It's that wonderful time of the year where the Watkins Family heads out for a warm adventure to rest, relax and rejuvinate. This years journey took us to the small nation of Turks and Caicos and to the very remote island of Middle Caicos, population maybe 300. This adventure can only be summed up as the ultimate beach vacation because simply there wasn't anything else to do but soak in the sun, swim in the water and talk to the fish. I think many travel site list the beaches in Turks and Caicos as the best in the world, and I would have to agree with them. I don't think I will ever set foot on beaches as beautiful and pristine again in my life. Not only were we surrounded by stunning beaches but we had them all to ourselves. Years ago, Josh and I use to watch the travel show "Lonely Planet", this trip truly made us feel like we were living it too.
In order to get to T&C we had to take the red eye to Atlanta where we had an almost 3 hour lay over then fly another 3 hours to Providenciales, take a very expensive taxi to the ferry - stopping at the grocery store on our way. We then loaded all our bags and food for the week on a ferry and rode 30 minutes up to the island of North Caicos. During the boat ride we past many of the private escapes of the movie stars where they have the whole island to them selves. (This of course was not our stop)
Above Sahsa and Jo are enjoying the ferry ride after hours of travel. Once we reached Sandy Point marina on North Caicos we were going to be met by a local who had our car and would drive us the 50 minutes south to our house. I wasn't prepared for our van when it arrived.... more on that later. On the way south we drove past huge flamingo ponds and gorgeous caribbean waters. Our house was located on Bambarra beach- miles and miles of perfection. The large buoy below marks our home base for the week... pretty spectacular! Every morning I would wake up and read on the deck that overlooked this beach.
Our first full beach day on Bambarra ended with a local named T-boy picking up Josh and Jo in his boat. I guess this would be considered hitch-hiking caribbean style.
T-Boy was trying to sell us, the only people on the beach, his freshly caught fish. Josh wasn't really sold and told him to find us some lobster. T-boy assured us he would be right back and to sit tight. Within the hour he was back with dinner.
We purchased 4 lobsters for $30. We watched him cut the tails off and walk them to our beach house where we enjoyed fresh lobster in many forms for the next couple days.
I really wanted to get some killer shots of the flamingos while I was on the island but the large groups gather in the middle of huge ponds and are impossible to get close to. I had to settle for the few that spent time in the little pond next to our house.
We have learned that every beach is different and each one has unique things to offer. Mudjin Harbor, Dragons Cay and Hidden Beach are probably the most well known attraction of Middle Caicos. Here is the view looking north from the cliff, the pathway in the image leads down to a secret cave and to Hidden beach.
Now standing in the same spot looking south over Dragon Cay. In low tide you can walk right out to the Cay but we never had the water low enough so we just swam to it.
The Stairway that leads down to Hidden Beach
Dragon Cay was fun because the kids loved the waves. My kids spent hours and hours in the washing machine waves.
This is what Sasha looks like after a particularly big spin cycle.
Be assured she laughed it off and had a great time!
The absolutely ONLY attraction we spent money on was visiting Conch Bar Cave. It is the largest cave system in the caribbean. The humidity inside the cave was almost torturous but I am sure all the bats love it. Somewhere I had read to bring your own flashlights and I am glad we did. (For all my camera tech friends I cranked my ISO up to 2500 to get the shots inside the cave. It is my testimony that Nikon rocks the high ISO's.)
Our next beach was near Haulover Point. Our day was filled with kayaking,snorkling and tons of conch. This little guy was our pet for the day. We watched him for hours as he used his claw to right himself and crawl to the water. I have never seen so many conch shelfs in my life, they were everywhere.
Here is our beach for the day. Will spent the day building marble runs in the sand.
The image below gives you a glimps into our transportation for the week in all it's glory. We booked our house with the "all inclusive" package which included kayaks, bikes and this one of a kind ride from the 80's. The doors had no locks and the brakes were barely there and it was making some very loud screetching souds by the time we finsihed our week. Inside the van it still had the 14" TV and VCR the car probably came with when it was new. I am sure they where too rusty to work. In my heart of hearts I feel it was the best van ever! We just opened up the back, slid the two man kayak inside and drove where ever our adventure took us.
I am not sure what the beach below was called but it was on the south end of Mudjin Harbor and was one of the best snorkling spots on the trip. The reef was very close to shore and was formed like a maze. It reminded me alot of the opening scenes of Finding Nemo. We spent hours watching the schools of fish and the coral.
I think this beach was Josh's favorite. He said he felt just like living in a Conde Nast magazine. Jo and Sasha had a great time snorkling all trip. I love the image below because this is the two of them walking out of a long snorkle discussing the adventure. Sometimes they were more excited to see one tiny fish then big schools.
One of the most amazing site that occured often were these amazing rainbows in the blue sky. I am use to seeing rainbows inside storm clouds but not against the blue.
We had read several sources stating 3 Mary's cay on north Caicos was a good snorkling spot. After the hour long drive there it revealed absolutely gorgeous surroundings. Jonas immediately found this gem only yards off the beach. He became our pet for the day, I think his name was Ginger. Although Josh saw a couple rays and a lemon shark in the sea grass this really wasn't great for snorkling but none of us cared because it was so pretty.
There really are no traditional restraunts in the area and they all close at 4pm so we only managed to eat out a couple times. Daniel's is the most famous eatting establishment on the two islands and we managed to eat there on our last day. We learned that although they have a menu, generally they are out of everything on it so it is just best to ask what they do have available. No one else was there that day so the owner/chef/waiter visited with us while we ate and watched the humpback whales blow in the water. I really wanted to have a close encounter of the whale kind but it just wasn't in the card this trip.
Our house was the nicest accomdations we have rented thus far in our travels. We usually rent off VRBO or Homeaway. I was surprised how different the styles are from Mexico. We could drink our water since it was filtered rain water. We had the nicest/ fully stocked kitchen we have every traveled too. The kids loved the belgian waffle maker, I'm gonna have to put that on the christmas list for next year. I just did a quick snap of our house as we were leaving. They called it town homes since they are three identical units hooked together. We were on the end closest to the camera. The bedrooms were on the lower level and the kitchen living area was upstairs.
I think the highlight for me was our adbenture to Wild Cow Beach. The locals call it The Wind Garden because the strong winds cause the cedar trees to grow into wind swept shapes. Josh and I always have a goal when traveling to just drive to the end of the road.. wherever that might take us. This goal has lead us to some fantastic places and once again this road did not disappoint. The local who gave us directions told us to follow the powerlines and then continue down the dirt road. He said we would know we were in the right place because the trees have grown so close to the road that the car would have trouble fitting down the road. He wasn't lying either, it was important to keep all arms and legs inside the car while it was moving. Once we reached the end we venture through a forest trail to reveal the most beautiful pristine beach I will probably ever go to. The water was shallow enough you could probably walk at elast a quarter mile into it and still just be walking. We had to come back to do the kids portraits here. There is never enough time to do all that I would have wanted but here are a few from our beach session.
I think beaches are incredibly hard to photograph because it is always windy and the lighting is always direct. I purchased a new flash to take with me from Dave Newman and it was just perfect. It looks just like a cop raidar gun and is completely self contained unit so Josh could just hold the pistol grip and aim.
I have come home from vacation rested and energize and I can't say that is common for me when coming home from vacation. I read two books and loved every minute of it since reading is something I don't do year round. Another grand adventure was made with the Watkins Family and we will remember the beaches of Turks & Caicos for the rest of our lives. Hopefully the kids will thank us for it when they are finally grown up enough to realize how unique our adventure was.