Diving Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman has some of the Caribbean's best marine life.
Grand Cayman is a mere 22 miles in length and only 8 miles wide at its thickest point. That's not much territory to cover--unless you're trying to swim it.
Then the island seems to loom as large as the Great Barrier Reef, and becomes just as impossible to thoroughly explore.
From a diver's point of view, Grand Cayman is unique. Not only is all of its shoreline worth investigating, but the island offers unusually varied conditions, from shallow reefs to deep walls to wrecks.
Plus lots of big marine animals: from the famous southern stingrays at Stingray City to the schooling tarpon at Tarpon Alley and Eden Rock.
Probably everyone's favorite dive choice is the magnificent North Wall, which starts at about 65 feet and bottoms out several thousand feet down. The North Wall is as famed among divers as Aspen is among skiers. Other islands may boast walls, but almost none are as rich in corals, sponges and fans.
The great North Wall is well populated with long red finger sponges that have the island's underwater trademark. These strawberry red sponges are rarely found in such profusion anywhere else.
Even more noticeable down deep are the unusually big gorgonian fans projecting from the wall; these spade-shaped formations are almost as wide as the average person is tall.
When wind conditions make reaching the North Wall difficult, protected
West Bay off Seven Mile Beach normally is no more rippled
than a swimming pool. The West Bay sites, at times some of the most
dived areas because of their ideal conditions, are only a few minutes
boat ride away.
Good shallow diving from the beach is found just to the east of George Town Harbour, off the "Iron Shore," so named because of the sharp volcanic rock that forms the shore line. This region is normally peaceful and calm for entry and exit. Should the waves start coming in, dive is best done only from a boat.
Cayman's least dived area is the East End, which has the fewest dive operations and is the farthest from George Town. However, some dive operators run a minibus shuttle from hotel row on Seven Mile Beach to his East End dive boat. Divers who concentrate on only the East End often stay in that area to avoid the drive time and rental car expense.
East End divers might best be characterized as divers who prefer to be away from the other more crowded regions. They also tend to be people who've already spent a lot of time on Grand Cayman and seen the major sites.
As the underwater terrain differs significantly from one section of the island to the next, dive operators tend to be pretty good about exploring around the island. However, you can maximize your mobility by boarding different boats in different destinations.
Most of the outfits do their heavy diving early,
standardizing at two tanks in the morning and one in the afternoon,
which makes it easy to plot your day accordingly.