Posted: November 3, 2016
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Exploring the Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

In mid-October we packed our bags, boarded the ferry in South Caicos, and explored three other islands in the TCI. Our first stop was on North Caicos, where we were met by Bryan ‘Naqqi’ Manco, Caicos Pine Recovery Project Manager with the TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs, who took us on a tour of environmental, geological, historical, and cultural sites on North and Middle Caicos. We first visited Wade’s Green, a plantation settled by Wade Stubbs, a Florida loyalist who relocated to the island after the American Revolutionary War. On the interior walls of one plantation building, we saw graffiti of ships believed to have been drawn by slaves who escaped to Haiti in the largest single slave escape in the Bahamian archipelago, in 1800.

Exploring Wades Green plantation. Photo courtesy of Danielle Heflin

Our next stop was at the government farm, where we saw endemic species such as the Caicos Pine and Turks Head Cactus being raised in a nursery. These nursery-grown plants are used for research and native species recovery projects. Once known as the “Breadbasket of the TCI,” North Caicos is much more fertile than South Caicos. At the government farm we saw a range of species which have historically been grown for agricultural purposes, such as papaya, which we all had a chance to sample.

Native plants growing in the Government Farm nursery. Photo courtesy of Danielle Heflin

North and Middle Caicos are a different world from South Caicos, with lush green vegetation, smaller settlements, and the country’s largest cave system. As we drove from North Caicos to Middle Caicos we witnessed these differences along a road surrounded by forests denser and greener than vegetation on South. We saw areas where the native pine is being re-established, and passed by low-density settlements and a few ecotourism developments. This vegetation is possible in part from the higher rainfall in North and Middle, which we experienced throughout the day. Arriving at Mudjin Harbour on Middle Caicos after lunch, we had a chance to enjoy the breathtaking pocket beaches, taking a break in a restaurant with a view, or riding a few waves despite the rain. Fortunately, the sun made a few guest appearances to reveal the turquoise waters crashing on a backdrop of rocky islands.

After relaxing at Mudjin Harbour, we boarded the bus again to head to Conch Bar Caves, one of the largest cave system in the Caribbean region. This karst cave system has been used by humans since pre-Columbian times. Led by Naqqi and Demitri, known as the “caveman”, we saw unique formations of stalagmite and stalactite, including the “eggs and bacon” formation resulting from a steady flow of drips from stalactite. We also saw several species of bat living in the cave. When we reached the Christmas room, a room named for its excellent acoustics for singing Christmas carols, we celebrated Danielle’s birthday with a round of “Happy Birthday”.

Back in the sunlight, we boarded the bus and headed back to North Caicos, where we were greeted by a typical TCI dinner of chicken, rice and peas, and macaroni casserole.

On Tuesday Morning, we headed for Providenciales by ferry. Arriving at our hotel, Ports of Call, we had lunch and prepared for an afternoon of surveying. In class, we had already prepared a survey to investigate the environmental behaviors of tourists in Providenciales, and possible explanations for these behaviors. Armed with surveys, pens, and clipboards, we split into groups and headed out to the beaches and shopping centers to survey Provo visitors. Four hours later, with a total of 74 surveys, we returned to the hotel to relax before dinner.

Enjoying the ferry ride from North Caicos to Provo. Photo courtesy of Danielle Heflin

SFS students conducted surveys with visitors to Grace Bay Beach in Provo

Our final event of the day was a cultural demonstration by David Bowen, formerly the Director of Culture for the TCI. Bowen showed us how he created the national dress of TCI, highlighting characteristics of each island’s unique culture and bringing them together to create unity in this diverse and disperse nation. He also demonstrated the national music of the TCI, called “Rake and Scrape”, and played on instruments such as the saw, harmonica, tambourine, and accordion.

In our final portion of the field trip, we headed to Providenciales Primary School for community outreach on Wednesday morning. As it was national heritage month in the TCI, we set up activity stations to teach primary school students about important natural and cultural aspects of TCI’s heritage. Having learned about these throughout the semester and on our fieldtrip, SFS students were well equipped to teach students about sustainable fisheries, important marine and terrestrial species, the origins of the name “Turks and Caicos”, and even marine food webs through fun activities. As a professor at the Center for Marine Resource Studies, it was exciting to see SFS students passing on what they’ve learned this semester to the younger generation.

SFS students taught TCI heritage and culture to students at Providenciales Primary School through activities and crafts

→ Marine Resource Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands

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