Turks and Caicos: unspoiled haven for snowbirds

One day in 1978 Canadians heard the news that Turks and Caicos was (were?) interested in joining Canada. Many wondered what Turks and Caicos was (or were). Tag team wrestlers? A vaudeville act or a figure skating pair?We subsequently learned that they were a collection of largely undeveloped islands – a protectorate in the British West Indies – not noted for much except nice weather and crystal clear waters.Nevertheless, this was good for our national ego. Never before had any country wanted to join us. Au contraire, one of our provinces had been whining about leaving since Wolfe defeated Montcalm… but that subject is for another column.

Sadly, the proposed union – which no one took too seriously anyway – died on the vine.

But in retrospect it would have been nice for Canadians to have their very own tropical paradise to avoid our cruel winters – a place where our money was at par, there was little tourist road kill, and few if any muggings. A place where the sun shone every day, hurricanes were infrequent, and where the natives are understandable (if they talk slowly), convivial and apparently not angry at anything or anybody, including strangs.

As always putting the interest of CARPNews readers foremost, I accepted an invitation from the T and C Tourist Board to visit briefly and can confirm all of the above. More than can be said of many other destinations down that way.

That is the good news. The bad news is that for your ordinary Canadian Snowbird, in peak season it is more expensive than most of the warm places to which Canadians normally migrate in winter months, such as Florida or Arizona.

But let’s assume there are those disenchanted enough with the usual vacation meccas willing to budget more in order to find an unspoiled haven for world class scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, boating, mopedding or navel gazing on a white sandy beach.

Visitors gravitate to Providenciales (Provo) to a variety of resorts along a stretch of pristine white beach that borders Grace Bay. The airport is being enlarged to accommodate a growing influx of vacationers.

Provo is where the action is… what there is of it. Those seeking raucous night life will be disappointed, though a casino is being refurbished and will reopen soon. There is a Club Med there for those seeking that lifestyle.

For those drawn to the extremely remote, there is Salt City, where not much has changed since 1900 when the salt industry was big. You can get there by boat from Grand Turk or by Piper Aztec in about ten minutes.

Mine host was Brian Sheady who gave up a business in New York and bought the Mount Pleasant Resort which caters to really dedicated scuba buffs.

There is no mechanized transportation except his golf cart. In the foyer of his place is a movie poster showing a reclining Madeline Carroll with an obviously hot-to-trot Sterling Hayden drooling over her. The movie was Bermuda Passage, filmed entirely in Salt City circa 1938 – probably the last time there was any real excitement in town.

The latest census showed 64 adults, 16 children, about two hundred donkeys and countless roaming wild cattle – descendants of those left behind when the salt workers left.

Salt Cay is for those who really want to stop the world so they can get off.

But back to Provo.

There are no Tim Hortons or Golden Arches… yet. There are plenty of fine dining spots, though again a tad expensive because as in Cayman, most food is imported. But lots of conch (the natives pronounce it conk) dishes.

Major activities are aquatic in nature. Scuba divers (wife Stella included) are rapturous. Snorkellers can wade out to reefs that teem with life – both marine and often human. Deep sea fishing charter boats seldom come back empty. There is only one golf course in Provo where green fees run about 150 loonies.

There is a surprisingly large Canadian presence, including a good many lawyers and accountants who will assist you in your island investments should you choose.

If you are still thinking Shangri La but perhaps think you are set in your ways, there is the story of Ron Karnehm who vacationed in Provo, returned to Vancouver to sell his business and his home, and now has one of the finest condominium developments on the island with more planned.

He’s going on 60, but looks and acts like he is going on 30.

“I love Canada,” he told me, “but being so heavily taxed destroys incentive. With all the resources it has it should be among the world’s greatest nations. It’s just too frustrating, so I came here.”

You can’t help but admire his choice.

Would Turks and Caicos consider trying to join us again?

Not very likely. With a lot of foreign investment flowing from Canadians, they are doing quite well on their own, thanks.

Ottawa missed the boat again.

The Way I See It Anyway.