Not far from Grace Bay, the largest island in the Turks & Caicos, Middle Caicos, is home to the least inhabitants in the territory (only 300 people) and some of the most incredible caves and caverns in the Caribbean. Formed by the erosion of limestone and suitable for a day excursion from Grace Bay Beach, the Conch Bar Caves are the largest above-ground caves in the Turks and Caicos, as well as the nearby Bahamas. Nearby are the Village Caves, which appear to have been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. Limestone formations resembling furniture add to the atmosphere of human habitation, and freshwater supplied by massive underground lakes must have made these caves an excellent place to live. Various Lucayan artefacts have been found in the caves, including ceremonial “duho” wooden stools, and other relics that have been uncovered in the caves suggest that Middle Caicos has been a center of indigenous culture for millennia.
It seems likely that the caves on the island were used primarily for worship by aboriginals, and perhaps as shelters during hurricanes. With the onset of European colonization, indigenous inhabitants of Middle Caicos retreated from the coast, seeking refuge in the caves, and began to live in them continuously.
There are several limestone caves to explore on Middle Caicos with names like Orange Tree, Dead Man’s Skull Bluff, Dark Night Well and Banana Tree Cave. Some of the caves contain artefacts that link the former indigenous inhabitants of the region with the Orinoco Basin of South America. As well, in the vicinity of the caves can be found mounds of coral rock, arranged in a crescent. Pottery, knives and other items of archaeological importance have been found in these mounds.
Many of the caves can be accessed via the Middle Caicos Crossing Place Trail. This trail follows the coast, and has long acted as a highway foot traffic communicating messages and transporting goods for trade. You can end the day at a hotel in Turks and Caicos, with memories fresh in mind and a better understanding of the history of this ancient island chain.