Exploring the Cayman Islands

dive highlights, tips, recommendations, and dive list

the Cayman Islands

We visited the Cayman Islands—specifically Grand Cayman Island— for about a month in 2018. During this time, we had the privilege of diving all manner of places, from the main wall to the metre-deep shallows of Stingray city. Some we took by just jumping in and shore diving. For others, we contacted DNS Diving.

What do we recommend?

While yes, touristic, we strongly recommend Stingray city. Not the shallow part, but the deep part—it sits in around 4 metres of water. It makes for a good half-tank free dive or even a SCUBA dive. We rarely get to be so close to marine life!

Definitely, the Ex USS Kittiwake. This is a gorgeous free dive, and even made for a fun SCUBA dive. If you can hit 20 or so metres, you can free fall down through the entire ship, as hatches are open on both sides. It's great fun to sit in the sands alongside or work your way into the hull and, if you're lucky, enjoy some time with a visiting hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). On the down side, the ship can be swamped by SCUBA divers below and snorkellers above, with no apparent communication between dive companies.

Perform at least one main wall dive. The wall starts at around 20 metres—it's well within a free dive—and simply drops away. It's great fun to sit on the edge and just look off into the distance. We came across plenty of marine life on the wall: loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), and so on. The French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) are fearless, as are the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) and the Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). We wouldn't say there's a huge amount of life, but given the boat traffic and clutter of divers, it's better than we expected.

And the bad news?

We're spoiled by being, well, free. And on Grand Cayman, given that it's such a destination for easy-access watersports, there's a strong push to operate within the confines of either SCUBA diving with a dive boat or snorkelling in the littoral waters. This makes sense: most tourist divers and snorkellers have little experience in the deep. So in our month there, we were harassed at least twice by local authorities confused by divers off-shore without a boat, and simply not accepting that this was perfectly legitimate. What do we advise? Follow the local regulations—have a diver down float at all times in the water, and areas near the ports are no-swim zones—and simply end your dive if harassed or threatened with fines. Sadly, most free divers (and non-guided SCUBA divers) put up with this in most places. Grand Cayman Island is no different.

Oh, and do be careful when shore diving! The boat drivers, especially jet ski drivers, are clueless. This goes for littoral dives (many drivers just ignore the speed limit imposed close to shore) as well as off-shore.

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