The Cayman Islands are famous for their awe-inspiring snorkelling and diving, with world-renowned scientist Jacques Cousteau having declared Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall among the top three sites in the world.
Indeed, whether you want to explore coral reefs during a dive trip, or just take in the view from above while snorkelling, Cayman offers something for everyone. And, you won’t run out of places to go either as Cayman holds enough dive sites to visit a different one every day of the year - 365 to be exact.
Here’s just a few of our favourites, hand-picked by the Your Cayman team.
Some of the best snorkelling can be found at Barrier Reef, a pristine site which separates the shallow North Sound, in Grand Cayman, from a 6,000-feet ocean floor drop-off. Many tall varieties of coral grow here, while small channels allow snorkellers to pass through. Stunning marine life can often be found at this site, including eagle rays and reef sharks. Located on the edge of the North Sound and accessible only by boat, the Barrier Reef is a staple stop-off for many boat tours.
Eden Rock is a fabulous snorkel and dive spot located just 100-feet from the Eden Rock Dive Centre, George Town. One of the highlights of this spot is the schools of tarpon. Large, silvery fish, tarpon are often mistaken for sharks due to their similarly-shaped silhouette. You’ll also see smaller creatures like blue tangs and parrotfish. Divers can enjoy the thousands of tiny silversides that fill the caves during the summer, swimming in sync with one another. Rent equipment from the dive centre, which also includes locker facilities.
Rich in marine activity, this site is easily accessible from the popular destination of Governor’s Beach along Seven Mile Beach in West Bay. Swim about 100 yards straight out from the shore and you’ll find yourself surrounded by colourful mounds of coral-encrusted rock. The reef is a hangout for numerous sea creatures including Bermuda chubs, sergeant majors, and angelfish, and if you’re lucky, you may notice a moray eel or lobster hiding among the small recesses. Visitors should exercise care during their journey due to occasional boat traffic, though during normal weather conditions, the water is free of strong currents.
Turtle Reef, often called the “best shore dive in Cayman,” is a majestic 60-feet drop-off named for the nearby Turtle Centre in West Bay. Located directly off the shore, it is home to turtles and scores of other marine critters too. Don’t forget to travel through Tarpon Cave, a short tunnel where large numbers of these fish gather. Also, take note of the numerous garden eels protruding from the sands. For those willing to swim further, a second drop-off is visible, although its walls begin deeper than the recreational diving limits. A facility located directly at the water’s entrance provides equipment and locker rentals.
Referenced in the movie “The Firm,” Trinity Caves is located off West Bay and is named for three swim throughs twisting through a high mound of rock. As you travel these tunnels, beams of sunlight stream down from gaps above. The caves occasionally become canyons, allowing you to look up at the coral and tube sponges that make their homes on the walls. When you emerge, you’ll be greeted by the sight of a coral reef sloping towards a deep drop-off. Marine life found at the site includes parrotfish, angelfish, and schools of silversides.
The Captain Keith Tibbetts Wreck, a 330-foot-long Russian frigate intentionally sunk off the coast of Cayman Brac and named after a local dive operator, is a popular wreck dive and snorkel spot. Its position covers depths from 30-to-100 feet, making its uppermost sections suitable for snorkellers. The site is accessible for beginner divers, while advanced divers in search of a challenge will enjoy exploring the interior. Sunk in 1996, it is home to numerous sponges and corals. More than 100 species of marine life have been documented, and the site is a regular habitat of groupers and moray eels. The Captain Keith Tibbets Wreck is accessible from shore, but most visitors prefer to travel by boat.
If there is one location that eclipses all others in beauty, it’s Bloody Bay Wall in Little Cayman. This ocean floor drop-off, estimated to reach depths of up to 6,000-feet, begins in shallow waters of as little as 20, allowing divers a considerable length to explore before reaching the recreational diving limits. It also makes the site accessible to snorkellers. It’s home to many species including groupers, triggerfish, turtles, eels, sharks, rays, and notably, large tube sponges of numerous and vivid colour variations.
Most dive sites in the Cayman Islands are accessible to anyone possessing a PADI Open Water Diver certification. This is obtained through an online course with a completion time of 10 to 12 hours, plus two days of instructor-led sessions in confined and open water environments. In the Cayman Islands, you will find no shortage of operators in possession of stellar reputations, who teach PADI courses and offer dive excursions.
Read more from issue one of Your Cayman here.
15 Apr, 2019