Discard Stress Here

Kick Back and Relax with Grand Turk’s
Blue Water Divers and the Salt Raker Inn

by Bill Harrigan

The Grand Turk wall is separated from the superb sandy beach only by a small section of spectacularly clear water. The boat ride between beach and wall takes about the same time as riding an escalator from men’s clothing to bedroom furnishings in a large department store. The wall starts at about 40 feet, where mounds of Star and Brain Coral are piled along the lip. From there it drops thousands of feet into the deep chasm that separates Grand Turk from the Caicos Islands. The face of the wall is thick with corals and sponges, interwoven in a tapestry of green, yellow and purple. The deep water along the wall is a highway for large pelagic animals such as rays, sharks and turtles. Visibility of more than 100 feet is normal and the water temperature is usually 80 to 84°F. If that isn’t great diving, what is? Maybe some adventure diving off the remote islands of South Caicos and Salt Cay?

Blue Water Divers: Blue Water Divers is now operating a new 24 foot V-hull boat called Dancing Fool, acquired expressly for exploring new areas within about an hour’s ride of Grand Turk. On South Caicos the diving is more advanced, with deeper walls and an increased chance of encounters with larger critters such as sharks and Spotted Eagle Rays. Salt Cay provides a full spectrum of diving opportunities, including the possibility of a fascinating dive into the past on the wreck of the Endymion. The Salt Cay excursion is also ideal for snorkeling and includes a beach picnic. Unlike the Grand Turk reef and wall dives, which have year-round excellent conditions in the protected lee of the island, these excursions are dependent on the weather. Late spring through early fall is the best bet, when the trade winds tend to lie down.

One of the things that makes Grand Turk diving great is that the island is so laidback. There are no traffic lights, high rise buildings or fast food restaurants. The airport should have a container marked ‘Discard Stress Here,’ because you are going to shed it like an old coat anyway when you meet Mitch Rolling, the owner and operator of Blue Water Divers. You’ll be able to recognize him easily, because you’ll see his face when you check in, when you board the boat and when you come out of the water. Same Mitch, new hat. He and divemaster Carl Bean are the only fulltime staff members of Blue Water Divers. Although he has been in business for 14 years, Mitch has resisted expanding because he prefers a personal, friendly operation. His infectious humor and easy-going manner makes everyone feel as if they are diving with a longtime friend.

Blue Water Divers isn’t large but it is a full service operation with a complete line of rental equipment and a small retail store and boutique. Instruction is available from resort course through divemaster.

The other two Blue Water Divers boats include Calypso Cruiser and Reggae Express, both easily boarded from the beach and limited to a small number of divers.

Salt Raker Inn: Jenny Smith’s Salt Raker Inn is the perfect match for Mitch’s Blue Water Divers. Originally constructed more than 150 years ago by a Bermuda shipwright, Salt Raker Inn is comfortable, charming and informal. Staying at the Salt Raker is almost like being at home. Hammocks and lounge chairs line the full length upstairs balcony, looking over the front gate and across the beach. The rooms have recently been refurbished and are air-conditioned. A separate area for rinsing and storing dive gear is provided, so you don’t have to share your bathroom with your wetsuit. The Secret Garden Bar and Restaurant, hidden among the lush tropical plants in back of the Inn, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Travel information: Grand Turk is only a hop from Miami on American Airlines; a skip on one of the inter-island commuter airlines and you’re ready to jump in the water. A passport or certified birth certificate and photo ID is all you need at immigrations and U.S. dollars are the official currency. The four Ss;shirts, shorts, swimsuits and sandals;will meet all your clothing needs. The electricity is 110 volts.

If you’re looking for Scuba gear to use on your adventure, go to Scuba.com

For more information/reservations, contact Blue Water Divers by e-mail at mrolling@caribsurf.com and by phone or fax at (809) 946-2432. The mailing address is P.O. Box 124, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, BWI. The Salt Raker Inn can be reached by phone at (809) 946-2260 or fax at (809) 946-2817. Mail should be sent to P.O. Box 1, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, BWI.