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Dive Review of Salt Cay Divers/Tradewinds Guest Suites in
Turks and Caicos/Salt Cay

Salt Cay Divers/Tradewinds Guest Suites, Jun, 2005,

by Sandy Falen, KS, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 27 reports with 16 Helpful votes). Report 1731.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Having traveled the Caribbean widely over the past dozen years, only occasionally does a location grab my heart. In this case, simply put, I fell in love with Salt Cay.

If you’re into Club Meds, Grand Hyatts, casinos, and nightclubs, please do us all a favor and stay away from this very special place. Tiny Salt Cay, with its all of three square miles of flat, scrubby, unpaved island charm, will take you back to the Caribbean of years ago. Here’s a place where I never locked my room and where the only strangers trying to get in were the local donkeys… Where the beach was right outside my door… Where the trade winds swept through my room constantly, eliminating even the thought of air conditioning… And where the finest nighttime entertainment to be had was lounging on a seaside hammock under the stars.

Debbie and Ollie of Salt Cay Divers were my hosts for seven days of outstanding diving amid the Turks & Caicos’ Columbus Passage. That massive trench in the ocean floor, which in the winter serves as the migration path for humpback whales, provides for stunning underwater scenery along breathtaking walls. The reefs are healthy, with the most beautiful sea fans I’ve seen in the Caribbean, along with frequent opportunities to spot southern stingrays, eagle rays, nurse sharks, and turtles. On my first day in the water, I was stunned to spot a pair of bottlenose dolphins – not on the surface, but cruising past me along the reef! On another occasion, I was entertained at length by an octopus that had caught a large lobster for “lunch”. I followed while the octo busily hauled it across the reef to his den – the long, telltale antennae protruding out from the octo’s fully fanned arms. Fascinating reef formations provided lovely swim-throughs and beautiful scenery for the underwater photographer. And while I particularly enjoyed the dramatic, deep wall dives (the aptly named Black Coral Canyon is simply stunning), Salt Cay is also blessed with lush shallow reefs, allowing for plenty of bottom time.

Boats were usually the 24-foot Carolina skiffs, which can get a bit crowded with 8 divers (the most on the boat during my 7 days of diving), but given the short boat trips, this wasn’t a big deal. By the end of my stay, I was the sole diver left on the island, and enjoyed a private boat for my last several dives.

You’ll get a varied sampling of Turks & Caicos diving, as Salt Cay Divers will schedule weekly boat trips to both Grand Turk (a 30-minute ride) and South Caicos (an hour and a half on this occasion), depending upon the weather. Our ride to South Caicos was a bit rough and longer than usual; but with calmer seas, it would be well worth the travel time.

Getting to Salt Cay, despite its remote feel, isn’t difficult, and I was able to complete the journey in one day’s travel. Air Turks & Caicos will sometimes reschedule flights without notice; my 4:15pm flight out of Provo turned into 6:15pm, when they switched aircraft for the earlier flight and the larger plane was unable to land on Salt Cay. The airline staff offered consolation for the delay by waiving the overweight luggage charge. I wasn’t charged the fee in either direction, but considering I was the only passenger boarding at Salt Cay for the return flight, the plane clearly wasn’t in danger of being overloaded!

While I was initially happy to avoid Miami by flying to Provo on US Air via Charlotte, I about changed my mind on the return. The customs and immigration process in Charlotte makes Miami’s look like the Indy 500. While I have often sped through Miami’s “pick the fastest line” immigration system in 15 minutes or less, the “cattle chute” process at Charlotte ate at least 45 minutes of my layover. And while my connecting flight had begun boarding, I found myself waiting in yet another security check line.

The Tradewinds hotel has 5 rooms, some with full kitchen, and some with kitchenette. All have a screen-in porch facing the beach. Water is potable, and I refilled bottles of water to place in my freezer so I’d always have a cold drink on hand. The rooms are simple, but clean and comfortable, and bicycles are available for your touring pleasure. The dive shop is just a short walk down the road, and it’s easy to return to your room between the 9:00am and 11:00am dives. The afternoon dive, which was scheduled for 3:00pm, allowed plenty of time for lunch and a leisurely siesta in a hammock. Depending on the wishes of the divers, a night dive can be substituted for the afternoon dive.

Dining at Island Thyme Bistro was an unexpected pleasure, as proprietor Porter Williams has created an oasis of good taste and warm island hospitality. The food was outstanding and graciously served, and the choices varied. I ate almost every meal there, although I also sampled Pat’s Place and Mount Pleasant Guest House. In every case, the welcome was genuine and the food prepared with care. Reservations must be made in advance at all the restaurants, as on this small island, no one cooks on speculation. It was not an inconvenience: I’d simply make my breakfast plans at dinner, lunch plans at breakfast, and dinner plans at lunch – which allowed me to choose the entrée for my next meal. At Island Thyme, I was able to run a tab for the week, settling up after my final breakfast.

I expect to return to Salt Cay, and I know that when I do, I will be warmly welcomed. The combination of “old Caribbean” charm, world-class diving, fabulous cuisine, and total relaxation will draw me back…. And it can’t be soon enough for me.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Cozumel, Belize, Guanaja, Tobago, Los Roques, Saba, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Statia, Little Cayman, Brac, San Salvador, Costa Rica, Fiji, Providencia, Kauai
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, dry Seas choppy, noCurrents
Water Temp 79-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 60-100 Ft/ 18-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Divers were allowed to dive their computer, without an arbitrary time limit.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Boat facilities consisted of a bucket or cooler filled with water -- not fancy, but adequate, given the short boat rides and the fact that we returned to shore between dives.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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