Jan01

Run Away to Turks and Caicos

And just like that another 365 passes us by. It’s funny, I started off 2017 in a foreign country. And I’m ending 2017 the same way I rang it in: Elsewhere. Abroad. 

Who would have guessed, me, this girl who was terrified to leave Florida for eight years because I could not get myself on a plane, is now writing this from, actually, I don’t want to think about how many feet it is. I’m better, but I’ll never truly be comfortable with it. 

Since it’s December 31 and all and I’m sitting on a plane headed off to a tropical paradise and feeling all nostalgic, now seems the the best time as any to tell the story of one of my most favorite trips of the past year. It was not too long ago that Jorge and I agreed to visit Turks and Caicos as part of a press trip to show the rest of you out that that in a post-Irma world, Turks and Caicos are A-OK. More than A-OK, actually. They are beautiful, pristine, perfect.

As far as tropical paradises go, this is one of the ones you’d want to wash ashore on. They say the most beautiful waters in the world are in the Turks and Caicos. They say that because it’s true. 

Jorge and I jumped Southwest Airlines inaugural flight from Fort Lauderdale to Turks and Caicos. If you’ve never flown on an inaugural flight, I highly suggest doing so. They do fun things like play trivia where you buzz in with your overhead service light. And when we landed in Turks and Caicos, firetrucks shot water cannons. Other things you should know about Southwest to Turks and Caicos: You can change your flight without being charged. Should you decide to never go home, well, not a problem.

After just under two hours in the air, our first stop on the island was the Gansevoort Hotel in Grace Bay. The place is spectacular. The pool is a beautifully situated in the middle of the property. The beach serves as its backyard and the rooms, oh, the rooms. The best. A bathtub rests in the middle of the bedroom suite. Turning it on brings a stream of water from the ceiling into the tub. It’s as cool as it is beautiful. 

Our first adventure came when we went snorkeling the next morning. I’ve been snorkeling before. And I don’t like it. There, I said it. It freaks me out. The ocean is big and big things live in it and it all just culminated to make me feel very small and unable to catch my breath. A dance with anxiety, if you will. A water ballet of wondering what will eat me when. 

Jorge, of course, has no idea what any of that means. He is, was and always will be the first one off the boat and headfirst into the water. Also, the last one back on the boat, only forced there because, well, that would be a long swim home. 

But this time, with his hand literally in mine, I decided to give it another go. To just try it. At first, the same panic set in. The jagged breathing. The trespasser beware feeling. But Jorge pointed out the current was strong enough to take me back to the boat without me having to do any work, so just stick your face in and enjoy it. So I did. And then I did. It was so quiet under the surface. So far down. So foreign. So serene. And I was happy to be there. The water is as clear as they say it is. Like looking through glass, all the way down to the bottom.

Afterward, we filed back onto the boat and took turns running and jumping off, sliding down its slide fixed to the side of the boat. Even tubing. 

And then it was back to the hotel to pack up and move to our next place of residence: the Shore Club.

And wow. Just wow. The place was so beautiful, built just year ago. It took more than four Instagram stories to capture our room alone. Posh, I think, it is the best word to describe such a stunning place.

That night, we filed into the hotel’s restaurant Sui-Ren for Peruvian-Japanese fusion. We sipped wine. We laughed. We talked. And we slept in our high-off-the ground, fairytale-like bed. Waterlogged versions of ourselves sleeping perfectly undisturbed sleeps. 

The next morning, we headed out for standup paddle boarding in mangroves with Big Blue Unlimited. These particular mangroves serve as a nursery for baby sea turtles and lemon sharks. The first mention of the word shark, baby or not, was enough to remind me to keep my hands and feet on the board at all times. But aside from that, it was a truly cool experience. The critters stay in the safety of the nursery until they are able to defend themselves enough to venture out into the great wide wonders of the ocean.

 

But that wasn’t our only tango with mother ocean that day. We also joined a sunset cruise on a large catamaran with Sun Charters. Just a few days after the full moon glow worms go into the water to release their egg sacks. And when they do, they shoot neon green lights into the ocean, causing the water to light up and glow in a way that must be seen. And that was exactly what we’d set sail to do.

Only, while we were on the cruise, it started to pour. And not just little plops of rain, giant buckets of rain. The funny thing it, it’s only rains about 12 or so days out of the year in Turks and Caicos. And this one felt like it was making up for lost time. And while you’d think it was horrible, it was actually hilarious. It became the portion of the trip that caused me to laugh the most. Maybe it had something to do with the rum punch in my hand, but I will say, the waters of Turks and Caicos are even the most beautiful blue when the sky itself is the most grim shade of terrifying. 

Despite the rain, we stayed on track to see the glowworms do that they do. And it was worth every pelt of rain that landed in my eye. To see the sea light up in spectacular explosions of neon green was truly magical. 

And the hot shower after the cold rain at our luxurious accommodations was pretty spectacular in its own right.

The next morning Jorge and I woke up early and rented a vintage-style Vespa to go exploring. We drove the length of the entire island, finding little nooks and crannies to shoot at. Along the coast of the water, we could see where most likely conch huts had been damaged by Irma’s wrath. But it was nothing like we thought it could have been, had we not seen the island thriving with our own eyes. She weathered it well. So very well.

After filling our SD cards with the kind of imagery that evokes memories of bliss, we set back on our course for the day. Our first stop was a local school, where we were to hand out school supplies. What a magical day. The kids were so sweet, so kind, so thankful. Island kids. Island kids who don’t know what’s its like to wake up and see anything other than those crystal blue waters. They were so sweet, asking if they could hug us and asking us questions about our jobs back home. Just seeing the joy they had was the kind of thing that could brighten your day any time you think back on it.

As if that weren’t enough, we then ventured off to a puppy shelter called Potcake Place, where a local group takes in potcakes (the native dogs on the island). They are called so because people would feed them the burnt part of whatever was left in their pots. The potcakes needed help before and during Irma, making sure the little homeless puppies had a shelter for safe haven. And once they are taken in, examined and given shots, they are available to walk when you stroll the beach. So, yes, you can go on a trip and walk a puppy while you do so. Should you happen to fall in love with the puppy you’ve taken on said walk, well, you can apply to adopt it. Could this place be more perfect? No, not really.

Not only did I get to spend the day with adorable kids, I also got to spend it with adorable puppies. Heart overload. 

Turks and Caios, you win. I can’t imagine, at less than two hours flight away, that this will be a one-time affair.