I could just make out a spot of pink – a lone flamingo – on the far shore of Lake Catherine as I pushed off in my kayak across the blue-green water. Part of a nature reserve in the center of uninhabited, six-by-two-mile West Caicos, the lake was dotted by deep blue holes that hinted at a subterranean cave system leading out to the sea. A green heron swooped across my view, and laughing gulls and stilts added their calls to nature’s soundtrack. Behind me an earthen causeway formed a dike across the lake, painstakingly built by a salt company over 100 years ago to transport salt from its source to their settlement, where the resource could then be shipped off.
A few hours earlier I’d been clambering over the poignant ruins of long-abandoned Yankee Town, where stone cottages and bits of steam machinery have been overtaken by sisal plants and silver thatch palms. Though no one has lived on West Caicos for almost 100 years, that will soon change: A small hotel and some villas are being built. Lake Catherine, along with adjoining wetlands, shrimp ponds, dwarf tropical forest and the island’s marine park will remain protected. From my kayak, I watched the late-afternoon sun gild the lakeshore greenery. I liked the thought of people returning to live on West Caicos, but it pleased me more to know this timeless view would be here, too, the next time I return.