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Cayman Islands Guide: Diving and Snorkeling

Guide Intro | Top 10 Things to Do | Facts & Tips | Bird Watching | History | Diving | Snorkeling | Family Fun | Fishing |
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Pristine walls, fascinating shipwrecks, an unrivalled variety of marine life and more than 250 dive sites…the Cayman Islands’ underwater playground can be enjoyed by all. Continually named among the top five destinations in the world for diving and snorkelling, the variety and splendour of their shallow reefs and majestic wall will thrill the explorer in even the most jaded diver.

Recognized in 1957 as the Caribbean’s birthplace of recreational diving, the Cayman Islands have more than 40 dive operations spread throughout the island trio and is universally recognized as one of the world's leading dive destinations. Major barrier reefs, such as the North Wall, are located far from the shore, but much of the coastline lies within the protection of fringing reef. This sheltered environment is not only a safe haven for swimming and snorkeling; it is also a major breeding area for many species of fish and invertebrates.

Grand Cayman itself offers approximately 130 dives spots, many less than half a mile from shore and is surrounded by approximately 60 miles of drop-offs. In the North Sound, off Grand Cayman, is one of the Cayman Island’s most famous shallow dives -- Stingray City. Called the “world’s best 12-foot dive,” Stingray City provides the rare opportunity to swim with more than two-dozen “tame” Atlantic Southern Stingrays that sail gracefully through the sun-kissed waters. Known for years by local fisherman who watched rays gather to feed on scraps of fish from the cleaning of their day’s catch, the site, considered Grand Cayman’s original tourist attraction, was “discovered” around 1986 when local dive masters noticed a congregation of rays that seemed to allow human interaction.

Cayman Brac boasts its own unique dive opportunities with fewer divers and over 50 prime dive sites. This includes the 330-foot Russian frigate #356, renamed the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, which was scuttled in September 1996 on the inside edge of the drop-off on the northwest coast of Cayman Brac. The warship, which never saw active duty, enables divers to safely explore the missile launcher, machine gun turrets, fore and aft cannons, and swim through access of the bridge and upper decks. Cayman Brac is also home to the “Oceanic Voyageurs” a dolphin statue, sunk in shallow waters which provides great snorkeling and diving – and for those who just want to explore there are beautiful coral gardens and dramatic caves just waiting to be discovered.

Little Cayman’s unmatched dive opportunities include its most famous site, Bloody Bay Wall --considered one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. Just a short swim from the shore, the wall drop-off begins at just 18 feet below the surface and plunges to more than 1,000 feet. The wall is thick with sponges and coral and is also home to many formations – chimneys, canyons and coral arches – guaranteed to entrance divers. The rare longsnout seahorse can also be found among sections of the Bloody Bay Wall.

Diving in the Cayman Islands is taken seriously as a business and the operators are excellent, upholding the highest safety standards. Professional assistance from dive operators on all three islands can be found.

The popularity of the Cayman Islands as a dive destination has gained distinction due not only to its abundant dive locations and underwater menagerie, but also to:

  • The variety of quality scuba instruction for those of all experience levels (and a variety of languages), resort courses, handicapped diving, full certification courses and advanced courses to teach the use of a scuba computer with a Master Scuba Instructor as well as a range of certification agencies (PADI, NAUI, SSI, NASDS, IATD, HAS & BSAC). Uniform training in conservation information as well as health and safety aspects occurs at all dive centres.
  • A unique variety of unusual and approachable marine life, including the Southern Atlantic Stingrays at Stingray City, green and hawksbill sea turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm, eagle rays, schools of tarpon and silversides, barracudas, angelfish, puffer fish, scrawled filefish, flying gurnards, moray eels and many others.
  • Calm, current-free conditions and generally exceptional visibility year-round. Additionally, on Grand Cayman, regardless of the prevailing winds, there is always a leeward side to the island, which divers and snorkellers can enjoy.
  • Easily accessible dive sites.
  • Protection of marine life through enforcement of Marine Parks and conservation laws.
  • The range of professional, quality dive operations and support services such as equipment repair, rentals and well-maintained, state-of-the-art dive boats.

SASY & SNUBA
Adults and children looking for the dive experience, but not ready or qualified for the real thing will want to try SASY (Supplied Air Snorkelling for Youth) and SASA (Supplied Air Snorkelling for Adults). Invented by Cayman resident and owner of Cayman Aggressor (live-aboard boat), Wayne Hasson, SASY and SASA units look like the real thing, consisting of a life vest, small scuba tank and regulator. SASY dive tanks are smaller than SASA tanks; 13 cu. ft. as opposed to 19 cu. ft. Children ages four and up can join diving parents on a scuba adventure when they dive with a SASY unit. Before SASY, children under the age of 10 were excluded from scuba diving because of the industry’s strict age limitations. SASY and SASA units are available island-wide for sale or rent.

Another way to get the “real” diving experience is with Snuba. Snuba uses a 20-foot hose connected to a tank that floats in a raft above the diver with a regulator strapped to the diver’s shoulder. Snuba is a guided dive accompanied by a rescue diver. For more information on Snuba, contact Beach Club watersports operators at 1 (800) 482-DIVE.

Due to the shallow depths of most snorkelling sites, snorkellers must remember Cayman’s “look but don’t touch” policy and take extra care not to disturb or damage corals or any marine life by careless fin action or touching.

Cayman Islands Award Winning Dive Web Site
There’s a great way to learn more about dive operations, view features on the abundant marine life, see dramatic underwater shots or video taken on dive expeditions, or search a fish database of more than 100 fish that can be observed while diving, visit the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism’s official website dedicated to dive - www.divecayman.ky. Visitors can search more than 250 dive sites throughout the three islands and with a click of the mouse, find information on minimum and maximum site depth, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) coordinates, shore reference point, type of dive (wall, wreck, reef, etc.), shore access, suitability for snorkelling, as well as a comprehensive site description and, in many cases, a digital image of the dive site.

Those wishing to gather dive information, receive newsletters, register with an e-buddy (electronic dive buddy) or book a dive package should check out www.divecayman.ky.

Diving Tours: Ocean Frontiers, Neptune's Divers, Don Fosters, Eden Rock Diving Center.

 


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Web Site & Most Photos by Mark File