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The Cayman Islands, Greater Antilles

Scuba Diving in The Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is a scuba diving paradise that’s bursting with life and color. It may be a financial and tax haven for the world’s Fortune 500, but for divers of all skill levels, it’s a treasure trove of underwater experiences.

Geography of the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the Greater Antilles to the south of Cuba and northeast of Honduras. The triumvirate of islands includes the Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. Each boasts countless shore and deep-sea dives, painterly beaches, vibrant sea life, and the signature Caribbean sunshine.

Grand Cayman

The largest of the three islands and home to the capital George Town, Grand Cayman is undoubtedly a diver’s playground. Beyond the high life and in the undertow is an aquatic wonderland waiting to be discovered:

Southwest Reef

Ghost Mountain may sound like a desolate place, but it’s really quite the opposite. The summit of this mountain sits in 50 feet of water and is blanketed by a field of sponge coral and gorgonian fans where lionfish and shoals of reef fish thrive. It’s not advisable to descend further beyond the pinnacle, but simply staring into the dark, looming slopes is already a rewarding experience.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

One can’t skip a diving site named after one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Located off the coast of the East End of Grand Cayman, this popular dive site boasts towering structures covered with black coral, sponges, fans, and whips. Swim-throughs give you a sneak peek at the diverse community living here. Get ready for heart-thumping shark encounters and drop-offs into the beautiful unknown.

Amphitrite

Your Cayman Islands diving trip won’t be complete without a visit to the enchanting Amphitrite, a submerged statue of the queen of the sea and wife of Poseidon. This bronze beauty is easily accessible from the Sunset House Resort’s beach off Grand Cayman. As a popular shore dive, expect heavy crowds during peak season. If you want the Siren of Sunset Reef all to yourself, opt to dive early in the morning or at night.

Cayman Brac

Cayman Brac is known for its many sea caves and rugged bluffs, but equally noteworthy is the island’s over 70 named dive spots. There’s something for everyone, from easy shore dives to thrilling drop-offs and swim-throughs.

Captain Keith Tibbetts Wreck

The Brac is practically surrounded by wrecks, but the best one so far is the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts scuttled off to the northwest shore of the island. You can hop on a boat or surface swim for about 200 yards on a nice day to reach the site. You wouldn’t believe it’s a 20-year old artificial wreck as the sea life is already well-established, with giant groupers as its main residents. Visibility is great up to 100 feet, allowing you to view the technicolor coral growth and investigate the foredeck with ease.

Theo’s Wreck

If you’re one for adrenaline-pumping dives into maritime history, you’ll enjoy cruising inside Theo’s Wreck. Located 1.5 miles from the coast of Grand Bahama, this 230-foot shipwreck rests on the ocean floor and edges into a 101-feet drop-off. This intriguing Bahamas diving destination is now occupied by a kaleidoscope of vegetation, fish, and corals. Get ready for varying current speeds as you penetrate the wreck’s enigmatic hull.

Greenhouse Reef

The north side of the Brac is a diving hot spot featuring pristine reefs, crystal-clear waters, and grassy meadows brimming with fish life. Greenhouse Reef is the best place to start. Here, shoals of angelfish, lionfish, and schoolmaster snapper congregate in the spur and groove formations. Green Moray eels wind through the nooks and crannies and turtles cruise over the gullies scavenging for food. It’s truly the best spot for wildlife encounters.

Little Cayman

Little Cayman may be the smallest of the three but its reefs and coral walls are nothing short of mighty. The island’s soft, pink-hued sand and gentle surf are a clear indication that a multi-colored aquatic wonderland awaits.

Bloody Bay Wall

Bloody Bay Marine Park is the most popular scuba diving spot on Little Cayman, and for good reason. It has huge underwater walls covered in coral and barrel sponges teeming with fish. But if you’re up for an adventure, the Bloody Bay Wall, which plummets vertically into aquamarine infinity, offers sheer drop-offs. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see silhouettes of pelagics hovering over the abyss. At 100 feet, you might chance upon turtles, stingrays, and sharks.

Jackson’s Bight

After the intense drop down at Bloody Bay Wall, fin out to Jackson’s Bight and get acquainted with pike blennies and scorpion fish foraging the outcrops of hard corals and sponges. The reef is a bit fragmented, with a few swim-throughs here and there, making it a peaceful cruise—the perfect way to cap off an exciting day. From here, you can swim back to the sandy boulevard until you reach the shore.

Marine Life in The Cayman Islands

  • Tarpon - Gamefish is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a tarpon. But this pelagic is quite enigmatic in that it’s the only air-breathing marine fish in the world. And you’ll spot schools of this species on your scuba diving trip in the Cayman Islands.
  • Green Moray eel - The Caymans’ extensive series of reef undercuts and loamy seabeds are excellent hiding places for these charming eels.
  • Goby - This fish species may not look much, but it provides the best cleaning services for reefs. It eats away seaweed, which tend to hover above corals and steal their precious, sunny real estate.
  • Caribbean reef shark - One can’t stress enough the importance of sharks to reef ecosystems. Sadly, their population is rapidly decreasing, and the Caribbean reef shark is no exception. Encounters in Grand Cayman have become rare, but they still swim about the shallow reefs across the Sister Islands.

Other Attractions

  • Seven Mile Beach - Rest your fins and hunker down Seven Mile Beach, a glorious stretch of white sand and endless blue sky at the western end of Grand Cayman. It has the best bars and bistros to get your après-dive tipple.
  • Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Garden - Done exploring the Cayman Islands’ marine flora and fauna? Take a break from the scorching heat and unwind at this lush outdoor garden and wildlife facility in the North Side district of Grand Cayman.
  • Heritage Kitchen - The Cayman Islands is often dubbed as the culinary center of the Caribbean and for good reason. Make a culinary pilgrimage to this rustic beachfront eatery and delight in its sea-to-table fare.

How to Get to The Cayman Islands

Whether through the sky or on board a luxurious ship, there’s no shortage of routes to the Cayman Islands. Plus, getting there is easier and faster than ever. Nationals from most countries can enter the territory without a visa. But a valid passport is a solid requirement, whether you’re traveling by sea or by air. Most visitors with a valid passport and return ticket are allowed to stay for up to 30 days, but there’s an option to apply for a six-month stamp.

By Air
The Cayman Islands is now only a short flight away thanks to the many airlines flying directly to Owen Roberts International, Grand Cayman’s main hub. Short, non-stop flights are also available from several cities in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Venezuela. British Airways offers 10 to 13-hour connecting flights from London to the Cayman Islands four times a week. If you wish to visit Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, inter-island flights are readily available.

By Sea
Several luxury cruise lines, including the Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian, Disney, and Princess dock at George Town, the Cayman Islands’ sun-bleached capital. Four ships can anchor at once in its extensive harbor. If you’re sailing by charter, there are ports of entry on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

Getting Around

What better way to get around the Cayman Islands than in style? Rent a convertible in the many rental agencies across the airport and explore the islands at your own pace. If you’re on a budget, buses and bike rentals are your next best option. Hop to the other islands by hiring a private boat operator, or better yet, arrange for a liveaboard tour and explore as many Cayman Islands diving sites as you can.

Best Time to Visit

The Cayman Islands are mostly sunny and warm year-round, but it may be best to visit between March and June when the hotel rates drop. The rainy season runs from May through October, bringing occasional showers. Hurricanes are pretty rare in this side of the Caribbean. But if you want gin-clear visibility and warm currents, visit the islands between November and April, the region’s dry season.

Required Trainings & Certifications

There are countless dive shops across the Caymans if you wish to get certified or take a more advanced course. To make sure you get top-quality training, though, opt for reputable agencies like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI). If you already have a card, feel free to take on as many underwater expeditions as you please. Just make sure you have the skills and knowledge to dive safely.

Miscellaneous Information

Currency
The Cayman Islands dollar (identified as CI$ or KYD) is the official currency of the Caymans, but US dollars are readily accepted everywhere.

Language
The official language of the Caymans is British English but with a distinctive regional dialect. Jamaican patois is also widely spoken.

Time Zone
The Caymans observes Standard Eastern Time all year and there are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Driving Side
Driving in the Caymans is on the left-hand side of the road.

Calling Code
Dialing 1-345 will allow you to call the Cayman Islands from another country.

ISO 3166 code
ISO 3166-2:KY is the entry for the Cayman Islands in ISO 3166-2.

Internet TLD
.ky is the Internet country code top-level domain for the Cayman Islands.