This past January we took a brief and loosely planned trip to Turks and Caicos. We stayed in a vacation rental home off the main highway and at the south end of Providenciales. We were several miles from the airport, main resort area (east side of the island) and the tourist areas for dining, shopping, etc. It is a large island (30 miles and population of approximately 25,000 residents), thus a rental car is recommended. However, T&C is a British Territory so driving on the opposite side of the road takes getting used to. We had a harrowing experience that we will never forget when I was not mindful of this. Thankfully, the locals are great drivers and must be used to forgetful tourists.
Our plan for the trip was to see a different Caribbean island, tour some of the less populated areas, enjoy fresh conch dishes (they are able to harvest locally and have a conch farm) and of course do a lot of beach entry snorkeling/shelling wherever it looked interesting. We were not disappointed with our hasty decision. The locals were friendly, the water was clear, not too cold and snorkeling access was very easy.
We checked out seven different locations in three days on Provo, North Caicos and Middle Caicos. In order to get to North and Middle Caicos, we had to take a Ferry from Provo to North Caicos and rent another car once on North Caicos. The Ferry is surprisingly fast with triple eight cylinder outboards and a light aluminum hull. It is the "de facto" bus system for the locals to and from work. There is a automobile bridge from North Caicos to Middle Caicos. These two islands are far less developed than Provo. In reviewing Google Earth, I was intrigued with Middle Caicos since the blue water comes in very close and collecting is permitted. Also, there are a number of sanctuaries around Provo and West Caicos, which prohibit collecting. Historically, West Caicos is a well known locale for amazing collecting on the drop off at night. A number of rare conus species, among others have been found here.
Our best collecting was off Middle Caicos in the areas known locally as Mudjin Harbor and Bambarra Beach. The taxi driver we met at the Ferry dock directed us to Mudjin Harbor. It is a very scenic beach with a large cave along the path to the beach. Also, there is a large rock close to the shore and an easy swim. We looked around this area for a long time and found numerous shells including several Conus mus, Tonna maculosa, Erosaria acicularis, Luria cinerea, Cymatium nicobaricum. From there we headed south for an easy snorkel off a very shallow protected bay adjacent to Bambarra Beach. Here, after following the edge of bank, Melissa caught a glimpse of orange and began fanning the sand to uncover a striking Conus spurius. In my opinion it was the best find of the trip. Unfortunately, we were not able to find any others in the area. We did find numerous dead C. mindanus. A little north of this location I went in the water with heavy reef area close to shore and found a very interesting chocolate colored latirus (Latirus angulata).
While enjoying a conch dinner on the beach in Provo, the locals set up a shell stand with incredibly large Charonia variegata plus of course Strombus gigas, Cassis tuberosa and Cassis madagascarensis (mostly tuberosa). We purchased a very large typical color form of Charonia variegata and a very nice golden form (the best of two present).
Conus spurius, orange form
Conus regius, small specimens
Conus mus, larger specimens
Cassis tuberosa (an absolutely amazing specimen) and several others
Cymatium femorale (crabbed)
Overall we enjoyed the trip and spent quite a bit of time in the water even though it was January. We would absolutely recommend a visit to Turks & Caicos.