Trip Report by Bob Belcher
Arrival at Bohio Dive Resort
On April 30, 2020, fifteen members of Blue North Scuba Club flew south to Turks & Caicos Islands for a ten-day excursion, marking the opening of the Club’s 2022 diving season. The long-anticipated trip required the participants to provide many travel, health and insurance documents in advance to be able to board the plane and reach our destination: Bohio Dive Resort (pronounced BOH-ee-oh meaning ‘dwelling’ in Spanish)
The trip was led by our very experienced trip leader, Rebecca Metcalfe, who has been leading dive trips for twenty years and can be counted on for top notch travel experiences. Other Club members on this adventure were a mixture of scuba divers, snorkellers and non-divers including Bob and Peggy Belcher, David and Patti Bragg, Kathryn Cullen, Jim and Sonya Elliott, Deborah Hunt, Agi and Terry Johnston, Karen Parisien, Marianna Richardson, and Dave and Natalie Tanner.
After a long travel day, our group was greeted enthusiastically by the Bohio staff and by the owners, Ginny and Tom, fellow Canadians, at our home for the next ten days. The welcome punch was well received while staff delivered our bags to the rooms which all offered an ocean view through the palms, over the amazing white sand beach stretching the length of the resort property and beyond.
After checking out the rooms, we quickly reconvened to partake in a delicious outdoor BBQ buffet dinner at the beach-side bar. A local band kept us entertained for the rest of the night.
Turks and Caicos is an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean, a British Overseas Territory southeast of the Bahamas and north of the Dominican Republic. Christopher Columbus is reported to be the first European visitor to these islands in 1492.
Our resort was on the outskirts of Cockburn Town on Grand Turk Island that features a barrier reef and coral wall close to shore, over 2 km long. The weather was always sunny and 27o C each day with a breeze. And the water was the same temperature. It cooled off a bit at night but we never needed a jacket or sweater. Most of our meals were outdoors or in the open-air dining area. Delicious breakfasts and lunches were included in our package, and we ordered dinner a la carte. There was no charge for the sunsets at dinner each night!
Evening musical entertainment was provided three nights each week, plus a movie night – popcorn included! As it was near the end of the resort’s “high season”, we were by far the largest group, and we pretty well had the place to ourselves.
Snorkelling equipment was provided for those who didn’t bring their own. Snorkelling was possible off the resort beach, but two optional boat trips provided a better opportunity to see a variety of sea life. One trip took us out to the start of the coral wall. The second boat trip included a snorkelling stop on the way to Gibbs Cay where we could hand-feed sardines to the Southern Stingrays (Hypanus americanus). Keep your thumbs in your fist! The stingrays suck up the fish and bump into you to get your attention, demanding more food as you stood in knee deep water.
Also, on that excursion the dive guides, and some of our divers, went free diving for conch. Then staff member, Trevor, prepared fresh conch salad for us while we relaxed at the beach on Gibbs Cay and climbed the dunes to view the open Atlantic on the other side.
Seventeen dives were included in our package, mostly as 2-tank morning dives for 8 days, plus an additional afternoon dive, and any night dives that we wanted to book. The dives were along the length of the island, on the wall of the barrier reef. Turks and Caicos is on the third largest barrier reef in the world which shields the beach from large waves, keeping the waters at the resort calm and crystal clear. From the resort beach to any dive site was only a few minutes boat ride over sparkling turquoise water of impossibly beautiful colours.
The reef is home to a myriad of interesting and colourful marine life: sea turtles, reef sharks, stingrays, coral formations, swim-throughs, and of course the thousands of tiny baby fish of every colour in the rainbow.
photo credit for hawksbill turtle: Florent Charpin
One of the dive activities was lionfish hunting by our dive guides, Derek, Kelly and Tim. They spear the lionfish and feed them to the sharks and groupers. The reef sharks seem clever enough to know a meal is coming when they see divers in the water. They circle below us on the wall, waiting to be fed! Our luck was a bit off this week because the days we saw the reef sharks, we had no lionfish. And the days they speared lionfish, the sharks were elsewhere. But at least the lionfish were dead and something would eventually make a meal of them.
Most divers did two morning dives and used the time after lunch to relax and explore the island. Our package included the use of kayaks and a small sailboat which Jim and Sonja put to good use, cruising with the dolphins. Bicycles were well used by our group. Walking offered the opportunity to look into a few shops along the beach road.
The locals were very friendly, and greeted you with a wave and a smile. All but two of us piled into four golf carts to venture further and tour the length of the narrow 18 km2 island. We drove by the governor’s estate property, had a delicious lunch overlooking the ocean and explored the lighthouse. On the way back, Jim found us a homemade ice cream shop that turned out to be owned by a Canadian woman. It was high on a spot overlooking our end of the island where the breeze provided welcome relief near the end of our day on the road.
You are never far from the many wild donkeys on the island. There seemed to be one grazing near every home. They would wander through the open-air dive shop and walk along the beach at any time. More than once, if I had our patio door open, their “honking” would wake me up in the middle of the night. I soon learned to keep the patio door closed at night. Neither the donkeys nor the dogs were any problem – just unusual for us to see them wandering around at will — even checking out the local art scene.
As you can tell it was an excellent holiday and I would not hesitate to go back, but alas, there are so many other interesting places to dive and visit. Decisions, decisions!
The group would like to express our sincere thanks to Rebecca Metcalfe for all the excellent arrangements and for choosing another remarkable destination to enjoy.
Pictures courtesy of Deborah Huntley, Kathryn Cullen, Sonya Elliott, Bob Belcher
Hawksbill turtle photo by Florent Charpin