Introduction and Some South Caicos HistoryHi all. I found this site in a Google search looking for news about SC. I lived to dive for many years and was on SC to dive about ten times between 1993 (2?) and 2008, my last trip there. I have done about 200 dives on SC and about another 800 in other places in the Caribbean and Asia.
I became so well-known on that island that many of the locals began referring to me as South Caicos Chris or The Official White Guy of SC. I love that funky little island. (my recollections are a little hazy so I may be off by a year or two here)
First a little history. South Caicos was a salt raking island for most of its history. The salt operation closed in about the late 1960's. The island was "owned" by an American family, members of whom I met on one of my trips (about 2005) who were there for a reunion. What is called the "Governor's House" was actually where the operating owner lived.
The island has also had a fishing industry for as long as anyone can remember though on my last trip in 2008, the fishing was poor.
In the 1970's, SC became a major stopover point for the drug trade. The island flourished with the abundance of drug money. What is now the School for Field Studies was a dive resort and hotel called the Admiral's Arms. The Admiral's was a favorite of the pilots who flew the drug planes and the bar was said to resemble the famous bar scene in Star Wars.
To give you an idea of the level of drug dealing, the Chief Minister of the T&C, Norman Saunders and the minister of development, Allan Missick, were arrested in the US in 1985 after an FBI sting. Saunders and Missick were arrested for accepting a $30,000 bribe to facilitate drug smuggling to the US through SC. They both were sentenced to 8 years in Club Fed. Upon their returns to the T&C, Saunders was elected to the legislature representing SC and Missick ultimately became the Chief Minister.
The big pink building on the South side of the airport was a brothel. Sometime in the late 1980's, the drug business left SC, impoverishing the local population other than the fishermen.
The Admiral's had a diving program and another hotel, owned by a record and motion picture producer by the name of Ganaway, opened next to the AA (to the east). Its remains can be seen on one of the videos posted to this site. That hotel was called the Caicos Harbor and Beach Resort and had a dive operation called "Good Time Divers". The AA became the School for Field Studies sometime in the late 1980's or 1990.
Anyway, one of my dive buddies and I heard stories of the legendary diving there and in 1993 decided to take a trip. There were no hotels or dive operations that we could locate on South so we just packed our stuff and our credit cards and off we went to see what we could see.
As it turned out, the Caicos Harbor Resort was preparing to reopen after several years of inactivity. It was definitely a "roughing it" trip but we enjoyed it immensely. The diving was all that we could have hoped for and more and the primitive accommodations were kind of fun for a couple of fit forty year olds - we dived for conch in the harbor and spearfished so that we would have something for dinner.
The Diving: I have done about 1000 dives and my buddy Ray, with whom I have traveled to South three times, has about 3000 and was a dive master on Grand Cayman. We both think that South is by far the best diving in the Caribbean and among the top destinations in the world, for the advanced diver. The really good dives are seriously deep, 120+ feet and I have been down to 200 there. There are schooling eagle rays, southern sting rays bigger than a California King mattress, big sharks everywhere, turtles, etc. Outside of Palau, I have never seen anything like South.
This begs the obvious question: Why isn't South a booming dive destination. The answer is, during the winter months South is frequently undivable. The south side really churns up in the winter and the east side is rarely diveable and it takes a good boat and experienced divers to handle either. I have a friend who went with me on a dive shop trip there one summer (it is not hot there in the summer because of the sea breezes) and decided to go back by himself in February. The seas were rough and he did not get in a single dive. Everybody in the T&C dive industry knows this.
The Fishing: I enjoy fly fishing and South Caicos has some of the best bone fishing in the world. There are not the masses of fish like in Belize but there are plenty of fish and they are very big. Beebo Jayne has been running charters, Beyond the Blue, to South for about ten years and has attracted some of the top anglers in the world. But, he only has a few fishermen per week during the October - May season. After that, the waters of the bank get very hot, about 90 degrees, and the fish head to deeper water. Also, to the best of my knowledge, there is no permit or tarpon fishing so no trifecta.
The Town You have all probably seen the YouTube video of South, it is accurate. The "town" is a complete dump with dogs, horses, cattle and pigs running free - and, they will chase you. There is garbage everywhere and really, it is tough to get a decent meal. I have bestowed the title of "the island of women who can't cook" on South. There is also a massive problem with STDs and AIDS is a common ailment. At student orientation at the School, the students are warned not to have sexual relations with the locals and pictures of known AIDS carriers are shown (or at least were as late as 2008). More than one student has return to the states with AIDS.
That said, with the exception of one resort, the development is taking place on the east end of the island far away from the town. This is a good thing and the town might change if jobs were available and there was migration to South.
I am skeptical, however. Belongers simply don't believe in working, at least not working hard. If yours and the other resorts are built, slaves from Haiti and the DR will be the workers. I call them slaves because that is the way they are treated by their Belonger employers. They can be sent home anytime that they displease their employer and it is pretty much a known fact that the pretty Dominican and Haitian girls working on south are also sleeping with their bosses.
The Resorts High Point started construction in about 1993. The original developer was Canadian but I don't remember his name. The plans now on the website are pretty much the original High Point plans. I remember that in about 1994, the construction work was being done by Paks or Indians. The younger Belongers will not do construction work at $5 - 8 per hour when they can make several hundred dollars a day diving for conch and lobster; why would they. Construction on your project has been going on in fits and starts since then. I can never remember a time when there was "serious" construction activity (i.e. scores of on-site workers). The first building finished, as I recall, was the developer's own house.
Sailrock, on the other hand, is a serious undertaking. They have done more in the last couple of years than High Point has done in two decades. And, the people are first rate managers, backed by big money with marketing of the properties by Soethby. I believe that Ted Weldon and his team will be successful though, as they freely admit, it will take many years.
One other thing: I doubt that you need a big airport on South. When I first started going there, first T&C Airways and later Sky King flew Twin Otters several times a day between Provo and South. Those planes can carry a lot of people and the trip is so short that they could easily do ten "milk runs" per day each. You got off the big plane in Provo, cleared customs and walked about 100 yards to the domestic area of the terminal and waited an hour for the flight to South, which takes about 20 minutes. It was not and should not be a big deal. There also is taxi service (or always was when I was there) on South but you have to call ahead.
I should also mention that South has the most amazing green flashes that I have ever seen and I have seen many.
If I can answer any questions about South, please post them and, if I know the answers, I will post replies. I really love that place and I hope that your investment works out.
Caicos Beach ClubHi Chris,
Thank you for your post it was great to read about the island from your practical point-of-view.
This has been a very disappointing investment with many unforeseen issues, which you take your changes on when investing abroad. However, I am hopeful that the developers are still pushing to progress with the redevelopment of this part of T&C and, therefore, I like many others are just waiting to see what eventually transpires.
It is good to read about the potential in this part of the islands as there has been much written about the fact that we have all been dubbed and there is no development plans in progress, but I do not think that this is the case and I try to remain positive of a favourable outcome in the future.
Renewed thanks for your time and trouble and best wishes for the future 😃