Hear about travel to Turks and Caicos as the Amateur Traveler talks to author Donna Seim about her favorite archipelago.
“The reason to go to Turks and Caicos, first of all, is the turquoise waters, It’s gorgeous there, the white sandy beaches, the weather, the direct flights from Boston and New York City.” The islands are also known for wonderful diving.
While Turks and Caicos sounds like it might be only two islands, it is actually composed of 40 different islands and cays. “Each island has its own personality.”
Most people go to Providenciales which is the largest island and the most densely populated of the islands. “It originally was just a big huge island with about 400 people living on the tip of it at a place called Blue Hills, but Club Med discovered it. After that is is high rise after high rise, resort after resort. So it’s like a little Miami now, but most people think of it as the place to go because of the resorts, the all-inclusives, beautiful Grace Bay Beach. It is beautiful. We have stayed there. We have tasted the fine food they serve there, the restaurants are all gourmet, and we’ve enjoyed it.”
“But I admit I always look forward to getting on that little propeller plane and heading over to Grand Turk which is our island. ” Grand Turk is the capital and it used to be the hub. Before tourism, the island was known for the salt trade which you can still learn about in the salt museum. You can also see wild horses on the island that are left-over from the days of the salt trade.
Come see why so many people love Turks and Caicos, and why so many people describe Grand Turk as an “authentic” Caribbean island.
cover photo by James Willamor
Turks and Caicos Islands
Osprey Hotel Grand Turk
Bohio Dive Resort
The Salt House
Turks and Caicos National Museum
Porter’s Island Thyme – Salt Cay
Green Flash Cafe – Salt Cay
Where is Simon, Sandy?
Hurricane Mia: A Caribbean Adventure
Satchi and Little Star
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As one example, I listened to your interview with Cat Gaa discussing Sevilla and got some great sightseeing ideas. After she appeared on your podcast, I started following her blog and there she tipped me to food tours offered in various Spanish cities by Devour Spain. The Devour Sevilla tour I took the other night was the best experience of the trip. Your advertisers have been helpful, too. When I shopped for travel insurance, I checked the offerings of one of you (I think now former) advertisers. I got a lot of useful information from the advertiser’s website.
Your podcast is a great place to start for travel planning and research. You and your guests provide a wonderful wealth of information, along with a lot of tips and links to other useful sources of information. Please keep up the good work and keep providing all the great information. Next time I plan a trip, I will start with your podcast.
photo by James Willamor
Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 520. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, wild horses, and the salt trade as we go to Turks and Caicos.
Chris: Welcome to the Amateur Traveler, I am your host Chris Christensen. No sponsor today so let’s get straight to our main segment on Turks and Caicos.
I’d like to welcome to the show Donna Seim who is a children’s author and come to talk to us about her favorite island archipelago. At least I assume it’s your favorite Donna and that is Turks and Caicos. Donna, welcome to the show.
Donna: Thank you Chris, glad to be here. Well it is my favorite archipelago that’s why I return so often so if you judge it by repeat returns it’s definitely the winner. My favorite island within the archipelago is Grand Turk.
Chris: We talk about being archipelago, how many islands in Turks and Caicos? It sounds like two but I gather that’s incorrect.
Donna: Most people think of it as two but it’s actually forty islands and cays. And the cay is spelled C-A-Y not K-E-Y. But it’s pronounced key. Most of those are uninhabited. There’s nine, I believe at this point in time, that actually have human life on them.
Chris: You’re going to take us a little bit I think off the beaten path, so where do most people who go to Turks and Caicos go and where do you recommend we go?
Donna: Most people, when you say “Turks and Caicos” they think of Providenciales. That is the largest island in the archipelago and it is the most densely populated at this point in time. It originally was just a big huge island with about 400 people living on the tip of it in a place called Blue Hills. But Club Med discovered it. And after that, it went well with high-rise after high-rise, resort after resort. So it’s like a little Miami now. But most people think of it as the place to go because of the resorts, the all inclusives, the beautiful Grace Bay Beach, which is I believe seven miles long, and it is beautiful. We have stayed there, we have tasted the vine food that they serve there, the restaurants are all gourmet. And we’ve enjoyed it, but I have to admit, I always look forward to getting on to that little propeller plane and hopping over to Grand Turk, which is our island.
Chris: So most people who are going to Turks and Caicos are doing what? I just heard the term for a fly and flop vacation, where you fly down and you flop on the beach.
Chris: You’re heading us someplace with a little more interest and cultural depth. First of all, why should someone go to Turks and Caicos?
Donna: Well, there’s many reasons. The reason to go to Turks and Caicos, number one, would be the turquoise water. It’s gorgeous there. The white sandy beaches, the weather, there’s direct flights from Boston, direct flights from New York City to Providenciales. So people are happy to fly, say for instance from Boston it takes three hours and ten minutes or twenty minutes in the air to get there, it’s non-stop if you fly the airlines that do the non-stop route, which there are many. So it’s a direct pick us up and bring us down there and we’re there, we’re out of this winter weather. So all the month, the season is high from December until April. Yes, most people like all inclusives, they like the luxury, which there is tons of down there and they love the beach and the water, and the water sports, all of that.
What I like about the islands is that each island has it’s own personality. Each island is distinct and different, there is no two alike in the whole archipelago. Our favorite is Grand Turk, which is the capital, it used to be the hub where everybody lived and the governmental offices were there, are there still, the governor lives there who’s appointed, its a British Protectorate so he’s appointed by the Queen. So Grand Turk hangs on as a remnant of the past, it was a Caribbean outpost, or a place where the Bermudians discovered. And then with them they brought with their architecture, beautiful architecture, and they settled because they found salt.
So the history of the salt, if you ever read that book “Salt”, Turks and Caicos are in there, 300 years or more of harvesting salt from the sea. So they build beautiful architecture, the homes, they call em upstairs homes because there’s two stories, which is unusual in the Caribbean, and the Old Caribbean and many of the regular housing is Old Caribbean style. We love the architecture. Many people come, I would say, most people come to Turks and Caicos for those sea, the water, the sun, and the weather.
The number one reason to come to Grand Turk, besides the architecture, is diving. It may be more important than the architecture, to tell you the truth, because it’s one of the top diving spots in the world. There’s a barrier reef that drops 7,000 feet down and it’s close to shore so you can actually see where the reef is, and it’s beautiful. So the scuba divers, they’ve been coming since forever, since as soon as they learned of this reef, they’ve been coming. So there’s a steady flow of divers, which are a particular type of group of people, they’re there to appreciate, and they’re not a “party group”.
Chris: So what kind of itinerary? You’re saying we’re going to fly in, the direct routes are going to be to…
Donna: Providenciales, which sounds Spanish to me. It’s called Provo, P-R-O-V-O, as it’s nickname, and most everyone calls it Provo. But you have to be careful because there’s also a Provo, Utah.
Chris: Okay, so we’re going to fly into Provo and take a small plane over to Grand Turk is your recommendation. What kind of itinerary would you lay out for us for say a week in Turks and Caicos?
Donna: Well if you wanted to have a whole week in Grand Turk, some people stop off at different islands, particularly Provo because it’s the first one and depending on the one that you’re going to land it. Many will stay overnight, a night or two, but that’s hard to do because there’s usually a minimum stay. But there are some smaller resorts that will let you stay for a night or two. If you want to do that, especially if you have a long day of travel, that’s a nice thing to do, you can get a wonderful dinner in any of the fabulous restaurants there, you can walk Grace Bay and you can get the feel of it. And then the next day, you can hop on the propeller plane and fly over to Grand Turk and then you can see the difference between the more modern, upscale type of vacationing to “Okay, here we are now, we’re in the real Caribbean.”
Chris: When we get over to Grand Turk, we’re not going to be seeing the all-inclusive resorts and those sorts of things, so where would you recommend we stay first of all?
Donna: There’s all kinds of wonderful places to stay on Grand Turk. From little, tiny cottages that you can rent, to there’s two, we would call them, well there referred to as resorts but they’re not really, they’re small hotels. They say all inclusive because they offer dive masters and side trips and full beach, including breakfast, but they are really small hotels that offer all these services and you don’t go and just stay there.
Chris: And the two hotels are?
Donna: The Osprey Beach Hotel, which is smack dab on the beach, beautiful waves, you can hear them all night long, in a nice way. And the other one is Bohio. And Bohio, they’re both on the west shore, which is the beachy, well there’s beaches around the entire island but the swimming beaches and the snorkeling beaches and the diving is off the west shore. So it’s the most popular shore.
Chris: Okay. So I get up the first morning on Grand Turk, where would you send me?
Donna: Most people, if they’re going to dive, they get up and they may prearrange their dive masters, so they will already have their timing for that. I’m not a scuba diver so, but they tell me that they have to have that preset. You don’t just walk in and say, “Well I want to dive today.” So they have that set. If they are not going to dive that first morning, probably one of the nicest things you could do is take a walk on the beach. If you’re staying in either of those hotels, you can walk right on the beach in front of them. There’s a place, each one has either across the street, or in their own grounds, you can rent bicycles and that’s a fun thing to do. You could rent a bicycle and ride up to the lighthouse, which is a good. The island is 6.5 miles long, most everything is in the middle of it, but the lighthouse is at the northern tip. So it’s a little bit of a ride and some of it’s uphill, but it’s worth the ride when you get to the top and see the lighthouse, and the view is exquisite. And you’re looking out to the north reef.
Chris: You mentioned the historic part of Grand Turk and also of the salt trade. How would I see what’s left from that or where would you send me?
Donna: Oh, to the museum. There’s a small museum, first of all there’s one place that’s called the Salt Museum. They have a video that really explains the salt trade very well, and they have some books there. The rest of it is simply a gift shop and a cafe, so I recommend the video. Then I would go to the museum, which is a real museum, and it has the Molasses Reef Wreck, which is the oldest wreck found in western hemisphere.
Chris: You say the oldest wreck, and I am picturing a torture device so I think I may have the wrong mental image here. What is a Molasses?
Donna: There’s belief that Columbus landfall happened along the Columbus Passage and that Columbus landed on Grand Turk. So they have, and John Glenn splashed down there as well, so they have a bit about the caravels and Columbus, they have a whole exhibit on him.
Chris: Okay, the caravels, the old Spanish ships.
Donna: Small, tall ships, yeah. And they have some of the Indian culture, the Lucayan culture, there’s a room in the museum that has a duho, it’s a seat that the chief would sit on. And there’s a really interesting story about that, I don’t know if we have time to go into it. But before there was a museum, some of the treasures were stored in the Little Victoria library. They weren’t locked up, there was easy access to them and no one thought that anyone would take them or anything, such as stealing, but it did happen and the duho was lost. And it was lost for many years, I’m not sure exactly how many, but oh I’d say over 10. So in the meantime, the museum was established, one of the reasons, to protect the artifacts, the national treasures. The director of the museum at that time was the lucky person that got the telephone call and the message that the duho was found and he was absolutely thrilled it was returned. And what happened was that, yes it was stolen, no names are given, it was given back without any punishment or fee or fine or anything like that. The island was so happy to get their duho back and in one piece so now it has a place of honor, that’s the story that goes along with the duho. Someone really wanted it, greedily like the art, you know, they forge the art so they can get the real piece.
Chris: So somebody just wanted to sit like a king for 10 years or something like that?
Donna: Yeah, they just had a, well what happened was that somebody passed away and his kids found out that he had that and they didn’t, they thought it should really go back to where it should, where it belonged. So they did the right thing and returned the duho.
The other fun thing besides the museum, which is great, I could go on and on about the museum but it is known as one of the best little museums in the Caribbean. Another fun thing would be, if you’re going to the lighthouse and you’re on your bicycle and you could round the corner up there to, is called Chukka. They have horses and you could go for a horseback ride on the beach, which we have done and it is a, you feel like you’re in a movie or something, it’s so unbelievably surreal and beautiful to be on these horses. There are wild horses on the island, wild donkeys and that sort of feral animal, but these horses are domestic. They’re smaller but they’re domestic and they’ve been brought in, they’re ridable and trained.
So we took a ride on the horses and had a great trip up the road to the lighthouse. As we clip-clopped along, we were joined by horses, without riders, so we became a herd. Well horses that had not yet been trained, let’s put it that way. They had no saddles, no riders, and they joined us. At first, I was a little alarmed because I didn’t know what that actually meant, but our leader said, and it was just three of us on horseback, and he said not to worry that they always, when they see the horses, they join. It’s kind of maybe their first step of being domesticated. So that was, after that it was just thrilling, we all clopped up to the lighthouse and around and down and came out the nice little trail that they have. One part was a little steep, I wasn’t sure about that, but my horse was good on his feet. And so we made it back and I was thrilled, and we had done that, and proud, and “yay” and take a picture and, “I love my horse, can I give her a carrot?” And then they changed our saddles, they said, “Oh, you’re not done yet.” And I said, “We’re not done yet?” And they said, “No, no, here we’re going to change your saddles.” So they changed the saddles and I said, “What does this mean?” And they said, “Now you’re going in the water”. So we did.
Chris: So there’s a different saddle to ride?
Donna: Yes, they have, they take the leather ones off because you’re originally riding the English saddle, and then it’s kind of like sitting on a padded blanket. You don’t feel like you have a whole lot of something to hang on to. Or, you know, like I really like Western, where you have the big horn. So I said, “Well I’m not sure.” I was backing away, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into the water, but we were with an expert horsewoman and my husband who says yes to adventure and I thought well I would be the one who would say no so I said “All right, okay we’ll go.” So we did and we went into the water and the horses were fine, they didn’t stumble, they were used to it and it was a surreal feeling being in the ocean, on a horse’s back.
Chris: Now, how far into the water does the horse go? Are we talking about ankle deep of horse, or…
Donna: Well, up to, not past his belly, his chest, let’s say.
Chris: Okay, so your feet are in the water.
Donna: So your feet, yes, you are getting wet, yeah definitely. The stirrups are different to so you don’t have…
Chris: So plan your footwear accordingly.
Donna: Yes. I think I had sneakers on. So then, our leader decided to have us do a little gallop in the water, which you have no say about because once he starts going, you start going, and we all started to gallop through the water and everybody is like “Whoopee, woohoo!” Well I look down and my saddle was gone and I took, I was sliding off the horse, so I reached around the horse’s neck and hugged her and that was how I made it back to land without falling off the horse, I was literally hugging the horse. What happened was my saddle, which was started out in the right position, slid to a sideways position and from there it was sliding backwards with me. I scooted front and held on and made it back and Steph was behind me said she saw it happening and she couldn’t believe that I was losing the saddle. But I made it back in one piece and gave my horse a carrot.
Chris: Now you mentioned, and then went on from, there are also wild horses on the island. That’s a place where you need to pause and say, “No, obviously they’re not naturally occurring.”
Chris: Horses didn’t start on Turks and Caicos, so these are horses that went wild, they’re feral horses at some point. How do you see them? Why are they there?
Donna: The horses were brought because of the salt trade by the Bermudians. They brought them and donkeys and the horses and donkeys were meant to make mules, which they did. And the mule being the sturdier of the two.
Chris: Sturdy but sterile, so you have to have horses…
Donna: You have to continually have horses and donkeys to make your mules, which is what they did. So the horses that are there now have been abandoned. When the Bermudians were done, the salt trade was over, which was about, it ended about 1970, the very last bits of salt, so it’s not that long ago. My husband actually remembers seeing salt piles that looked like little igloos, snow piles. But the donkeys and the horses made the mules to carry the salt in the little wagons that were attached to them. So the donkey wagon, we call it, but it was actually mule wagons, and they would bring the salt from where they’ve harvested the salt to the ship.
Chris: And you say, “harvested the salt” I’m gathering since it played out that they were mining the salt, rather than evaporation ponds like we have in this area.
Donna: No, it was evaporation.
Chris: Oh, it was? Oh, okay.
Donna: Yes, mining is what knocked them out of the picture.
Chris: Got it.
Donna: And once mining started, it was too lengthy of a procedure, too intensive, labor intensive, so they eventually lost. But originally Turks and Caicos, they supplied most of the world with salt for 300 years, including the United States and much of Europe. So their salt trade and the history that goes with it is very much, there’s three islands that are salt islands within the archipelago, which is Grand Turk, South Caicos, and Salt Cay.
Chris: It’s interesting if you’re not a history buff, how much salt played a major role in trade and in somebody being worth their salt. I mean how valuable salt was because we just pick it up at the grocery store, but I think of places like Saltsburg, where the salt mining may even still happen or in Poland, where they have salt mines, and also I know when we took the group of people from Amateur Traveller down to Morocco and went to Aït Benhaddou this year, a UNESCO world heritage site in Morocco, it was there to protect the salt trade. So, just in many regions it was just a very important trade because you could use it to preserve meat obviously and you know when you didn’t have refrigeration. Right, sure, yeah, don’t need quite as much salt, except for your potato chips, so.
Chris: Excellent, what else are we going to do while we’re in Turks and Caicos?
Donna: Well, besides riding horses and bikes, you can take a kayak in North Creek, there’s mangroves, and it’s fish and flora, fauna, everything you could wish for. And you end up on this absolutely charming little beach where you can have a picnic in glass-bottom kayaks. That’s another delightful activity right within the island. And of course the snorkeling there is excellent, not being a diver I can speak more for snorkeling, but there are many beaches throughout, all around the island. As I said, the west side’s the best side. So there’s a beach called Governor’s Beach and you can walk right from the shore out about four steps and there are rocks and there are fish and you just put your face in the water and start swimming and it’s glorious, we’ve seen turtles and barracuda and needlefish and tangs and just about everything.
Chris: I think I would rather see turtles than barracuda, those have fairly sharp teeth.
Donna: Yes, they do!
Chris: Besides Grand Turks, are there other places that you would recommend we go in the archipelago on our trip?
Donna: Yes, I’m glad you asked that because one of my most favorite things to do is, and my husband and where we’ve taken guests that have come, is Salt Cay. Salt Cay is a teeny, tiny piece of salt or sand in the ocean. And you can get there by boat from Grand Turk, once you arrive, There’s something about Salt Cay that the light is different because there is so much salt there. It’s like it’s made of salt and so the roads are white, the houses are white, in some ways it reminds me of Greece and the light is very bright. So the turquoise of the water is more turquoise than the other islands even though it’s hard to say the comparison, but it is. Somehow, the Bermudians figured out that the salt content in these waters was higher than other places and with a scientist, I could see you could figure that out, but I truly don’t understand how those Bermudians figured it out. But Salt Cay was also very prosperous and part of the salt trade and some very big houses were built, the White House and the Brown House. And if you’re lucky you can get a tour of the White House, the Brown House has been restored, the White House is still original, but they’re both in the original state, one is just restored.
Chris: And I’m gathering there are not a lot of buildings on the island, if you have nicknames for things like “The White House” they didn’t need to differentiate a lot.
Donna: Right, there’s no cars. When you go there’s a couple trucks, some people have trucks to get around, they’re the people that live there. Anybody that comes, you can walk or you can rent a golf cart. The beaches are so gorgeous on this island that you want to get the golf cart so that you can reach them all in a day. And the first thing that you do when you get there is you go to one of the two restaurants, one is smack on the beach, Deb’s Place, and the other one is Island Time, that’s a building that’s in the middle and it reminds me of Greece, this little building, with the little garden and everything, it’s just precious. You go there and you tell Deb or Porter, whoever is there, what you’d like for lunch and then they will have it ready for you at lunchtime. So you go do your little trip around, you can snorkel off of North Beach, which is spectacularly gorgeous, you can shell, you can take pictures of all the ruins, there’s some great ruins there too, and the local roosters.
I’ve had the lucky experience, the wonderful experience, of reading my book “Where is Simon, Sandy?” which is a story about a little donkey that wouldn’t quit based on the salt trade and the islands, to the children in Salt Cay and there were six girls, no there were seven, seven girls, no boys, that was it from the school, the whole school. So I read to the girls, they wear the little uniforms, they were adorable, they loved being read to and loved meeting me, and I them. So one of my favorite pictures is one with these girls all around me, holding the books “Where is Simon, Sandy?”, the picture’s on my website. It’s just a precious, precious place.
Chris: And I noticed you sent me a picture of the corner grocery store in Salt Cay, which has what, maybe 24 different products.
Donna: Yes, when the boat comes with food, it’s a holiday, it’s like a holiday at the dock. Everybody shows up and they’re building it back up, a little bar right on the dock, it’s called the Green Flash Cafe.
Chris: Okay, the green flash that one’s supposed to be able to see over the water at sunset.
Donna: Exactly, so there you can get a soda, a beer, a water, whatever and you can just watch, the food come in and the people hauling what they ordered and it’s just wonderful, it’s like being in the marketplace.
Chris: Excellent, And then you had sent me a picture of some of the ruins and then said, “hopefully to be restored” so is there a plan to restore some of the salt buildings?
Donna: Some of them on Salt Cay, I’m not sure that they would be restored but the one actually I sent you, I don’t know if I said it was on Salt Cay, but the one I sent you is on Grand Turk and Grand Turk has a better chance of having things restored because there’s more people on Grand Turk and the people that are interested in the history love Grand Turk. And we just had one, one building, I mean it is falling apart and it was a beautiful, beautiful structure, it was an upstairs house built in the Bermudian heyday. It is charted to be restored and so everyone is really thrilled about that.
Chris: Excellent, any other of the islands in the archipelago you would recommend we get out to?
Donna: There’s a little one, closer to Grand Turk and its a cay, it’s Gibbs Cay, and there’s no human life on it. I don’t think, other than birds landing, I don’t think there’s any life on it, but there’s life around it, and you take the boat out and its always a picnic day, you take a picnic, and your swimsuit, you swim with the stingrays. As soon as you arrive the stingrays come and they are used to people, they are used to people coming, they used to be able to feed them little fish and they suck it like a little vacuum cleaner right out of your fingertips. It’s a strange feeling, and the other thing they will do, is the little ones will do a figure eight around your legs, kind of brush up against you. They will not hurt you, the only reason they would hurt you is if they were afraid you were going to hurt them. So you shuffle your feet in the sand just to make sure that no body is under that sand and you don’t step on them.
Chris: Okay, I’d be a little nervous, there are those of us who remember the crocodile hunter in Australia and what happened there.
Donna: I did see one big one, I called him the granddaddy of them all. And my husband and I were snorkeling out a little blaze, he was all like, you know, he had bumps and lumps and he looked old and he was big. After seeing the little ones, they’re so swift and smooth, like velvet, and then this big gnarly warty guy comes up and he swims right under us, I think I hydroplaned back to the beach. I know I hydroplaned back to the beach.
Chris: That I understand, okay. What’s going to surprise me about Turks and Caicos?
Donna: I think the variation. I love to talk to people at the airport, we were just there, we came back Saturday night and we spoke with couples that had been there, and getting their impressions. It’s kind of a funny, crazy place, Grand Turk, it’s not the rich-rich and the poor-poor. It’s more a medium sort of place, there is different classes, of course, if you’d want to be a sociologist you could find them, but everybody mingles with everyone pretty much. There’s a strata, the last one in is the lowest, usually so right now the Haitians are coming in. But the Haitians are wonderful because they’re workers, they’re willing to do work, they want to be there, they come for a reason.
Chris: The immigrants, okay.
Donna: We have, the man that helps us with our garden come over with his children and we all sit around on a Sunday afternoon and have ice cream, that sort of thing. Everyone says hello to everyone. And it’s a laid back sort of way of life, you know you bring down your northern standards and your northern hyperactivity, you know, you start to feel it ease, like slough off. It takes a couple days or so for that to happen, and you have to say, “It’s okay, I don’t mind ordering my lunch two hours in advance or three hours in advance.” You just learn what’s expected and what’s going to happen and you can’t expect it to be like here, it’s a different place. And that’s what people fall in love with, they say it’s authentic, so there is some trash, there is trash on the road, and they have clean-up crews. At Christmas, every Christmas they do a thorough cleaning inside and out, so it’s amazing what happens at Christmas, but then it kind of slacks off again. They have certain times where they do “don’t be a litter critter” litter is problem at times, so it’s not one of these landscaped, pristine Disney World sort of places at all. If you like Disney World and you go there and that’s where you go, you don’t want to come here.
Chris: Before we wrap this up, anything else we should know before we head down to Turks and Caicos, before we get to my last, say, four questions?
Donna: Well I think that it’s good to do a little bit of research or talk to someone that’s been there. We have had a lot of people come and they have absolutely have no idea where they are, particularly the cruise ship people have no idea where they are. It’s amazing. I mean not all of them, some of them do look up where they’re going and do the research ahead of time, so they know. But some of the cruise ship customers, which is on the south end of the island, they’re mostly all down there in Margaritaville. I would say maybe 5% or less come on to the island, probably less on the island itself, because it’s like a border, it’s Margaritaville and the cruise center, and it’s all built up and beautiful, landscaped and flowers, and you name it, it’s there if you want it. There’s the restaurants, there’s everything, beach, beach chairs.
Chris: It’s the private island kind of experience.
Donna: Yes, so people mostly stay there, then the people that are more industrious and more interested in history and what a real island is like would like will come and see the island and go on a tour, rent a bike or rent a moped or something like that. When I sign books at the museum, the museum sells my books, I love to sit there and sign books and I listen to what people say. I’m always amazed that 99% of them, there’s always a crab in the group, but 99% of them will say, this is really an authentic island, and they’ve been to other islands, that’s what they’re doing, they’re going on a cruise to the Caribbean, and they feel that Grand Turk is the real thing. And I think that’s why people fall in love with it.
Chris: Excellent, one thing that makes you laugh and say, “only in Turks and Caicos?”
Donna: Only in Turks and Caicos, only in Grand Turk, there’s no, not one, red light, green light, stop lights. There’s a few yields. That’s it, only on Grand Turk. Only on Grand Turk could you walk down the street at night and feel safe and say hi to people and go to the local watering spot. Say, for instance, the different restaurants have different nights where they have locals playing and there you walk in and you see Zeus playing the saw with a screwdriver. That’s one of my favorite things, and he wears, Zeus has a golden saw that he wears on his neck, around on a necklace. He’s wonderful, he can play anything on that saw. And you will be dancing, moving, jumping, hopping. You cannot just sit there.
Chris: Excellent, you’re standing in the prettiest spot.
Donna: That’s a hard one, I think as far as the views go, the prettiest, most breathtaking view is at the lighthouse, looking over the north reef because the waves are pretty active there. You’re high up, on a cliff and looking down into the ocean and you see all the beautiful colors. One thing about the colors in the ocean there is that there’s so many depths and the sun is so strong that you can see crystal clear, right through to the sand. Then it’s like deep blue where the reef starts, and sometimes there’s like bands of blue, of turquoise, and then deep blue and turquoise, and deep blue and its breathtaking. That particular striation is when you look at that island I told you about that has the stingrays, Gibbs Cay, that has that striation of the different colors, so you see not only this beautiful island, but you see lines of color that glow around it.
Chris: Excellent, finish this thought, you really know you’re in Turks and Caicos, or on Grand Turk when what?
Donna: When the lizard joins you for breakfast. When the yellow warbler sits on the top of your tea pot and sings to you. When the hummingbird buzzes by your ear. When the osprey cries as he sails over your head.
Chris: We’re going to get in to you being an author here in just a bit, but I think you’ve already given people a little preview of your poetic nature here. Last question, if you had to summarize the area in three words, what three words would you use?
Donna: Turquoise, desert, desert/sand, and the third would be lyman, just lyman, just hanging out with books you like.
Chris: Okay, I was going to ask you for a definition there, but you gave it to us. Excellent, and we have mentioned a couple of times, you’re an author. You have three books if I recall correctly, that are set in Turks and Caicos, what are they?
Donna: Yes, I do. My first book is entitled, “Where in Simon, Sandy?” and it’s a story about the little donkey that wouldn’t quit, was based on, I went to an eco tour with one of the environmental officers of the country. And he took us to middle and north Caicos, which are going back in time, and he told us many stories, he was a story teller. One of the stories he told us was about this little donkey that you could set your watch to, and he lived in Grand Turk and he delivered the water. Water being a precious commodity on the islands since there’s no plumbing and the water comes from the rain, the roof, into cisterns. So if it rains, in the old days people would actually go put buckets out. So Sandy delivered the water to all the gates in town, the blue gates, the red gates, and one day, his master did not out of his little cottage and Sandy became very upset and afraid, and he still didn’t come out so Sandy went and did the tour by herself. She went to each gate to deliver the water, people started to notice that Simon was not with her, so they started to call out “Where is Simon, Sandy?” And that’s how the story goes. It’s illustrated by a beautiful artist, Susan Spellman. She came down to the islands to see the colors and to study what it really looks like and get that artistic fire going for her. So I have to admit that a large part of the wonderful success of “Where is Simon, Sandy?” which is in, soon to be in it’s fourth printing, is her beautiful watercolors so it’s the best post card you can take home.
Chris: Excellent, well before you get to the second book, is the tour that you did, didn’t sound like it was something I could necessarily do, is there something like the echo tour that you did that would be available to our travelers?
Donna: Yes, I have to admit I did know someone.
Chris: That’s what it sounded like.
Donna: But I think it could be arranged if you contact the National Trust and ask for an eco tour, I think that they would be able to hook you up with someone who would be able to do such a tour.
Chris: Okay, excellent, and then the second and third book.
Donna: The second book was “Hurricane Mia” and that’s a chapter book for middle-grade readers and it’s an adventure story which was a lot of fun for me to right. And I based it on a girl from Boston going to an island where she didn’t really want to be and meeting an island girl, and I loved taking the two cultures, what I’ve learned of the island culture and taking the girl from Boston culture, which I know about, and throwing them together and seeing what happens. So they have an adventure, they go in search of the tea that cures everything, which is one of the reason I went on the eco tour was to do a lot of research for that book as well, about the bush doctor and the bush medicine and learning about that. So I actually met a bush doctor and he taught me many things about different plants and what cures what and it was really exciting experience. So that was fun to do the research for the book. That book right now is only available through, as an e-book, or I have a few copies down in the museum. The third book is “Satchi and Little Star” and that’s the story of a little girl, island girl, who tries to catch and tame one of the wild horses. And children down there do try to do that, and some of them actually are successful, but most are unsuccessful and it just causes difficulty for the horse, for the child. They are wild, they really are wild and so it’s how she learns how to be friends with the horse without owning it.
Chris: Excellent. Our guest again has been Donna Seim, and I’ll put a link to how that’s spelled and to her books in the show notes. Donna, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your obvious love for Turks and Caicos.
Donna: Oh, you’re welcome, Chris, as you can tell it was a pleasure for me.
Chris: In news of the community, we’re talking about where to go with the Amateur Traveller trips next year and I say trips plural because the thought is possibly doing two. One in the spring and one in the fall, currently looking at Japan and India. If you’re interested in taking part in that conversation, just join the group at amateurtraveler.com/trips.
I got a letter this week from John who said “Hi Chris, I’m just back from two weeks in Bavaria and Spain, Madrid and Seville. This was my first trip to Europe and planning was daunting, however I had a wonderful time and everything went very smoothly on my travels. I credit your podcast, your guests and advertisers and the information they provide. As one example, I listen to your interview with Cat Gaa discussing Seville and got some great site seeing ideas. After she appeared on your podcast I started following her blog and there she tipped me to food tours offered in various Spanish cities by Devour Spain. Devour Seville tour I took the other night was the best experience of the trip. Your advertisers have been helpful too, when I shopped for travel insurance, I checked the offerings of one of your, I think now former advertisers, I got a lot of useful information from the advertiser’s website. Your podcast is a great place to start for travel planning and research. You and your guests provide a wonderful wealth of information along with a lot of tips and links to other useful sources of information. Please keep up the good work and keep providing all the good information. Next time I plan a trip, I will start with your podcast. Best regards, John”
Thanks so much, John, I’m glad to hear that the show has been useful. It’s okay we can say that RoamRight, who is the sponsor you’re talking about on the travel insurance space. We don’t dislike them even if they’re not sponsoring right now. With that we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can follow me on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter as Chris2x and as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.