Found amongst the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea, the West Indies islands of Turks and Caicos are visited every year by over 1.3 million tourists. Many go there for the lush tropical climate, sandy beaches and the many places to stay on the islands. However there is much more to see here than sun loungers and the bottom of a glass of margarita. For any budding David Attenborough out there the islands have a rich and diverse array of both land and marine life to take in. Not only will you find the best places to stay in Turks and Caicos, but also some of the best wildlife in the Caribbean. With such a small population of just over 36,000 and only eight of the forty or so islands and cays inhabited, wildlife has thrived and basically untouched. A wildlife photographers dream in fact.
Starting with birds, the ornithologists amongst you have a great variety to choose from. There are a number of osprey colonies to choose from and can be found circling the warm air currents around the coastal regions of most islands and a visit to the mangroves will give you the ideal opportunity to observe egrets and whistling ducks. Buzzing around the beautiful plants and flowers around the islands can also be found hummingbirds whilst the majesty of large colonies of pink flamingos can also be seen dancing their way around the salt pans.
Those more interested in reptiles, Turks and Caicos offers a wide range our cold blooded friends. There are many species of snake to be seen and luckily the islands do not have any of the venomous kinds. The snake population consists mainly of boas’ such as the pygmy and rainbow boa and the flat headed blind snake thought to be unique to Turks and Caicos. A number of species of gecko and frogs can also be found as can the protected green iguana.
Because Turks and Caicos has never had a land bridge with any of the continents it is not certain how many of the mammal species got there. Historically indigenous animals like giant tortoises, giant iguanas and a type of guinea pig are now extinct due to overhunting by the first settlers of the islands, the Lucayan Indians. While most mammals have been introduced like domesticated dogs, cats, horses and donkeys, marine mammals have thrived here. Humpback whales, blue whales and numerous species of dolphins can be spotted at sea depending on the time of year. Also to be found in the sea are numerous types of shark and many types of turtle.
Thankfully the government introduced a national parks system in 1992 so many of these species are protected for us to enjoy. If like me you’re from the UK then it’s not everyday you get to be so close to such amazing wildlife, it’s one of the best things I have ever done. Make sure your camera is fully charged and the memory card is empty because I guarantee that you’ll be snapping away all day!