The beautiful Cayman Islands are very popular as a tax-free haven, and even better known for larger than average bank accounts. However, these 3 islands are also a diver’s dream. Comprising Little Cayman, Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, the experience of scuba diving in the Cayman Islands quite literally boasts a new experience every day. The islands have precisely 365 recognized dive sites altogether.
As the name suggests, Grand Cayman is by far the biggest island of the 3. It offers the largest number of dive spots as well as helpful dive operators and suitable facilities for scuba divers. Most guests will spend the majority of their stay on Grand Cayman. You can easily rent a car to travel around and this would be the ideal way to reach the number of shore dives available. Grand Cayman serves as the access point for the other islands and guests can hop on an express airplane to visit the other islands.
Although the second largest of the 3 islands, Cayman Brac is the least visited by scuba diving enthusiasts. That’s not to say that Cayman Brac lacks phenomenal dive sites, in fact, it is quite the opposite with over 40 beautiful dive sites available. You’ll find dramatic wall dives, coral reef dives and even a wreck dive or two here at Cayman Brac.
Little Cayman isn’t just the smallest island proportionately to the others, but it is also the smallest in terms of population. The island only has roughly 150 residents, a small number of} hotels and just small one supermarket. For many visitors who come back to the Cayman Islands year after year, Little Cayman represents the way the Caribbean used to look 40 years prior to its explosion in popularity. Although the island is a small, tranquil spot, but it is highly regarded by scuba divers all over the world, and even by the most famous of all divers, Jacques Cousteau. In fact, Cousteau listed the area as one of the top three best places to dive on the planet.
Diving with Stingrays
If you are planning on visiting Stingray City in the Grand Cayman, keep a few things in mind. When diving with stingrays, you are advised to wear a protective suit of some kind to avoid getting a nasty suck from one of these creatures; likened to a love bite, or a hicky.
Don’t ever attempt to ride a stingray or to grab it by the tail. Remember that these are wild animals and if they feel threatened in any way, their defence mechanism is designed to hurt you, as their name implies.
If you touch one, avoid doing so with gloves, as the fabric can remove the protective mucus layer that covers its leathery skin.
Best Diving Destinations in the Cayman Islands
Stingray City is probably one of the most well-known scuba and snorkelling spots in the whole of the world, let alone the Cayman Islands. Boasting unique and unbelievably close encounters with these stunning stingrays, visitors are unlikely to experience anything else quite like Stingray City anywhere else on earth. Divers can try their hand at feeding the sting rays here by simply kneeling down at a very manageable 12 foot depth and holding their hands out with food given specifically by the dive operator. Soon enough, these majestic rays will glide over and suck the meal right off the divers’ hands. Of course, such a unique experience is highly popular with almost every visitor so expect crowded conditions especially in June when cruise line visitors will be in the area.
Trinity Caves is another site that is truly a great and unique experience. Divers will have the chance to swim through canyons at depths of between 18 and 30 m taking note of the large sea sponges and unique black coral as they go. The list of fish life here is extensive too with barracuda, groupers, angelfish and eagle rays all prevalent in the area.
Cayman Brac’s most sought-after dive spot is the wreck site known as Captain Keith Tibbets. Once a Russian destroyer, the vessel was purposely sunk over a sand patch in 1996 and since then has served as the home to a number of marine species. Completely covered in corals and sea sponges, chances are that you’ll see turtles, morays, and scorpion fish to name just a few. The sandy patch surrounding the wreck is great for spotting starfish, garden eels and sting rays. With an easily accessible depth of only 18-26 metres, visibility tends to be very good at the wreck site and makes for an ideal underwater photography spot too. Thanks to mild conditions, this wreck site is suitable for divers of all abilities.
To the north of Little Cayman lies a dive spot known as Mixing Bowl where divers can experience the best of two fantastic marine parks: the wonders of Jackson Bay and Bloody Bay. Mixing Bowl is right on the point where Bloody Bay’s straight and dramatic vertical wall starts to change to the less dramatic and sandier area of Jackson Bay. Thanks to this unique underwater topography, a whole host of marine life can be seen including sting rays, turtles and an abundance of tropical fish.
For many visitors to Little Cayman, Bloody Bay Wall will be high on their diving bucket list. The dive begins as a shallow and colourful reef plateau at 25 feet before suddenly dropping to an unbelievable 6000 feet. This dramatic vertical wall is likely to astound even the most experienced of divers. Some of the most popular sites along the wall include Ringers Wall, Great Wall West and Great Wall East as these display the deepest drop, but all of the sites located in Bloody Bay Marine Park feature this stunning drop into the beautiful blue depths.
Getting to the Cayman Islands
Paradise is closer than you think! The scenic Cayman Islands are only 150 miles south of Cuba and around 180 miles from Jamaica. With over 55 international flights a week there are plenty of options. Arriving in the Cayman Islands from Miami, Florida takes just over an hour and these direct flights are available at least 28 times a week with Cayman Airways and American Airlines.
As you might have guessed, Grand Cayman is the host for the main transportation hubs namely Owen Roberts International Airport. Cayman Brac also has an airport and together with the Grand Cayman, inter-island travel is quick and easy.
Where to Stay in the Cayman Islands
Divers and non-divers are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation options in the Cayman Islands, especially Grand Cayman. Dive resorts and dive centres are plentiful and there are even a number of family-owned dive operator businesses that will tailor-make your dive experience to suit your desires. Some of the dive resorts offer boat departures directly from their sites, visiting local dive spots as well as the popular ones such as Stingray City.
If opting to stay on Cayman Brac you’ll find fewer dive operators but are sure to experience high quality, personalised service. Many of the dive operators here will only take small groups of divers out at a time which makes for a more relaxed and individual experience.
Again, for small dive groups and personalised treatment, Little Cayman is a good option. Although some liveaboards stop off at Little Cayman, there are only about 4 permanent dive operators on the smallest of the 3 islands. Little Cayman has a few dive shops and training opportunities for divers looking to advance their scuba qualifications whilst on holiday.
When to Visit the Cayman Islands
The islands boast a warm and temperate climate all throughout the year. In most places it is possible to dive at any time of the year, however if you’re looking for exceptionally warm waters it is best to visit between May and August. During these months water temperatures are in the region of 29°C. The Cayman Islands experience hurricane season between June and November followed by the cooler months of December, January and February. There’s not too much difference in the water temperature even in these ‘cool’ months, as the temperature is still a very warm 27°C. Many divers simply opt for a shorty wetsuit or a 3 mm suit at the very most.
Climate: 30-40 °C
Type: Wall Diving , Reef
Best Time to Dive: May – September
Water Temp: 27-28 °C
Photo credit: John Carleton
The Cayman Islands are a British Crown Colony and english is spoken on all islands. The caymans are best known as an offshore tax haven and major banking/financial center. The financial status and prosperity of the cayman islands means that the islands are not a budget paradise. The official currency is the Cayman dollar, but US dollars are accepted throughout the islands.