For the past three years, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean with a close group of friends, and despite my desire to expand our travels outside of the Caribbean, I found myself on a plane at 6:00am on May 31, headed to Providenciales, an island in Turks and Caicos.
With the little knowledge that I’d gained through a brief reading on the culture, currency and other things I figured I’d want to know while there — literally a day before I was set to leave — I packed a small suitcase filled with swimsuits, sunscreen, vacation-worthy attire and toiletries, grabbed my passport and was on the way!
When I first landed on the island, I was not impressed. The airport was tiny, it was hot, the taxi to the resort was hot — not to mention $14 per person — and all I could hope was that the resort suite would be air conditioned because, well, first world problems.
It didn’t take long after arriving to the resort for my explorer instinct to kick in. Two of my friends had delayed flights to the island so me and another dropped off our luggage and did what we do best — make friends — which is the NUMBER ONE reason we were able to thrive in Turks and Caicos.
The first person that we met in Turks and Caicos (TCI) was Ira, the guy who worked at the excursions and activities desk on our resort at the Sands at Grace Bay. We approached his desk with the intent of negotiating lower prices for excursions, not considering the idea that we would walk away with so much more. Ira was funny, he was friendly, he was genuine.
He gave us the run down on where to eat, where to go for fun, where not to go, and especially the town fish fry — which is a big fish fry with local vendors, music and dancing that happens every Thursday from 5:30-9:30pm. No matter who you meet on the island, you will learn that the Fish Fry is the place to be, followed by Danny Boys (which is the Bar where we were able to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers get slaughtered in game one of the NBA finals). Anyway, the fish fry was, by far, one of the best fish fries that I’ve ever gone to. My only regret is that I spent so much of my time dancing that most of the vendors had ran out of food by the time I was ready to eat.
We later found out that Ira was well-connected AND respected all over the island. He was literally our plug! No one knows an island better than one of its Belongers (which is what the locals in TCI are called), so it made sense to take his advice and suggestions on practically everything. He became our personal wake up call for excursions, always offering complimentary wake-up calls on our suite phone. He even came in the clutch as our personal driver — which was amazing since Taxis are so expensive on the island and they clearly don’t have Uber.
Thank God for Ira.
EAT LOCAL (and DRINK LOCAL)
It’s easy to go to a resort and choose the all-inclusive option, but from our experience, the food is more Americanized than anything — as if we don’t get enough of that when we’re in the U.S. For this particular trip, we opted out of the all-inclusive option, and man oh man, I’m glad that we did. One restaurant that we kept hearing we should try was Da Conch Shack. This little eatery was situated outside on the local side of the island right by the beach, and it was so good, not even the stray dogs running around and begging for food would make me stay away from there if I ever visited again.
Seriously. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and wanted EVERYTHING on the menu? Well, that was me at Da Conch Shack, but I decided on Conch fritters, rice and peas, mac & cheese and jerk chicken!! It tasted authentically good! The servers were nice, the live music great, and after about four or five shots of whatever local concoction — probably something mixed with the local Bambarra Rum — they gave us, we danced the night away to full stomachs and happy hearts! Literally. I doubt we would have experienced such delicious food had we been content with eating only on the resort — not that the resort food was bad — it just wasn’t as authentic as it could be for vacationers who want the local experience.
SPEAKING OF CONCH
Conch, an edible sea snail, is a major part of Turks and Caicos economy and cuisine. The island boasts the largest conch farm in the world, and the island is also one of three exporters of conch to the United States. You can eat conch many ways, but my favorites were conch critters — similar to hush puppies, but with conch meat inside; conch fritters — similar to calamari; and conch ceviche or conch salad. We got a chance to experience the de-shelling of live conch. We also saw how to clean it and how to prepare it for conch salad. One of our excursion hosts, was a sea pro — this man even caught a TRIGGER FISH with his bare hand! You basically hammer the shell until the conch is no longer attached, then you can cut the shell and pull it out. It’s pretty gross, and he made sure to show it to us AFTER we had already eaten the conch salad. You can find empty conch shells all around the island — in case you want to take and clean one for a souvenir. I declined, LOL. You can buy them too.
My favorite part of the entire trip was relaxing on the beach and being in the Atlantic Ocean. One thing that I learned while on the island is that one side touches the Atlantic Ocean and the other side touches the Caribbean Sea — which has 4 miles of shallow water for you to stand up in if you choose to do so. I wasn’t really feeling the Caribbean side. The Atlantic Ocean side had much clearer, aqua, turquoise and blue water that I became obsessed with it. It was so relaxing to see such beautiful water (and swim and float in it too). We did parasailing, kayaking, snorkling and booze cruises. We even made friends with two guys who operate a Tiki Boat, that had just started service the days we were there. I was able to hook up my music and sip on cocktails — I even got a chance to navigate the Tiki Boat because my name is Breezy and I’m cool as shit. At the end of the trip, I felt like I was a Belonger. Turks and Caicos is now one of my favorite destinations, and I’m going back for sure!
Tabresha is a D.C. Metro transplant who loves the beach and tanning cheeks. She doesn’t always rock a twist out, but when she does, it’s poppin.