Turks and Caicos Islands
|TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Turks and Caicos Islands within the Geographic Region of Central America and the Caribbean
Map of Turks and Caicos Islands
Flag Description of Turks and Caicos Islands: blue, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the colonial shield centered on the outer half of the flag; the shield is yellow and displays a conch shell, a spiny lobster, and Turks Head cactus - three common elements of the islands' biota
- 1 Background of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 2 Geography of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 3 Demography of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 4 Economy of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 5 Government and Society of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 6 Culture Life of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 7 History of Turks and Caicos Islands
- 8 Quick Facts about Turks and Caicos Islands
- 9 Providenciales-Island, Turks and Caicos Islands
- 10 Disclaimer
Background of Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands, overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the West Indies. It consists of two groups of islands lying on the southeastern periphery of The Bahamas, of which they form a physical part, and north of the island of Hispaniola. The islands include eight large cays (keys) and numerous smaller cays, islets, reefs, banks, and rocks. Cockburn Town, on Grand Turk, is the seat of government and main commercial centre. Area at high tide, 238 square miles (616 square km); at low tide, 366 square miles (948 square km). Pop. (2012 prelim.) 31,458.
The Turks group is composed of Grand Turk Island, Salt Cay, and lesser cays. The Caicos group lies northwest of the Turks and is separated from them by a 22-mile- (35-km-) long, 7,000-foot- (2,100-metre-) deep marine trench called the Turks Island Passage, or “the Wall.” The Caicos group consists of six principal islands—South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle (or Grand) Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, and West Caicos—and several cays. Only six of the larger cays and two of the smaller cays are inhabited. More than four-fifths of the population lives on three islands: South Caicos, Providenciales (commonly called Provo), and Grand Turk. Cockburn Harbour, the islands’ second largest town, is on South Caicos.
The name Turks is said to derive from a species of indigenous cactus, the Turk’s head (Melocactus intortus), whose scarlet top resembles a fez. The name Caicos may derive from caya hico, a phrase meaning “string of islands” in the language of the indigenous Lucayan (Arawak) people.
Geography of Turks and Caicos Islands
The islands are low-lying and formed by coral reefs. They are characterized by numerous karst features, including banana holes (small sinkholes containing rich soil), caves, caverns, and sea cliffs. There is little arable land. Aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate, is found on the shallow banks off West Caicos. The highest elevation is 163 feet (50 metres), at Blue Hills, on Providenciales. The long, sandy beaches of the archipelago are numerous and renowned among tourists. Reefs surround the islands.
The climate is tropical savanna. Winter temperatures average 75–80 °F (24–27 °C) and summer temperatures, 85–90 °F (29–32 °C). The easterly trade winds moderate the climate. The Turks and Caicos are the driest islands in the Bahamas chain. Annual precipitation averages about 29 inches (736 mm) at Grand Turk, and drinking water is in short supply. During hurricane (tropical cyclone) season, between the months of June and November, severe weather can cause beach erosion and property damage. Devastating storms occur only infrequently, such as in 2008, when Hurricanes Hanna and Ike hit the islands; in particular, Grand Turk, Providenciales, and South Caicos sustained widespread and severe damage.
The types of vegetation encountered on the islands include scrub (xerophytic shrubs), coppice, savanna, and marsh-swamp. Mangroves, cacti, and Caribbean pines are found, and beefwood trees (Casuarina) have been planted as windbreaks. Terrestrial animal life consists mostly of insects (especially butterflies and mosquitoes), iguanas and other lizards, and birds (notably flamingos); the islands are on several migratory bird routes. The surrounding waters and coral reefs abound in spiny lobsters, conchs, snappers, groupers, and other food fishes.
Demography of Turks and Caicos Islands
More than nine-tenths of the population is of African heritage. The majority of the population is Christian; the main religious denominations are Baptist, Methodist, and Anglican. English is the official language. Thousands of islanders in search of employment have migrated to The Bahamas and the United States, particularly during the 1960s and ’70s, but many expatriates have returned with the advent of relative prosperity. Population growth has been pronounced on Providenciales since the 1980s largely as a result of the expanding tourism industry, which has attracted migrants from around the Caribbean, particularly Haiti.
Economy of Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos underwent rapid economic growth in the two decades between the mid-1980s and the early 21st century, which was reflected in an average annual increase of 8 percent in its gross domestic product (GDP) during that period. The major factor contributing to this burgeoning prosperity was the rise of tourism and offshore financial services, two sectors on which the economy now relies heavily. Growth was enabled by large foreign investment and commercial land development, much of which has taken place on Providenciales.
Lack of arable land restricts agriculture on the islands, though corn (maize), beans, cassava, fruits, and other subsistence crops are grown on the western Caicos Islands. Much land is unused, and beef cattle graze in many rough, uneven areas. Seafood is the major source of protein. Traditional livelihoods include boatbuilding and fishing for spiny lobster, conch, jack, snapper, and other marine life. Lobster and conch are exported, but most food and other basic goods are imported. The United States is the islands’ main trading partner.
There is no income or company tax, and the government promotes the growth of offshore finance, including banking, insurance, and trust companies. More than 10,000 international businesses were registered in the islands in the early 21st century.
Turks and Caicos has several international airports, including the main point of entry on Providenciales and others on Grand Turk, North Caicos, and South Caicos. All the other islands except East Caicos have smaller airstrips accommodating domestic flights. In the early 21st century, approximately 170,000 tourists arrived annually, attracted by the islands’ sunny beaches and varied scuba-diving sites. The majority of them stayed in hotels or on boats in the marinas on Providenciales, where many tourist facilities have been developed. Grand Turk and Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos are major ports. Newer port facilities have opened on Salt Cay and on Providenciales.
Government and Society of Turks and Caicos Islands
The terms of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order of 2011 provide for a governor, who is to represent the British monarch as head of state and bear responsibility for external affairs, internal security, defense, international financial services, and the appointment of public officers. The executive branch also includes a cabinet, headed by the governor, that also includes a premier appointed by the governor, the attorney general, the deputy governor, and up to six other ministers, who are members of the legislature appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier. The unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly, consists of 21 members: 15 directly elected, four appointed, one ex officio (the attorney general), and the speaker, who is elected to that position by the legislature. The speaker can be either a member of the legislature not serving in the cabinet or a person from outside the legislature.
Education is compulsory for children ages 4 to 17. Primary education is provided free in government schools. A community college on Grand Turk, with a branch on Providenciales, offers associate’s degrees and technical and vocational education. Students from the islands can also attend any of the campuses of the University of the West Indies. Grand Turk has a hospital, and there are health clinics on several of the islands.
Culture Life of Turks and Caicos Islands
Aquatic sports—sailing, game fishing, and, especially, scuba diving among the coral reefs—are popular and attract many tourists to the islands. Traditional island music incorporates Haitian and African influences, and live music at hotels and clubs is popular among local people. The Turks and Caicos National Museum, located on Grand Turk, displays collections on a variety of historical subjects, sponsors research projects in areas such as the slave trade and island industries, and maintains an archive of historical documents and images. There are radio stations based on several of the islands, and television is available via satellite. Newspapers include the Turks and Caicos Weekly News, Turks and Caicos Sun (weekly), and Turks and Caicos Free Press (weekly).
History of Turks and Caicos Islands
The diary of Christopher Columbus (a document that was lost and partially reconstructed) indicates that he reached the islands in 1492. According to Columbus, many of the Turks and Caicos islands, along with the rest of the Bahamas chain, were inhabited by an indigenous people, the Arawakan-speaking Lucayan Taino. Within a generation of European contact, the Lucayan Taino had died off from the ill effects of colonization, including introduced diseases and enslavement by the Spanish. Alternatively, some historians maintain that the islands had been uninhabited up to the time when the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León arrived in 1512; in any case, Ponce de León found the islands all but uninhabited by native people. Few Europeans lived there until 1678, when settlers from Bermuda arrived and established a solar-evaporated salt industry. Royalist sympathizers from the United States arrived in the Caicos Islands after the American Revolution (1775–83) and established cotton plantations worked by the African-descended slaves they brought with them.
In 1799 the islands were annexed by the Bahama Islands government, but in 1848 they were granted a separate charter. In the meantime slavery had been abolished (1833–43), and the plantation owners left the islands, though their former slaves remained.
After a period of financial difficulties, the colony was placed under the authority of the British governor-general at Kingston, Jam. (1874–1959); because ships voyaging between England and Jamaica passed the Turks and Caicos, communication with Kingston was much easier than it was with Nassau in the Bahamas. The islands became a crown colony in 1962 when Jamaica gained independence. For a time in the 1960s and ’70s the islands were under the control of the Bahamas, but with Bahamian independence (1973), the Turks and Caicos were placed under a British governor at Grand Turk. Amid preparations for the independence of the Turks and Caicos in 1982, a commission was appointed to make recommendations on a new constitution and to consider the future economic direction of the islands. In 1980, however, a new government, which favoured dependent status, was elected on the islands. The move to independence thereby stalled, and the Turks and Caicos continued to be a British overseas territory.
Constitutional government was suspended in 1986 after allegations that several ministers were implicated in drug smuggling from South America into Florida, but it was restored in 1988. In 2002 the British government agreed to changes in the status of its overseas territories, including Turks and Caicos, such that the territories’ citizens would be granted full British citizenship after they had instituted a series of financial and human rights reforms.
Turks and Caicos received a new constitution in 2006, at which time the territory’s leader, Michael Misick, became prime minister. However, he resigned in March 2009 after an official investigation found evidence of systemic bureaucratic corruption and “administrative incompetence.” In August of that year the British government declared a temporary suspension of the Turks and Caicos constitution and imposed direct rule by the British governor. An interim administration, consisting of the governor and a team of Turks and Caicos and British advisers, instituted governmental reforms during the suspension period. During several years of efforts aimed at restoring good governance, a new constitution was drafted; it was approved in 2011, to take effect on October 15, 2012. In June 2012 the British authorities determined that sufficient changes had been made to allow Turks and Caicos to return to a democratically elected government. Elections were held on November 9; the territory’s Progressive National Party (PNP) won eight of the 15 directly elected seats in the House of Assembly, and the rival People’s Democratic Movement won seven. The PNP’s leader, Rufus Ewing, became premier.
Quick Facts about Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands consist of 40 islands and cays, eight of which are inhabited. The islands are located 550 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, just below the Bahamas chain and just to the east of Cuba and the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti.) Technically, the Turks and Caicos are located in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea.
The islands are home to roughly 30,000 full time residents, and welcome more than 200,000 tourist annually.
- Language - English
Currency - The US dollar is the official currency of Turks and Caicos. Most hotels, restaurants and taxi services accept traveler’s cheques, which can be cashed at local banks. Most credit cards are accepted and banks offer ATM's as well as cash advances on credit cards.
Tipping is normally paid to waiters, taxi drivers, maids and porters at 15%.
Time Zone - Eastern Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time is observed from April to October.
Electricity - 110 volt/60 cycle, suitable for U.S. appliances.
Climate - The average temperature ranges between 85 and 90 degrees (29-32 degrees celsius) from June to October, sometimes reaching the mid 90's (35 degrees celsius), especially in the late summer months. From November to May the average temperature is 80 to 84 degrees (27-29 degrees celsius). Water temperature in the summer is 82 to 84 degrees (28-29 degrees celsius) and in winter about 74 to 78 degrees (23-26 degrees celsius). A constant trade wind keeps the climate at a very comfortable level.
There is an annual rainfall of 21 inches on Grand Turk and South Caicos, but as you go further west the average rainfall could increase to 40 inches. In an average year the Turks and Caicos has 350 days of sunshine.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30th.
People - Turks & Caicos Islanders are mostly descendants of Africans who were brought in to work the salt pans or the cotton plantations. The expatriate population consists of British, Canadians, Americans, French, Bahamians, people from Hispaniola and virtually everywhere in the world.
Economy - The economy of the TCI relies on the tourism industry, real estate development and the exportation of seafood. A wide variety of financial services are available, including company formation, offshore insurance, banking, trusts, limited partnerships and limited life companies. The Financial Services Commission regulates, develops and promotes the industry in major world markets.
Government - The Turks & Caicos Islands are a British Crown Colony. A Governor is appointed by the Queen and presides over an Executive Council formed by an elected local self-government. Government offices are located in Grand Turk, with branches on other Islands as needed. The legal system is based on English Common Law.
Courier Service - Daily delivery service is provided by FedEx, with offices on Provo and Grand Turk. Service is also provided by DHL and UPS.
Cable Television - Satellite television service is provided throughout the islands, with most major American networks available.
Water - As on many Islands, our fresh water is precious, we depend upon rainfall or desalinated water produced by reverse osmosis for the supply. Please be conservative in using water.
Telephone Service - Local and international service is provided by Cable & Wireless and Digicel (wireless only). Telex, facsimile, internet and cellular phone services are provided. You may use your credit card or a debit PhoneCard at public phone booths.
Country code is 649. Network is through Cable and Wireless. Pay phones, calling cards, facsimile, Internet, cell phones for rent at various locations.
If you have cell service in the USA please bring your phone with you because if you have International Roaming service with a cellular carrier that has a roaming agreement in the Caribbean then your phone will be able to make and receive calls whilst in the Turks and Caicos. If you do not have roaming then you will be able to make calls using the credit card platform.
Postal Service - Post Offices are located on all inhabited islands. All mail is transported by air. There are many different issues and denominations of stamps for enthusiasts to collect. Philatelic Bureaus are located on both Provo and Grand Turk.
Driving License Requirements - Visitors from the British Commonwealth Countries, The United States of America, Canada and holders of International drivers license are permitted to drive for 30 days on their respective license.
Visitors from all other countries are required to posses a Visitors Permit, which can be obtained at the Road Safety Department, located on Good Street, Grand Turk and at the office on the Old Airport Road, Providenciales. Crime - These Islands boast one of the lowest crime rates and highest crime-solved rates in the Caribbean. We cannot, however, let down the guard against opportunist-type theft. Do not leave valuables unattended. Lock doors and windows. Use the hotel safe for storage of valuables. These simple precautions should prevent the loss of cash, jewelry and identification. Confrontation and violent crimes are extremely rare. Any problems should be reported immediately to the Royal Turks and Caicos Police.
Clothing - Shorts are worn in town as well as the beach during the day, it is advisable to also wear sunhats and sunscreen. In the evenings, light sweaters and jackets may be occasionally needed in the winter. Dinner is usually not formal, most restaraunts accept dress shorts while others require pants with a collared shirt for gentlemen and dress slacks or dresses for the ladies.
Public Nudity is illegal throughout the islands.
Customs and Immigration - Duty free goods that may be brought in to the Islands include: 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 1.136 liters of spirits or wine and perfume for personal use.
There are no restrictions for travellers on the import of cameras, film or sports equipment, except spear guns and Hawaiian slings.
To bring in firearms of any type (including spear guns and Hawaiian slings), you must have written approval from the Commissioner of Police. Controlled drugs and pornography are illegal.
Effective January 8, 2007 all US Citizens traveling by air to the Turks & Caicos Islands will be required by the US Government to have a valid US passport. Cruise ship passengers have until June 1, 2009 to meet the requirement. Visitors from other countries do require passports, but no visas are necessary except from countries of the former Eastern Bloc. They are advised to contact the nearest British Consulate Office.
- All visitors must hold a round trip ticket.
- Visitors are allowed to stay for 30 days; this is renewable one time only.
- For luggage restriction, individual airlines should be consulted.
- Health Care - Health Care – There is now a modern hospital system comprising two state-of-the-art medical centres, managed by InterHealth Canada; Cheshire Hall Medical Centre on Providenciales and Cockburn Town Medical Centre on Grand Turk. Health services provided at the centres include: emergency care, dental, dialysis, internal medicine, surgical, othopaedic, obstetric and endoscopic procedures, physiotherapy and diagnostic imaging. Tele – medicine is also currently being introduced to improve inter island healthcare delivery.
- Providenciales also has a number of private general practitioners and all of the other islands have community clinics.
Providenciales-Island, Turks and Caicos Islands
Providenciales, byname Provo, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos [Credit: © Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock.com]a main island of the Caicos group in the Turks and Caicos Islands, northwestern West Indies, between West Caicos and North Caicos islands. The limestone island comes to a narrow waist at Grace Bay, flaring to a breadth of approximately 5 miles (8 km) at the western end and 2 miles (3 km) at the eastern end. A group of three small cays, including Little Water Cay (Iguana Island), lies just off the eastern tip across a channel known as the Leeward-Going-Through-Cut. The main locality, Providenciales, located in the middle of the island, is mainly a service and administrative centre rather than an area of concentrated population.
The island’s highest elevation, and the highest point in the Turks and Caicos, is a peak of 163 feet (50 metres) in the Blue Hills region of the north-central part of the island. Salt ponds and inland marshes attract migratory birds. A dozen small cays are protected as seabird breeding grounds as part of the national parks system.
Providenciales was largely undeveloped until the 1990s, at which time its population was just under 5,000. Following the opening of the island’s first resort hotel in 1990, a development boom took place, and over the next decade the tourist sector burgeoned. Migrant workers from around the Caribbean flocked in by the thousands seeking employment, and many new residents, notably retirees, arrived from throughout the world. By the end of the 20th century Providenciales had become the population centre and most developed island of the Turks and Caicos. The island’s western region, however, remained relatively rugged and wild.
The commercial port of South Dock, east of Sapodilla Bay in the south, accommodates large yachts and container ships. To the west of Providenciales locality is Providenciales International Airport, the main point of entry for the Turks and Caicos. Two other significant areas of settlement are Blue Hills and The Bight, which is in the east-central part of the island. Besides tourism, fishing is a major contributor to the island’s economy. The Caicos Bank, a shallow sea studded with coral reefs just south of the island, abounds with conch and lobster.
The coastline is dotted with marinas, and white sand beaches and facilities for sport fishing and aquatic recreation are found all along the island’s coast. However, those activities are concentrated along the northern shore, notably on Grace Bay, whose 12-mile- (19-km-) long beach is protected by a barrier reef. Princess Alexandra National Park, a marine preserve, includes the reef and encompasses two of the small cays off the northeastern tip of the island; the park’s waters are home to bottlenose dolphins. Another national park encompasses Chalk Sound, a 3-mile- (5-km-) long bay in the southwest whose uniformly turquoise waters contain numerous tiny islets. Northwest Point National Park protects a strip of sea off the northwest coast and includes reefs and breeding grounds for seabirds as well as the pristine and undeveloped Malcolm Roads Beach. Of historical interest are a large number of engravings made on exposed limestone by shipwrecked sailors in the hills near Sapodilla Bay to memorialize the names of their ships. Near Discovery Bay are the ruins of settlers’ homes, including Cheshire Hall, a cotton plantation built by an English settler in the early 19th century. Providenciales has a branch of Turks and Caicos Islands Community College. Area 38 square miles (98 square km). Pop. (2012) including West Caicos, 23,769.
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