So you’ve gone running with the bulls and swimming with the dolphins. What should your next experience be? We suggest stand-up-paddling with the sharks!
In all honesty, when we booked an eco-tour with Talbots Adventures in the Turks & Caicos, we thought all we would see were sea turtles and perhaps an interesting bird or two. We got more than we paid for – we saw so much wildlife and had a fantastic time! Talbots Adventures also offers kayaking tours through the mangrove, but we do a lot of stand-up-paddling (SUP) at home in the summer, so Keith and I went for the extra challenge. We did, however, put our two kids in a double kayak with our guide. Although our 8yr old daughter is a great paddler, she couldnt’ve handled the strong currents and the board would’ve been too large for her.
We got into the water at the marina and crossed a wide channel against the wind. That part was challenging – it did not take longer than 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes were intense, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a strong paddler and quite physically fit! Once on the other side of the channel, we got into what our guide called the mangrove. The water there was much calmer, and it was deliciously pretty – wild vegetation on either side of us as we paddled through narrow natural waterways. We saw grey herons, white cranes, tons of puffer fish, and sea turtles of every size.
We explored the mangrove for about an hour, after which our kids asked us to dock on a tiny slip of sand which they called the “lost” island. We stopped for a half-hour so they could play pirates and search for treasure among the mangrove. I was glad I had brought a beach towel and a small cooler with a picnic (our guide was kind enough to bring it on the kayak) – because by that point, the kids were ravenous! After our picnic, they played some more. We saw iguanas and geckos darting all around. The scenery was magical – turquoise waters, greenery everywhere – a true paradise!
On the way back, the tide was receding. We were still looking for wildlife in the water when we saw fins at the surface of the sea. Yes… sharks!!! Our guide explained that they were baby lemon sharks. They were actually adorable, about two or three feet long, with the telltale fins on top and that round head that you see in movies. They were feeding on something at the bottom of the sea but it was very shallow, so their fins were easy to spot. There were about a half dozen of them and they swam all around us for a good half-hour. Our guide told us not to be afraid, and in fact he was so relaxed that he had his hands and feet in the water half the time. We stayed on our boards and enjoyed watching those sharks swimming all around us in their natural habitat.
I would love to say that the way back across the channel was easier than the way in. We were hoping that the wind would be in our favor this time, but no such luck! It was just as challenging getting back across the channel as it was going out. Once again, it took us about 20 minutes of intense paddling to get back to our starting point. We were full of salt, full of sun, starving and exhausted when we returned… but really amazed by our experience, and so grateful to our guide for leading us on this adventure! I highly recommend booking this tour if you ever vacation in the Turks & Caicos!