Thursday, July 17, 2008

Honeymoon Activities

As promised, chapter 2 of the honeymoon write-up. The activities. As much as B & I knew we needed to relax, nine days is far too much beach time for either one of us to sit on a beach and do nothing, so we participated in pretty much every activity that Turks & Caicos had to offer. But again, the blessing of being there for so long was that we only did one activity every other day. So we still had tons of time to relax, but we never got bored.

The World's Only Conch Farm

Although conch is rarely seen on menus in the US, it's a staple protein for the Caribbean islands. However, much like everything else we over poach, it's becoming endangered in the wild. Enter, the Conch Farm! The farm was started back in the early 80s when a marine biologist from Mystic, CT sailed his boat to Turks to study the queen conch, crashed it, and stayed to set up the farm.

B and I know nothing at all about conch, except for the fact that we had eaten them fried a day earlier (oops!), so it was interesting to learn about something completely new. The conch raised at the farm are born and bred right at the farm, taken through to adulthood, and then sold to the local restaurants for food. B is at the "2 year old" tank in this photo. After they are raised in these little pens, they get moved outside into large holding tanks, and after that, they're moved again out into the ocean pens. It was crazy to see them "walking" around their pens just like a regular animal who happened to have a shell on it's back.

Of course, after taking the entire tour we didn't eat any more conch the rest of the trip, but it was good to learn about such an important part of the local heritage. And besides, what a random claim to fame - we've been the the world's only conch farm!

Sunset Sail

Ahh, the sunset sail. What a treasure that was. This was one of those things that we fully expected would cost several hundred dollars. After all, you were given the opportunity to sail around the various islands, drink unlimited rum punch, see some iguanas, go snorkling, and then take a slow ride back as the sun set. But we felt like we couldn't come all the way to the Caribbean to such a secluded wonderland and not experience the beauty of the ocean, so we called. $60! That's it!

One day later, we were cruisin'! We hung out on the trampolines on the front of the catamaran as we cruised to Iguana Island, home to the world's only Rock Iguanas. As we pulled up to the shore, we saw a sting ray that was about 4 feet in diameter! But he swam away and we walked to shore without incident. At first we were a little dubious that we would actually see any iguanas. The island was a pretty healthy size with a nice boardwalk through the middle. But we weren't two steps onto the boardwalk before we saw iguana after iguana. It was unbelievable! It was like they were posing. And I have no idea why they would hang out near the people when there is no benefit, but there they were!

After that, it was more sailing and then to our first snorkle. The only time I had ever gone snorkling was off the coast of Catalina Island near California. It was a very low key experience and nothing at all like this one. I had no idea that certain reefs are no where near the shore and are basically just in the middle of the ocean. And the mid-ocean snorkle brings about a lot of issues not present in shallow-reef snorkling. Basically, current. Strong current. It would have probably been tolerable had my mask not been broken, but the combination of the two issues basically made me feel like I was drowning. So I kept a death grip on B's hand and he helped me quite a bit. I was still glad that I did it because I was afraid to even get off the boat based on how rough the current was, but I did it anyway, so I was proud. Proud, and glad when it was over. There would be more snorkling later in the trip to redeem this experience.


OK, if you saw the Kodak Gallery album, you know that parasailing wasn't really the best experience for us. Again, though, it was a little about conquering fear. I really didn't want to fly back home always regretting that one thing that we were too scared to do. But this is the weird thing about fear - you never know until after you've done something whether you were scared for no reason, or whether is was your intuition that you should have listened to.

And in this case, it wasn't either answer, maybe a little of both. The main problem was the weather. We went up during some incredibly high winds. So high, in fact, that they were requiring people to go up as twosomes, instead of as single riders. Not that we would have gone up alone anyway, but still. I also learned while we were up there that the only thing my new husband isn't that comfortable with is extreme heights. This was funny because he's otherwise fearless. Also, when you're 300 feet up in the air and climbing, this is not a good time to learn this.

S - How are you doing? (Fully expecting a reassuring answer to calm my own nerves)
B - Uh... I've been better
S - What?!

So once we both got used to the height, there was about five minutes when it was kind of cool, but that's about it. The funny thing is that you don't even feel like you're moving. You're just sitting 450 feet in the air with the air screaming around you. Seeing the other side of the island was nice, but once the weather kicked in and we were getting tossed around with our feet out to the side instead of straight down, it was all down hill from there. For me, it was all about staring at one building and just praying for the whole thing to end. As it turns out, 15 minutes goes a lot slower when you're 50 stories into the open air.

Horse Back Riding

This afternoon was also great! It was also the one activity I had to talk B into, but once we were there, he was very glad we did it. I've only ridden a handful of times and B has only ridden once, so we were both definitely novices. However, the strangest thing happened when they put me on my horse - I felt right at home. I immediately felt like I had been riding for years and had an instinct for what to do. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, ever, so it was incredible. It must have been evident too because several other riders asked me how long I had been riding. The guide did say that ex-dancers and gymnasts usually make excellent riders because they have a good sense of balance and how to carry their body, so maybe that contributed to it. Thank goodness we're about to move to horse country!! Maybe I can take it up as a hobby.

We took a nice ride down to the beach and then rode through the surf for a while. We even trotted, but it hurt my back, so I didn't do too much of it. The one snafu was the spooking. My horse got spooked twice and took me for quite a ride. The first time someone popped out of the bushes to take a picture (the husband of one of the riders), which spooked the horses. B's horse started spinning in a circle and my horse reared up on two legs and took off straight into the ocean! INTO! But I was able to gain control of her and get her back on track. Of course, I was soaked up to my knees, but that's ok. The second time she got spooked was on the ride home when an SUV came barreling around the corner. This time we were over gravel, so it was a little more treacherous, but still just fine. Our guide told me that I could call myself an intermediate rider already since I survived two spooks in one hour.


Some of you may know that B has an absolute love affair with fish and birds. Watching fish or birds is pretty much the only thing in life, other than golf, that relaxes him. In fact, when we were in Jamaica three years ago for M's wedding, we were late for everything because we had to walk by an outdoor aquarium and I could never pull him away.

So when we emerged from our first snorkling trip, on the sunset sail, he came out of the water with the biggest, happiest eyes I've ever seen and said "It's like swimming in an aquarium!! Did you see it! Did you see the blue one?! I can't believe how many fish were down there! Did you know it would be like that?! I can't believe it!"

So of course we had to go on another snorkling excursion, one where the masks all worked and we were with trained professionals. What an incredible difference! We booked an excursion through a diving company and they took a small boat of people to two different reefs. Without having an underwater camera, I can't even describe the experience of what we saw. It really did look like an aquarium. And the coral was stunning - I wanted to touch all of it. Of course I didn't, but it was striking. We even saw a 5 foot nurse shark and another large sting ray.

The two locations were very different, but both exceptionally beautiful. The first reef was so shallow that you had to be careful while you were swimming so that your fins didn't hit the reef. The whole trip just illuminated the incredible power and beauty of nature. I just kept thinking "the greatest artists in the world couldn't come up with these creatures and I can't believe they actually exist!" I have a feeling that this isn't the last our family has seen of snorkling trips.


This one wasn't an official trip, just another adventure. Our resort had free bikes that you could use to take to the local restaurants and shops. We only learned about them on the second to last day and I really wish we would have known about them sooner. It was definitely an adventure since the bikes were incredibly old and I haven't been on a bike in over a decade!

1 comment:

Strongmama said...

Sounds like you had such a fun time and a great balance between relaxing and adventure. I really want to go there now!

I can relate to the awful parasailing experience. How was your landing? On mine, they landed us in the water and then had to pull us up again, which dragged us underwater for what felt like forever, only to finally land us on the boat. I think I was 15 and it was terrifying.

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