Gleaming sands, clear waters, and sparkling reefs.
The Turks and Caicos (population 22,500) is a low-lying group of coral islands at the southeast end of the Bahamas chain. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are directly south and boatloads of Haitian migrants often wash up on these shores only to be repatriated quickly. The region’s native Indians were wiped out soon after the Spaniards arrived and the uninhabited islands provided a refuge for pirates in the late 17th century. Bermudans created a salt racking industry here in the 18th century, followed by Loyalists from the American colonies who tried to grow cotton. These operations eventually failed but descendants of the African slaves brought in to provide the labor now form a majority of the population. Turks and Caicos is a British crown colony with internal self-government and visitors from Western countries require only a passport for entry. Since the opening of a Club Med on Providenciales Island in the 1980s, tourism has flourished along the long white beach on the north side of Providenciales or Provo as it is also called. Numerous resorts receiving guests from Europe and North America line the sandy shores. The colony’s other islands are far less developed, although Grand Turk Island is often visited by cruise ships. Grand Turk is the official seat of government and hosts the interesting National Museum. There is little to see in the way of historic buildings on Providenciales and most tourists come only for the beach and watersports.