Resort Report

Dare to Dive Differently

twTradewinds Guest Suites and Salt Cay Divers epitomize the Salt Cay experience.

Story and Photos By Michele Belanger-McNair

Scuba diving enthusiasts are as varied as any group of travelers today. It is a sport for the very young and those battling age. It can be for families, honeymooners, technical divers and photographers, to name but a few niches. Some divers seek the glamour and glitz of a major resort and others a simpler way of life.

Few destinations in the world offer the spectrum of “dive-styles” than the Turks & Caicos Islands, ranging from Providenciales’ Gold Coast sophistication to Grand Turk’s cruise ship and beach party atmosphere to Salt Cay’s laid back, 1960’s approach to island life.

Salt Cay Divers, Tradewinds Guest Suites and the Coral Reef Cafe have teamed up to offer the full resort experience combined with the chance to step backwards into an earlier era of dive travel.

Diving with a difference

Fourteen years ago, Debbie Been arrived on Salt Cay as just another tourist looking for a diving adventure. Having traveled to many of the world’s top diving destinations from her home in Arizona, this was the first island where she actually returned a second time.

Debbie fell in love with the friendly people, the island and the lifestyle and decided to return to live on Salt Cay for good. In the process, she married Turks Islander Oliver Been and in 1996 they bought the former Porpoise Divers, which became Salt Cay Divers.

Given the isolated nature of the island and the lack of available guest rentals, the pair developed Tradewinds Guest Suites on the beach just south of the dive shop. Soon, the Coral Reef CafE blossomed at the water’s edge and the combination of dive operations, accommodations and meals offered divers the option of an individual or all inclusive plan.

tradewinds-unit-2Via Salt Cay Divers, Debbie and Oliver have sought to bring individualized attention to divers, be they Discover Scuba Diving students or expert, technical divers who bring their own dive computers. “Dare to dive differently” is their motto and they mean it. Diving differently means no cattle boat diving, no time limits, no regulated schedules, no gear hauling. It means individualized attention to detail and a dive vacation where you have choices.

Salt Cay Divers offers a full service PADI dive shop with instruction from the resort course to divemaster levels, with specialized PADI certifications as well as Nitrox diving. Families are welcome too, and the dive center provides a Junior Open Water certification and Bubble Maker program. If it’s been a while since you’ve been diving, a refresher course with one-on-one attention can help you regain your confidence.

Once guests unpack their gear they can forget about it between the three daily dives. All gear is handled, rinsed and cared for by the dive center’s staff. If you forgot a crucial piece or simply prefer to travel light, a full stock of equipment is available for rental.

Underwater seasons

Much is written about winter, and the arrival off Salt Cay of the humpback whales in their yearly migration. This is a spectacular time to visit, but Salt Cay’s “crowd” is capped at about 60 guests, given limited accommodations. And whales are only part of Salt Cay’s seasons.

The “high season” is traditionally December through April when the humpback whales make their annual trek to the Silver Banks. Few places in the world still allow soft water encounters and, situated directly on the Columbus Passage, Salt Cay is TCI’s headquarters for whale watching. Spring brings dolphins and an increase in tropical fish. The water warms up and the whales head north. Summer in Salt Cay means calm, warm water and diving in just your swimsuit or “skin” type dive suit. Dolphins are even more in evidence and manta rays are common. Fall brings green moray eels and the return of the conch. In fact, the sandy ladder on the northern shore becomes a literal trail of conch as they migrate out of the ocean’s depths towards the shallows. Salt Cay has turtles all year long, a sight that never grows old.

fish-wallWeather permitting, Salt Cay Divers offers the best of the Turks Islands dive sites. Using their 32 foot Island Hopper V-hull, Oliver Been can take you to South Caicos’ beautiful reefs, the 17th century warship HMS Endymion, and a 19th century wooden steamer wreck as well. Grand Turk’s dive sites are a quick 30 minute ride by skiff or the Hopper. Fourteen of Salt Cay’s sites are within 5 to 10 minutes of the dock in one of the operation’s 24 foot Carolina skiffs.

For experienced divers who want the ultimate guide, Oliver Been is the divemaster to seek out. His love of the water, diving and the health of the reefs and fish of his native island are obvious. Curious about Salt Cay? Ask Oliver. He’ll gladly share his knowledge of the island’s history, buildings and people.

Tradewinds guest suites

Located along the beach in the North District of Salt Cay, Tradewinds is a five unit complex consisting of two suites with full kitchens and three suites with kitchenettes. It is located on a full acre of land just footsteps from the beach and clear, azure blue waters.

Each suite has a private screened porch facing the sea, private bath, air conditioning, separate bedroom and queen sleeper sofa in the living area. The resort, set under tall Casaurina trees, provides gas grills, bicycles, sun deck and hammocks. Tradewinds is perfect for dive clubs and other small groups, as you can literally “own” the resort for a week. An extensive refurbishment of the suites was recently completed, with new colors, artwork and cabinetry bringing a fresh, upgraded look. Whether you dive, snorkel, birdwatch, hike, photograph, write novels or read them, nap, or do nothing at all, the pace of life at Tradewinds will be slow and peaceful.

Coral Reef Cafe and Bar

tw-kitchenSet alongside the beach at Deanne’s Dock, the Coral Reef Cafe offers breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a full service bar to hungry and thirsty beachcombers and divers alike. Enjoy a cheeseburger in paradise, healthy salads, Enye’s Secret Sauce SauteEd Fish, and Deb’s Conch Fritters. Put a freezing Margarita next to your eats and watch Deanne’s Dock traffic: dive boats, the Salt Cay ferry arriving and fishermen bringing in their catch. You’ll also have the chance to meet Turks Islanders: folks who have lived their entire lives on Salt Cay. From them, you can learn about a slow, peaceful way of living. Be there for a sunset cocktail and, if you’re lucky, you’ll experience the end-of-day “Green Flash” phenomenon.

If you want to take a step backward, head for Salt Cay to the way the Caribbean used to be.

For more information, call Salt Cay Divers at 649 946 6906 or visit or

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Movin Cool
Jul 22, 2011 7:59


DTD equipment has been designed by the best technical divers and has been tested in the most demanding conditions.


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Gary James at Provo Pictures ( used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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