Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Paradise islands: Turks & Caicos is a holiday of a lifetime

By John Toner

Nestled at the south-eastern edge of the Bahamas island chain lies one of the most spectacular beach holiday destinations in the world. We had watched the sun set more than 12 hours earlier - an equally spectacular sight that will live long in the memory.

The Turks & Caicos Islands is an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean lined with white sands and surrounded by stunning azure waters.

The main island of Providenciales, known as Provo, is home to the gloriously expansive Grace Bay Beach which is lined with a string of luxury resorts and hotels.

Chief among them is the Beaches Turks & Caicos, a huge sprawling hotel and recreation complex which offers everything you could wish for in a family holiday.

From the 45,000 square-foot waterpark to the five individual villages on-site which boast the architecture and ambiance of Italy, France, the Caribbean and Key West, this massive resort has it all.

With 21 restaurants and bars spanning cuisines from around the globe, as well as several children-focused play and recreation areas for different age groups, the resort covers a massive array of tastes and interests for all sorts of holidaymaker.

Lapped by clear turquoise water, Beaches is situated on the 12-mile stretch of Grace Bay Beach, winner of the TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice award for best beach in the world in 2018.

Upon my arrival in the early evening it was Grace Bay which would provide the setting for my first evening meal at Barefoot By The Sea, one of the resort's signature restaurants, where guests can dine with the sounds of the ocean in their ears and sand in between their toes.

Head chef Jose greeted me on the beach as I was guided to my table by the highly courteous, helpful and smartly dressed staff.

I opted for a signature TCI delicacy of conch fritters which were light, fluffy and delicious. This was followed by locally caught Mahi Mahi fish served with garlic sautéed veg and a delicious creamy polenta garnish.

For dessert the coconut cake was a delicate delight, full of rich sweet flavour but yet not too heavy on top of the other two courses.

After the transatlantic journey the hearty meal all but knocked me out so I headed for my hotel room to get a good night of rest.

The rooms at Beaches TCI are the height of luxury, more mini-apartments than rooms, they come equipped with a separate living area and balcony as well as a kitchen kept stocked with your personal selection of alcoholic and soft beverages, replenished on a daily basis.

The huge, plush, king-size double bed came complete with a spacious ensuite bathroom and a luxurious rainfall style walk-in shower.

The following day after a blissful night of sleep I was up bright and early for the Kitty Kat cruise provided by Island Routes and organised on my behalf by Beaches.

After we made the short skip across the waves to The Bite reef, also known as Coral Gardens, I and the other snorkellers were lucky enough to experience a real island treat, swimming with dolphins.

One curious dolphin swam right up to the boat and playfully splashed about with us before weaving his way up and down the mooring rope. To be in the water so close to such a graceful creature was a real joy.

After snorkelling with the dolphin it was off to Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, which is home to over 5,000 indigenous iguanas who roam freely and aren't shy of people, scurrying past in the sand as we wandered along the pristine beach.

A day of stunning wildlife was topped off whilst walking back to the boat through the azure shallows when a curious stingray came to investigate the feet splashing along the shore.

On our way back to the resort the Island Routes boat rode through the clear blue waves as an onboard DJ treated us to a selection of reggae and soca while we bathed in the Caribbean sun.

After working up an appetite on the boat trip during the day my itinerary led me to the resort's French Village and Le Petit Chateau, an elegant wood-beamed French bistro.

Keen to experience French food in the Caribbean I opted for the scallops which were perfectly cooked and came with an amazing spicy bacon jam which was a superb accompaniment.

This was followed by a delicate and beautifully presented lobster thermidor served with sautéed veg and a delicious glass of house sauvignon blanc.

The next day was the personal highlight of my trip, scuba diving at a site called North West Point off the far western edge of Provo.

The diving, which comes included with your stay at Beaches resort, is as good as you will find anywhere else in the world.

With crystal clear visibility in gorgeous warm waters which teem with exotic marine life, it's a scuba diver's dream. On several occasions I found myself surrounded by magnificent reef sharks, brightly coloured tropical fish and graceful sea turtles, an unforgettable experience.

Variety is the spice of life, so the idiom tells us, and later that evening I was treated to a taste of India at the on-site Indian restaurant Bombay Club.

The relaxed patio dining venue offers an on-table buffet including delicious miniature poppadoms and naan bread, succulent butter chicken, fiery chickpea madras and fresh, fluffy pilau rice.

During my final day at the resort I decided to take a stroll along some of the 12 miles of pristine white sand which makes up Grace Bay beach.

As the sun beat down on my back and the warm ocean water splashed against my ankles it was easy to see why this huge arc of white sand is so revered by locals and tourists alike.

Later that evening, as it was my last night, I decided to treat myself to some sushi at the resort's Soy sushi bar.

Highlights on the menu included California rolls topped with salmon caviar, Alaska rolls with smoked salmon avocado and authentic Japanese Onigiri rice balls all made right in front of you on the beach.

After three days at Beaches Turks and Caicos I had experienced food from three different continents, relaxed in the height of luxury, strolled lazily along the world's best beach and come up close and personal with some of nature's most wonderful creatures.

When looking at options for an unforgettable family holiday experience I cannot recommend this resort highly enough.

Travel Factfile

A seven-night stay at Beaches Turks & Caicos staying in a Caribbean Deluxe Room costs from £2,589 per person. The price includes (all-inclusive) accommodation, return economy flights with British Airways from London Gatwick and resort transfers.

The price is valid for travel on select dates between May 5 - July 9, 2019. The price is subject to availability and may change.

To book or for more information on Sandals and Beaches Resorts, visit www.beaches.co.uk; or call 0800 597 0002.

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