Turks & Caicos Islands
The Turks & Caicos Islands consist of 40 different islands, only eight of which are inhabited. The islands are almost as diverse as the people who inhabit them. From the main tourist center of Providenciales to the quiet and tranquil islands of North and Middle Caicos to the historic Capital Island of Grand Turk, each offers a different experience and a unique character but all offer great climate, beaches and underwater activities.
Most of the islands are about 10 to 25 minutes by air from Provo and most can also be reached by boat. There are also regular ferries from North to Middle Caicos. Providenciales is the most well known of the Turks & Caicos Islands and is the center of the tourism industry with a wide range of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Grand Turk and Salt Cay offer history with great Bermudian architecture and rustic charm, as well as some of the best diving.
Middle Caicos and North Caicos represent the best of the environment, with lush green woodlands, the largest cave network in the Caribbean (on Middle Caicos) and a vast range of plant and birdlife.
South Caicos is the center for fishing, with lobster and conch exported from the islands, the historic Cockburn Harbour and the natural phenomenon of the boiling hole. This small yet friendly island offers many secluded beaches with awe-inspiring views of the turquoise waters and surrounding islands.
The name Turks is derived from the indigenous Turk's Head "fez" cactus, and the name Caicos is a Lucayan term "caya hico," meaning string of islands. Columbus was said to have discovered the islands in 1492, but some still argue that Ponce de Leon arrived first. Whomever it was, the first people to truly discover the islands were the Taino Indians, who unfortunately left little behind but ancient utensils. Then the Lucayans eventually replaced the Tainos but by the middle of the 16th century they too had disappeared, victims of Spanish enslavement and imported disease.
The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda, who established themselves on Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos. They used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America, and were later joined by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations,their harvests sold in London and New York. Due to competition and the thin soil, however, the cotton plantations slowly deteriorated, most of them finally perishing in a hurricane in 1813. Solar salt became the main economy of the islands.
In 1766, after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, the Turks & Caicos Islands became part of the Bahamas colony, but attempts to integrate failed and were abandoned in 1848. London - Kingston boats frequently visited Turks and Caicos, so links with Jamaica were well developed. The Turks & Caicos Islands were annexed to Jamaica in 1874. After Jamaica's independence in 1962, the Turks & Caicos Islands were loosely associated with the Bahamas for just over 10 years until the Turks & Caicos Islands became a British Crown Colony.