advertisement

One of the most popular watersports activities in the Provo area is a beach excursion offered by a number of charter-boat operators. These excursions come in any number of variations and combinations, and in many instances you can personally tailor your own excursion or hire a private charter to take you to a secluded cay for the day.

Charter boats no longer leave out of Leeward Marina (it's now the Nikki Beach resort complex) but from Heaving Down Rock marina, on Provo's northeast shore -- and most operators include hotel or resort pickup and drop-off in the price of your excursion.

A favorite beach excursion is a half-day or full day out on the Caicos Cays that includes snorkeling, a visit to Iguana Island, and a shelling stopover on one of the uninhabited cays. Other variations include conch diving (you can try to dive the 6m/20-ft. depths, but most people let the expert guides do the diving to retrieve fresh conch) and a subsequent lunch of fresh conch salad, prepared on the spot ceviche-style; beach barbecues or picnics; or sunset cruises with wine and cheese.

On a glowworm cruise, boats take you out around sunset 4 or 5 days after a full moon to see millions of mating glowworms light up the shallow local waters with a glittering green glow.

More ambitious beach excursions include "island safaris" and eco-tours in North or Middle Caicos, trips that may combine boating and snorkeling with caving, bird-watching, kayaking, biking, hiking, visiting historic sites, or having lunch in a native home. Big Blue Unlimited (tel. 649/946-5034; www.bigblueunlimited.com) is highly recommended for its creative eco-tours.

A number of watersports operators offer private charters, whether for personalized island touring or just a pickup or drop-off on another island.

A Visit to Iguana Island

Many of the beach excursions to the Caicos Cays include a short tour of Little Water Cay, a protected nature reserve (part of the Princess Alexandra National Park) and home to the Turks and Caicos rock iguana, a small, harmless reptile that is found nowhere else on the planet. Boardwalks and observation towers have been constructed at two popular landing sites to reduce the impact of tourism -- this is, after all, one of the most popular attractions in the Turks and Caicos. As you walk along the wooden boardwalks that crisscross the 47-hectare (116-acre) island, you'll spot members of the island iguana population, here some 3,000 strong, emerging from their sand burrows. The biggest of these iguanas are more than .6m (2 ft.) long and solid; they're handsome fellows, if you like the rough-and-ready type, and rule the roost. The rock iguanas of Turks and Caicos are the islands' largest native land animal -- even so, they're no match for a number of predators, including cats. About 50,000 rock iguanas remain here, the largest and healthiest population in the Caribbean. A park access fee of $5 per visitor is charged to help support further conservation activities.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.