Turks & Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands, or TCI for short, are a British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago, part of the larger Antilles island grouping. They are known primarily for tourism and as an offshore financial centre. The resident population is about 31,500, of whom 23,769 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands. The total population on the islands including foreigners is 49,000.
The Turks and Caicos Islands lie southeast of Mayaguana in the Bahamas island chain and north of the island of Hispaniola. Cockburn Town, the capital since 1766, is situated on Grand Turk Island about 1,042 kilometres (647 mi) east-southeast of Miami, United States.
The islands have a total land area of 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi).
They are geographically contiguous with the Bahamas, though politically separate.
The first recorded European sighting of the islands now known as the Turks and Caicos occurred in 1512. In the subsequent centuries, the islands were claimed by several European powers with the British Empire eventually gaining control. For many years the islands were governed indirectly through Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the islands received their own governor and have remained a separate autonomous British Overseas Territory since. In August 2009, the United Kingdom suspended the Turks and Caicos Islands’ self-government after allegations of ministerial corruption. Home rule was restored in the islands after the November 2012 elections.
In 2002, the British Overseas Territories Act restored full British citizenship status to all citizens of British Overseas Territories, including the Turks and Caicos.
Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands
The flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands is similar to the flags of other British dependencies and colonies as it has the Union Flag in the canton. It was adopted on November 7, 1968. It is a defaced Blue Ensign; the yellow shield is taken from the territory’s coat of arms and contains a conch shell, lobster, and cactus.
A Red Ensign with the shield is used as civil ensign, which is an informal (yet popular) usage given that this flag has not yet been approved by Order in Council laid before Parliament.
The previous flag used up to 1968 was also a defaced Blue Ensign. Like many other British territories in the region at the time, it had a circular badge showing a ship offshore from a beach with the name of the islands. The Turks and Caicos badge also showed a man working on the beach between two piles of salt.
The 1889 Admiralty Flag Book introduced some shading into the right-hand salt pile, interpreted as an insertion of an entrance to what was erroneously thought to be a hut or igloo.
Coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands
The coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands was granted in 1965.
The arms consist of a shield bearing a conch shell, lobster, and cactus on a yellow background. The dexter and sinister supporters are flamingos. The crest is a pelican between two sisal plants representing connection to the rope industry.
The shield from the arms features on the flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and on the defaced Union Flag of the Governor
The Turks and Caicos Islands are named after the Turk’s-cap cactus (Melocactus communis), and the Lucayan term caya hico, meaning string of islands. The first inhabitants of the islands were Arawakan-speaking Taíno people, who crossed over from Hispaniola sometime from AD 500 to 800. Together with Taino who migrated from Cuba to the southern Bahamas around the same time, these people developed as the Lucayan. Around 1200 the Turks and Caicos Islands were resettled by Classical Taínos from Hispaniola.
Soon after the Spanish arrived in the islands in 1512, they began capturing the Taíno of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Lucayan as slaves (technically, as workers in the encomienda system) to replace the largely depleted native population of Hispaniola. The southern Bahama Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands were completely depopulated by about 1513, and remained so until the 17th century.
The first documented European to sight the islands was Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, who did so in 1512. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the islands passed from Spanish, to French, to British control, but none of the three powers ever established any settlements.
Bermudian salt collectors settled the Turks Islands around 1680. For several decades around the turn of the 18th century, the islands became popular pirate hideouts. In 1765–1783 the islands were under French occupation, and again after the French captured the archipelago in 1783.
After the American War of Independence (1775–1783), many Loyalists fled to British Caribbean colonies; in 1783 they were the first settlers on the Caicos Islands. They developed cotton as an important cash crop, but it was superseded by the development of the salt industry.
In 1799, both the Turks and the Caicos island groups were annexed by Britain as part of the Bahamas.
The processing of sea salt was developed as a highly important export product from the West Indies, with the labour done by African slaves. Salt continued to be a major export product into the nineteenth century.
In 1807 Britain prohibited the slave trade and, in 1833, abolished slavery in its colonies. British ships sometimes intercepted slave traders in the Caribbean, and some ships were wrecked off the coast of these islands. In 1837, the Esperanza, a Portuguese slaver, was wrecked off East Caicos, one of the larger islands. While the crew and 220 captive Africans survived the shipwreck, 18 Africans died before the survivors were taken to Nassau.
Africans from this ship may have been among the 189 liberated Africans whom the British colonists settled in the Turks and Caicos from 1833 to 1840.
In 1841 the Trouvadore, an illegal Spanish slave ship, was wrecked off the coast of East Caicos. All the 20-man crew and 192 captive Africans survived the sinking. Officials freed the Africans and arranged for 168 persons to be apprenticed to island proprietors on Grand Turk Island for one year. They increased the small population of the colony by seven percent.
Numerous descendants have come from those free Africans. The remaining 24 were resettled in Nassau. The Spanish crew were also taken there, to be turned over to the custody of the Cuban consul and taken to Cuba for prosecution. An 1878 letter documents the “Trouvadore Africans” and their descendants as constituting an essential part of the “labouring population” on the islands.
In 2004 marine archaeologists affiliated with the Turks and Caicos National Museum discovered a wreck, called the “Black Rock Ship”, that subsequent research has suggested may be that of the Trouvadore. In November 2008 a cooperative marine archaeology expedition, funded by the United States NOAA, confirmed that the wreck has artefacts whose style and date of manufacture link them to the Trouvadore.
In 1848, Britain designated the Turks and Caicos as a separate colony under a council president. In 1873 the islands were made part of Jamaica colony; in 1894 the chief colonial official was restyled commissioner. In 1917, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden suggested that the Turks and Caicos join Canada, but this suggestion was rejected by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. The islands remained a dependency of Jamaica until 1959.
On 4 July 1959, the islands were again designated as a separate colony, the last commissioner being restyled administrator. The governor of Jamaica also continued as the governor of the islands. When Jamaica was granted independence from Britain in August 1962, the Turks & Caicos Islands became a Crown colony. From 1965, the governor of the Bahamas also was governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands and oversaw affairs for the islands.
When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the Turks and Caicos received their own governor (the last administrator was restyled). In 1974, Canadian New Democratic Party MP Max Saltsman tried to use his Private Member’s Bill for legislation to annexe the islands to Canada, but it did not pass in the Canadian House of Commons.
Since August 1976, the islands have had their own government headed by a chief minister, the first of whom was James Alexander George Smith McCartney.
The islands’ political troubles in the early 21st century resulted in a rewritten constitution promulgated in 2006. The UK took over direction of the government in 2009.
In 2013 and 2014, interest in annexing Turks and Caicos to Canada was renewed as Edmonton East MP Peter Goldring met with the country’s premier Rufus Ewing in a reception at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle hotel.
The two island groups are in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas, north of Hispaniola, and about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Miami in the United States, at 21°45′N 71°35′W Coordinates: 21°45′N 71°35′W. The territory is geographically contiguous to the Bahamas, both comprising the Lucayan Archipelago, but is politically a separate entity. The Caicos Islands are separated by the Caicos Passage from the closest Bahamian islands, Mayaguana and Great Inagua.
The eight main islands and more than 299 smaller islands have a total land area of 616.3 square kilometres (238.0 sq mi), consisting primarily of low, flat limestone with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps and 332 square kilometres (128 sq mi) of beach front. The weather is usually sunny and relatively dry, but suffers frequent hurricanes. The islands have limited natural fresh water resources; private cisterns collect rainwater for drinking. The primary natural resources are spiny lobster, conch and other shellfish.
The two distinct island groups are separated by the Turks Passage.
The Turks Islands are separated from the Caicos Islands by Turks Island Passage, which is more than 2,200 m or 7,200 ft deep. The islands form a chain that stretches north–south.
The 2012 Census population was 4,939 on the two main islands, the only inhabited islands of the group:
- Grand Turk (with the capital of the territory, area 17.39 km2 (6.71 sq mi), population 4,831)
- Salt Cay (area 6.74 km2 (2.60 sq mi), population 108)
Together with nearby islands, all on Turks Bank, those two main islands form the two of the six administrative districts of the territory that fall within the Turks Islands. Turks Bank, which is smaller than Caicos Bank, has a total area of about 324 km2 (125 sq mi).
25 kilometres (16 mi) east of the Turks Islands and separated from them by Mouchoir Passage is the Mouchoir Bank. Although it has no emergent cays or islets, some parts are very shallow and the water breaks on them. Mouchoir Bank is part of the Turks and Caicos Islands and falls within its Exclusive Economic Zone. It measures 960 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in area.
Two banks further east, Silver Bank and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation, though they belong politically to the Dominican Republic.
The largest island in the Caicos archipelago is the sparsely-inhabited Middle Caicos, which measures 144 square kilometres (56 sq mi) in area, but has a population of only 168 at the 2012 Census.
The most populated island is Providenciales, with 23,769 inhabitants in 2012, and an area of 122 square kilometres (47 sq mi).
North Caicos (116 square kilometres (45 sq mi) in area) had 1,312 inhabitants.
South Caicos (21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi) in area) had 1,139 inhabitants, and Parrot Cay (6 square kilometres (2.3 sq mi) in area) had 131 inhabitants.
East Caicos (which is administered as part of South Caicos District) is uninhabited, while the only permanent inhabitants of West Caicos (administered as part of Providenciales District) are resort staff.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are divided into six administrative districts (two in the Turks Islands and four in the Caicos Islands), headed by district commissioners. For the House of Assembly, the Turks and Caicos Islands are divided into 15 electoral districts (four in the Turks Islands and eleven in the Caicos Islands).
The Turks and Caicos Islands feature a relatively dry and sunny marine tropical climate with relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year. Summertime temperatures rarely exceed 33 °C (91 °F) and winter nighttime temperatures rarely fall below 18 °C (64 °F).
Politics of the Turks and Caicos Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby as of August 9, 2006 the Premier is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. The islands are an internally self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Turks and Caicos Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Legislative Council.
The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Military defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.
The capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands is Cockburn Town on Grand Turk. The islands were under Jamaican jurisdiction until 1962, when they assumed the status of a crown colony.
The governor of the Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory.
The islands adopted a constitution on August 30, 1976, which is Constitution Day, the national holiday. The constitution was suspended in 1986, but restored and revised March 5, 1988. A new Constitution was instituted in 2006, but was suspended in 2009 after the discovery of massive corruption and financial misfeasance by ministers. The territorial government was restored under a new Constitution after a general election in November 2012.
The territory’s legal system is based on English common law, with a small number of laws adopted from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of age. English is the official language.
Constitutional Suspension (1986-1988)
The constitution was suspended in 1986, but restored and revised 5 March 1988. In the interim two Advisory Councils took over with members from the Progressive National Party (PNP), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which was a splinter group from the PNP:
- 1st Council (1986-1987)
- Ariel Misick (NDA) – also served as minister of development and commerce
- Emmanuel Misick (NDA)
- Clement Howell (PDM)
- Carlos Simons (NDA)
2nd Council (1987-1988) Daniel Malcolm (PNP) – former leader of PNP
- Tom Lightbourne (PNP) – Chairman of PNP
- Herbie Ingham (NDA) – later as Providenciales International Airport Authority Chairman
A new constitution came into force on 9 August 2006, but was in parts suspended and amended in 2009. The territory’s legal system is based on English common law, with a small number of laws adopted from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of age. English is the official language. Grand Turk is the administrative and political capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cockburn Town has been the seat of government since 1766.
Under the suspended 2006 constitution, the head of government was the premier, filled by the leader of the elected party. The cabinet consisted of three ex officio members and five appointed by the governor from among the members of the House of Assembly. The unicameral House of Assembly consisted of 21 seats, of which 15 were popularly elected; members serve four-year terms. Elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands were held on 24 April 2003 and again on 9 February 2007. The Progressive National Party, led by Galmo Williams, held thirteen seats, and the People’s Democratic Movement, led by Floyd Seymour, held two seats.
Under the new constitution that came into effect in October 2012, legislative power is held by a unicameral House of Assembly consisting of 19 seats, 15 elected and 4 appointed by the governor; of elected members, five are elected at large and 10 from single member districts for four-year terms. After the 2012 elections, Rufus Ewing of the Progressive National Party won a narrow majority of the elected seats and was appointed premier.
The Turks and Caicos Islands participates in the Caribbean Development Bank, is an associate in CARICOM, and maintains an Interpol sub-bureau. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.
The winning party of Turks and Caicos’ first general election in 1976, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) under “Jags” McCartney, sought to establish a framework and accompanying infrastructure in the pursuit of an eventual policy of full independence for the islands. However, with the early death of McCartney, confidence in the country’s leadership waned.
In 1980, the PDM agreed with the British government that independence would be granted in 1982 if the PDM was re-elected in the elections of that year.
That election was effectively a referendum on the independence issue and was won by the pro-dependency Progressive National Party (PNP), which claimed victory again four years later.
With these developments, the independence issue largely faded from the political scene.
However, in the mid-2000s, the issue of independence for the islands was again raised.
In April 2006, PNP Premier Michael Misick reaffirmed that his party saw independence from Britain as the “ultimate goal” for the islands, but not at the present time.
In 2008, opponents of Misick accused him of moving toward independence for the islands to dodge a commission of inquiry, which examined reports of corruption by the Misick Administration.
Corruption scandal & suspension of self-government
In 2008, after members of the British parliament conducting a routine review of the administration received several reports of high-level official corruption in the Turks and Caicos, then-Governor Richard Tauwhare announced the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into corruption. The same year, Premier Michael Misick himself became the focus of a criminal investigation after a woman identified by news outlets as an American citizen residing in Puerto Rico accused him of sexually assaulting her, although he strongly denies the charge.
On Monday, 16 March 2009, the UK threatened to suspend self-government in the islands and transfer power to the new governor, Gordon Wetherell, over systemic corruption.
On 18 March 2009, on the advice of her UK ministers, Queen Elizabeth II issued an Order in Council giving the Governor the power to suspend those parts of the 2006 Constitution that deal with ministerial government and the House of Assembly, and to exercise the powers of government himself. The order, which would also establish an Advisory Council and Consultative Forum in place of the House of Assembly, would come into force on a date to be announced by the governor, and remain in force for two years unless extended or revoked.
On 23 March 2009, after the enquiry found evidence of “high probability of systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty”, Misick resigned as Premier to make way for a new, unified government. Politicians were accused of selling crown land for personal gain and misusing public funds. The following day, Galmo Williams was sworn in as his replacement.
Misick denied all charges, and referred to the British government’s debate on whether to remove the territory’s sovereignty as “tantamount to being re-colonised. It is a backwards step completely contrary to the whole movement of history.”
On 14 August 2009 after Misick’s last appeals failed, the Governor, on the instructions of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands by authority of the 18 March 2009 Order in Council issued by the Queen. The islands’ administration has been suspended for up to two years, with possible extensions, and power has been transferred to the Governor, with the United Kingdom also stationing a supply vessel in between Turks and Caicos. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Chris Bryant said of the decision to impose rule, “This is a serious constitutional step which the UK Government has not taken lightly but these measures are essential in order to restore good governance and sound financial management.”
The move was met with vehement opposition by the former Turks and Caicos government, with Misick’s successor Williams calling it a “coup”, and stating that, “Our country is being invaded and re-colonised by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one-man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance.” Despite this, the civilian populace was reported to be largely welcoming of the enforced rule.
The British government stated that they intended to keep true to their word that the country would regain home rule in two years or less, and Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said that elections would be held in 2011, “or sooner”. Governor Wetherell stated that he would aim to “make a clean break from the mistakes of the past” and create “a durable path towards good governance, sound financial management and sustainable development”. Wetherell continued to say that, “In the meantime we must all learn to foster a quality of public spirit, listen to all those who have the long-term interests of these islands at heart, and safeguard the fundamental assets of the Territory for future generations… Our guiding principles will be those of transparency, accountability and responsibility. I believe that most people in the Turks and Caicos will welcome these changes.’
Restoration of Self Government 2012
The United Kingdom restored self government in November 2012 under a new constitution. Parliamentary elections that month saw a high turnout of 84% and a narrow win for the Progressive National Party, which took eight seats to the People’s Democratic Movement’s seven. The two parties have alternated in power since 1976. The PNP’s leader, Rufus Ewing, became prime minister on 13 November.
The territory is self-governing, with the governor overseeing foreign affairs, defence and offshore finance. Power is exercised by an elected legislative council and an appointed executive council.
Governor Ric Todd described the election of a new government after the restoration of home rule as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the islands. He had previously pointed out that Britain would continue to “ensure transparency and good government” by overseeing domestic financial matters, and said that he looked forward to working with the new government on measures to create “a more open, accountable and better-managed society”.
The judicial branch of government is headed by a Supreme Court; appeals are heard by the court of appeals and final appeals by the United Kingdom’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There are three justices of the Supreme Court. The islands also have a Court of Appeal with a president and at least two justices of appeal.
Magistrates’ Courts are the lower courts and appeals from Magistrates’ Courts are sent to the Supreme Court.
Eight of the thirty islands in the territory are inhabited, with a total population in mid-2012 of about 31,500. One-third of the population is under 15 years old, and only 4% are 65 or older.
In 2000 the population was growing at a rate of 3.55% per year. The infant mortality rate was 18.66 deaths per 1,000 live births and the life expectancy at birth was 73.28 years (71.15 years for males, 75.51 years for females). The total fertility rate was 3.25 children born per woman. The annual population growth rate is 2.82%.
The preliminary results of the 2012-01-25 Census were released in 12 August 2012; they show a total population of 31,458 inhabitants; 57.5 of adult population is composed of immigrants (“non-belongers”). Compared with the 2001 population (19,886) there’s an increase of 58.19% in the number of inhabitants.
Ethnicity: 88% black and 8% white, with the remainder being primarily of mixed or East Indian ancestry.
The official language of the islands is English and the population also speaks Turks and Caicos Islands Creole which is similar to Bahamian Creole. Due to its close proximity to Cuba and Hispaniola, large Haitian Creole and Spanish-speaking communities have developed in the territory due to immigration, both legal and illegal, from Creole-speaking Haiti and from Spanish-speaking Cuba and Dominican Republic.
The population of Turks and Caicos were 35.8% Baptists, 11.7% Members of the Church of God, 11.4% Catholics, 10% Anglicans, 9.3% Methodists, 6% Seventh-Day Adventists, 1.8% Jehovah’s Witnesses and 14% other.
Catholics are served by the Mission “Sui Iuris” for Turks and Caicos, which was erected in 1984 with territory taken from the then Diocese of Nassau.
Education is free and mandatory for children aged five to sixteen. Primary education lasts for six years and secondary education lasts for five years. In the 1990s, the island nation launched the Primary In-Service Teacher Education Project (PINSTEP) in an effort to increase the skills of its primary school teachers, nearly one-quarter of whom were unqualified.
Turks and Caicos also worked to refurbish its primary schools, reduce textbook costs, and increase equipment and supplies given to schools. For example, in September 1993, each primary school was given enough books to allow teachers to establish in-class libraries.
In 2001, the student–teacher ratio at the primary level was roughly 15:1. The Turks and Caicos Islands Community College offers higher education to students who have successfully completed their secondary education.
The community college also oversees an adult literacy program.
The Ministry of Health, Education, Youth, Sports, and Women’s Affairs oversees education in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos established a National Health System in 2010. Residents contribute to a National Health Insurance Plan through salary deduction and nominal user fees. Majority of care is provided by the private-public-partnership hospitals in Providenciales and Grand Turk. In addition there are a number of government clinics and private clinics. The hospital opened in 2010 is administered by Interhealth Canada and has been accredited by Accreditation Canada in 2012.
In 2009, GDP contributions were as follows: Hotels & Restaurants 34.67%, Financial Services 13.12%, Construction 7.83%, Transport, Storage & Communication 9.90%, and Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities 9.56%. Most capital goods and food for domestic consumption are imported.
In 2010/2011, major sources of government revenue included Import Duties (43.31%), Stamp Duty on Land Transaction (8.82%), Work Permits and Residency Fees (10.03%) and Accommodation Tax (24.95%). The territory’s gross domestic product as of late 2009 is approximately US$795 million (per capita $24,273).
The primary agricultural products include limited amounts of maize, beans, cassava (tapioca) and citrus fruits. Fish and conch are the only significant export, with some $169.2 million of lobster, dried and fresh conch, and conch shells exported in 2000, primarily to the United Kingdom and the United States. In recent years, however, the catch has been declining.
The territory used to be an important trans-shipment point for South American narcotics destined for the United States, but due to the ongoing pressure of a combined American, Bahamian and Turks and Caicos effort this trade has been greatly reduced.
The islands import food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, manufacture and construction materials, primarily from the United States and the United Kingdom.
The islands produce and consume about 5 GWh of electricity, per year, all of which comes from fossil fuels.
The United States was the leading source of tourists in 1996, accounting for more than half of the 87,000 visitors; another major source of tourists is Canada. Tourist arrivals had risen to 264,887 in 2007 and to 351,498 by 2009. In 2010, a total of 245 cruise ships arrived at the Grand Turk Cruise Terminal, carrying a total of 617,863 visitors.
The government is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to increase tourism. Upscale resorts are aimed at the wealthy, while a large new cruise ship port and recreation centre has been built for the masses visiting Grand Turk. Turks and Caicos Islands has one of the longest coral reefs in the world, making it a premier diving destination.
The French vacation village company of Club Mediterannee (Club Med) has an all-inclusive adult resort called ‘Turkoise’ on one of the main islands.
To boost tourism during the Caribbean low season of late summer, since 2003 the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board have organised and hosted an annual series of concerts during this season called the Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival. Held in a temporary bandshell at The Turtle Cove Marina in The Bight on Providenciales.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a biodiversity hotspot. The islands have many endemic species and others of international importance, due to the conditions created by the oldest established salt-pan development in the Caribbean. The variety of species includes a number of endemic species of lizards, snakes, insects and plants, and marine organisms; in addition to being an important breeding area for seabirds.
The UK and Turks and Caicos Islands Governments have joint responsibility for the conservation and preservation to meet obligations under international environmental conventions.
Due to this significance, the islands are on the United Kingdom’s tentative list for future UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Providenciales International Airport is the main entry point for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Altogether, there are seven airports, located on each of the inhabited islands.
Five have paved runways (three of which are approximately 2000 metres long and one is approximately 1000 metres long), and the remaining two have unpaved runways (one of which is approximately 1000 metres long and the other is significantly shorter).
The islands have 121 kilometres of highway, 24 km (15 mi) paved and 97 km (60 mi) unpaved. Like the United States Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands drive on the left, but use left-hand-drive vehicles that are imported from the United States.
The territory’s main international ports and harbours are on Grand Turk and Providenciales.
The islands have no significant railways. In the early twentieth century East Caicos operated a horse-drawn railway to transport Sisal from the plantation to the port. The 14 km route was removed after sisal trading ceased.
There is no postal delivery in the Turks and Caicos; mail is picked up at one of four post offices on each of the major islands. Mail is transported three or seven times a week, depending on the destination.
The Post Office is part of the territory’s government and reports to the Minister of Government Support Services.
Mobile phone service is provided by Cable & Wireless, using GSM 850 and TDMA, and Digicel, using GSM 900 and 1900 and Islandcom Wireless, using 3G 850. Cable & Wireless provides CDMA mobile phone service in Providenciales and Grand Turk. The system is connected to the mainland by two submarine cables and an Intelsat earth station. There were three AM radio stations (one inactive) and six FM stations (no shortwave) in 1998. The most popular station is Power 92.5 FM which plays Top 100 hits. Over 8000 radio receivers are owned across the territory.
West Indies Video (WIV) has been the sole cable television provider for the Turks and Caicos Islands for over two decades and WIV4 (a subsidiary of WIV) has been the only broadcast station in the islands for over 15 years; broadcasts from the Bahamas can also be received.
The territory has two internet service providers and its country code top level domain (ccTLD) is “.tc”. Amateur radio callsigns begin with “VP5” and visiting operators frequently work from the islands.
WIV introduced Channel 4 News in 2002 broadcasting local news and infotainment programs across the country. Channel 4 was re-launched as WIV4 in November 2007 and began providing reliable daily online Turks and Caicos news with the WIV4 News blog, an online forum connecting TCI residents with others interested in the islands, while keeping users updated on the TCI’s daily news.
Turks and Caicos’s newspapers include the Turks and Caicos Weekly News, the Turks and Caicos SUN and the Turks and Caicos Free Press. All three publications are weekly. The Weekly News and the Sun both have supplement magazines. Other local magazines Times of the Islands, s3 Magazine, Real Life Magazine, Baller Magazine, and Unleashed Magazine.
From 1950 to 1981, the United States had a missile tracking station on Grand Turk. In the early days of the American space program, NASA used it. After his three earth orbits in 1962, American astronaut John Glenn successfully landed in the nearby ocean and was brought back ashore at this island.
Cricket is the islands’ national sport. The national team takes part in regional tournaments in the ICC Americas Championship, as well as having played one Twenty20 match as part of the 2008 Standford 20/20. Two domestic leagues exist, one on Grand Turk with three teams and another on Providenciales.
The Turks and Caicos Islands’ football team shared the position of the lowest ranking national men’s football team in the world at the rank of 207th.
Beaches in the Turks & Caicos Islands
Surrounded by the world’s third-largest coral reef, the Turks and Caicos Islands have some of the finest sandy beaches and beautiful turquoise seas in the world. Most are just minutes away from an airport, and visitors rarely have to vie for beach space with anyone else.
Tour boats can transport you to uninhabited cays where waters are pristine and diamond-clear, and waves rarely rise above a gentle ripple.
Grace Bay (Providenciales)
These 19km (12 miles) of pale sands and azure seas are the pride of Provo; Grace Bay Beach was named the World’s Leading Beach for several years running at the World Travel Awards. An increasing number of resorts and condo hotels have sprung up along the shore. Like much of the TCI, the beach is fringed by a coral reef system with fabulous snorkeling and diving.
Malcolm Beach (Providenciales)
The traditional way to see this charming cove (often referred to as Malcolm Roads Beach) is with a 4*4 along twisting, bumpy Malcolm Roads. You can also access the beach by staying at Amanyara (the resort is adjacent to the beach) or by getting a tour-boat operator to take you there. Its waters are part of the Northwest Point Marine National Park.
Long Bay (Providenciales)
The calm, shallow waters of this quiet beach on Provo’s southeastern shore make it perfect for young children. Take a horseback ride on the beach here with Provo Ponies.
Sapodilla Bay and Taylor Bay (Providenciales)
Part of the Chalk Sound National Park, these shallow bays along Provo’s southwest coastline have soft, silty bottoms and stunning blue water.
Pine Cay (Caicos Cays)
The money shot in many a photo spread of Caribbean islands is often this private island’s perfect crescent of sand, ringed by azure seas. It’s the front yard of the Meridian Club resort.
Parrot Cay (Caicos Cays)
Another gorgeous private island, this one with a secluded beach graced by beach bums of the celebrity variety.
Sandy Point (North Caicos)
Up until now, only boaters and those in the know found their way to this spectacular beach, within sight of the Parrot Cay Resort.
Whitby beaches (North Caicos)
The coves of Three Mary Cays are prime snorkeling spots. Step into the shallows of the palm-fringed Pelican Point Beach (in front of Pelican Beach Hotel) and find conch shells of every size. Lovely Horsestable Beach has enjoyed its North Caicos seclusion for years (it’s also a prime bird-watching spot).
Mudjin Harbor (Middle Caicos)
This beach is as stunning seen from the limestone cliffs towering above as it is up close. You can explore the wind-swept coves and snorkel in the turquoise shallows below.
Bambarra Beach (Middle Caicos)
Casuarina trees fringe this picturesque, untrammeled beach. Its shallow aquamarine waters are the site of the festive Valentine’s Day model sailboat races, and the Middle Caicos Day beach party is held here in August.
Governor’s Beach (Grand Turk)
Grand Turk’s most celebrated beach has great snorkeling and is a popular picnic spot under shady pines. It’s in the Columbus Landfall National Park and within sight lines of the Grand Turk Cruise Center, which welcomes mammoth cruise ships 4 to 6 days a week.
Pillory Beach (Grand Turk)
The Bohio Dive Resort is set on this handsome stretch of Grand Turk beach.
The beaches of Salt Cay
This tiny island has some of the best snorkeling beaches in the Caribbean. The best slices of sand may be found on North Beach and Point Pleasant.