Cay Sal Bank

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The Cay Sal Bank ( Spanish: Placer de los Roques ) is a large coral reef formation with numerous small islands on a lie over long distances in a few meters of water reef in the Bahama Banks.


The Cay Sal Bank is the third largest and westernmost of the Bahama Banks. It is closer to Cuba ( separated therefrom by a 50 km wide Nicholas Channel) than to the nearest Bahamian island. It is separated from the Great Bahamas Bank by the Santaren Channel, whose western border is located 50 km to the east. The western tip of Andros, the nearest island of the Bahamas, is, 145 km east of the Cay Sal Bank. The Florida road separates it from the Florida Keys ( Key Largo is located 100 km north ).

The island of Cay Sal Bank are the closest abroad with regard to Cuba. Over the decades, 27,000 boat people from Cuba were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard, patrolling here in this area.

The Cay Sal Bank is a carbonate platform with a triangular floor plan. It is also considered as a sinking atoll where the coral growth does not keep up with the speed of descent. With its overall expansion, the Cay Sal Bank is the second largest atoll in the world, surpassed only by the Great Chagos Bank. The total area is estimated at about 4000-5230 km ². To the south is 105 km long side of the triangle, while the width from north to south is 66 km. The land area of the 96 partially very small islands is specified with a total of slightly less than 15 km ². The lagoon is 9 to 16 feet deep.

The islands and groups of islands on the reef are clockwise from the southwest to southeast:

  • Cay Sal
  • Elbow Cays
  • Crenula Cay
  • Double Headed Shot Cays
  • Water Cays (Western Water Cay and East Water Cay )
  • Deadman's Cays
  • Muertos Cays
  • Dog Rocks ( northeast corner )
  • Damas Cays
  • North Dangerous Shoals
  • Dangerous South Skirt
  • Bellows Cay
  • Anguilla Cays

The main islands are Cay Sal, (North ) Elbow Cay and Cay Anguilla.

Cay Sal, the main island in the southwest, is 1.6 km long and has an area of 1.22 km ². It is the only inhabited island of the atoll. In the interior of the island is a large salt water pool, which is usually replenished by strong wind-whipped sea waves breaking through the southwest side of the island. Otherwise, the island is covered with stunted trees. The buildings are the only settlement on the west side.

The Elbow Cays are the westernmost islands of the Cay Sal Bank, they extend from southeast to northwest. North Elbow Cay ( formerly inhabited ) is the largest and highest island of Elbow Cays, and has a no longer used, 17.7 m high signal tower. Further to the southwest lie some unnamed cays and at times falling dry blocks of coral.

The Double Headed Shot Cays extend as a group of elongated islands from South Elbow Cay in the southwest to the Water Cays in the Northeast. Here in the northwest of Cay Sal Bank flows of the Florida Current at full strength in just a short distance from the shore to the islands past.

The Anguilla Cays near the southeast corner of Cay Sal Bank consist of several elongated, scrub - covered sand islands that are swampy in the south and also have some stunted palms. At the north end of the Anguilla Cays is a five-meter high tower signal. Anguilla Cay is the northernmost and second largest island of Anguilla Cays. Cotton Cay, in the south, is the largest. In between is the Middle Cay, and there are a number of unnamed cays.


The Cay Sal Bank, with its islands to Bimini district of the Bahamas, whose main islands are located 150 km to the north.

Pictures of Cay Sal Bank