Grand Turk sits apart from the other islands in the Turks and Caicos, separated from South Caicos by a trench 7,000 feet deep. People flying over to Grand Turk from Providenciales – one of the Caicos Islands – will notice the change in the colour of the sea from a light-blue to a dark blue, a change that happens instantaneously. The trench is one of the deepest in the Atlantic Ocean and is an essential visit for divers from all over the world. The light-blue is a result of the reef that surrounds the Turks and Caicos, which is why clear and shallow sea can be seen from most of the beaches.
Visitors arrive in two main ways on Grand Turk. A new cruise ship terminal has been built on the south of the island and the passengers from these ships are taken around the island on tour buses. Some of the more adventurous hire All Terrain Vehicles and proceed in convoys around Cockburn Town, the capital of the Turks and Caicos, and its surroundings. Other tourists arrive on Beechcraft 99 planes from Providenciales. These planes are the size where everyone gets a window seat and can see the pilot’s dashboard. It’s amazing how many different lights come on during the 30-minute flight – it’s best to look out of the window and watch the islands go by.
On arrival at Grand Turk airport, the only activity was the maintenance men cutting the hedge in front of the arrivals building. The airport is named after JAGS McCartney, who was the first chief minister of the Turks and Caicos when he died in a plane crash in New Jersey in 1980. JAGS are his initials and stand for James Alexander George Smith. McCartney was from Grand Turk and National Heroes Day, a holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May, commemorates his life. The sun was beating down but a gentle breeze from the Atlantic felt disarmingly cooling.