Featured writer: Rachel Aubrey
The Turks and Caicos Islands aren’t the most frequented in the Caribbean. In fact, when my husband and I told family and friends that TCI was our next vacation destination, we got a few, “where is that?” We chose TCI because it is a lesser-known Caribbean destination, we figured the water would be clear and warm no matter where in the Caribbean we ended up. We were not disappointed, the water was warm, like taking a bath, it was clear, it was clean, and it was full of conch shells (pronounced conk).
A conch shell is typically home to a medium to large-sized sea-snail and is spiral like. While in TCI we got to experience the conch shell first hand. During the week we were there, we must have seen hundreds of conch shells, some old, some new, some beautiful and some forgotten. The live ones can be caught just outside the actual conch farm, yes they have a farm for raising conch, but be careful not to get too close to the fence of the farm otherwise the “coast guard” will be dispatched. The shells just outside the fence are free game, or the escapees as our Caicos Dream Tours guide told us. “Pick the big conchs and otherwise we won’t have lunch guys,” he yelled.
You have to try conch while in Turks and Caicos, as it is the island delicacy. Most places will serve up conch fritters, a fried ball of dough with vegetables and bits of conch, or fried conch that essentially taste like fried calamari. We even had a conch ceviche with diced onions, and bell peppers, drizzled with lime, lemon and orange juice. The most recognized place to try the conch is at Da Conch Shack and Rumbar. It was delicious and the ambiance added to the unique island feel.
Of course the thought of eating a snail-like creature from the sea doesn’t always appeal to everybody, especially after you watch as the creature is pulled out of the shell. But only the tender white meat is good to eat and most places only use that part in cooking anyway.
If it just the shells you’re looking for, look no farther than Pelican Bay, not only will you find miles upon miles of white gorgeous sand and a turquoise blue shore line but you’ll find conch shells lining the shallow waters of the bay. These conchs have been dead for a long time, but if you look long enough you just might find some worth writing home about. Just snorkel along the surface and dive down to collect the shells.
When it comes time to take the conch shells home as souvenirs for family and friends here is a helpful hint: only three queen conch shells per traveler. The queen conchs are the more live ones with the beautiful pink lip. Also any shells you take you should probably pack in your checked bags as TSA will more than likely say the shells could be used as weapons.
Turks and Caicos was so much fun and catchin’ the conchs made it quite the adventure.
All photos courtesy of Rachel Aubrey.
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