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Trip Report Grand Turk: Diving and tuna fishing.....

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Found this trip report from last New Years 2010 that I neglected to post. I must have thought it wasn't finished so prob some missing detail but hope it might be useful for ppl considering this sleepy little island....

I originally planned on Provo cuz there was award availability but decided Grand Turk was more my style after getting advice here. I think it was a great choice, thanks! [ A year later I find myself in Caye Caulker, Belize and I do prefer it to Grand Turk.... But I'm likely biased cuz I split from my bf soon after returning from T&C! I also chose T&C based on last minute saver award availability over NYE so in that situation yes, I'd do it again.....]

ORD-MIA-PLS: Got the 5:35 am flight so we could fly to Grand Turk once we landed at PLS. Arrived in Grand Turk at 3 pm.

Air Turks and Caicos r/t fare (PLS-GT) was $170 pp, ai. (ai – all in with fees and taxes) They allow free standby for an earlier flight and site says they’ll charge fee for later flight but not sure how strict they are on this.

Days 1-7: Osprey, good last-minute rate for beachfront King, no kitchen. We switched rooms after 2 nights from an upper floor to bottom. I usually like higher floors for the view and privacy, and the Osprey upper rooms feel more spacious because of the higher ceilings. But the view in room 33 was kinda obscured by palm trees so we moved to Rm 25. (they offered to trim the trees!) The view was better downstairs and I loved the immediate beach access right outside the door – I ended up spending more time on the beach because it was just as easy to stumble out the patio door to take a nap. I'd describe Osprey as simple, small island elegance -- nice dark wood colonial aesthetic and very neat -- but certainly not luxury which isn't anywhere on Grand Turk. From walking around, it had the prettiest interiors although there are larger rental units.

I originally considered the Queen with full kitchen for an additional $300/week to save money but glad we didn’t as groceries were incredibly expensive ($6+ container of pineapple juice, etc.). Breakfast at Joan’s deli all week was way less than $300 and we came out ahead by not paying more for the kitchen and buying groceries. We had simple breakfasts cuz of the diving – eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes ($6), best coffee on island (each cup brewed by espresso type machine and cost $3). Joan’s is a small business and we paid her directly at the end of the week rather than billing it to the Osprey – I’d recommend doing it this way as tipping gets confusing. There’s a discount for cash payment since you don’t pay the CC transaction fee. Her lunches are also excellent and she serves great sandwiches and salads that are similar to what you could expect in California.

Food: I usually like eating at various restaurants throughout my trip but we ended up eating at the Osprey for most lunch and dinners and we were quite happy with the food. Prices were reasonable: Lunch was $10 grouper sandwiches, $15 lobster hash, entrees never over $15. Dinners averaged $22-35 entrée (lobster tail $30, prime rib $35, Guinness Beef Pot Pie $22) with two sides (including salad, fresh veggies – yay, something often missing when eating in Caribbean….). Meals were large, satisfying, and had enough menu variation to keep us both happy for a week. Desserts were really good (key lime pie, great chocolate rum cake with vanilla ice cream, $8). If you’re worried about your bill and you drink, order beer ($3-4 for Turk’s Head or Corona). BBQ night was excellent and that was the best lobster I’d ever tasted – tender, sweet, and perfectly cooked. I ordered lobster and fresh fish a lot since they’re not only my favorites, but a great value given their cost in the States. Our one meal at the Sandbar wasn’t so great but it was probably just a poor order choice – burgers appeared to be steam-cooked. Dinner at Bohio resort (rack of lamb, seafood platter, mussels appetizer, lobster appetizer) was excellent and the new Canadian owners were really warm and gracious. It was def worth the $20 r/t cab fare.

Diving: Blue Water, Grand Turk, and Oasis are all minutes apart on the same road. Oasis has the exclusive contract with Carnival Cruises so it’s the largest operation with over 20 boats. We ended up going with Oasis because Osprey set it up but usually I’d go with one of the smaller operations. Oasis had nice BCD/reg equipment and they didn’t nickel and dime us (used their fins and a mask all week without charge). Mackie was a good, experienced divemaster and we never dove with other people. (Oasis has another shop at the Cruise port)

We also did a night dive with Blue Water, which was great – we used our BCD/reg’s from Oasis (since it’s technically a 24 hr rental) but I looked at Blue Water’s equipment and it was also in excellent shape. I’m a novice diver so don’t know much but I’ve had shops scramble to fit me as I’m 100 lbs and I was impressed that both Oasis and Blue Water had XXS Aqualung BCD’s which looked/felt brand new. My dive partner is a std Men’s medium and he also ended up with a newer Aqualung BCD. I didn’t see Grand Turk’s equipment but I went into their shop for anti-fogger and they were really helpful, friendly. If I go back, I’ll probably go with Blue Water, solely because they’re a smaller shop with very good equipment, but our experience with Oasis was excellent and our email communication with Dale (Oasis owner) was very good even though he was out of the country. All the shops are friendly with each other and Blue Water was fine with us leaving our Oasis equipment for Mackie to pick up the next day.

Diving off Grand Turk was great, the wall is just 10 minutes offshore and the water visibility was very good. There was strong current for a couple of dives which prob shortened our bottom times but we were always close to 60 min.

Water temps were around 74 degrees and all the locals were complaining that it was freezing. We wore a shortie over our full 3 mm wetsuits, as did our divemaster. Apparently, there was a cold front before we arrived with rougher seas and cold temps, and weather got better day by day, with air temps finally reaching low 80s by the last couple of days (hovered around 77-78 most of the time). We packed down mountain parkas we wore when leaving Chicago into our dive backpack and so glad we did -- it was freezing when we came up and my teeth were chattering on mornings when the air wasn’t much warmer than water. For surface intervals, they take you right back to shore since the reef is so close-by so you can walk back to your room if you wanted to (at Manta House or Osprey).

Fishing:

I love to fish and ended up booking 2 very diff operations.
1. Guided wading bonefishing in the flats with Jay :. Jay used to have a small charter operation but his boat was destroyed in the last hurricane. He’s the island expert on bonefishing and basically, this is an afternoon out with a very informed local angler. He loaned us spinning gear (we don’t fly-fish), even scrounged up some water shoes for us, and drove us out to the South Creek inlet. We walked out into the flats at low-tide after catching some little crabs for bait and it was a really cool day although it took a long time for the tide to rise. Jay puts a ton of pressure on himself to produce and he was constantly watching the water the entire time we were out.

His rate is $100/pp but since the day was so slow, he only charged one of us. I felt guilty about this because when you fish you gotta go knowing that you might not catch and Jay did everything he possibly could. We stayed out hrs longer than the 4 hrs we expected and Jay seemed unconcerned about his time and totally invested in just getting a bonefish hooked up for us. He’s a great guy and I wouldn’t hesitate to go out with him again.

2. Deep sea charter with Screaming Reels: Damian’s operation is the only one on the island and I was really impressed with both his boats and effort. His family owns an absolutely gorgeous home on the Northeast part of the island where he’s docked and he picks you up and drops you back at your hotel.

It’s very expensive (similar to Islamorada charter prices): $600/half-day or $1200/full day – even with higher gas prices this is expensive given that we only have to go out around 15-20 min to get to fishing grounds at 1300’. With 3 inexperienced anglers (and me ☺), we hooked 7 fish, kept 2 yellow fin tuna topping at 27#, 2 smaller blackfin tuna, and a good-sized wahoo. What impressed me most was that even after catching all the tuna and everyone having brought in at least a couple of fish at 11:10 am, Damian was still trolling for wahoo when he heard that’s what we wanted to catch – and we hooked up at around 11:20 am. With that many fish on board and with a non-hardcore group consisting of 3 women and a guy (none of whom had deep-sea fished before) many captains would have started to wind down that late into the day (half-days are 4 hrs and we’d been out since 8 am). We brought some of the fish back to the Osprey and the kitchen wa wonderful about cooking it for us, didn’t charge except for the sides and drinks.


Day 7, 8: Provo, Paradise Caribbean Inn: We flew back to Provo in the morning to get a full day of beach time. After a week of activity, it was perfect to kick back all day on this beautiful beach although I would’ve gotten bored with anything longer than 48 hrs. Caribbean Paradise Inn was great and for 120/night, honestly, the room was even a bit nicer than the Osprey, but its a 5 min walk from the beach. The staff were so friendly and warm that I was very glad I chose this over Sibonne despite the little walk down the road.

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