Unexpected guest has The Meridian Club staff in a flutter
Pine Cay, a private island getaway in the Caribbean, has been a fascinating entry in the travel logs of early explorers. Its abundant supply of fresh water has drawn maritime voyagers to this tiny windswept island in the Turks & Caicos archipelago since the days of Columbus. Today, Pine Cay and The Meridian Club draw a different type of visitor; one who is seeking a break from everyday routine. The kind of visitor who wants to escape the crowds of travelers and the bustle of tourism associated with other more densely-populated islands, to experience, instead, a throwback to the blissful holiday times of a bygone era.
Visitors to this private Caribbean getaway tend to experience a form of addiction to the solitude that it offers. They quickly get hooked on daily doses of walks along unspoiled, talcum-powder soft sand, the unobstructed, startlingly blue vistas, and the unhurried pace of life on Pine Cay. And for most visitors, the siren song that is the Pine Cay experience lures them back year after year.
One only has to imagine the smiles breaking out on expectant faces as the Turks & Caicos come into view through the clouds as planes prepare to land.
It’s little wonder then that the stunning aerial views attracted an uncommon visitor to Pine Cay in early April. Expected to stay only a day or two, this feathered guest has made himself at home at The Meridian Club, sustained by fresh water and helpings of grain offered by the resort staff. Affectionately nicknamed “Juan” after extending his trip past a week and winning over the hearts of staff and guests alike, the beautiful racing pigeon seems quite content to enjoy his flight detour and remain in transit for a while yet.
Easy to approach and extremely comfortable with people, Juan has been spending his days on the roofs of the Club House or the beach bungalows and enjoying the ocean breezes and captivating views. He has embraced the serenity of The Meridian Club by showing his preference for dining alone, arriving on the pool deck to feast on grains and water only when other guests have finished their meals.
Banded IF 2011 UCPR 7534, Juan is associated with the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers, Inc., otherwise known as IF. A search of the website http://www.ifpigeon.com/ reveals that Juan’s flight path may have originated in Puerto Rico some 466 miles (749.79 kms) from Pine Cay. Although efforts are underway to repatriate Juan with his “flight” club, they have to-date remained unsuccessful. Staff at Pine Cay continues to makes calls to find Juan’s flock.
As for Juan, he is clearly no bird brain. He alighted on a secluded Caribbean island that has beckoned travelers for centuries. Some have stopped here on their way to other destinations to refuel water supplies, others have returned year after year to lose themselves in the isolation and quiet. And while it is unclear what Juan’s plans are, it seems that he is in no hurry to leave the paradise he has found on Pine Cay. He appears to be relishing this minor detour with the zeal of a pigeon that has flown too hard for too long. Looks like Juan has discovered what other guests at Pine Cay have known for years…that this tiny private island in the Turks and Caicos offers an unparalleled respite from the daily grind.
The Meridian Club and the Pine Cay Owners successfully implemented a reef ball project in late-2012. The new artificial reef at Pine Cay, Turks and Caicos, has become a unique and favorite snorkeling and diving destination for guests.
Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems and easily fall prey to global warming, harmful fishing practices and natural weather patterns. In this particular case, the need to create an artificial reef arose when a nearby resort development opened two pathways through the barrier reef in the waters surrounding Pine Cay in order to create passage for construction materials delivery. These dual gaps within the reef structure compromised the water flow between the islands.
The newly-opened pathways diverted high levels of water towards Pine Cay. Within months, the onslaught of saltwater to Pine Cay began to threaten the natural freshwater supply on the island by steadily increasing salinity levels. And, if the holes in the proverbial dam were not plugged soon, the fragile water lens on the island would be devastatingly compromised.
The owners association on Pine Cay undertook the costs and responsibility to re-create the reef by deploying concrete balls in both affected areas. The balls, approximately 5 feet in diameter, are made from a mixture of cement, pea rocks, sand and water and are hospitable to coral growth; the molds are grooved with small holes which provide ideal shelter and habitat for smaller fish and marine life.
Weighing almost 500 lbs each, the 200 reef balls were deployed in key areas to stem the destructive pathway of the new water flows. Creating the artificial reef was a slow and laborious process; a balloon was inflated inside each ball allowing it to float, and then the ball was carefully towed to the drop off location. Marine engineers positioned each ball over the deployment area and the balloon was then slowly deflated. As the reef ball began to sink to its final resting place in the approximately 6ft of water, engineers continued to fine-tune its position. The final reef ball was dropped in September 2012.
Now, only a few months later, the proactive actions of the Pine Cay owners association have been rewarded with restored fresh water levels, thriving artificial reefs that are ideal for snorkelers and divers, and a thoughtful restoration of a fragile ecosystem.
Nature is easier forgiven for cutting a destructive swath through the fragile coral reefs, but it’s harder to understand the motivation of those who put profit before protection. Pine Cay has a delicate ecosystem nurtured by the steady patterns of the natural world around it and the owners of this private island retreat in the Turks and Caicos archipelago take the stewardship of this delicate balance seriously.
The reef ball project has been a triumphant success for Pine Cay thanks to the vigilance and desire of the homeowners to protect what nature has worked so hard to create. The freshly restored ecosystem provides wonderful snorkeling and diving adventures for guests at this private island getaway in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
If fishing is a religion, and fly fishing is its high church, then Pine Cay in the Turks and Caicos must be heaven.
The shallow flats around our private island and neighboring cays are home to the bonefish, one of the most sought-after sport fish in the Caribbean.
Weighing up to 19 pounds and growing to 35 inches, the silver bonefish, is pound for pound said to be the strongest and fastest moving of any saltwater fish – a hooked bonefish can swim more than 25 miles an hour (a trout can can make a sprint of 5 miles an hour).
Fly-fishing for bonefish in Turks and Caicos is an almost sublime experience. Imagine wading in warm, shallow turquoise water, or cruising the shallows on a flats skiff.
Where to go bonefishing near Pine Cay
It’s often said that bonefishing is a lot more like hunting than it is like most other forms of fishing – you have to first find the fish, which can be difficult, as their silver-grey color makes it easy for them to blend into the shallows and flats.
Bonefish generally appear when the tide comes in. They eat shellfish, crustaceans, and other animals found in the sand of the flats.
Caicos Bank, to the south of Pine Cay, is a large area of wadeable flats that is, perfect for exploring with our guide in a skiff in search of prime bonefishing spots. The Bank side of Pine Cay, accessible from land, is also great for do-it-yourself bonefishing.
What to bring
While equipment and gear can be arranged through the Meridian Club. However, if you’re an experienced angler and you want to try fly-fishing for bonefish in the Turks and Caicos, here are some hints on what to bring:
Fly Rod – 7-9 wt.
Weight-forward floating fly line and 9-12 ft. tapered leaders with 10 lb. tippet
No. 4-6 tan Gotchas or Crazy Charlies are typical bonefishing flies
Polaroid sunglasses with amber lenses
Hook hone to keep hooks sharp
Make sure all of your gear is salt-resistant and created specifically for saltwater fly fishing.
You’ll be out in the sun for quite a while, so sunscreen and a hat are a must.
The Meridian Club runs it’s own charters with our experienced guide, JR.
If you’re looking for an off-island outfitter we recommend:
Silver Deep: Arthur Dean – 649-946-5612 or Paula – 232-5612 (Bone and Deep Sea)
Catch the Wave: Ed Misick – 649-941-3037 (Bone or Deep Sea)
French Captain N. Bellin, sent to the West Indies by King Louis XV in the mid-1700s wrote of Pine Cay: “To approach Island of Pines, you have to be careful because there is a sandbar. When you approach Island of Pines from the opening in the reef, you have to make sure the island remains to the SE so you can enter without touching the sand.” He wrote further, “The Island of Pines goes NW to SE. The land is low and not protected from the wind in the east, which batters the pines all the time. The trees on the fringe are uprooted and dried up, and the ones in the center are not doing too well.” He continued his description with, “The earth is full of sand on the perimeter and doesn’t look much better on the inside.” and, “The sea bottom is very wide in the whole bay, too wide to catch any big fish.”
Despite all these shortcomings, Bellin managed to find the one thing that has drawn explorers back to Pine Cay over the last four centuries. He wrote, “The most important feature in the Island of Pines is a big lagoon of sweet water close to the sea and where there is enough water to fill 50 ships.”
Pine Cay has played an important role in providing fresh water to seafarers since the days of Christopher Columbus. Historians estimate that Columbus’ first stop in the New World was in the Turks and Caicos Islands in October 1492 where he restocked the ship’s water supplies on route to Cuba. While the appeal of a permanent fresh water depot in the otherwise desert-like Caribbean archipelago continued to bring maritime voyagers to Pine Cay, there were few other reasons to set up camp on this tiny, windswept island.
In 1958 when the Turk & Caicos Islands were under Jamaican administration, Count Ferdinand Czernin came to visit a friend on South Caicos. While discussing the islands and climate, the topic of the lack of fresh water came up and a steward informed Ferdinand that indeed there was an island in the Turks & Caicos that had abundant supplies of fresh water. Without delay, Ferdinand chartered a sloop and made the 2-day voyage to the secluded island of Pine Cay in search of fresh water.
Here, in addition to finding a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, Ferdinand also discovered a peaceful little private island which had no occupants. Pine Cay had a gorgeous “white powder beach, blue and green water under cerulean skies and cotton ball clouds.” It was serene and untouched, teeming with iguanas, and great white herons, stretches of pines and palmettos, and abundant and varied flora. He thought that this secluded island hideaway in the Turks and Caicos could gradually be expanded to accommodate like-minded friends, who were eager to escape the stresses and demands of their more cosmopolitan lifestyles.
With original plans to farm pineapple, and vegetables and to use the solitude to write books, Ferdinand set out to determine who owned the land and if there was a formal registry system. He was granted a farming lease for a conditional five and then 99 year period. All he had to do was to construct a residential house and start the agriculture project. As construction plans were initiated, George Nipanich, a long time friend of Ferdinand tagged along to help negotiate construction terms and squeeze in a vacation on the island hideaway.
Work came to a halt in 1960 as a result of heavy rainfall and abnormally high tides throughout the islands resulting from Hurricane Donna. Many trees were lost, fresh water lakes turned brackish and flooding destroyed a lot of vegetation. This natural disaster resulted in the channel between Water Cay and Little Water Cay slowly filling in and then closing in completely by 1968.
During the same year that Hurricane Donna swept across the Caribbean, George Nipanich met his future wife, Maroussia, at a wedding party in Jamaica. Marou came to visit George on Pine Cay even though the self-proclaimed “city girl” hated camping, but due to a series of travel-related mishaps only managed to spend one day on Pine Cay! During her foray through the islands, she “thought it was fascinating, regardless of whether I was a city girl. I loved the whole area and thought it was a great adventure.”
As a result of the construction setbacks experienced with the upheaval caused by Hurricane Donna, Ferdinand received a two-year extension on his lease and used the time, (instead of farming) to prepare a projection of Pine Cay development possibilities. Unfortunately, though he had diligently persisted in realizing his dream of inhabiting a deserted island hideaway in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ferdinand died of a heart attached in 1966. His wife, Helen, came back to Pine Cay and together with George Nipanich, decided to continue the legacy her husband had dreamed about.
In his proposal to the government, George prepared drawings and a Summary of the Proposed Development of Pine Cay where he introduced two names for the project: The Cays Development Company, Ltd., and the one which was adopted and which we know today, The Meridian Club. His plan called for a club house, marina, utility buildings, workers’ quarters, a power plant, water supply, sewage systems and recreational facilities. In November 1967, after receiving conditional approval from the government, George Nipanich moved to the island to devote himself to the development of Pine Cay. The Meridian Club – named for the proposed location of the clubhouse which came through the middle of the 22nd meridian and intersected with the 72nd meridian – opened its doors in the early 1970s.
George Nipanich passed away in 2002 after spending many happy years on Pine Cay and seeing his vision fulfilled. Today, 38 private homes and a 13-guestroom beach club offer an idyllic escape from the stresses of everyday life. Unspoiled beaches, turquoise water, fresh drinking water and an abundance of flora and fauna continue to be the hallmark of the secluded island hideaway that Count Ferdinand Czernin once fell in love with, and which continues to honour his pioneering spirit.
The Meridian Club on Pine Cay is a private island resort in the Caribbean. It has developed a quiet reputation for secluded beach vacations with an environmentalist sensibility. Two miles of private white-sand beach and a private airstrip with only 13 beachfront hotel rooms … hooked already? Check out The Meridian Club rates!
Still, many people have a lot of questions about the private island hideaway that is The Meridian Club on Pine Cay. Here are some of them:
Where is Pine Cay?
Pine Cay is part of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which is a small British Overseas Territory located in Caribbean, southeast of the Bahamas and about an hour by plane from Miami.
Pine Cay lies to the northeast of Providenciales, the westernmost island in the Turks and Caicos, and the main commercial and transportation hub.
Can I fly my plane to Pine Cay’s private airport?
Yes! We’re a private island with an airport, so if we have space to put you up, private pilots can fly in for an overnight stay or a vacation.
Pine Cay paved runway is 2500 feet long with an unpaved 1000+ foot buffer to the east and clear approaches in both directions. Parking space is available adjacent to the airstrip for up to 10 airplanes. No airport landing or parking fees are charged.
Is there fresh water on Pine Cay?
Since we’re proud of our eco-stewardship, we’d like to point out that, for the most part, The Meridian Club on Pine Cay is a sustainable operation, and this means that we do not pipe or ship in water from other parts of the Turks and Caicos islands.
Instead, we rely on a wonder of nature – a natural freshwater lense, forty feet deep, that lies beneath our resort. Amazing as it may seem, fresh rain and groundwater is lighter than the saltwater below and so floats atop of it. Rainwater replenishes our subterranean oasis.
What’s the weather like?
A constant breeze and relatively low humidity (60%) means that we have perfect weather. Temperatures range from the low 80’s in winter to above 90 degrees in the summer.
Come visit, relish in the privacy of your own retreat, and enjoy a life that’s free of stress.
The best part of any holiday is the opportunity to try new foods and drinks. While Caribbean rum isn’t exactly a foreign item to most people, drinking it in on Pine Cay surrounded by the murmur of the ocean a few feet away is an experience one will likely remember forever.
Floyd Forbes is the bartender at the Meridian Club and has been part of the scene since 1969 when he started working as a handyman and property maintenance until the hotel opened in 1973. As a novice behind the bar, Floyd quickly learned and excelled at the art of bartending and as his tenure grew, so did his responsibilities which ranged from head of the commissary to head of food and beverage. Over three decades later, Floyd is still the master at the bar and is responsible for cocktail service before dinner and for bar service on the pool deck throughout the day. His specialty drinks are just that – very special!
Cocktail hour at the Meridian Club starts about 6:00pm and takes place in the upstairs lounge each night when dinner is scheduled to be served indoors. Guests often show up early as they are eager to meet up with their new found friends at the club. The library bar offers abundant seating, and a balcony overlooking the pool.
Be prepared to receive a warm welcome and a tasty appetizer such as piping hot conch fritters, Caribbean-inspired hummus and pita chips, fresh salsa and crispy tortilla chips and other equally delicious finger foods. Cocktail hour in the upstairs bar is an entertaining episode of dinner party-style mingling, gossip sharing, looking through books and photo albums featuring pictures of guests over the years as well as renovations to the Club, engaging in a game of darts or mancala, and introducing new arrivals to those who have been on the island for several days. As you look through the various albums, you are bound to see some familiar faces. It shouldn’t surprise you to see that some of these people are seated around you at the bar, sipping on one of Floyd’s signature cocktails.
Come early to cocktail hour as Floyd is a terrific encyclopedia of the history and happenings on Pine Cay and guests are thoroughly entertained by his reminiscings. If you are the wagering type, consider yourself warned: do not challenge Floyd to a game of darts!
Meridian Club Specialty Cocktail Menu
Pine Cay Punch – light rum, dark rum, pineapple, orange, grenadine
Club Meridian – Canadian Club, melon liquor, Gran Marnier, pineapple
Pine Cay Cocktail – gin, Gran Marnier, grapefruit
Iguana Colada – melon liquor, pineapple, Coco Lopez
Pine Cay Smile – coconut rum, dark rum, Tio Pepe, orange, pineapple
Gombay Smash – dark rum, coconut rum, Triple Sec, pineapple, lemon syrup
Yellow Bird – white rum, crème de banana, Galliano, pineapple, orange
Pine Cay Breeze – melon liquor, vodka, crème de banana, pineapple
Mai Tai – white rum, Triple Sec, amaretto, pineapple, lemon
Pine Cay Iced Tea – vodka, gin, rum, tequila, lemon, coke
Toasted Almond – amaretto, Kahlua, half and half
Zombie – white rum, dark rum, amaretto, Triple Sec, lemon orange
Tropical Delight – vodka, crème de coconut, pineapple, cranberry, orange
Rum BBC – Baileys, banana, Coco Lopez
Caicos Express – white rum, dark rum, Kahlua, cream
Mambo Special – dark rum, coconut rum, Triple Sec, lemon orange, pineapple
Caicos Calypso – light rum, Tia Maria, crème de coco, milk
*** Most specialty cocktails are priced at $13 ***