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Turks and Caicos Profile

As legend goes, Neptune discarded his smallest and least coveted gems millions of years ago in the waters between what is now Puerto Rico and Florida. Washed from above by the heavens, sculpted by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south, these stones were gradually transformed into a natural wonder.

Today, the setting of the Turks and Caicos Islands provides an exceptional environment for scuba diving and other watersports. The islands are surrounded by spectacular coral reefs and sea walls. Underwater visibility in the northeastern Caribbean exceeds 100 feet during most of the year. The warm, pristine waters serve as home to an extraordinary underwater ecosystem, featuring giant sea turtles, eagle rays, sharks, barracuda, African pompano, dolphins, and even migrating Humpback whales.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a group of 42 islands and cays just off the southeastern tip of the Bahamian Archipelago. Geographically, they are a part of the Bahamas, but politically the Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Protectorate, although the country gets no support from Britain other than a promise of military protection in the event of an invasion or war.

Turks and Caicos Islands Separating the Turks Islands in the east from the Caicos Islands is an undersea trench known as the Columbus passage that extends down 7000 feet. The seat of government is on Grand Turk, the largest of the Turks Islands. Most of the development, however, can be found on Providenciales, in the Caicos Islands.

The entire population of the Turks and Caicos is approximately 25,000, with 80 percent residing on the island of "Provo" (the popular term for Providenciales). The remainder of the population is spread out over the other seven inhabited islands of the chain. More than half of the Turks and Caicos' residents are immigrants. The natives of the Turks and Caicos are descendants of Africans imported as slave laborers during the salt trade. Some of the surnames found on the islands are also prominent in Bermuda, as Bermudans were instrumental in extending the salt industry to the Turks and Caicos.

Grace Bay is the center of the North Coast of Providenciales and the focal point of most of the area's development. The major resorts on Provo are all located on the famed, twelve-mile stretch of gorgeous sand called Grace Bay Beach. Grace Bay has witnessed a boom in tourist development since the mid-1990s.

For all the changes, the natural environment of the North Coast remains vigilantly protected by the government. The waters have become the centerpiece of one of several nature reserves in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Fishing, as well as the operation of jet skis, wave runners, and other mechanized devices, is strictly prohibited. Violations can result in hefty fines, and even jail time and confiscation of equipment.

The tough environmental standards have won praise from visitors and locals alike. Everyone seems to agree that the Turks and Caicos Islands are a natural wonder worth protecting.

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