Belfast Telegraph

Take me to paradise: Turks and Caicos

Be honest. Could you find the Turks and Caicos on a map? Most of us may be a tad hazy about the exact geography of these celebrated holidays isles, but there is no doubting the idyllic imagery instantly conjured up by the very mention of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In fact the TCI (as globe-trotters tend to call them) are a British Overseas Territory  made up on seven main islands and about forty small islands and uninhabited cays set in the Atlantic Ocean, to the southeast of  the Bahamas and just northeast of Cuba.

These small but perfectly formed islands have a total land area of just 430 square kilometres (that’s 170 square miles in ‘old money’), but they pack an incredible holiday punch, epitomising the perfect tropical island escape.

Providenciales and Grand Turk are home to the majority of the country’s population and these two islands host nearly all of its tourism infrastructure but, wherever you go, you’ll discover the palm fringed silver sands, azure ocean and fabulous coral reefs of your dreams.

Hotels and resorts here set fresh standards for tropical luxury, with dreamscape settings and every possible comfort, from stunning spas to lively entertainment. It may be tempting to spend tropical days and nights lazing by the beach with the sand in your toes and a cocktail by your side, but there is so much more to see and enjoy.

Today there is an increasing emphasis on sustainable tourism in a destination which celebrates its truly marvellous natural resources.

If wildlife is your thing, take an eco-tour, then visit the salt ponds and inland marshes which serve as excellent feeding grounds for resident and migratory birds alike.

Search for Great Blue Herons, flamingos, osprey and pelicans, egrets, terns, frigates, boobies and other water birds, or spot the rock iguana (Cyclura carinata) which is found nowhere else in the world.

It’s wonderfully easy to get close to these shy and harmless large lizards at Little Water Cay thanks to a specially constructed board walk which provides a close connection to the island’s fascinating rock iguana population.

Humpback whale-spotting is a visitor ‘must-do’, but do try to meet one of the islands’ most famous inhabitants; JoJo, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.

JoJo has been living and playing in the shallow waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies since 1980. He is one of the few dolphins around the world that voluntarily interacts with human beings in his own natural habitat. Much loved by the islanders, the government has even proclaimed JoJo a 'national treasure', and has appointed a warden to protect him!

Ready for adventure? What about a visit to ‘The Hole’? Located in Long Bay in Providenciales this naturally formed massive limestone 40 foot hole is not for the faint-hearted intrepid visitors are lowered down a rope where 80 feet down to a swimming hole.

The diving, snorkelling and fishing here are legendary with opportunities to learn from scratch or develop existing skills. For expert divers the islands provide an exceptional opportunity to swim along the edge of an awe-inspiring abyss, staring into the dark where the ocean floor drops off rapidly to depths of around 7,000 feet.

If culinary adventure is more your thing, the islands’ restaurants, cafés and bars offer fabulous seafood and wonderful local cuisine, usually served al fresco in tropical garden settings with the soft sounds of surf providing perfect background ‘music’.

Paradise may be closer than you think, for Turks and Caicos is surprisingly accessible with excellent air connections. Even better - your journey to tropical nirvana could start right here in Belfast with a trip to the 2019 Belfast Telegraph Holiday World show over January 18 -20 when the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board will be on hand with some extra inspiration.

For more information visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com or follow @tcitourism on Twitter and Instagram

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