(Providenciales, Turks + Caicos)
Who would have thought we could slip in a little education during our visit to paradise?
I mean, what do we really know about conch? We’ve seen their harvested shells littering the shores of pretty much every island we visited in the Bahamas. And we even managed to find a few live ones ourselves while snorkeling the out islands. So after chowing down on tons of conch (fried, frittered, and fresh) throughout our sailing journey thus far, it was certainly time to visit the one and only conch farm in the world and learn a little more about this species.
Armed with a $50 rental car for 24 hours in Provo, we added a visit to the local conch farm to our list of must-see and do’s while in town. The >>Caicos Conch Farm<< is located all the way on the east end of the island. It’s the world’s first and only commercial conch farm.
The farm opened in 1984 and sits on 10 acres of oceanfront property, with 65 acres of sub sea pasture leased from the Turks + Caicos government. The property includes facilities for egg hatchery, metamorphosis, and post-larval stage development as well as 80 on shore grow-out ponds and in excess of 150 pens in the off-shore sub-sea pasture. More than 3 million conch are farmed at this commercial operation on the northeast tip of Provo.
During the 40-minute tour, we were given a brief yet highly informative presentation of the life of a conch, followed by a very hands-on tour of the farm where we saw conchs growing at various stages of life.
Our guide explained that as the conch mature they are moved from pen to pen until they reach about two years of age when they are put up for sale to places all over the U.S. Few are actually sold on Provo, as the restaurants here rely on local fishermen diving up wild conch in the surrounding waters.
Because the conch is becoming endangered, the farming is becoming increasingly important to sustain the natural fisheries in the face of wider demand for the meat and shells.
This is not a glitzy, pretty tour…you are walking amongst the tanks, stepping over puddles, and smelling fishy farm smells. But it certainly gave us a whole new appreciation to all the conch we’ve eaten on this trip!
At the end of the tour, we got to meet two of the friendliest conchs around. Jerry and Sally are 10-year-old conchs who aren’t shy at all and came willingly out of their shells to say hello.
The price of admission was a little steep at $12 per person, but this is the ONLY place of its kind in the WORLD, so don’t miss it!
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