Turks and Caicos 2015

 

Most flights to the Caribbean from Minneapolis depart at 5 am, 6 am or 7am which means that you need to get up at 3 am etc… While booking our flights we found a 9 am departure so we jumped on that opportunity. Unfortunately Delta changed the flight from 9 am to 7 am which means that we needed to be out of bed at 4:00 am. Thanks Delta! Luckily Delta made up for the early flight be upgrading us on the flight from MSP to Kennedy.

We had booked a shuttle from the airport through Club Med. We had to wait a while for other Club Med patrons to arrive. It was a fairly short ride to the resort but it seemed to take forever since we were sleep deprived. The island hadn’t changed much since we were here last. It is flat and sandy with scrub  growth. Luckily the island has a beautiful beach otherwise they would not have the thriving tourist industry they have.

We were greeted by six of the Club Med GOs. They sang us a song, checked us in, gave us a drink and arranged to deliver our luggage to our room.

 

 

Club Med

 

Seven Mile Beach at Club Med
Seven Mile Beach at Club Med

 We had been to Providenciales in 2005 and 2006. We have been scuba divers since 1997 and we both though Provo was some of the best diving that we had experienced and it was the first time that Karen felt relaxed underwater. We meant to return before now but we got side tracked in Mexico for a decade.

The problem with Provo is it can be expensive. A hotel room will run you over $250 a night. Food will easily cost you over $100 per day per person plus drinks on top of that. A two tank dive is $120 versus $70 in Mexico. If you are not at an all-inclusive you will need a car to get to the restaurants. It is not a cheap vacation. Once you total everything up Club Med was by far the best deal especially considering we did not need a car.

We had spent a week on friend’s sailboat in the BVI earlier in the year. Sailing is wonderful and amazing but it is a lot of work. You cook your own meals and do your own dishes. There is no one to wait on you. An all-inclusive sounded good after a week on the water.

The reviews on Trip Advisor for Club Med are far from glowing. There were enough bad reviews that we were almost scared off. We decided that we were going for the diving and we didn’t care what the rooms were like. We wouldn’t be spending much time in the room anyway.

I was told that Club Med was the oldest resort on the island. That means that they are located on the best stretch of beach but also the buildings are some of the oldest.

 

The Beach at Club Med
The Beach at Club Med

 

The entrance and front desk weren’t very impressive but I wasn’t expecting much. The rooms were located in buildings that are a rectangular concrete construction and face perpendicular to the beach. That design confuses me because no one gets an ocean view.

We had paid an upgrade fee for a newly remodeled room because it was closer to the dive shop. As we approached our building I began to wonder what I had gotten myself and my wife into. The remodeling mentioned on the web site referred to the interior only. The exterior was in need of paint and maybe roof repair. Possibly they were waiting for the next hurricane to blow through and have insurance pick up a new roof?

 

Club Med Buildings
Club Med Buildings

 

Any fears we had disappeared once we entered the room. The room was spotless, the furnishings and linens were new and I believe the bathroom had been retiled. The maids kept the room spotless throughout our stay.

There are several restaurants on the property. The main buffet restaurant is named Grace Bay. We had breakfast there every morning. They had eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit and pastries.  They also had an omelet bar that was worth the wait. We had lunch there once and dinner there every night except for one. Sharkey’s was our go-to for lunch and happy hour. The Blue Reef was a bar near the front desk. This is where all of the singles hung out at night. There are also two stages where they held performances at night.

 

Grace Bay Restaurant
Grace Bay Restaurant

 

The gym, Club Med store and dive shop office are also close to the front desk. There were also a trapeze where you could try your hands (literally) and catamarans that you can use.

The beach is beautiful in front of Club Med. When the dive boat is not taking out divers, it’s used to take out snorkelers.

The resort is definitely old. Especially when compared to the super plush, super expensive resorts that are being built now. The exterior could use some paint and repair. Our room was newly remodeled and very nice but small compared to today’s standards.

The help is fantastic. They are friendly and talented. They are the people that are in the shows at night. There is plenty to do on the resort. You can learn the trapeze, sail a catamaran, snorkel, scuba dive, use a paddleboard or kayak or just lounge by the pool or ocean.

 

Saturday

Since we had a short sleepless night and long travel day we didn’t have a lot of energy once we finally got to the resort. We unpacked and went to Sharky’s. We had a burger and fries.  One of the people at the bar noticed my Scuba Pro hat and invited us to sit with them. We ended up hanging out with them the rest of the trip.

 

Karen on Seven Mile Beach
Karen on Seven Mile Beach

 

We went back to the room early and crashed. We were really tired so we slept through the night. We didn’t set an alarm since we were in bed so early but we should have. We over slept the next morning and missed diving.

 

Sunday

Woke up late but we had just enough time to grab a quick breakfast at the buffet, then we were off to the Seafari dive shop.

 

Seafari Office
Seafari Office

 

They had the largest dive boat we had ever been on. I was worried about divers bumping into each, our equipment being mixed up or lost, and chaos once we were in the water, but they were so organized that it wasn’t bad at all.

 

Karen Setting Up Her Tanks
Karen Setting Up Her Tanks

 

We were with a dive master but there are a limited number of spots available so later in the week we ended diving by ourselves.

Both dives were deep. The first dive was Football Field followed by Pinnacles. What struck me ten years ago was how clear the water was and I was glad to see that hadn’t changed.

After diving we went to Starkey’s for lunch and beers and to listen to the band. We had dinner at the buffet. They had many choices and the food was good for a buffet.

Just across from the buffet is the stage where they had the musical review. It was actually pretty good considering that we started to recognize the people in the play. The woman at the front desk was one of the supporting cast, the lifeguard was the female lead and others.

 

Monday

We were awake in plenty of time to have a relaxed breakfast this morning. When we arrived at the dive shop we were informed that they had not scheduled us with a dive master for the dives today and there were no spaces available.

Karen hates the idea of diving without a dive master. She is afraid that we will not be able to find the boat on the way back.

All of our dives in the BVI were unguided and we always found our way back to the dingy but she still prefers to dive with a dive master.

Doug and Stephanie who we met at Sharkies the first night we arrived were on the dive boat today.

On the boat ride out Jo Jo the dolphin rode the wake of the boat. I hung over the back of the boat with my hand in the water and Jo Jo swam close to my hand almost allowing me to touch him. We were going fairly fast so I was amazed the crew allowed me to hang off the back of the boat.

 

Jo Jo the Dolphin
Jo Jo the Dolphin

 

The story of Jo Jo is a sad one. Back in the ‘80s Jo Jo left his pod and decided to live his life in Grace Bay. He was befriended by an American, Dean Bernal.  Jo Jo was declared a national treasure of Turks and Caicos but the country did nothing to protect the dolphin. Jo Jo has been struck by propellers, you can see the large scar on his side. Ignorant tourists try to toss their children in Jo Jo’s back for a ride. 

On the first dive we were instructed to follow the channel to the drop off and swim along the wall from there. I didn’t bring my compass so we ended up getting turned around. I decided that our best option was to spend the rest of our dive exploring near the boat.

The second dive we decided to follow a group of divers to the wall to make sure we didn’t get turned around.  Once we were at the wall we determined which way the current was going and swam along the wall into the current for the first half of the dive. With the current at our back for the return, we would be sure to arrive at the boat with plenty of air.

 

 

There was a family of divers behind us. We looked back at one point and saw a large creature swim to them. We were pretty sure it was Jo Jo the dolphin. We started slowly swimming back towards Jo Jo and the family hoping to get a closer video of Jo Jo.

I was happy to see Jo Jo start to swim toward us. Slowly at first and then with several quick flips of his tail he was inches away from my GoPro clicking and bobbing his head. I thought about how to make the encounter last longer. I had no fish to give him. I thought about holding my closed hand out to him, like you would to a dog. Okay, that would have been stupid. It’s also a good thing I didn’t try it. One of the people in the other group tried it and Jo Jo used his snout to slap his hand away. Jo Jo doesn’t like to be touched!

Jo Jo is the only know wild dolphin that freely interacts with people. Diving with a dolphin in the wild is one of the coolest things I have done.

We had lunch at Grace Bay. We had noticed many French speaking people at the resort. I had incorrectly presumed that they were from France. We had lunch with a nice French Canadian couple from Quebec.

I got a chance to ask them about my favorite Canadian brewer, Unibroue.  Not speaking fluid French I thought it was pronounced un-i- brow (like having a single eye brow) but they told me it was un (like dune without the d)-e- bru.

 

Unibroue Fin Du Monde
Unibroue Fin Du Monde

We ate at the nice restaurant that evening. Like the other “exclusive” restaurants at other all inclusives it was just okay. We had dinner at Grace Bay the rest of our stay.

On the way back to our room we stopped to watch the evening’s entertainment. It was a musical revue. It wasn’t bad, especially when I started to realize that the female lead was the life guard at the pool and the rest of the cast were waiters and bartenders.

 

 

Tuesday

We had a quick breakfast at Grace Bay. I don’t know why it always takes me several days to figure out that the best breakfast option is the omelet bar. That is what I had this morning and every morning from this day forward. It is so much better than scrambled eggs that have been sitting in the warming table.

We were able to get a spot with a dive master so we went out with a group. Doug and Stephanie  were on the boat again.

Grouper
Grouper

Garret was the dive master. He was a Brit so he had the British sense of humor, which I like. I’m not sure my wife appreciates it. Maybe I’m wrong but he seemed to be a bit of an outcast. He was older than the rest of the dive masters. None of the other dive masters were British so that could have been an issue. Anyway, the four of us hung out with him between dives and on the boat ride back.

It had been windy up until now so we had been diving in Grace Bay since it was protected from the wind. The wind had settled down so we were able to venture out of Grace Bay. We went to North Point, which is a one-hour boat ride.

Before the dive Garret showed us a trick to call the sharks. He had an empty water bottle. Once we were near the wall he twisted it causing a crinkling noise. If there were any sharks in the area they would smim over to see what was making the noise. It sounds odd but it actually worked.

 

 

Once we are back at the dive shop we have to rinse our regs, BCs, fins, wetsuits and masks. They had a small barrel full of freshwater to rinse our regulators. You curl the regs up and drop them in for several minutes to get the salt off. We also had cubbyholes to store our fins and mask and there is an area to hang up our wetsuits and BCs.

I forgot our regs in the rinse barrel. I also didn’t put the dust cap tightly on mine so my first stage got water in it which can be very bad. Karen didn’t notice we were missing our regs when we stored our equipment. It kind of bothered me that the dive shop employees didn’t see our regs soaking in the barrel so they soaked all night long.

I don’t know how I missed the regulators. It might have been because it was chaos with everyone trying to rinse and store their equipment. Also the setup was different than what I was used to in Mexico. Maybe I had too much to drink the previous night and was still a little foggy? I hope that wasn’t it.

It was midafternoon by the time we put (most of) our equipment away, so we were starving. We went to Sharky’s for burgers, beers and music.

 

The Band at Sharky's
The Band at Sharky's

 

We decided to take out a catamaran afterward. Karen and I had sailed a small cat on several occasions. Doug and Stephanie had never been on one. Stephanie wanted to sail the boat so I taught her the basics, which is all that I knew. I taught her how to look at the telltails on the sail to find the wind and how to turn the boat around. We did pretty well because there was another boat that wanted to race and we beat them.

We had dinner with Dough and Stephanie at Grace Bay. The lifeguard who was the female lead in the musical review joined us for dinner. We asked her about working at Club Med. It made me a little jealous that I didn’t know about it when I was younger.

Most of the employees were in their early to mid-twenties, any older and they wouldn’t be able to keep up with their schedule.  They start work at 7 am or 8 am depending. They work all day and in the evening they perform in whatever entertainment Club Med had scheduled. Once the show has finished there is the after party, which they are encouraged to attend. Then they get up the next day and do it all over again.

We went to the Blue Reef after dinner for drinks. It was obvious that this is where all the singles hang out.

I had bought a sim card for my phone before arriving in the country so I was showing my bull shark video from Playa the previous November. A woman at the bar used my phone to stream her movie of a large hammerhead swimming close enough to her that she could have touched it. Us divers do like showing our videos.

 

 

Wednesday

We arrived at the dive shop and gathered our equipment. It was then that I noticed our regulators were missing. We reported it to someone working at the shop and we were informed to look in the soak barrel. There were our regs. I noticed my dust cap was off. I am glad it was my reg and not Karen’s. I decided that I would do the dive but we would stay close and descend slowly in case there was a problem with my reg.

 

Seafari Boat
Seafari Boat

 

After the dives we met Doug and Stephanie at Sharkies for lunch and to listen to music. We couldn’t drink because all of us decided to do the night dive.

We met at the dive shop before dusk. Stephanie, Doug, Karen and I were in the group going with Garret the dive master. There were about three or four other people in our group. The dive masters and their groups wore the same color glow stick to make sure everyone stayed together.

This was my sixth night dive, Karen had done three, Doug had done one and this was the first one for Stephanie.

Night dives can be fun but they are usually a little disconcerting too. Once you hit the water your surroundings are pitch black except for the narrow beam from your flashlight. In the near distance you can see other flashlights sweeping the ocean floor. Once someone finds a something interesting all lights converge.

Safety is key on night dives. Most day dives won’t go much deeper than 80 feet. You generally stay above 40 feet during a night dive. You do not want to have to do a decompression stop during a night dive especially if there is current.

The dive site for our night dive was close to shore. The dive site had fingers of coral. Imagine placing your hands on a table and splaying your fingers. The tops of your fingers would be the coral tops and the table would be the ocean floor.

The problem with this dive site for a night dive is the ocean floor was over sixty feet in spots. Also the dive started out bad and got worse.

Several people had problems clearing their ears so our group of four patiently (Stephanie ,Doug, Karen and I) waited for about five minutes for everyone from our group to gather together. Once everyone had submerged Garret realized that some of our people had joined another group. He swam over and retrieved them.

It was a disappointing night dive. We didn’t see anything large (rays, sharks etc…) and I saw only a fraction of the crustaceans that I normally see on a night dive.  I didn’t like the depth of the dive. I was at sixty feet or lower several time throughout the dive.

Part way through the dive we lost half of our group. It seems that they had not figured out the color-coded glow sticks. Garrett was a little agitated by now because he had to round up stray diver several times and we were only half way through the dive.

Once he got us all together he had us turn our lights out and waive our hands to we could see the bioluminescence.  Some of the newer divers didn’t like the idea of turning off their lights so they turned their lights on after about five seconds and decided they had enough and went back to the boat.

Karen and I explored a little longer and went back to do our three minute safety stop at the metal bar below the boat.

We were the last divers from Garret’s group and he knew we should have air left in our tanks. Both Karen and I were at half a tank. Garret found us and signaled to us to find out how much air we had left.  He signaled for us to follow him. I looked at Karen and she shook her head no.

With just two experienced divers in his group Garret would have been able to do a quick easy tour of the dive site. He seemed disappointed when we indicated that we were going up.

Doug and Stephanie felt the same about the dive as Karen. They did not enjoy it. It was too chaotic. 

I have video from the dive but opted not to include it because we saw nothing interesting.

Included with the night dive was a barbecue at the dive shop including beer and wine. The barbecue war a nice change of pace. We enjoyed hanging out with the dive masters. We drank way too much wine but we deserved it after that dive.

 

Thursday

We were flying out on Friday so no diving today which was a good thing we woke up a little bleary eyed with a slight hangover. We had breakfast late. Stefanie and Doug had done the island tour. We lounged at the beach and eventually decided to take a catamaran out.

 

Karen on Seven Mile Beach
Karen on Seven Mile Beach

 

We had one of the small catamarans since there were only two of us. It was still windy so we flew across the water. I noticed something odd ahead of us. As we got closer I saw a capsized catamaran and two people in the water. Before we could get there a boat sped past with two employees on board. They helped the unfortunate sailors right the boat and get back on.

While feeling superior to the sailors that flipped their boat I pushed the rudders hard to the left to come about. A gust of wind caught the sail and flipped us. The superior feeling didn’t last long.

Karen was okay but she had lost her sunglasses. The boat was on its side with one pontoon and the sail in the water and one pontoon sticking up in the air. I climbed on the submerged pontoon, grabbed the top pontoon and pulled hard to right the boat. The sail rose out of the water and the boat righted itself.

It’s funny how time can all of a sudden slow down when something goes wrong. I had noticed a thick diameter rope tied to the pontoon on this cat. I wasn’t sure what is was for until the boat was almost upright in the water. Then it occurred to me; that was the rope that you hang onto so the boat doesn’t get away.

I hit the water the same time the boat righted itself and before I could grab the rope, the boat was gone. One speedboat picked up Karen and I while another speedboat took off after the cat. The resort employees that picked us up seemed pissed off. They took us to shore instead of to our boat and did not talk to us. It didn’t matter, I wanted to try the trapeze and this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided that I would try the flying trapeze when I was researching this trip and saw it on the Club Med website. You have to be dry to try the flying trapeze. I assume so you won’t slip when they grab you. I went back to the room, dried off, put dry clothes on and went back to the trapeze.

Sometimes an idea seems like fun until you’re standing at the base of a very narrow ladder looking up at the small platform that you have to share with another person. That’s then you remember that you don’t like heights.

They strapped me into the harness while I was still on the ground and walked me through the routine I was to perform on the trapeze.

I climbed up the outside of the ladder until I was past the net, then I switched to the inside. Once I was level with the platform. I took the small step from the ladder to the platform. This is the only place where I might have been seriously injured if I had slipped. I could have fell in between the net and the ladder and land on the ground. It might not have kill me but I would probably break something.

 

Pete Climbing the Ladder
Pete Climbing the Ladder

 

Once on the platform they attached lines to my harness. I grabbed the trapeze and leaned forward over the net. I was supposed to jump forward when they told me to go. Twice they told me to jump and my legs wouldn’t move. My brain said jump but my legs didn’t listen.

When my legs finally obeyed my brain I launched forward from the platform while hanging from the trapeze. I swung forward and back several times and I tucked my legs up so I could hang from the bar. 

Even though I had changed into dry cloths, my t-shirt was soaked with sweat from heat, humidity and fear.  Once I quit swinging I dropped to the net and then onto the ground. They asked me if I wanted to try it again but once was enough.

 

 

We were off to Sharky’s to meet Doug and Stephanie and have a well-deserved beer. When we got there they were talking to the manager of Seafari. He had been at the Turks and Caicos location for a week and was returning to the Columbus Isle location. He told that they had hammerhead sharks there. We later booked a trip to Columbus Isle with Doug and Stephanie for June 2016.

 

The Band at the Conch Fry
The Band at the Conch Fry

 

Thursday was the fish fry in Provo. The four of us took a cab into town. Karen and I got a chance to see how much the island had changed in nine years. We recognized several small shopping malls from our last trip but what once were empty sandy stretches were now malls hotels and restaurants.

 

Fresh Conch
Fresh Conch

 

We had cracked conch, conch fritters and fresh fried fish. The conch couldn’t be more fresh, they had a wheelbarrow full of live conch that one of the locals, with extraordinary ease, was using a hammer to remove the animal from its shell. The band was good. We ended the night having dessert at the Grace Bay restaurant at Club Med.

 

 

Friday

We met Stephanie and Doug for breakfast then went for a walk on the beach. We packed then took our shuttle to the airport.

 

Our flight was delayed. Delta rebooked our connection out of Atlanta. We got home at 10:30  PM instead of 8:30 PM. Neither of us had to work the following day so it was no big deal. It was nice to have the weekend to unpack and  rinse out dive equipment.

 

Recap

 

Club Med

We were worried about Club Med being terrible but luckily our fears did not materialize. Our room was a bit small but nice. The exterior of the buildings needed some care and the common areas were basic by today’s standards.

The food was good. There was enough variety and we never had a bad meal. Don’t expect gourmet meals but we didn’t have any complaints about the food.

The beach at Club Med is beautiful. The resort has a large pool to relax near. There are plenty of water sports to keep you busy. If you feel daring you can try the trapeze.

All of the people working at club med are nice and friendly except, of course, the people in charge of the catamarans.

My only complaint about the resort is the only option they had for beer was Turks Head beer. Turks Head is awful but I still managed to drink it.

 

Diving

I was worried about diving on a large dive boat.  Everything was orderly so it wasn’t a problem. Most importantly, Seafari did roll call after each dive to make sure we didn’t leave anyone behind.

The conditions were good. For most dives the visibility was great. We saw a fair amount of sharks and diving with Jo Jo was amazing.

 

Do it again?

We were surprised in a good way. Even though the resort was older and a little run down we would go back. If we didn’t stay at an all-inclusive the vacation would have cost us twice as much and wouldn’t have been nearly as easy. Club Med was just good enough for us.

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