Turks & Caicos “Beautiful by Nature” Ecotourism Initiatives


Turks & Caicos HotelThe Turks & Caicos Tourist Board has big plans in the area of sustainable development in the islands, promising to “maintain an eco-conscious environment throughout the luxurious Islands.” The new initiatives will benefit tourists and residents alike, with the development of the world’s first “green island,” the Atlantic Ocean’s first mega-yacht marina, a Ritz-Carlton branded resort community committed to the preservation of West Caicos, and a new environmental center with on-site naturalist on the private island of Ambergris Cay. I know, we never thought we’d hear the words eco-friendly and mega-yacht in the same sentence, unless it was something like “Your mega-yacht is definitely not eco-friendly,” but this is what the press release claims.

“As a destination that prides itself on natural beauty, we are compelled to invest and partner on developments that are dedicated to the preservation our environment,” said Wesley Clerveaux, director of the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources. “We are striving to protect Turks & Caicos’ quiet appeal and maintain overall environmental sustainability by initiating green-friendly projects, with a particular emphasis on our outer islands.”

Salt Cay

The world’s first “green island” will be the lovely Salt Cay. This island will provide the islands with sustainable tourism benefits and environmentally conscience processes. On the island’s North shore, the Salt Cay Resort & Golf Club will offer a high brow destination based on “integration of the existing community and resort guests, nurturing and enhancing the native ecosystems and minimizing the impact of construction while being respectful of the culture and history of the island community.” Call me crazy, but it’s my understanding that any time you bulldoze the native turf to build a big resort and introduce foreign species (like Zoysia grass or whatever they use on golf courses) it isn’t a good thing for the environment. I can agree that it is a less bad resort in comparison to golf resorts created in the past, but the only good thing for the environment is to leave it alone and stop building golf courses or to renovate existing resorts and structures to use greener practices.

Salt Cay will limit development to two-story ultra-low density buildings and invest resources in renewable energy. The island will also focus on the preservation of the mangroves forest, a wildlife habitat and nature’s water filter, as an ecotourism area. So I guess you’ll be able to take an excursion to see the native wildlife in the ecotourism area.

With new green standards, the $500 million island restoration is slated for completion in the next three to four years. After completion, no vehicles will be permitted on the island. I’m assuming golf carts are exempt from that.

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Turks & Caicos Yacht Club

The Turks & Caicos Yacht Club is slated to become the Atlantic Ocean’s first eco-marina, opening its doors in November of this year. Located adjacent to the Nikki Beach Resort Turks & Caicos, the marina will offer 110 boat slips to service yachts up to 200 feet long. That means the big boy yachts, and the super rich travelers. Howse it green? This marina will exceed the guidelines established by Blue Flag Marina Criteria to preserve the surrounding marine life. In addition, the “eco-marina” will include proper containment and disposal of oil changes and extractions, fueling stations with state-of-the-art gasoline fuel delivery and spill protection systems, and a computerized system to track the size of incoming vessels’ holding-tanks to ensure water and sewage waste is discarded appropriately. Again, not as friendly as leaving the environment as is, but if you have to build a marina then this is the way to go.

Molasses Reef by Ritz-Carlton

Molasses Reef, the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve on West Caicos, will offer “barefoot elegance with minimal environmental impact.” That sounds lovely! Molasses Reef is set to open by year’s end and will leave a majority of its acreage on West Caicos untouched to ensure the island remains a natural sanctuary. The 125-room hotel and resort community will feature 75 Ritz-Carlton branded villas and oceanfront cottages. West Caicos and Molasses Reef will take the necessary steps to ensure main objectives for the island are met including limiting development, constructing only low-density buildings, preserving archeological treasures, restricting transportation to electric vehicles and bicycles, and introducing a system of public parks and beach access. West Caicos, home to two national parks, archaeological and cultural sites and a population of pink roseate flamingos and sea turtles, will
require visitors and guests uphold an environmental stewardship to protect the unique natural habitats and equally rare wildlife.

Turks & Caicos Sporting Club

Turks & Caicos Sporting Club at Ambergris Cay is a 1,100-acre private island residential community offering distinguished home-sites and world-class amenities such as the longest private airstrip in the Caribbean and an environmental learning center with an on-site naturalist. According to the press release, the Sporting Club “also follows a conversation-based planning approach, helping to determine all sensitive elements on the land and create plans to keep those elements untouched.” Yes, the private air strip sounds like conservation in action to me. The island has a catch-and-release bone-fishing program, and is working with The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London to sustain populations of critically important plants found only on the island of Ambergris Cay. On-site naturalists are working with the Kew Gardens staff to collect seeds from endangered plant species to add to The Millennium Seed Bank, which is an effort to safeguarding 24,000 endangered plant species around the globe. Abergis Cay has partnered with Dr. Glenn Gerber of The San Diego Zoo to preserve populations of the endangered Turks & Caicos rock iguana. By my recollection, they plan to accomplish this by relocating the iguanas to another island. So they’re ripping them from their native land because it’s inconvenient to have them there and want a pat on the back for helping save the little critters.

“While we are continually building ourselves into a premier destination for luxury and leisure, we remain committed to preserving the natural splendor that makes the Turks & Caicos so desirable,” said Ralph Higgs, director of tourism, marketing at the Turks & Caicos Tourist Board.

If you’re really concerned about lessening your environmental impact when you travel, check out the great advice Linda has to give at our sister site, the Eco Tourism Logue.