A divers abases himself before the Rays of Sting in Stingray City, Grand Cayman’s most unique attraction under just a few feet of clear, warm water. Photo by Kfulgham84
Grand Cayman Diving
Oneof the world’s most famous shallow dives, a patch of sand in Grand Cayman’s North Sound where stingrays have congregated for many years since fishermen used to anchor here to fillet fish and discarded the leftovers for the rays to enjoy.
These days divers, generally in small organised groups and after a thorough briefing, drop down, kneel in a circle and wait for rays to whirl around them, pausing briefly to suck bits of squid from their hands. There may be up to 10 or 15 rays patrolling for snacks, some of them with a wingspan of 4ft.
The 2010 artificial reef wreck, the deliberately sunk Kittiwake.
Just off Seven Mile Beach in 65ft of water, Kittiwake is fun for snorkeling and good for diving, but an entry fee required. Don’t expect the quality or history of wrecks like the Hispania, Thistlegorm, Yongala or Kronprinz Wilhem but the Kittiwake experience is a very easy, relaxed and interesting dive, not yet coraled over or much fishy life but good for photos nevertheless.
Devil’s Grotto in Mount Pleasant, West Bay
Diving into the big blue is the best way to meet the locals. A shot of one of Cayman’s 200 dive sites.
A great, low stress first dive. Right on the waterfront, drive up and fall in the water via Eden Rock Dive Shop.
Lockers are available to store things. The site is shallow with plenty of opportunity for fun photography. Beware, some of the swim throughs are tight so if you are claustrophobic or have a bad sense of direction stay out!
Plenty of bright coral, with tarpon, snappers, groupers, barracuda, parrot fish and turtles darting around. Smaller stuff include sea horses, mantis shrimps, bristle worms, lettuce leaf slugs and octopus. Staff are relaxed and let you do your own thing.
It can be busy at times and parking is limited.
Email: JayDive, October 2012: North Wall’s Ghost Mountainis an amazing scuba dive. Top of pinnacle is 50′ with sheer base to 240′ before it then drops to the abyss of 4, 000 feet deep. Eagle ray cruised by as a turtle was munching a snack from a sponge. This reef is one of the healthiest I have seen and the marine life is amazing like it was 30 years ago.
Email: harbormaster999, October 2012: I just had the good fortune to dive the North Wall for five days in a row in almost pristine conditions with no swells, no current, 125+ ft visibility, 7 mph winds, and exceptional marine life, all of which is uncommon for late October.
With unfiltered sun light streaming through seemingly even at depths of 120 feet, the entire coral seascape was lit up and the Wall was alive with life including sharks, Spotted and Green Morays, Eagle Rays, Turtles, large Angels and Groupers lobster, Spotted Drum and even schools of mature Trigger fish.
The water temp from 50 to 110 feet was a balmy 86 degrees and that coupled with the incredible visibility meant for full 55 minute dives, and the folks with NiTrox stayed down even longer. All in all it was one the most enthralling dive safaris I have enjoyed in many years anywhere.
Ghost Mountain, Hammerhead Hill, the Roundabout and Princess Penny’s Peakwere absolutely magical at 100 ft and even the mini walls on our second and third dives were alive, healthy and teaming. The Divetech crew managed to pick the best spots every day out of the 365 dive sites to choose from in the Caymans, and while my policy is to sample a dive location and resort only once, I will definitely be going back to the North Wall and the “Cobalt Coast” again very soon! !
For the past 19 years, the Cayman Islands have placed at or near the top in several categories in the Top 100. This year, the triumvirate of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman grabbed top-five awards in eight categories; even better, the Cayman Islands were ranked Best Destination Overall, an award that shows just how readers value the quality of overall experience in these three islands. And why not? Whether you’re diving Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall or Grand Cayman’s 251-foot Kittiwake wreck (purpose sunk in 2010), sunbathing on Seven Mile Beach or exploring a forest reserve, this popular Caribbean destination proves time and again that life is good if you’re in the Cayman Islands.
Best Snorkeling Beaches
It is an even shallower spot a couple of miles east of Stingray City where tourists can simply stand in chest-high water, with or without snorkels, and also feed the rays with the help of ray ranglers.
Email from Mr and Bee, December 2012:
We were taken to ride out to Stingray City on jet skis, about a 4 mile ride out on the ocean which was an unforgettable experience.
Once we dropped anchor on the jet skis at Stingray City, we had company on the sandbar from only one other jet ski tour for a total of 6 jet skis in the water, 4 couples and 2 guides.
The stingrays are amazing and so interactive! The water was warm, clear and absolutely gorgeous for swimming. In most places, the water was about 4 ft deep so even I could stand easily and I’m 5’2″.
After playing with the stingrays and swimming, our guide led us on the jet skis to another spot in the ocean that had good snorkeling. In this spot we saw a few tour boats of snorkels but the reefs we were above were of such an expanse that we didn’t feel crowded at all.
Cemetery Beach coral reef
Just north of Seven Mile, Cemetery Beach is colourful and full of life though old hands say it’s been overused and gone downhill.
Take a packed lunch and drinks as nothing is on sale there and plan on spending a couple of hours in the water snorkeling about 150m (450ft) off shore. The water’s usually calm and very clear with visibility to 15m-20m. Fish and coral formations are terrific. Sea turtles, squid, lobsters, nurse sharks and all sorts of psychedelic reef fish were still here in November 2012. The beach has shady trees and there’s parking nearby. Tip: buy a squirt cheese tube and use it to attract fish.
See above in diving section; the best snorkeling is quite far out and almost a scuba experience seeing the drop offs, the crevasses and swim throughs, the changing colors of the light, the turtles gliding up from the depths.
Ithas plenty of shade on the small, secluded beach, along with parking, picnic benches, toilets useful showers. Popular with locals at the weekend, the rock features are lovely and all kinds of fish, coral, eels, squid, octopus, barracuda; the are waters very calm and clear, but the best sights are a bit further out. Some very large fish patrol those waters, up to 5ft or 6ft is not unusual.