The Caymans are 3 islands, and are a dependent area of the UK. They are located 480 miles south of Miami, and are tucked away in the Caribbean Sea. Grand Cayman is only 22 miles long somewhat, and once you’ve lived here a while even that becomes a long island to live on.
The main attraction of diving Cayman are the infinite walls, you can’t be promised the fish life of Indo-Pacific but you can certainly experience the thrill of free diving or scuba diving a wall where the bottom appears endless. On days of good visibility the sensation of reaching the drop-off is so eerie, exciting, you just "want to go deeper" and see what’s down there. Common fish are mainly parrot fish of many varieties, jacks, bonito, snapper, sergeant majors, butterfly fish, tangs, and now during the summer season we have seen some decent sized hammerheads too (10ft approx.)
The dive operators are regulated, and the Cayman Watersports Operators Assocation sets the rules and standards. Safety is their number one concern, and most dive operators are members of the Association. This means that all dive boats should be equipped with the materials as specified by the Association, i.e. Oxygen kit, First aid, VHF 2-way radio, Displayed dive tables, Float line (current line), Dive flag, and Floatation devices, one for each person. The recommended maximum depth limit for divers is 100/30m feet, the required maximum being 110 feet/33m. Dive operators are required to follow and develop safe diving practices with all Scuba customers and provide competent and professional standards.
2-tank boat trips are normally guided 100ft Wall dives (2 instructors guiding the group), followed by a 60/18m ft "mini-wall" dive. By mutual agreement there is only one dive boat per reef mooring, unlike the Red Sea where you can rendezvous with 60 other divers and most possibly surface to the wrong boat.
Grand Cayman also boats the most "exciting 15ft/5m dive in the world", Stingray City. In just shallow water, on a fairly sand bottom, stingrays come to divers to partake of squid canap??s, allowing you to have an up close and personal experience with a "loving" Southern Stingray. I say loving, as if you’re not firm enough, the rays can give you nice hicky, even through your 5mm wetsuit. They don’t have teeth but do have flattened dermal plates in their mouth which grind and "hoover" up food, and can suck a conch out of it’s shell. If you tease them a little by not giving them food so easily they follow the smell of squid in your fist and you can actually lie on your back and tickle their underside (which they seem to enjoy) and really get a good look at them. You can also do twirls, figure 8’s etc. and generally have a ball.
The stingrays have not actually stung any people, but do be careful of the stinger in the tail, and respect them, remember they are mostly on the sea floor so mind your fins etc and don’t stand on them. The sting is a modified dermal dentacle and does contain venom; you’ll be hanging out and drinking whisky for a few days afterwards if you’re unlucky enough to get stung. Do a stingray shuffle if you’re in shallow water so that any hidden stingray will move off before you do tread on it.
But what is there after the dive?
Friday nights in Cayman is Happy Hour, but they do it island style… a FREE BUFFET is offered by most bars and restaurants, and the good ones are Fidel Murphy’s (Irish bar), the Cracked Conch restaurant (live music and outside facing the sunset), Rackhams, and Stingers. The Lonestar does ribs on a Friday and has a huge shot-‘n-chaser list and also sports a popular volleyball court. There are several night clubs and a lot of outside atmosphere, the Lazy Lizard (swings at the bar to sit on), The Seaview and Naked Fish, The Wreck bar, Rackhams, and The Wharf, The O Bar and the Next Level do all nights
So if you’re dived and possibly liquored out and need to chill out and relax, there are inland mangroves, and kayaking on them is quite popular. Make sure you have bathed in anti-mosquito fluid first!! There are also a number of spas, if you need a massage or something else more pampering other than your habitual "divemaster pedicure".
There are also Botanical Gardens boasting a large population of the indigenous iguana, blow holes, excellent shore diving and snorkelling, and an amazing golf course at the Hyatt. There are also booze cruises on a remake of a pirate schooner and if you can’t stay away from the water but it’s your last day then hire a couple of wave runners from Red Sail sports and expend some adrenalin. The water around Seven Mile Beach (true to it’s name) is fairly calm and flat most days, so parasailing, wave runners, windsurfing or just hanging out in the turquoise waters in front of the Westin A trip up to RumPoint is worthwhile, it’s a quiet setting with hammocks on the beach, a typical of an idyllic island lifestyle.
It’s Pirate’s Week in October, you have all got to get here for that, all the dive shops are at war and rob things off each other boats at night, all are dressed as pirate’s while out at the dive sites and normally have to keep someone on the boat just to protect it while everyone else is in the water. Diving, madness and mayhem prevail.
Here is a list of respected dive operators in the Caymans;
(Scuba instruction, boat dives, technical diving and instruction, rebreather instruction, freediving instruction by Canadian World Champion Calista Johnston, resort courses, DPVs, two shore diving locations. Shore diving locations). Divetech has two shops, one located at Cobalt Coast, on the North Side of the island, which is a perfect location for divers wishing peace and quiet, good diving and a "getaway" atmosphere.
Bob Soto’s Reef Divers
(Instruction, boat dives, resort courses, PADI 5* centre)
(Out on the East End of the Island)
(Scuba instruction, boat dives, technical diving, resort courses, DPVs)
Cayman Diving Lodge
(An all-inclusive diving lodge, with boat diving, instruction, resort courses. Great family atmosphere).
Visit www.caymanislands.ky for more information on tourism in the Cayman Islands.