The humpback whales of Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands and Silver Bank are North Atlantic Humpback Whales, and are some of the same individuals one might encounter on a whale watching cruise off of Massachusetts' Stellwagan Bank, the coast of Maine, and further north into the waters of Iceland and Greenland, Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands is in the middle of the humpback whale’s annual migratory route to the Silver Banks, a humpback mating and nursery area, north of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea. It is a 75 square mile shallow coral reef area, an underwater plateau of limestone. It is believed that the whales choose this area for birthing and nursing because of the numerous coral heads which break the surface providing protection from ocean swells.
Some estimates show 3,000-5,000 humpback whales passing through the waters of the Silver Banks between December and mid-April each year, making it the largest breeding and calving grounds, often called a nursery, in the world.
Great Sand Cay, about 9 miles south of Salt Cay, has been the “emergency room” to many expecting humpback whales through the years. Humpback whales born in the waters around Great Sand Cay and their mothers as well as other humpback whales are often spotted both by passengers on boats and from the shores of Salt Cay.
Humpback whales are active, acrobatic whales. They can throw themselves completely out of the water (breaching) and swim on their backs with both flippers in the air. They also enjoy “tail lobbing” (raising their huge flukes out of the water and then slapping it on the surface) and “flippering” (using their flippers to slap the water). It is not uncommon to be able to stand on shore or in a boat and watch humpback whales playing for 30 minutes or more.
Divers and snorkelers in the waters around Salt Cay enjoy listening to the “songs” of the humpback whales. A typical song lasts from 10-20 minutes. Singing humpback whales are males and the songs may be a part of mating behavior.
“I watched whales swimming off the "Wall" with a few friends off of a beach on the West side of the island. I jumped onto my kayak and paddled out to within about 30-40 feet of them and cruised slowly South with the baby, mother and "friend" humpback whale. I was reluctant to turn back, but as the end of the island approached I headed back for land. This was truly an experience that I hope may one day be repeated.”
Ann Walterbeek Hawkins
Salt Cay walls define most dive sites on the island. Depths typically start around 40-50ft (12-15m) at the top, and continue into the thousands off the edge. Sea life is vibrant, with sharks, reef fish and pristine, undamaged coral formations. Visibility is usually excellent at 100ft (30m) or more.
Many of Salt Cay’s dive sites are located off the west coast of the island along the edge of the wall and are quick to access by boat.
The most famous dive practical wreck in the country, the HMS Endymion, is located 13 miles (20km) south of the island. This British fifth-rate 44 gun warship went down on a reef in 1790. Although very little of the ship’s structure currently remains, the site is still interesting as anchors, chain and other fittings can still be seen. A 1900s wreck with a very early diesel engine can also be found nearby...
Salt Cay Divers is the only professional dive center on Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Salt Cay Divers offering frontier diving for all levels of expertise and abilities under leisurely, informal conditions. Dive pristine, close-in walls and reefs populated by healthy, abundant coral, sponges and fish.
Visibility around Salt Cay tends to be good, especially when compared to the typical conditions at the popular beach snorkeling spots on Providenciales. However, the size and scope of the reefs and coral easily accessible from shore tend to be a bit more limited and if you're certified, scuba diving is a better choice.
There is no single best location for beach snorkeling on Salt Cay. The west end of North Bay (North West Point) has vibrant coral and sea life, but ocean conditions aren’t always optimal. The ocean off of Deane's Dock and Balfour Town Beach is typically calm, yet the area isn't quite as colorful. See the locations section below for more information.
Oceanaire Bistro, features full-service dining. The island is renowned for its diving and historic Salinas. Salt Cay is the hidden gem of the Caribbean.
Oceanaire Bistro offers fresh, seasonal dishes and bar serving seven days a week.