Scuba Diving Grand Cayman

Known for amazing wall dives, beautiful coral reefs and visibility that often reaches 100 feet (30 m) and even more, Grand Cayman offers some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean.

 

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The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory in the western Caribbean Sea.  They are 480 miles south of Miami, just 150 miles south of Cuba and 189 miles north-west of Jamaica.

Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and the location of the territory’s capital, George Town. In relation to the other two Cayman Islands, it is approximately 75 miles (121 km) southwest of Little Cayman and 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Cayman Brac. The island is 22 miles (35 km) long with its widest point being 8 miles (13 km) wide. The elevation ranges from sea level at the beaches to 60 feet (18 m) above sea level.

There are nearly 600 banks and trust companies in the Grand Cayman, including 43 of the 50 largest banks in the world. Because of this large financial presence on the island, banking, investments, and insurance drive the economy in Grand Cayman.

With over 50,000 residents, Grand Cayman is approximately 75 square miles. It is on Grand Cayman that you will find some of the most popular Caribbean activities, attractions, and festivals, including the popular Pirates Week and the colorful and exciting Batabano. Other popular attractions include the Cayman Islands National Museum, Rum Point, Pedro St. James, Bodden Town, the first capital of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Turtle Farm, and the National’s Trusts Mastic Trail, a 2 mile traditional footpath through unspoiled woodlands.

One of Grand Cayman’s main attractions is Seven Mile Beach, site of a number of the island’s hotels and resorts. Named one of the Ultimate Beaches by Caribbean Travel and Life, Seven Mile Beach is on the western shore of Grand Cayman Island. It is public property and it’s possible to walk the full length of the beach, past all the hotels, resorts, and public beach bars.

Grand Cayman lays adjacent to the peaks of a massive underwater ridge, known as the Cayman Ridge (or Cayman Rise). This ridge flanks the Cayman Trough, 20,000 ft (6,000 m) deep, which lies 3.7 mi (6 km) to the south of Grand Cayman.

SCUBA DIVING GRAND CAYMAN

Grand Cayman is where diving started in the Caribbean. You’ll love the tropical diving. Grand Cayman’s North Wall plunges deeper than 6000 feet (1800 m) and offers beautiful wall diving with opportunities to see spotted eagle rays and sea turtles. You’ll also find the famous Stingray City adjacent to the North Wall. Diving along the West, South and East sides also includes walls as well as diverse shallow dives.  The West side of Grand Cayman is the home of the newly sunk Kittiwake wreck along with multiple wall dives and the most shallow sites.  Grand Cayman also offers accessible shore diving. Scuba divers can swim out to buoyed markers to reach the coral reef wall. With little to no current, shore dives are a unique option on this island and a great opportunity to scuba dive with diver propulsion vehicles.

Grand Cayman dive conditions are largely determined by weather and sea conditions. In general, the east side of Grand Cayman is the windward side of the island and received the most wind, and consequently the roughest seas. While wave heights average 1-2 feet on Grand Cayman’s west side, wave heights on the east side of Grand Cayman average 3-6 feet.

With prevailing easterly winds, the lee side of Grand Cayman is its west side, which is the location of Seven Mile Beach. Most Cayman Islands dive operators keep one or more boats in a location equally accessible to north or west side diving. Depending on the prevailing Cayman Islands weather and sea conditions, wave heights will vary from 1-3 feet on the west side and 2-4 feet on the north side, both well within the comfort zone of all passengers.

Typically, most dive operators offer 2-tank dives in the morning consisting of a guided 100ft wall dive followed by a shallow 50ft buddy dive. Afternoon one or two tank dives are also usually available along with night dives.  The walls on Grand Cayman are spectacularly beautiful with brightly colored corals and sponges, aquatic life including eagle rays, turtles, tarpon, nurse sharks and a large assortment of tropical fish.

Nearly all of the dive operators offer all levels of training, with nearly all of the various training agencies represented by one or another of those operators.

HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS 

The West Side (including Georgetown and 7 Mile Beach)

The West Side is a true divers delight with the biggest diversity of sites anywhere on the island. The conditions offer perfect Cayman diving over 340 days of the year.

The calm West side of Grand Cayman sports several World Class wall sites including Trinity Caves, Big Tunnel and Orange Canyon. There are also several wrecks just a short boat ride from the beach such as the Oro Verde, Doc Polson and their newest wreck, The USS Kittiwake. The shallow reefs are inhabited by a myriad of “diver friendly” fishes waiting to pose for a photo.

The North Wall (including Stingray City)

The North side of the Island is considered by some to be the best of Cayman Diving. This unique wall drops dramatically 6000 feet to the sea floor below. It is healthy with corals and sponges, offering some spectacular photo opportunities. During the summer months it is not uncommon to see large numbers of Eagle Rays swimming in formation along the wall. Turtles will also frequent the dive sites along with the occasional Hammerhead or Reef Shark. Many operators dive the North Wall whenever the weather conditions allow – usually from April to October.

There are not as many shallow sites as on other sides of the island; so many operators will do a second dive on the top of the wall, creating a double wall experience for the divers.

Just inside the barrier reef of the north wall are spots where stingrays congregate, either at Stingray City or Stingray Sandbar.

Diving with the Stingrays (Stingray City) 

Your dive will be in 12′ of water where you will have the unique opportunity to interact with several friendly Southern Stingrays. The dive master orchestrates this underwater adventure for the group with a briefing before the dive.

These girls are incredibly gentle and will expect to be petted, handled and fed. They will be joined by a variety of fish species that line up for a handout as well. After feeding and interacting with the stingrays, there is usually an opportunity to tour of the adjacent coral heads as this area is home to several other creatures to check out while we are there.

Snorkeling with the Stingrays (Stingray Sand Bar)

Snorkeling with stingrays happens at the Sandbar where you will stand in 3′ – 4′ of water and play with the Rays and other fishes that have gotten accustomed to handouts from the visitors. The rays will swim all around your legs and even swim along the surface of the water for a free piece of squid. Many of these trips include a stop at the Barrier Reef or Coral Gardens. The Barrier Reef runs along between the North Sound and the North Wall. There are many varieties and schools of fish along with the occasional eel in these shallow waters. Coral Gardens provides a concentrated area of coral heads in shallow water where you will find a variety of sea life.

South Side 

When the winds shift and the seas get a bit too rough for comfortable diving on the North or West sides, divers get a real treat, South Coast diving! These dive sites have been formed by Mother Nature’s constant barrage of waves, creating dramatic spur and groove coral formations. Elkhorn & staghorn corals adorn the tops of the shallow reefs at 15-20 feet where the battle for supremacy amongst the corals forms amazing overhangs, ledges and tunnels. You will love the labyrinth of passageways you’ll discover during your South Coast Adventures. Many cracks and crevices are home to Lobsters and Nurse Sharks. The areas between the vertical wall and shallow dive sites offer fields of Soft Corals and Sea Fans. The South Wall eventually drops 26 thousand feet into the Cayman Trench.

East End 

The east end of Grand Cayman offers spectacular diving although Grand Cayman’s prevailing easterly winds make East End the windward side of Grand Cayman, which creates sea conditions that are typically rougher than other sides of the island. On days when the winds are light out of the south/southwest, there are several spectacular shore dives on East End that will provide some of the best Cayman Islands dives imaginable.

The topography of East end dive sites is a mixture of the North and South sides making for some spectacular wall dives and shallow dives. It is remote

Highlight of Grand Cayman’s Dive Sites 

HOW TO GET HERE

The main passenger airport in the Cayman Islands, Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) on Grand Cayman.  Direct flights from the U S and Europe can be found on:  Air Canada, Air Jamaica, American Airlines, British Airways,  Cayman Airways,  Delta Airlines,  United Airlines and US Airways.

 

More information on Cayman Islands

 

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