There are many uninhabited small cays and islets dotting the waters around the Turks and Caicos Islands chain that make for great exploring.
One of the finest of these cays is easily accessible and makes for a great half or full day trip.
Indeed, French cay offers quiet, solitude and a multitude of marine life and aquatic species that are certain to enhance any trip to the Caicos.
Back in the day, pirates used these tiny, uninhabited and well-hidden cays as hideouts, as they waited for Spanish galleons and treasure trips to pass by. They also at times would pillage the salt plantations of the Turks in the dead of night, making away with jewels, silver and gold pieces and treasured items of the British Loyalist plantation owners. Notorious pirates of the likes of Calico Jack, Mary Read and Anne Bonny led brief, but successful ruthless careers as flamboyant and ferocious buccaneers till their eventual capture by the British King’s pirate hunting ship, the Barnet, which brought many to justice and trial in Jamaica.
French Cay in particular was the hideaway of French buccaneer Françoise L’Olonnais, a fearsome and loathsome pirate with a penchant for beheading Spaniards and for many other unsavory acts. He was more a privateer than a regular pirate, meaning that he had a license to kill and pillage from the King of France, but his ruthless and infamous career, led him to be known as one of the most reviled pirates of the day, as he attacked, pillaged and sacked many unprotected towns and Ports of Call throughout the West Indies. Surviving many shipwrecks and Spanish battles, L’Olonnais finally met a most unfortunate end by an Indian tribe in modern-day Honduras.
Though he met a brutal end and led a brutal campaign against the Spaniards for decades, L’Olonnais and his murderous crew make the Turks all the more interesting and enticing, historically speaking.
Today, French Cay is a quiet, serene wildlife sanctuary. Migrating birds nest in the lush greenery and nurse sharks mate in the shallow waters. Indeed, a trip to French Cay may yield the amazing views of rare birds, stingrays, butterflyfish, parrotfish, elk horn coral, snapper, eagle rays, manta rays, hammerheads, fairy basset and the occasional dolphin!
French Cay is also an excellent diving spot. In addition to especially large and impressive coral reefs and sponges, this area provides incredibly deep drop offs that take you far down into the abyss. Some dive operators will even take you a bit farther west to the unchartered waters of Molasses Reef, a truly exciting adventure, as the chance for seeing bigger sharks, more intricate coral reef formations and other rare species of marine wildlife become possible! Add to this, should you be diving in January to late March, you may encounter an entire group of humpback whales passing through on their annual migratory route to the Dominican Republic!
Indeed, a day spent in French Cay is not a day soon forgotten. Whether you decide to take a quiet walk around the island and enjoy the rare bird species, or whether you decide to dive into the mysterious and shallow depths below, French Cay is a must-see for any Turks visitor.
*Details: French Cay is a mere 15 miles south of Providenciales and is easily accessible by boat or kayak. Many scuba companies and operators also offer excursions in and around the waters of this tiny island. While the birds and marine life are fascinating, they are not to touched or disturbed by law of the Turks.