About 550 miles southeast of Miami are the Turks and Caicos Islands. As "overseas territory" they are subject to the authority of the British Crown. A governor performs as the representative of the Queen of England Grand Turk the official business.
The approximately 10 km long and maximum 3 km wide and flat island is easy to see. It is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago. Cruise ships land in the south of the island. From the ship, the visitor looks out over the international airport and the nearby ones Governor's Beachwhich is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. In the middle of the island is the capital Cockburn Town and in the far north towers over the painted white Grand Turk Historic Lighthouse the surrounding green of the trees and bushes.
The good diving grounds for snorkelers and scuba divers remain hidden from the viewer. Most of the diving areas are off the west coast of the island. It is particularly attractive Grand Turk Wall, the diving area 400 meters from the shore and suddenly dropping steeply to a depth of more than 2.000 meters.
Grand Turk - stretch of beach north of the Cruise Center
During the season, two large cruise lines visit Grand Turk almost every day. The island has almost a million visitors arriving by ship every year. The Grand Turk Cruise Center is predominantly from the various brands of Carnival group started. Opened in 2006, the facility was built by Carnival and cost about $ 50 million.
Grand Turk - Cruise Center
On November 15, 2016 the Koningsdam of the Holland America Line and the Carnival Sunshine in front of the cruise center. Including the crew members, that's more than 7.000 day visitors. Apparently, many of the guests can't get beyond the cruise center and the adjacent sandy beach.
We admit that there isn't too much to see on an 18 km², mostly flat island. We found the historic lighthouse in the north of the island and Cockburn Town to be interesting in the run-up to the trip. We want to see both.
We take a shared taxi with other travelers to the North East Point the island. The lighthouse made of cast iron in London in 1852 stands there on a hill. The 18 meter high tower was brought to Grand Turk by cargo ship. The system has been electrified since 1972; kerosene was previously used as a fuel. Carnival has leased the area from the island's government and converted it into a leisure project with a climbing garden, restaurant, souvenir shop and a small museum. Admission is $ 3 for adults and $ 2 for children.
The island inevitably ends at Northeast Point. Except for us few visitors, considering the mass of day visitors, not too many curious people have ended up in the north. Even the semi-wild donkeys begging for goodies (potato chips) seem bored. The lighthouse area is really not a hit.
Our next destination is Cockburn Town, the island capital and administrative center of the Turks and Caicos Islands. We are very lucky with our taxi driver. During the trip he briefs us briefly and concisely about the history and the economic conditions of the island. He cannot argue away from the monotonous, boring landscape.
Grand Turk - The Millennium Clock Tower of Cockburn Town
Cockburn Town also disappoints us. The small town seems to us like an unordered collection of buildings. Cockburn Town is hard to imagine as the capital of the archipelago and the seat of governor. The runs parallel to the sea Front Street. It is the main street in the city. Several of the houses there date from the 19th century, and you can tell by looking at it. If you look behind the houses, you can see in the second row weed-overgrown, unkempt plots of land that - apart from a donkey every now and then - apparently nobody really cares.
Her Majesty's Prison, the colonial prison, is not a bright spot either. It is better to go to the Governor's Palace, the Tourist Board or the police station.
Grand Turk - Tourist Board
The Turks & Caicos National Museum we don't visit on Front Street. We do know, however, that finds from the region's oldest shipwreck are on display in the basement. They come from a Spanish ship that upstream in 1513 Molasses Reef stranded. - Objects that suggest the existence of the native Indian population are shown on the upper floor: there are mainly clay pots, tools, shells and pearls. - Other exhibits are dedicated to the plantation period up to modern times. Special museum items are colorful, imaginative postage stamps, parts of the lighthouse that are no longer used and items from a Mercury space capsule. It flooded off Grand Turk in February 1962.
Grand Turk - Turks & Caicos National Museum
In the past, salt was produced in salt pans on the island. The largest of the decommissioned plants is Town Pond. The shallow water extends across the island at the level of the capital. If you want to experience salt production in salt pans today, you have to look around the Dutch town of Bonaire.
The less than three hectare island Gibbs Cay is 1½ kilometers east of Grand Turk. The nickname Stingray City suggests the use of the less than three hectare sand island. As soon as a boat with visitors approaches, the stingrays appear. They are attracted by fish and other sea creatures and guarantee visitors beautiful photos in the shallow, warm water.
Opposite the pier is the well-designed cruise center.
Grand Turk - Cruise Center
It offers retail stores to visitors comparable to any other Caribbean destination; than there are jewelers, t-shirt shops, regional handicrafts and more.
A magnet for many "crusaders" is Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville with bar, restaurant and shop area. Those who are drawn to the largest margaritaville in the Caribbean pay 7,43 US dollars for a glass of “Red Stripe Beer” in a plastic cup, including tax and service charge. Nevertheless, the bar operation cannot complain about a lack of popularity, although the beer in the beach bar only 500 meters away costs only 3 US dollars.
Many of the day visitors enjoy a day at the beach. A fine, white beach stretches in front of the cruise terminal within sight of the cruise ships. The sun loungers and parasols set up there are free to use. Everything else has to be paid for. The beach section goes into Governor's Beach, the most beautiful stretch of beach on the island. To the south there is a less frequented beach.
If you don't want to swim in the sea, and enough guests obviously can't get anything from the sea, use the extensive pool area of the Cruise Center. Nobody has to do without a “FlowRider”, the automated surfing experience.
On the edge of the cruise center is a scaled-down replica of the Mercury Friendship 7 space capsule shown. The US astronaut John Glenn went down in the Atlantic off Grand Turk after three times around the world. From 1950 on, the US space agency operated a spacecraft control center in the southern part of the island. That explains why John Glenn watered off Grand Turk. A few months later another space capsule landed off Grand Turk with the astronaut Scott Carpenter on board. Information boards in the cruise center indicate these events. Another full-size replica of the capsule was placed at the entrance to Grand Turk Airport.
If you have not booked an organized tour like us, you will find the collective tax in front of the Cruise Center. The prices for taxi rides, which seem low to us, are set by the authorities.
We expected a more attractive landscape and a handsome capital from Grand Turk. Now we know better; the island is a destination for a bathing holiday.