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Trip to Grand Turk.  January 18th to 2nd February 2003.

It had been along time coming, booked over 6 months ago all the arrangements made over the net, after looking at package prices I think I would be saving myself approx £400:00 on the deal..
Linda my partner doesn’t dive but if conditions were good I hoped she would give it a try on this holiday.

18th Jan 03
We left Retford on the Saturday lunchtime heading for Heathrow and an overnight stay at the Le Meridian hotel,  1 night accommodation and 16 days car parking £80:00

19th Jan 03.
Next morning up and away on a 10:00 am. BA flight to Providienciales (Provo) Turk & Caicos Islands via Nassau in the Bahamas. (1 hour stop over) (£560:00 return ticket )  We were around 20 lbs over on our luggage weight but nothing was said and we sailed through check-in without any problems. It’s quite a few years since I have flown with BA long haul and the flight, food and service were very good. Plenty of leg room in the “Cattle Class” so the comfort factor was pretty good also.
We arrived in Provo 12 hrs later, its pouring with rain!!!  A shower that lasts around 20 minutes. Not an omen I hope

We were spending the 1 night in Provo at the Comfort Suites Hotel prior to flying over to Grand Turk the following morning.
The Comfort Suites was an ordinary Motel type accommodation; it had a pool and was around a 5 minute walk to the beach. .The so called Continental Breakfast the following morning was Crap not worthy of a mention really.
There are 3 eating places just across the road, a dive centre and a few shops so there are alternatives.  Not a place I would want to stay for any length of time but as a resting place prior to the trip over to Grand Turk OK.  Room rate &#36125:00 per night. Taxi from the airport &#3618:00.

20th Jan 03.
Provo International airport, Domestic Departures!!  We live our lives too fast and hard, no wonder we all die of heart attacks.....
Interisland Airways  were flying us on the 30 minute flight to Grand Turk, we were on first name terms with the check-in girls 2 minutes after arriving at the desk, so Peter Linda here are your tickets, no boarding pass we know you now !! ( 2 x Return Tickets     &#36 240:00  experience priceless  )
Now BA may have over looked the extra baggage weight but not Interisland and to be fair they do mention it on their web page, so 30 cents per lb thats &#366:00 Peter please.
Have a seat and we will let you know when the flight will be leaving, now domestic departures only has 12 seats and they seemed to be taken up by the airport ground staff, so we took ourselves off to the restaurant for a coffee. Pay &#363:00 to the lady behind the counter for 2 cups of coffee, then make your own…..anything they can have you doing so that they dont have to do it seems to be the order of the day..
Back at departures we are told its going to be 10 minutes late, they think!!   45 minutes later we get on a 7 seat aircraft, I end up in the co-pilots seat and Linda thinks that is fine as the pilot is a schoolboy  and his mother doesn't know he is out working and can I take over if anything happens,  women never cease to amaze I love her dearly but !!
The flight over is uneventful, blue sky & blue sea. The schoolboy manages to handle things okay and I dont have to put my PC flight simulator training to good use. So thirty minutes later we arrive at our final destination, the island of Grand Turk,
Grab a taxi and we are at our hotel within 5 minutes, The Turks Head Hotel!!   More of an inn than a hotel, restaurant, bar and a lovely walled garden to sit in. Klaus the manager is there with a welcome and make the both of us feel at home.
Just remember you are now on island time, its friendly sociable and the Belongers (native islanders) love to talk. You may want something but one has to be a little more patient than at home so relax and go with the flow. I can assure you once they get all the local gossip talked over and the world put to rights, your coffees are on the way...

I pay a visit to the dive centre I will be diving with, Oasis Divers where I meet Dale the wife of Captain Everette who own and run the dive centre. Looks to be a tidy set up if the shop and workshop are anything to go by. Sign away my life again, it must be the USAs influence as this one covers everything and anything to do with their property, employees and even their dog, ah sign it and lead me to the diving !!!!
A little about the dive centre, they use in the main 25 ft flat bottomed Carolina Skiffs with a 85 HP Yamaha  outboards, sun awning over the centre of the boat provide the shade. Usual diver numbers 5 to a boat, there are fresh towels, water and biscuits available on the boats. A 2 x tank dive consist of a first dive then back to shore around 1 hour interval back out for the 2nd dive. Dive sites approx 5 to 10 minute from the shore. The boats in the main attach to buoyed sites; the dive leader is the guide to the whole party on the boat during the dive. He also makes up your gear and changes tanks for you between dives. Entry being a backward roll off the side of the boat. At the end of the days diving, if you are diving the following day the dive centre guys take and rinse your BC and Regs for the following day.
The time I spent diving with Oasis there were 2 boats out per day, I asked about o2 on the boats and Dale said it was not a practical option due to the boat design and the chance of damage to the units whilst in the Skiffs. Also whilst diving there is no one left on the boat for surface cover. The boats are never further than 10 minutes from the shore.
I know this may not be to everyones liking and if I put my risk assessment head on I could make a case for better comms and topside cover.  -- This just seems to be the way they do things on Grand Turk as looking at the other operators, the boats and practices were the same.
On Oasiss larger boat which they use for dive trips further a field they carry o2 and cell phones, no radios.
I never felt in harms way with Oasis their dive guides, a couple of Brit guys and 2 local guys were first rate. Good dive briefs and I always felt that they were keeping a good lookout on their charges during the dives.  The diving is easy with little or no tide to speak of. Some of our American cousins seemed to think that some of the dives had a current running but it really was only a gentle surge on the top of the wall.

21st to 31st Jan 03.

My Diving started on the 21st for 5 days, a day off with my partner, I know how to look after the girl, then another 5 days diving...
The dive plans without exception were, drop off the boat down to an average depth of 8 to 10 metres, either a sandy bottom or coral heads depending on the dive. Everyone hold there until the dive leader joined us, and then follow the leader over the top of the wall,  (7000 ft) deep blue!!!  We levelled off around 25 metres heading into any current that was running, over my 10 days of diving there was non to speak of.. 20 to 25 minutes out or the first to 100 barg, make the turn, up to 10 / 12mtrs returning to the boats location across the top of the wall..

Grand Turk is one of the easiest dive locations I have visited, Good visibility I will just say 100 ft +, 3 or 4 of the days I dived, the island was affected by a cold front up in Florida. This restricted our dive locations to the southern end of the island, the north end surface conditions suffering a large surface swell even on these days where the sand was stirred, the vis was still 60 to 80 ft.
We did a couple of shallow dives (  7 metre max ) on the islands 2  jetties, Old & New where the vis  was down to around 30 ft due to a sandy bottom but even so these 2 dives turned out to be exceptional .Batfish, Frogfish, Seahorse and flying Gurnard

The night dive I did on my second day there and this also turned out to be special, hearing the Humpbacks Singing in the deep is quite an experience, one I will remember for along time to come..

What to lookout for!!!  Well the usual Critters as an American friend from the southern states kept asking me,   whats that Critter then  
??

Well here are but a few:   Grouper ( Nassau, Yellowfin  Graysby & Tiger ) , Parrotfish ( Blue & Rainbow ) Hogfish. Gobies.  Great  Barracuda, one being the biggest I have seen at around 4 to 5 ft . Damsels ( Yellow tail. Sergeant Major & Threespot )  Angles ( Queen, French,  & Rock Beauty ). Butterflyfish  ( Banded,  Foureye,  Blue Tang, & Ocean Surgeonfish.   Jacks ( Horse-eye & Black ). Flounder
Batfish. ( Shortnose ) Frogfish ( Longlure ). Flying Gurnard, first time I have seen these. Longsnout Seahorses. Pufferfish, ( Web Burrrfish, Striped Burrfish  Balloonfish and Porcupinefish ). Triggerfish. Goatfish ( Yellow & Spotted Drum ) Ocean Sunfish, a pair of them, first time I have seen these.
Moray Eels. ( Green,  Goldentail & Chain ).
Shark ( Nurse & Blacktip ). Southern Stingray,    Spotted Eagle Ray. 2 in line of around 6ft wing span cuising the wall 15 ft below me, # 2 having a nice Ramora riding along with it.
Turtles (Hawksbill) and Dolphins.

My day off from diving Linda and I hired bicycles for a tour of most of the island, we found a deserted beach and for 4 hours watched the dolphins swim by and an Osprey catch his dinner, never another soul to see, thats a quiet life .......

Finally a tale I will tell,  The high point of the trip, Thursday of the second week of diving, a fine day as the weather had improved so we hit a couple of the northern dive sites that morning. On the way back to the beach after our 2nd dive the four divers onboard must have seen her all at the same time, there was a shout from all the divers.. 50 metres off the starboard side a  Humpback breaches the surface, this is definitely the biggest thing I have been close to in my life and its going to get better. We track her line of direction stop the engine and within a couple of minutes she is back at the surface, only this time we see her calf for the first time. Amazing site it takes the breath from your body, these creatures move with such power and grace, cruising..
We also see that the mother is trailing fishing net from her right flipper, a quick democratic vote all in favour, lets try and get it off her.
The first attempt is burnt in my brain forever, this is how it went, we race ahead of her line of travel,  kill the engine and hope she breaches within striking distance of the boat, fins and  mask over the side we go, she breaches with the calf 20 metres away directly inline with me, I swim down as far as I can to see her and the calf going along less than 5 metres below me cruising.
Back on the boat it is decided there is no way we can remove the net, also 15 metres of rope trailing behind the net without scuba, so plan B,,,,, Paul the dive master kits up, I take over the boat and hand him my knife, the only one on the boat and I silently pray that it's going to be sharp enough for the job ahead..
So here we go, race ahead of her line again, by this time there are 2 more dive boats around, 1 on each side of  the line of travel so they give us a good indication of where they are likely to breach. I kill the  engine as we wait for her. Paul is in the water as she comes past makes a dive for the line and misses,  back on the boat he describes what he is trying to do is as catching a steam train with one hand.By good luck we can see that she is staying close to the surface only diving 5 to 7 metres below..
Oh I forgot to say,, this "Mother" was a conservative 15 metres and her offspring around 6 metres
So here we go again, race ahead of her line again, kill the engine , Paul over the side
This attempt a partial success, he manages to get a hold of the rope at the net and cuts it away, I knew all those hours I spent honing that knife would pay dividends one day.
As the rope parts so does Paul of course and his main worry now is how to miss those flukes that fast approaching, he manages to kick away to the side and surface no worse for wear and a lot richer from the experience, although he did say that he had been involved in a similar incident a couple of years ago, some folk get all the luck..
We were unable to remove the net and finally gave up due to lack of fuel, the good point although we tried very hard to remove the net, and it didn't seem to be impeding her ability in anyway.

So here ends my tale of daring do on a great diving island, Grand Turk is not a place I would consider going to for a holiday, without the diving it is a very quiet place and a great deal could be done to improve the island. There is a great amount of litter and a general untidiness about the place, this sort of untidiness can put a number of people off. It wouldn't take a great deal of money to improve the general look of the place but no one seems to be bothered.
There is controversy on the island at the moment about a new jetty being built to allow the Cruise liners to dock, (at the moment they Tender people in from the liners every Thursday) its not just the jetty, it's the great chunk of reef they will also be blasting to allow them access. Half the Belongers are for it, the other against. This is a slow paced island which I dont think will have changed much over the last 30 years. Do we really need the Cruise liners to stop at every island in the Caribbean?
An alternative to Grand Turk would be Provo, there are more modern hotel complexes and the usual tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and a casinos etc if you like a more lively nightlife. The word is that the quality of diving is as good but it takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach the dive sites..and of course, between January and April you have less chance of hearing or seeing those beautiful Humpback Whales,unless you take a trip over to Grand Turk.

It was a great diving holiday and an experience I will never forget,

Regards

TOG Diver

(Edited by Peter Bailey at 3:02 am on Mar. 2, 2003)
 

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Thanks, Peter! Trip reports are always interesting reading for those of us that like to travel.
 

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Peter,

I was thinking about going to G Turk in Nov - I think you just helped me make my mind up. Sounds absolutely idyllic.
 

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I enjoyed that so much I'm going back to re-read it!

Cheers Peter and glad you enjoyed it.

Where to next for our intrepid Rig-dweller?

(Edited by Bren Tierney at 5:56 pm on Feb. 14, 2003)
 
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