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Grand Cayman Island Guide: Snorkel

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Snorkelling is Grand Cayman's greatest, easiest adventure and an activity everyone can enjoy. If you've only fantasized about peeking beneath the sea, there is no safer, gentler and more exciting place to learn this sport than in Cayman's calm, clear, current-free waters. From toddlers to great-grandparents, snorkelling is ideal for all ages and a great family activity. Our skilled watersports operators are ready to teach you safe snorkelling techniques from the start. You'll practically rub noses with neon fish, float over coral gardens - even stroke a friendly stingray at Stingray City.

When you stay in the Sunrise Villa, you can snorkel above the reef located a very short distance off shore. Bring a single use, waterproof camera for some great underwater photography. And there are many other ways to enjoy snorkelling. Don't miss Cayman's original tourist attraction, a North Sound Stingray City trip with a gregarious Caymanian captain. Later, hover over tarpon at Devils Grotto and Eden Roc. Or splurge on a half day cruise with lunch and a sampling of snorkelling stops. You can even join a dive boat and watch divers below. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman offer many gentle adventures on shallow reefs right offshore as well as snorkelling trips with picnic beach lunches.

Thanks to Cayman's strict Marine Parks laws, our protected healthy coral reefs and abundant marine life remain our greatest natural attraction. Grab a mask, fins and snorkel, and discover unlimited fun and unforgettable adventures!

In the Cayman Islands, hours of unforgettable adventures are only a simple mask, fins and snorkel away!
Watch a parrotfish have lunch - and help keep our beaches covered with pure white sand! Stand up to a patrol of cheeky Sergeant Majors, inspecting you for handouts. Pose with nuzzling stingrays for photos that will stun your friends. Float over the wall and marvel as divers disappear down the wall below into that breathtaking, mysterious cobalt blue.

Cayman's fame as one of the world's top dive destinations has meant that we often forget to brag about how exciting and easy Snorkelling is off our three islands.

Snorkelling is the ideal activity for all ages and something the entire family can enjoy together. There is no safer and gentler place to learn this sport and enjoy that first encounter with magnificent marine life than in Cayman's calm, clear, current-free waters. Snorkelling provides a glimpse of the exciting underwater world experienced "in depth" by divers. From encounters with the rays in shallow water at Stingray City and the Sandbar to floating above shallow wrecks, such as the Cali and Balboa off Grand Cayman, adventures await snorkelers every day.

Snorkelling is Fun and Easy!
You've never tried Snorkelling? No problem! Cayman's watersports operators understand this and are happy to assist first-time snorkelers in mastering basic skills safely to insure they enjoy the sport on their first try. Many dive operations offer special "learn to snorkel" boat trips offering instruction, equipment and several Snorkelling stops for about US$35 per person. The entire family can go along and learn together. There are many operators to choose from.
A few include Ocean Frontiers, Stringray City Trips, and Soto's Cruises.

Begin with the basics:
Properly fitting equipment! Don't be afraid to ask for help! Nothing is more important than finding a mask which is comfortable and fits well - this is your window on the underwater world - and fins which don't cramp your feet. You can rent a complete set of equipment for about US$10 per day - or invest in a set of your own and you're free to explore whenever the urge strikes.

Before you splash into the unknown - buy a guide to Caribbean marine life. It can be as simple as a laminated plastic card to carry with you. Understanding what you're seeing and being able to identify the strange and unusual creatures you see will greatly increase your Snorkelling enjoyment.

Finally, for safety sake: consider wearing a Snorkelling vest and please tow a dive float if you plan to snorkel any distance from shore or beyond protected Snorkelling areas.

Once you're geared up and ready to go, a new world is just a flutter kick away!
Several dive operators offer special "learn to snorkel" boat trips with instruction, equipment and several stops. In addition Caymanian captains and crew take visitors on a full day adventure (9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.) that includes lunch. Beginners can learn to snorkel and join advanced snorkelers for stops at either Stingray City or the shallower Sandbar area, where rays swim freely with humans, and the Coral Gardens for fish watching on shallow coral heads.

Our divemasters and boat captains are very protective of our Marine Parks! Remember, almost everything you see beneath the sea's surface is a living creature, regardless of what it looks like. Because most Snorkelling is in shallow waters, snorkelers must take special care to protect fragile coral and other marine life. We ask that everyone enjoying our waters follow a "look but don't touch" policy and not disturb or damage any marine life. Be careful not to stand on coral or sea fans and watch your fins! Careless action by dive fins is the greatest cause of damage to marine life.

Good Snorkelling sites
Stingray City and the nearby Sand Bar in North Sound are Grand Cayman's most popular Snorkelling sites, visited by hundreds of snorkelers each week.

Great Snorkelling can be found close to shore on all three islands. Boat trips will allow you to enjoy more dramatic views of deeper wrecks, reefs and the Cayman wall while floating on the surface. Divers don't have the exclusive on seeing exotic marine life in Cayman waters! You can see huge neon blue Midnight Parrotfish; stingrays, tarpon, schools of yellowtail and blue tangs - and our treasured green turtles, probably raised right at the Cayman Turtle Farm! More than a dozen watersports operations offer Snorkelling trips, including deluxe excursions with lunch onboard. On Grand Cayman's west coast, you can cruise on the Nautilus semi-submersible and many other vessels, including luxury 60' Catamarans and see a variety of sites.

Grand Cayman sites
The closest great snorkelling site is in the ocean at Sunset Villa! After you explore this area, here are a few more to try:

Cemetery Reef: Toward the end of Seven Mile Beach is a oceanfront cemetery (on West Bay Road). Park the car, and walk along the path that runs beside the cemetery to the beach. The best area is quite a few kicks from the shore, so head out towards the buoys (but not past).

Near Cemetery reef - just north of George Town: Don Foster's dive shop on North Church St. and Calico Jack's - both are the best entry points to see the wreck of the Cali. Other good locations include just off Bob Soto's Scuba Center at the Lobster Pot restaurant. Treasure Island Resort has good Snorkelling off its beach. Other popular locations further north include Turtle Reef, just north of the Turtle Farm at Northwest Point.

Popular west coast sites which are easy to reach from shore on Grand Cayman include these locations just south of George Town: Coconut Harbour, Sunset House, Seaview Hotel, Parrot's Landing Watersports Park; Eden Rock Dive Center and the shallows reefs directly off Paradise Reef bar.

The shallows off Morritt's Tortuga Club and Resort's lovely beach offer a surprising variety of fish and other marine life.

North Sound Beach Lunch/ Snorkelling Trips
This is Grand Cayman's original "tourist attraction!" The Cayman Islands watersports industry is over 45 years old. It began in the early 1950's with such pioneers as the late Capt. Ertis Ebanks. Others including Captain Marvin Ebanks, Capt. Crosby Ebanks, Capt. Gleason Ebanks and Capt. Frank Ebanks are still in business today, as members of the Cayman National Watersports Operators Association (CNWOA). Even during the early days of tourism in Grand Cayman, visitors took home memories of wonderful experiences in our waters from these original North Sound boat trips with Caymanian captains - who were often ship's captains and merchant seamen home on leave.

Long before Stingray City became a popular diving and Snorkelling attraction in North Sound, these and other skilled Caymanian captains offered visitors boat trips including bottom and deep sea fishing and Snorkelling trips in North Sound, which included lunch of freshly caught seafood prepared either onboard the boat or on the beach at Kaibo at Water Cay in Rum Point.

In fact, it was the activity created by fishermen cleaning their day's catch in North Sound over two decades which attracted the stingrays to the area now known as Stingray City and the Sandbar - long before the site was discovered by divers and named by Skin Diver Magazine in 1987.

Information provided by Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

 


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Web Site & Most Photos by Mark File