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

Salt Cay Divers/Tradewinds/Salt Cay Divers, Jan, 2008,

by Charles Laurence, NY, USA ( 1 report). Report 3837.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Salt Cay, a tiny island of 63 permanent residence, is two things: a surviving Old Caribbean community of lovely laid-back people, and a divers' paradise. Most of the visitors are divers - or Caribbean history buffs, or both. There is no such thing as a crowd. Salt Cay Divers has been a legendary destination since the days when devotees came in the 1980s to live free lives and discover such sites as the Endymion wreck, a site which is special to Salt Cay Divers because they known where to find it!

Declaration of interest: I came across Salt Cay and Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands by chance,long ago before "tourism" had developed. Salt Cay is my favourite island of any, anywhere, and while facilities - dinner, for instance, and the wine list - have caught up to today's expectations, "tourism" in the negative sense has yet to arrive and spoil it all.

The whole point is the reef: this is a pristine wall in the eastern Caribbean, and runs within a few minutes ride by the dive shop's Carolina skiffs from off the north western tip of the island, shaped like an arrow head pointed south, and along the west (Caribbean)coast, and on south to Sand Cay and the Endymion wreck. You need go no further to see all forms of coral, turtles, rays, the whole panoply of tropical fish, shark, dolphin and a lot of curious 'cuda. Three tanks a day is the routine: you can get back to Salt Cay Divers' Coral Reef Cafe for a coke or a coffee even between the morning dives.

Then there's the adventure diving: Ollie Been, co-owner and an island Belonger, born on Salt Cay and intimate with every coral head and drum fish hideout, fires up the Big Boat. We slap across the Turks Passage (local stretch of the Columbus Passage where you-know-who first came sailing by) to the Endymion or to South Caicos, where the chances of encountering another dive boat are about zilch. Last time, we dived through the sunken fuselage of a Columbia drug-runner's downed plane (Pirates of the Caribbean!) and watched 17 sharks circling 6 manta rays, sleeping in the sand. Whoaa! Bring a good hat: you are out all day.

Debbie Been, co-owner of the dive shop and The Tradewinds, the place to stay along with The Windmills, a high end hideaway on pristine North Beach, has earned a reputation for motherly ways in certifying both greenhorns and kids. Most of regulars down here have brought their kids for certifying -its a bit of an initiation, really - and you won't find one she couldn't get over initial nerves.

All the kit is available, and kept in pristine condition for all the wear and tear of serious diving. Most Salt Cay afficianados bring their own, tricked-out personal style, but this time I didn't want to check bags in the holiday season, and arrived with no more that my prescription mask and wrist watch. It took ten minutes to get comfortably fitted.

Dive masters are chosen to fit the place. They'll measure you up, coaxing newcomers through their paces while accommodating the experts as they do their own thing. Choose your sites, dive by dive. One-on-one explorations or photo missions- no problem. This is an intimate diver operation.Take note: Hillary,a Brit with years of Caribbean experience, is on island at the moment, and is as laid back as they come but for one thing: DO NOT MESS WITH THE REEF.

On shore: if you are more Apres Ski than Ski, go mix with the madding crowd where they serve drinks in plastic cups. Not here. It's much more fun than that. Every night is an old-time Caribbean celebration of being alive, and it ain't no disco.

Food's great, island style. Debbie has gone 'gourmet' - the whole island gathers on "rib nights" - while a few steps away Porter Williams III, our favourite piratical barkeep, is dispensing rum and snapper-almondine in his Island Thyme Bistro. Then there's the Green Flash tiki bar on the harbour wall where Belongers and divers and everyone else gathers for the - you got it - "green flash" as the sun goes down.

I'm biased. I love this place. I know it's unbeatable.

Snag: getting there if you are too used to the instant-access of US and European tourism and time your vacation down to the last nano-second. You fly to Providenciales in 21st century manner. Then you get the puddle-jumper, propellers thundering over the glorious azure sea at a few hundred feet, which reminds you of why flying used to be a trip. Scheduling can be a bit vague, a bit "island". There's always the boat if you miss the connection. Chill out. You'll get there.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving Tahiti, Grand Turk( Turks and Caicos) Glovers Atoll(Belize)
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, choppy, noCurrents
Water Temp 78-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30-50 Ft/ 9-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions "no touch" on pristine reef; follow divemaster, loosely; stay in group on night dives.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Superb in whale season,(don't be scared, they won't hurt you!) begins in late January a couple of weeks after this year's dive. Good light on famous 18th century wreck of HMS Endymion. Excellent light on reef top, 40 ft, when sun is out, most of the time, and to 50-60 feet on reef. All assistance given to photographers, including tanks on all boats. Please use minimum lights on night dives: clientel includes highly experienced and adventure divers who prefer not to blinded by show-ff technology!
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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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