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Destination Spotlight: The Cayman Islands – Grand Cayman

Still got room in your passport book for an island nestled in the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean? If not you better start adding pages because our new destination is soon to house 240 dive sites that are sure to leave even our most experienced readers in awe.

The Cayman Islands were discovered by European explorers. In 1503 Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman and named them Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles swimming in the surrounding waters. The 1523 Turin map referred to them as Los Lagartos, meaning alligators. By 1530 they were known as the Caymanes after the Carib word Caiman for the marine crocodile that lived there. Archaeological studies of Grand Cayman show no human occupation before the 16th century. The first recorded English visitor was Sir Francis Drake in 1586 and the year 1734 marks the first permanent settlement. A variety of people settled on the island but the majority are English and African descent.

Present day Grand Cayman has evolved into a major tourism and offshore banking center. The endless sandy beaches, upscale condos, resorts and attractions will please every visitor. But while there are many topside attractions, it is what lies underwater that lures scuba divers to Grand Cayman.

Diving Grand Cayman

Two of Grand Cayman’s most noted features for divers is its shore diving and numerous variety (did we mention 240) of exciting dive sites.Waters that average a warm 80 degrees year round, dramatic walls adorned with colorful corals, invertebrates and sponges, shallow reefs of fish (great for snorkelers), renowned wrecks, turtles, sharks, silversides, octopus, groupers, tarpon, spotted Eagle and Southern rays and more. Grand Cayman is also known for it’s amazing visibility (perfect for snapping endless underwater images), which usually exceeds 100 feet. But if this still doesn’t perk your fins then maybe the home of the world’s best 12-foot dive and legendary Stingray City and USS Kittiwake might spark your interest.

USS Kittiwake: a 251-foot long decommissioned US Navy Rescue Ship rests 64 feet deep at the bottom of the ocean but is only 15 feet from the surface which is great for snorkelers and divers alike.

This is one of the only places where snorkelers can enjoy a dive site and experience whatdivers see under the surface. Great attraction for non-diving family members and spouses!

Stingray City: another unique and world-famous dive! Stingray City is the only dive in the world where divers can interact with Southern Stingray.

Once at the dive site you’ll be briefed on the do’s and don’ts and how to interact with the fish and stingray, then you’ll have 45 minutes to an hour with the marine life. Definitely a must-do dive!

Amphitrite: She’s one of the world’s most famous mermaids next to Ariel, and you’ve seen her online and in magazines from Scuba Diving Magazine to Sport Diver Magazine. This magnificent 9-foot tall bronze sculpture came from Canadian artist Simon Morris and was carefully placed underwater to keep a watchful eye over the beautiful reef.

The David Nicholson Wreck: an old cargo ship now covered and surrounded by sea life makes for a great day or night dive. Deliberately placed to attract fish and marine life in the 80’s, the wreck is now teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, nurse sharks, stingrays and more.

There are plenty of other great dive sites (after all, there are 240!) including: Black Forrest, Eagle Ray Pass. Blue Pinnacles, Tarpon Alley, Trinity Caves, Andres Wall, the exhilarating North Wall and countless more.


You’ve gotta spend some time ashore and Grand Cayman’s got some great topside attractions to fill up your time when you’re not in your fins and wet suit.

So, what’s there to do on a 22-mile long island?


Cayman Turtle Farm: We had to include a little sea life in our topside excursions… it just wouldn’t be right without it!

This is a great attraction. This park allows visitors to learn about sea turtles, sharks and eels, birds, and other creatures. The park even allows observing and interacting opportunities with flora and fauna.

Take a dip in their fresh water tidal lagoon, wander through their aviary and even swim and snorkel with fish and other marine life in a 1.3 million gallon salt water lagoon. (This is great for non-divers with an interest in the ocean).

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park: Here you can get a real feel for Grand Cayman. Enjoy a lush garden popping with colorful flowers and vegetation, a turn of the century Cayman farm house complete with its original furnishings, and a two-acre lake home to native aquatic birds. This makes for a beautiful stop on your trip to Grand Cayman.

After a long day of dives and topside excursions chill out at the ocean’s edge. This is a great spot to enjoy the sunset while sipping on your after diving adult beverage. Oh and you don’t want to miss out on the Green Flash! It DOES exists and if you don’t believe us, experience it for yourself.

You can also visit Hell, a group of short black limestone formations, Pedro St. James National Historic Site, the antique car museum and Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park.


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Destination Spotlight: Philippines

By now your passport must be loaded with stamps from the Caribbean and Central America, but our next stop is a little more far east.

This time though, we’ve got two stops on our trip! Betcha didn’t see that one coming. Our trip to the Philippines includes a visit to Dumaguete and Puerto Galera.

Both destinations are known for their incredibly friendly locals, amazing beaches, delectable food and magnificent colorful diving. Reef, wall, drift, moored and muck diving are common to both areas. Divers can encounter critters from pygmy seahorses to whale sharks and you don’t want to miss the magical mating dance of the mandarin fish.

So before you wet your fins, let us whet your appetite for awesome dives and attractions in our virtual tour of the Philippines.


Dumaguete City is the capital of Negros Oriental province, and has everything from a local market to lush tropical wildlife, natural pools and waterfalls. The city itself has a reputation for its friendly and hospitable locals and is surrounded by tons of activities (which we’ll get back to later, we know what you really want to read about).

Diving Dumaguete

There are a number of dive sites at Dumaguete some appealing to beginners or the more experienced diver looking for a bit of a challenge. These dive sites may overwhelm you with their fish diversity, colorful coral and invertebrates.

But hey, that’s just what we like!

Dauin North at Dumaguete: One of Atlantis‘ most popular dives (we’ll get into them in a bit). Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll know exactly why. At this dive site you’ll encounter a healthy reef teeming with a variety of fish and invertebrates including some Hairy Squat Lobsters, frogfish and ghost pipefish. You can also spot yellowtail barracudas, damselfish, sea turtles, scorpionfish and occasionally, a blue-ringed octopus likes to drop by.

Mainit at Dumaguete: This one’s for our more advanced divers. ‘Mainit’ means hot in the local language and hot is just what you’ll feel on this drift dive. When you come across yellow patches of sand that are hot to the touch thanks to the nearby thermal hot springs.

On this dive you can expect to see schools of barracudas, surgeonfish, dogtooth tuna, yellow snappers, and fusiliers.

There are more dives to experience than we can mention but some other noteworthy dive sites are: Coconut Point off the famous Apo Island offers prolific sea life including big eye trevally, sea turtles and banded sea kraits. While the San Miquel Tires dive site is a must for macro enthusiasts for pygmy squid, nudibranchs, crabs, bumblebee shrimp, flamboyant cuttlefish and nocturnal stargazers.


You’re going to want to stay a few days, and not just for the dives! The Philippines is FULL of rich culture and land. Waterfalls, lagoons, local markets, gardens, and museums – the list seriously goes on. So, we’re going to sum up a few but feel free to explore some more!

Malatapay Market: Just 20 minutes south from Atlantis is Malatapay, home of the only open-air market in Negros. There you can experience the traditional Philippine “barter” system.  Locals gather from Apo Island and the surrounding mountains eagerly trade livestock, fish, exotic fruits, strange vegetables and household items. Sample some lechon baboy (roast pork) and a cold San Miguel beer while sitting on the beach.

Dolphin Watch: One of the most popular attractions of Negros Oriental, Bais City is home of the premier attraction for dolphin and whale watching. The trip is about 45 minutes away but it’s well worth it.

Puerto Galera

Resembling a postcard or cover from a travel magazine, Puerto Galera is considered one of the most beautiful beach resort areas in the Philippines (and the world). Its crystal clear waters and gorgeous beaches are what make Puerto Galera an ideal spot for sailing, swimming, surfing, and you guessed it – diving!

Diving Puerto Galera

Coral Cove at Puerto Galera: Macro lovers rejoice! This is a wonderful dive for you and beginner divers alike. Here, you’ll find countless nudibranchs, whip coral, sea fans, puffer fish and even cuttle fish. The wall and its overhangs are home to some unusual critters – blue and black ribbon eels, juvenile emperor fish, urangutan crabs hiding in bubble coral, and pipefish, just to name a few. Banded sea snakes are common here, as are blue spotted stingrays on the adjacent sandy bottom. Venture a little deeper and you might find thorny sea horses hiding in the rubble as well.

Canyons at Puerto Galera: This world-class drift dive is a must-do for experienced divers.  Here the canyons all have sheltering walls and sandy bottoms, where you can kneel down, rest – and watch the big fish fighting in the current above your head. Inside the canyons you’ll find octopus, scorpionfish, sea snakes and other reef fish. This is the one dive site where even bigger animals are sometimes spotted: Manta rays, thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks have all been seen here.

If you’re looking for high voltage diving then the Verde Island Washing Machine during strong current tide changes is your kinda speed. This site is done over a series of 7 shallow gullies where you can watch fish spin and it’s an easy dive during slack tides. The Coral Garden dive site features large coral heads comprised of many types of corals, barrel sponges and colorful reef fish a beautiful site to check out!


Puerto Galera is infamous for its beaches and crystal clear waters so we definitely suggest spending some time snorkeling, kayaking, beach hopping, and of course diving! But there are also a lot of great things to do here that you don’t want to miss. From a local village to a hidden paradise, here are a few topside activities to check out.

Tamaraw Falls: Located just 14 km from Puerto Galera and near the village of Villaflor is Tamaraw Falls. Taste the sweet natural spring water as you enjoy the outstanding scenery, the old growth forest, and beautiful rock formations below the waterfall. Bathe in the pools, bask in the sun, and just relax. Perfect for nature lovers!

Tukuran ‘Hidden Paradise’: A 45-minute jeepney ride from the town of Puerto Galera will take you to the four rivers, where you can continue by foot or ox-cart to get to the some glorious falls. These waterfalls have had thousands of years to carve and shape the surrounding rocky landscape into pools and small falls. A definite must-go!

Dumaguete and Puerto Galera

We got so excited about sharing the dives and topside attractions; we almost failed to mention that there are full service Dive Resorts, which operate in both Dumaguete and Puerto Galera.

 Many are first class facilities with many amenities such as free WiFi, spa massages and experienced dive operations offering up to 5 dives daily, Nitrox, fluro night dives, day trips, kid diving, underwater photography services, and tons more.

We also love the involvement of resorts with the local communities. Since 2006, they started the Atlantis Education Foundation to improve children’s education with supplies, finances and school visits with staff and guests.

Oh! You can’t leave without trying some of the delicious local food including adobo (braised chicken or pork in spices), kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew) and torta (omelette) but save room for the mango cheesecake – it’s delicious!

There are many destinations for exciting diving in the Philippines and  Puerto Galera and Dumaguete should be among your top choices.

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