Monday, October 29, 2007

Turks and Caicos Islands

For our vacation, "The Phoenix" and I stayed at Beaches, Turks and Caicos Resort. It was great. The company is the same as Sandals, but it caters to families with small children. Being two single girls, we figured it would be better to be around families than honeymooning couples. The resort was all-inclusive, including two scuba dives per day.

I was really impressed with how responsible the resort was with the diving. Before they would let us go, we had to demonstrate basic skillis in the pool first. Every morning, resort guests could choose to go on either a one-dive or a two-dive trip. Being basic Open Water level divers, we are not supposed to go below a depth of 60 feet, and the resort was really good about adhering to this. They also made sure that there was an hour surface interval between dives.

I had been a little concerned about diving at a resort. I don't know that I mentioned it here, but over the summer a resident in a different program at my hospital died while scuba diving in Belize. Apparently, he took a short resort course, and then went on too many dives. The first couple of days that we were there, I mapped things out on the dive table and found that they were being pretty cautious, despite the fact that our guides were all equipped with dive computers (which keep more precise depth measurements and allow divers to extend the time of their dives).

As for diving in October, the temperature was perfect. It was 85, and probably about 75-80 in the water. We didn't use wetsuits, and with it being off-season, the beaches and the swimming pools were never crowded, and our room prices were 40% off!

The diving was also much easier than my certification dives. The resort supplied all of the equipment, but we brought our own masks, snorkels and fins. The tanks were lined up along the side of the boat, so that all you had to do was set up your stuff, and walk just a few steps off the end of the boat. I think the buoyancy of the salt water made it a lot easier as well.

The water was really clear, and the numbers of tropical fish that we saw were amazing. On one day we descended to the bottom with two black-tipped sharks circling around us. We also saw barracudas, lobster, and my favorite-- a sea turtle. At the end of one of our dives, a dolphin followed the boat back, jumping out of the water and showing off.

Another great thing was that there was a protected coral reef about a ten-minute walk down the beach from the resort. In the afternoons, we snorkeled there several times and got a great look at many more fish.

On Thursday, we went on a night dive. It was fun. At one point, we all turned off our flashlights, and by waving your arms around you could see little sparks of light, or bioluminescence underwater. We had hoped to see an octopus on the night dive, but it didn't work out. I'm glad that I did it, because everything did look a little different, but I much more prefer daytime dives as you can see so much more. Plus there's something kind of creepy about only being able to see the 5-foot diameter beacon of light from your flashlight while other, bigger things are able to spot you from a distance away.

Unfortunately, as our flight left early Saturday morning, we weren't allowed to dive on Friday. Instead, we went on what was supposed to be a 3-hour kayak tour. The tour was fun and included more snorkeling, a stop at an iguana preserve, and "The Phoenix" found a huge beautifully colored conch shell right there on the beach. Unfortunately, it was quite windy that day and our 3-hour tour ended up being 5 hours of difficult paddling.

The food at the resort was delicious. I think I ate some sort of fish every day for lunch and dinner. There wasn't much of a night life there as it was more set up for families, but with waking up at 6 am to get ready, it didn't really matter. I would highly recommend this place for new divers. They did allow more experienced divers to buddy-dive away from the group.


~~Silk said...

Good choices all around. Welcome back.

Chris said...

Sigh......color me jealous!