Big and Little Ambergris Cay
At 3.3 miles long and 1.5 mile wide, Ambergris Cay is really just a speck of land. But the privately-owned island punches above its weight and boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the Turks and Caicos. This is a place to come for total luxury and relaxation – there is no nightlife, no hotels and no cars. In fact before 1997 there were no people at all.
Ambergris Cay, which derives its name from a valuable waxy secretion left by passing humpback whales, has been a privately-owned since 1811. Ambergris was populated by Taino Indians and in the late 18th and 19th century, loyalists settled here to raise cows. Ruins of stables, houses and cisterns are dotted across the island. The population dwindled as these settlers moved to other islands where a living could be more easily earned.
In 1995 the island began to see life again when Ambergris was bought by Canadian businessman Henry Mensen. The Turks and Caicos Sporting Club, an exclusive luxury development, was opened less than 13 years later. The club is designed as a complete island getaway and has all the amenities of a five-star resort, including a deep water marina, a luxury spa, tennis courts, an environmental learning centre, 10-miles of hiking and biking trails, and just one restaurant. Transport is by golf-cart, foot or bike. Homes here range from $650,000 to $6.5 million and members have the choice of 14 unique neighbourhoods, each with a different Caribbean architectural style. The island will eventually feature 350 private family homes.
Ambergris is approximately 48miles south-east of Providenciales and accessed by a 17-minute flight. The Harold Charles International Airport is the longest private airstrip in the Caribbean. It offers onsite customs and immigration and accommodates aircraft up to a GV. Stepping off the plane feels like stepping into another world. The strict architectural code enforced by the Sporting Club means only those buildings which adhere to West Indies architecture are built.
Like much of the Turks and Caicos, the landscape is spectacular. The island is rimmed by jagged limestone cliffs and magnificent white sand beaches. Inland grassy plains are interspersed by hills with 100-foot elevation. The sporting club goes to great lengths to preserve the rare native flora and fauna and contain invasive species. Partnerships have been established with the San Diego Zoo to preserve the rock iguanas and the Royal Botanical Gardens of London to collect endangered seeds.
Members and visitors can enjoy a variety of fishing, kayaking and scuba diving. The waters around the island are populated with conch, spiny lobster and tropical sea life. In the winter months, north Atlantic humpback whales pass the islands and in during nesting season hawksbill sea turtles come to the on the Cay. It’s also possible to take a short boat ride over a sandy shallow to uninhabited Little Ambergris Cay. Non-members can rent homes, but only for times shorter than five days.
Though much of the infrastructure is in place, the club is currently in receivership.