Turks and Caicos is a necklace of flat, sand-fringed islands and cays, strung across calm, limpid waters southeast of The Bahamas. The islands have been inhabited for the best part of two millennia -in the 18th century pirates used to hide out in the cays - and are today one of a number of British Overseas Territories in the region. With their powder white beaches, shaded by gently waving palm trees, these islands certainly look the part. But what gives them the edge over so many of their neighbours is what lies beneath. Boasting the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, this one of the top 10 diving and snorkelling destinations, yielding a breathtaking array of exotic and native fish as well as Caribbean reef sharks, lobster and hawksbill turtles. Another string to the islands' considerable bow is the perfect climate - cooled by the eastern trade winds, the Turks and Caicos bask in an average of 350 days of sunshine a year. Visitors stay mainly on the two most developed islands of Providenciales - known as Provo - and Grand Turk, with an elite few travelling on to one of the private island resorts tucked away in the cays. Those pirates certainly knew where to find all the best spots.