grace Bay is famous for its Grace Bay Beach which stretches as a white crescent of sand for miles and is home to the Gansevoort where we stayed for two nights, the Grace Bay Club and Estates and the colonial charm of the Regent Palms. Every one of them completely different and therefore each one tailored to offer a totally different experience depending on what the guest is looking for.
We were welcomed into the Gansevoort with their signature cocktail and warm smiles, the huge entrance looks onto a deep turquoise pool and the sea in the distance framed by gently swaying palms. Cool sophistication, chic, sleek and vibrant is how they describe themselves and it sums them up perfectly. Cool music plays around their 7,000 square foot signature pool with lounging islands floating in the water and smiling beach staff at hand for your slightest whim. Overlooking this is Stelle where we had breakfast by day and which transformed itself into a collection of tiny lights, candles and romantic corners by night with a bar that even the staff on Parrot Cay journey over to! Walk down the boardwalk to their stretch of powder white sand disappearing into warm turquoise waters and grab a cocktail at the Beach Bar & Grill as sunset approaches.
Pool and Bedroom Wings Gansevoort
Beach bonfire Gansevoort
We would have loved to have sat at the Beach Bar and Grill the next night but we had been promised that the ‘Fish Fry’ was one of the highlights of Thursday nights in Provo so we walked a few meters down the beach under the stars and entered another world. Island Fish Fry – Island Fish Fry is a local cultural explosion that takes place weekly. A number of local restaurants and vendors participate and entertainment is provided by local bands. There is a Junkanoo Rush as well as cultural performances. Bustling stalls, locals dressed in their finery out to party, live music from the stage, people laughing, dancing, drinking rum punches and tasting delicious titbits from the myriad of stalls all hosted by the local restaurants. Our favorite was ‘Smokey’ whose restaurant claims fame from near and far. Picking out fresh lobsters he had collected from the fishermen that morning he grilled them perfectly over the sizzling coals along with the freshest of corn on the cob coated in some magical mixture only known to him. Eating perched on the side of the fishing boats, looking at the stars sipping on heady rum punch whilst licking lobster and butter drenched fingers as the music rolled around was simply sublime. Beach, music, rum, lobster, flares, island music and dancing our little socks (or serious lack of socks!) off was one of the best nights on the island.
Competitors in the island dance competition – Fish Fry is Thursday night on the island!
Tracy who was our guide and is ‘Mrs’ Turks & Caicos from the Tourist Authority was to show us endless sides of this magical set of islands, each one an experience we will remember forever. The juxtaposition of a perfect hotel with an experience or two that is unique to the place surely has to be the best combination for any vacation!