There is no question the Cayman Islands are one of the most popular scuba diving destinations in the world. Just ask Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman the well-known actors explored the islands underwater treasures during filming of the motion picture The Firm years ago (a portion of those dives even made it into the film).
The Cayman Islands (a group of three islands Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac) first became prominent among scuba divers back in the 1970s. Until that time, the island was most prominent among bankers and international financiers. But in the scuba diving world, Grand Cayman holds a special place.
The coral reefs, which are accessible both from shore and short boat rides, offer a unique diversity that complements the vast marine life in the islands. But there are three MAIN underwater attractions that almost every diver should see at least once.
Photo courtesy of Martin Stepanek
Located in the shallow waters of the northwest corner of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, its been called the worlds best 12 foot dive and for good reason. Almost every visitor to the island books a trip to this site at least once (sometimes more than once).
The site has been around for years, first discovered by Skin Diver magazine writers and photographers in the early 1980s. Fishermen used to clean their catches in the shallow, calm waters. The local Stingray populations, natural bottom feeders always looking for a free meal, make daily visits to the site and often stay until they get their fill.
Guests traveling to the site, a short boat ride from Seven Mile Beach, can often watch the stingrays following the boats anticipating a free meal. Dozens of stingrays, both large and small, glide to the site and then quickly surround the divers and snorkelers.
Stingrays are often misunderstood as being aggressive, but in reality, they don’t mind being touched and hand-fed small pieces of squid or bait fish. If you’re going to visit Stingray City, be sure to plan an early-morning adventure as the many daily visitors can stir up the sand and make the water cloudy.
Sunset House Mermaid:
Photo courtesy of DiverWire.com
Located just off the shoreline of Sunset House Resort, the famous bronze mermaid (also known as Amphitrite) has been attracting scuba divers for more than a decade. Created by diving enthusiast and sculptor Simon Morris, the statue has had virtually thousands of visitors.
According to Morris, Cayman Island tourism officials were looking for something that both divers and snorkelers could enjoy and approached him about creating a memorable piece. The resulting 13-ft. statue was created to help illustrate the relationship that divers have with the aquatic realm. The size of the statue and prominent placement make it almost impossible to miss and many underwater photographers have found Amphitrite to be a spectacular subject for underwater photography.
Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism
It may have taken nearly a decade to become a reality, but it hasnâ€™t taken long for the Kittiwake wreck in Grand Cayman to rise to the top of MUST lists for divers and snorkelers traveling to the Caribbean.
The 251-ft vessel was sunk in 2010 after years of planning, preparation, re-planning, inspections, studies and safety checks. Sitting in just 64 feet of water, the vessel is easily viewed from the surface and perfect for both scuba divers and snorkelers by design.
Wreck diving is one of the more popular PADI specialty courses. The team planning the Kittiwake wreck project took this into account when designing the site. The wreck has multiple decks for all levels of divers from the beginners to intermediate and advanced. Some dive operators have even used to site for wreck diving certification courses.
While the Kittiwake is an excellent dive, it is recommended that all diving visitors only dive to their level of certification.
The Cayman Islands have dozens of excellent scuba diving sites and attractions. Stay tuned for an update with even more very soon.