We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Colorado
Level Contributor
1,516 posts
4 reviews
Save Topic
Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Our visit to Salt Cay was awesome. We experienced the magic of the sleepy and charming Island. The part-time and full-time residents were all so welcoming and some of the nicest people we have met in our travels (I believe there are currently only 63 residents). Whether it was eating, diving, whale watching, walking, biking, or golf carting, we always got a friendly hello, wave or had some great conversations. It started off with attending the community fundraiser Valentines Dinner/Dance. We had just arrived from a really long day of travel but we wanted to meet the residents and other visitors. What a fun night – the majority of residents were there and most of the visitors attended too. What a tight knit community!

Debbie Manos-Been (has been a resident > 17 years) set up everything for us – really friendly, very hardworking, “can get anything you want done for you” attitude and has a terrific memory (never wrote anything down but remembered requests for all visitors ie whose coming for dinner, bikes needing flats fixed, beach towels needed, what day you wanted to whale watch, dive, rent golf cart etc). Debbie set up our travel from Provo to Salt Cay ahead of time (we paid at the Provo airport - $160pp RT), met us at the airport, set up where we stayed, set us up with attending the Valentines dinner, set up our scuba diving, whale watching, and golf cart rental. She runs a tab for you and you pay at the end of your stay. If you need anything, she is definitely the person to go to. Food and other supplies come from Grand Turk or Provo – not all of them make it when expected. Somehow Debbie makes it work when this happens.

There are 2 restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Coral Reef Bar & Grill (run by Debbie) and Island Thyme (run by Porter and Haidee Williams). You need to let them know during the day where you will be eating for dinner and what you will be having. Both places have really good food for all meals (it surprised me how good the food was at every meal – great homemade desserts too). Wednesday night was Conch night at Coral Reef – it included conch chowder, conch fritters, conch ceviche, and cracked conch. It was all delicious. You can find the residents eating there too and socializing at the bars within the restaurants. When a part-time resident arrives on Island, other residents have a welcome back meeting for them at one of the bars. It was another great way to meet the residents. Haidee from Island Thyme also met arrivals at the airport and let us know about a welcome gift they have when you visit – she was super nice, so easy to talk to and very informative about the Island history and other residents. At Island Thyme, you run your own tab - you write down what you ate/drank during your stay and give them the tab & payment at the end. Where else does that exist?

Colorado
Level Contributor
1,516 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

We flew Caicos Express from Provo to Salt Cay. The pilot loads/unloads your luggage. It was a 10-seater plane (they have smaller ones too). We flew through a couple of storms (lots of rain/rainbows but fortunately very little turbulence). It cleared up before we arrived on Salt Cay. Debbie helped the pilot unload the luggage, and then loaded 4 of us along with her dog in her truck. We sat in the open air cab with the luggage. Just a couple minute ride to the Tradewinds (where we were staying). There are 5 units – very basic accommodations (no TV, no phone, and no internet). We had a kitchenette unit with a mini-fridge, toaster and a microwave but no kitchen sink. Only water supply was from the bathroom (decent water pressure). We had a separate bedroom/ living room area and there was a small porch area where bikes were kept. Both restaurants had internet access so you could walk a short distance if you needed to use it. It was a nice ocean view in front of the Tradewinds (rocky beach front), hammocks, ocean view deck for sunsets or whale watching, with the Salinas around the back. We stayed here because it was only a 2 minute walk to the boats for diving and whale watching, and the restaurants. It really had everything we needed. It was also nice having met the other Tradewinds guests the first evening – fun to meet back up with them every day. There are other places available on the Island if you want more than the basic accommodations. We saw some of Pirates Hideaway villa – it looked really nice. There is a private pool and the owner Nick did a great job of landscaping (he showed us around) - we also knew the visitor who was staying there – she really enjoyed it. You would need a bike or golf cart to get to the restaurants/docks. The purple conch house is close to everything, and we rode by the Villas of Salt Cay which looked new and very nice and was also close to everything.

Activities:

It was pretty windy for most of our visit (3 full days), we had a day that was overcast/rainy (went diving that day), and it looked pretty rough each day near the recommended off-the-beach snorkeling areas so we did not go snorkeling. It was sunny/partly cloudy the rest of the time with one afternoon rain shower. The temperature was perfect during the day but needed a sweater for dinner.

The first day we walked around town, rode bikes (until we got flat tires), and did a whale excursion. They needed a minimum of 4 people for the whale excursion. There were only 2 of us signed up in the morning so we didn’t know if we were going until meeting up at the dock in the late afternoon. Debbie said she would try to round up more people so we could go. Yea – she was able to find at least 4 more people (hard to do with so few on the Island). Ollie Been (Debbie’s husband) took us out. Ollie was a great whale spotter as was another resident Pat who came along. We were in a 24’ skiff – lots of waves and spray on the way out so really hard to take any pictures. Within 5 minutes we saw a couple of whales breaching. They did this for awhile but by the time we got close, they had split up and gone their separate ways (It was really cool to see them breach at the same time). We then followed some other whales (saw mother & calf), single whales, etc the rest of the excursion. Another guy & I slipped in the water on 3 separate occasions to see if we could snorkel with the whales. Unfortunately, all of the whales were on the move – and they move really fast! So no underwater pictures of the whales either. We were able to take a few pictures on the way back when there was less spray but of course there was no more breaching for us. We were whale-watching for about 3 hours. I was cold on the way back since I had jumped in the water on several occasions, didn’t have a towel to dry off and it was windy and became overcast. It was so worth it!

We went diving on our second day (it was windy/overcast/rainy). We had 10 divers on a 24’ boat (backward roll from where you sit to get in water). The dive sites are a 5-10 minute boat ride away. After the first dive, they come back to the dock so you could eat a snack at Coral Reef or take a hot shower before heading out for the second dive. We all had some hot coffee/tea/hot chocolate since we were wet and cold after the first dive with no sun to warm us back up. We even took a hot shower (ahh). 4 Divers decided not to go out for the second dive – it was too cold for them. It was easier with just 6 divers. I wore a 3mm wetsuit – wish I had a 5mm or a dry wetsuit for the second dive (hard to put the cold wet wetsuit back on). Our Dive master Richard was great – he is originally from the Philippines and has been on Salt Cay for 3 years (very easy going, very friendly). We saw lots of sea fans/sponges/corals and the usual schools of fish – no turtles or sharks on our day of diving.

Colorado
Level Contributor
1,516 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

On our last day, we rented a golf cart to tour the Island. I would highly recommend doing this. Nick from Pirates Hideaway rents them but Debbie can set you up and have it delivered. It would take too long to walk or bike the whole Island in a day (rough roads too so you could end up with a bike flat pretty far away). We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. We headed south down the West Coast. We stopped along the West Coast to admire the view (rocky ironshore coastline with no beach). The waves were crashing over the coastline. We then headed to the Southern tip – stopped at a beach area and walked around. We then headed to the East Coast. No road markers on the Island – need a map to figure out where to go. Just follow what looks like a path. The waves were crashing along the rocky East Coast too. Fishing nets and other flotsam were washed up along the shoreline. Donkeys and cows were gathered in different areas around the Island. We headed North up the East Coast. We stopped at a nice beach area to look around (I believe it was near South Creek or the mangroves). We then headed back North West to get to North Beach. Wow – a beautiful deserted long stretch of beach. We stopped at the former Windmills Resort. The resort had closed and then was hit hard by hurricane Ike. It looked like it was a beautiful resort in its heyday. The buildings are so colorful and the views of North Beach are great. It is in total ruins now. It was hard to look at all the devastation. We walked North Beach to the West (was pretty windy and the seas were rough). We then drove the golf cart to an Eastern spot on North Beach and walked East. You can see Cotton Cay from North Beach. We headed back to Island Thyme for a late lunch. Had a quick rain shower during lunch. After lunch we drove the golf cart to Victoria Street and took pictures around town. We also headed out before sunset and climbed up Little Bluff Lookout where the lighthouse and cannon are. What a spectacular view from here. You can see the North Coast and West Coast and a great view of the Northern part of the Island. There are paths from the North West bluff to the North Coast and the West Coast. We walked down the path to the North West corner leading to the North Coast. We met up with another couple that we knew staying at the Tradewinds. They had just spotted a whale off in the distance. Little Bluff Lookout is a great spot to look for whales. We headed back down the bluff – a group of 10 cows were waiting for us hanging around our golf cart. We drove off past the cows and came upon a solo donkey who started braying after seeing/hearing another donkey. I was taking some video at the time and happened to catch him (see video). I do miss the donkeys braying – a usual occurrence throughout the day.

A visiting couple we met were there to find out more historical information (the wife had ancestry roots from the family that once owned The Brown House). They were able to tour The Brown House, meet with Tim Dunn who is restoring The White House (we ran out of time to meet with him), visit St. Johns Church to go through historical records, visit the 4 cemeteries, and met with some residents who had historical knowledge. We saw them every day and caught up with their progress. It was fascinating to listen to. They were then headed to Grand Turk for more research (more records kept at TCI Museum).

While on Salt Cay, we heard there was going to be a big conference on Provo about the past, present, and future of Salt Cay. Future visions for Salt Cay were discussed. A book called SALT CAY IN PERSPECTIVE was released at the conference and explains the impact of development on Salt Cay (it is mentioned on the website www.divesaltcayandmore.com). It would have been an interesting conference to attend.

Historic Homes – Salt Cay was once the hub of the T&C salt industry. The salt was brought to the storage area and boats by donkey carts (why they have donkeys on the Island).

The White House – built in 1840’s - was home of The Harriot House and Harriot salt merchant operation. Tim Dunn is currently restoring. He will gladly give you a tour if he is on Island.

The Brown House – Built in 1840’s – one of the few remaining wooden structures – was a salt merchant’s home

The Halfway House – two-story home famous for woodworking and high ceilings

Mt. Pleasant Guest House – Built in 1832. Just recently modified – sad to see the original historical structure has been changed.

St. Johns Church – built in 1790’s

Here is my picture link. The slideshow does not work well with so many pictures so it is easier if you click on each one.

http://saltcay2011.shutterfly.com/pictures

Some other websites:

www.saltcay.org

www.saltcaydivers.tc

www.islandthyme.tc

www.divesaltcayandmore.com

Pittsburgh...
Destination Expert
for Turks and Caicos
Level Contributor
2,189 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Your Salt Cay report is awesome and your photos too. It must have been amazing to see the humpback whales. I loved the donkey and underwater pictures. Photo #58 looks like the donkey in the back is smiling at you. Thanks so much for sharing.

Halifax, Canada
Level Contributor
4,480 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Thanks so much for such a detailed report on Salt Cay. Sounds like it was an amazing experience.

Salt Cay is definately going on my bucket list now!

Loved the pictures!

Massachusetts
Level Contributor
3,515 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Wonderful, detailed trip report - I enjoyed it very much! Your photos are great too; love the donkeys. I keep telling my hubby that going to see the whales is what I want to do for my 50th birthday. The only thing that would hold me back is the fear of that small plane ride (ugh!). Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us.

Napa, California
Level Contributor
41 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Awesome trip report and amazing pictures, especially the underwater photos. Curious what kind of camera you are shooting with?

Rockford, IL
Level Contributor
178 posts
74 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Thanks for sharing what a great trip report. Loved all the photos especially the donkeys and underwater images. Cheers

Washington DC...
Destination Expert
for Turks and Caicos
Level Contributor
14,250 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Awesome. Thanks for sharing you're unique pictures!

Bayonne, New Jersey
Level Contributor
752 posts
1 review
Save Reply
9. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

I loved the photos. And thanks again for the e-mail info. Now here is another question about your photos. From the look of the swells around the whales and the breaking of the surf at the various beach pictures...was wind a problem on Salt Cay being it is that far away from the other islands ,or is that just because it is winter?

Canandaigua, New...
Level Contributor
7,318 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Salt Cay 2011 Trip Report and Pictures

Awesome trip report and pictures!

Loved the noise from the donkey.....so cute.

Mike