As our tiny boat bobs up to the wooden pier at Little Water Cay, I see my six-year-old son Zac’s face almost explode in joy and astonishment. Before I can grab him, he’s leapt off the vessel and is running onto the island, me hot on his heels.
The 2,000 iguanas that live wild on this mile-long island just off Providenciales in Turks & Caicos aren’t in the slightest bit fazed by the humans who come out to see them by boat or sea kayak. You can’t touch these endangered creatures, but following the sun-bleached wooden boardwalk that winds through part of their habitat of red mangroves and rocks, you get close enough to see their every scale and spine.
The kids splash in the turquoise water, but some people head off into the marshland to see more iguanas and to collect conch shells (at certain times of year, you’re allowed to take them home).
The real selling point of Turks & Caicos are the glorious stretches of powder-soft sand with gentle, warm waters and free sea-based activities. I’m more than happy to watch Zac play until another Caribbean sunset turns the sky a shimmering gold.
There are numerous family-friendly resorts to choose from here, but we opted for Beaches. Zac loves the six pools, especially the ones with swim-up bars, where we can enjoy virgin strawberry daiquiris for him, and piña coladas or chocolate martinis for me.
Zac is not especially interested in trying out the kids’ club (a flexible offering – you just turn up with your child’s passport whenever you want to sign them in) because, frankly, there’s plenty to keep him entertained including a large waterpark with slides, a lazy river and surf simulator, and the beach.
And for Zac, another perfect day ends at the American diner near the waterpark, with an ice-cream cone to devour on the way back to our family suite in the luxury Key West Village, before a peaceful night and dreams of yet more Caribbean adventures to come.
We return to Little Water Cay the following day as part of a different excursion – a catamaran cruise. The kids lounge and giggle on the front nets as the boat bounces up and down on the waves. We stop off to snorkel and to whizz down the boat’s 8 ft-long slide into the sea, before taking a breather on a white sand beach that’s so pristine and otherworldly we wonder if we’re hallucinating.
The excursions are too tempting – and you don’t travel this far to miss out on close encounters with rock iguanas, bone fish expeditions, reel fishing and more. Both excursions are organized by Island Routes at our resort.
It’s not all about the outdoors and wildlife, though. I’m glad that Zac gets the opportunity to see a Caribbean school and sign us up for a Reading Road Trip run by the Sandals Foundation, the hotel group’s philanthropic arm, which supports local communities and social development in the region.
The trip involves bringing along a book to donate to the school but, more importantly, gives visitors the chance to read to the children in their classrooms. Zac and I are allocated a class of six and seven year olds and together we read them a Charlie and Lola book, which goes down very well. Perhaps too well, because at the end of it Zac is semi-mobbed by overexcited children, who seem to find him as cute as he finds them.
If you’re familiar with the adults-only Sandals Resorts across the Caribbean, Beaches Resorts is the family-friendly little sister, with properties in Jamaica and here in Turks & Caicos, and more due to open, including Barbados.
Beaches is an all-inclusive concept, and there’s so much to do at its Turks & Caicos offering – the largest, with four "villages" with different styles of accommodation (Caribbean, Italian, French and Key West) and 19 restaurants. You could easily spend two fun-packed weeks here without leaving its confines.