A ladies weekend getaway to South Caicos some 40 miles away from Providenciales started with an hour and a half ferry ride with TCI Ferry Service/Caribbean Cruisin’ from Walkin Marina. South Caicos is the only island we hadn’t visited as yet. It is actually one of the smallest islands in the Turks and Caicos Islands and consists of 8.5 square miles. South Caicos is also known as The Big South, East Harbour and The Rock and it boasts excellent scuba diving, deep sea fishing and bone fishing, birdlife, history and fresh seafood. We were there to take it all in and of course, to take lots of photos.
The little harbour town of Cockburn Harbour or East Harbour was once a thriving and active commercial community and became a major role player in the Salt Industry. Today it makes it’s living from fishing, conch and lobster.
We had made arrangements to stay at the only hotel, Ocean Beach and Resort, which is on a ridge overlooking the ocean and Long Cay. The photo shows the hotel, the old light house and the Commissioner’s House. Once we checked in, dropped our suitcases off in the room, we set off to explore before the sun went down.
To the west of the hotel, you have the remains of the old light house and then The Commissioner’s House. This is an 18th century colonial building from the salt industry days. From what I can find out it was originally the District Commissioner’s home and later was turned into Miss Mae’s B&B. Miss Mae became too old to care for it and passed it on to her son who was unable to keep it up. I’m reading that this is where Queen Elizabeth stayed during her visit to South in 1966. Note the stone Bermudan kitchen on the left. This grand old house has been left to deteriorate and suffered damage from hurricane Francis in 2004 and more recently, Ike and Hanna. How I would love to have seen this grand old house in its’ hey day.
We continued to walk towards the town of Cockburn and enjoyed the colours of the setting sun.
Woke up Saturday morning to a beautiful day. We couldn’t wait to get going with our exploring. We had decided to head up towards the north and come back to the salt pans and search out the old windmills but ended up doing this first. I was fortunate enough to photograph an old one in Salt Cay years ago that was still intact with its sails. We soon found out that there isn’t one that has withstood the ravages of time.
The salt industry thrived on South Caicos from 1850 to 1960 and the salt was produced and collected in vast salinas. They say that South Caicos produced more salt than Grand Turk and Salt Cay put together. Sea water was fed into the salt pans and then then baked dry in the scorching sun. The salt rakers raked the salt crystals into small piles which were then carted to salt sheds for storage. The salt was packed into bags and transported by small salt lighters to larger ships out at anchor.
South Caicos has natural, shallow depressions called salinas that fill up with salt water directly from the sea or percolate up from underlying rock. The Bermudans bordered the salt pans or ponds with rocks and created ponds that were linked to the sea by canals and sluice gates. The old windmills controlled the water flow.
The Boiling Hole is across from the ball park. It is where an underground source of hot water connected to the ocean by a subterranean passage feeds salt water into the ponds. The salt water ebbs and flows into a large basin and the quantity was regulated by a system of trap doors. Note the large flock of flamingos out in the pond. there’s more to come on the flamingos later on.
South Caicos is full of contrasts and from some of the historic and old sights we stepped into and toured some of the new……………..major developments of deluxe villas, condominiums and hotel rooms. We met Glenn, the development supervisor for Sailrock, by accident when I flagged him down asking for directions. Sailrock is focusing on selling home sites on 775 acres of untouched land on South Caicos’ 2 1/2 mile long, slender northern peninsula.
Highland House sits on 250 acres called Highland Estates and has been abandonned by the owners. This is a typical Bermudian structure and gives visitors a good example of what South Caicos was once like.
It’s really amazing what you can find out from the internet. I discovered that this fine old house was once the home of Jim and Betty Cooper who were pioneer missionaries in 1961. Jim built the Calvary Baptist Church in South Caicos from the ground up. Unfortunately, I don’t recall seeing this church. Apparently he added the overhang part as an extra room for his son. I also read that this used to be the old police station. I wish it were possible to retore some of these fine old buildings.
A wonderful trip comes to an end. So many highlights and my only regret is that we couldn’t have stayed just a little longer.
South Caicos we’ll be back one day.