History of The Turks and Caicos Islands

An Introduction To This Chain of Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a great vacation choice if you are looking to visit a tropical paradise with an interesting history and a wealth of fun vacation activities. The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory in the West Indies, and the chain is comprised of eight main islands and close to 30 smaller islands. In fact, the word “Caicos” itself comes from a Lucayan term "caya hico,” which means “chain of islands.” All of these islands are part of the Bahamas chain of islands, and are located about 650 miles southeast of Miami. The capital of the islands is Cockburn town, which is located on the island of Grand Turk. The total population is about 45,000. English is the spoken language of the island and U.S. Currency is used even though the island is a British territory, so it is quite easy to vacation here using your own dollars.

The islands used to be part of the UK’s Jamaican colony until 1962, when they became a separate crown colony. The governor of the Bahamas oversaw the islands’ affairs from 1965-1973. Turks and Caicos became independent in 1982 but this policy was overturned in 2009 and the islands then became a British Overseas Territory. The people of the Turks and Caicos Islands are the descendants of Bahamas salt rakers, British loyalists, and slaves. And it is the salt rakers who developed one the largest industries on The Turks and Caicos Islands...

Salt Industry of the Turks and Caicos Islands

Salinas in Salt Cay

Salt Basins, Grand Turk

The salt industry started when people from Bermuda came to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the late 1600s. These workers needed another export so they came to Grand Turk and the Salt Cay Islands. These islands have salt basins, or salinas, which collect ocean water and concentrate it through evaporation. This process of concentration through evaporation removes the salt from the ocean water, and eventually the salt is let into drying pans to crystallize. Next, the salt is then raked and bagged. The whole process takes about three months to complete. Even in the 1600s, the salt collected was used to preserve foods. But in a time before canning or standard refrigeration were available, salt was often the only choice for preserving certain foods. The people of the Turks and Caicos Islands also use salt to process leather and make dyes.

Conch Farms in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Sea Snails on Providenciales

Another interesting industry in the Turks and Caicos Islands is the export of conch. Conch is another name for sea snails, and the term describes more than 60 varieties of sea snails with colorful, unique shells. They are one of the Turks and Caicos Islands natural resources, and conch are also an export from the islands. The conch are bred and raised on Grand Turk and Providenciales, two of the Turks Islands. The conch can be eaten raw but it is more delicious when fried and used in salads. And like any pretty seashell, people often use  conch shells as decorative elements in jewelry.

Some Vacation Activities in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Fun in the Sun and Water

There are many things to do if you ever choose to visit the Turks and Caicos Islands. You can take a boat tour of the islands. You can go kayaking, whale-watching, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, or any of dozens of other beach and water activities. And you never know, you might even see some celebrities. Such famous people as Keith Richards, Donna Karen, and Ashton Kutcher have beach homes on Parrot Cay, a private island that is part of a hotel and resort chain on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Start saving your dollars, though, because a night on that island could cost you up to $25,000.