The Toronto Scuba Centre is heading down to the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman in particular) between January 22 and January 29 next year for a week of superlative diving. We’re hoping that some of you can join us for an amazing dive trip. Right now, we are more than half full on our group, so if you want to dive and if you want to dive Caymans, this is the time!! That and, as is the industry norm, flights increase all the time….so if you want to get a good price, give us a shout sooner, rather than later…
And with that, let’s look at the Caymans…
Grand Cayman has been a diving destination almost as long as scuba diving has been pioneered. Known for its perfectly clear visibility, a fantastic array of marine life and its world famous wall diving, Grand Cayman is one of the “In” spots for a spectacular dive vacation. Along with a laid-back, yet surprisingly modern atmosphere, there is abundant nightlife, restaurants and the pristine sands of Seven Mile Beach, making it easy to dive all day and chill all night.
Grand Cayman is the hub of the Cayman Islands, along with its sister islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The three islands are actually the peaks of a huge underwater ridge known, unsurprisingly, as the Cayman Ridge, which lies along the edge of the Cayman Trough, a 20,000 foot (6,000 m) deep furrow about 6 kilometers south of the Islands. Given the fact that the islands are the tops of such massive underwater mountains, it goes a long way to explaining the awe-inspiring walls surrounding the reefs offshore. Having dived walls in both the Caribbean and in Southeast Asia, I can honestly say that the sensation of realizing how small we actually are has never been greater than when I peered down into unending azure water diving off the west coast of Grand Cayman.
Similar to the Bonaire and Curacao political situation (described in one of our earlier blogs), the Cayman Islands technically remain part of the United Kingdom as an Overseas Territory, as well as being a part of the European Union. Up until 1962, they were considered part of the single colony of Jamaica, but when Jamaica gained independent Commonwealth status at that time (the Caymans lie to the northwest of Jamaica and due south of Cuba), the Caymans stuck with the UK.
There is no record of when the Cayman’s were first inhabited, although there were no indigenous people when the islands were first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503. Following the flow of Europeans to the surrounding Caribbean over the next hundred years or so (Jamaica, Cuba, etc.), the Caymans slowly attracted a local population made up of military deserters, pirates, refugees and so on. Formal control by the British only took place in 1670. Following British control, white European (and mostly British) colonists, soldiers and African slaves (until slavery was abolished on the islands in 1834), principally populated the islands. Today’s Caymanians are still largely a mix of that heritage.
Acting as a safe harbour and a crossroads, the Caymans remained active in the maritime industry for many years. As most people are aware, the focus of the Islands has changed over the course of the last couple of hundred years and with time, it gradually became a financial safe-haven for offshore banking (an industry that still forms the backbone of the country today). Most of the activity of Grand Cayman, today and historically, has centred on the capital, Georgetown, which lies nestled around the southwest corner of Grand Cayman. This is where the cruise ships roll in, where the offshore banking primarily takes place (there are more registered off-shore accounts than there are inhabitants on the islands) and where a lot of the restaurants and bars are. As Grand Cayman grows and grows in popularity, the bars, restaurants and hotels have been spreading further north, alongside and behind Seven Mile Beach (which stretches along the western coast of the Island).
But enough of the Island, let’s look at the diving!!
Scuba diving enthusiasts always include the Caymans in their list of favorite diving destinations. Why? Because the Cayman Islands have everything you could want for diving. Warm water (typically 82 degrees fahrenheit/28 degrees Celsius or higher), very clear, typically unlimited visibility, no current, more shore diving than you can throw a tank at, great coral, great sea life, shipwrecks, and some of the most dramatic wall diving anywhere. Sorry, did I say “Shipwrecks”? Yep, that’d include the USS Kittiwake, a United States Navy Chanticleer-class submarine rescue vessel. Sunk in January 2011, the Kittiwake sits upright in 62 feet of gorgeous water on a golden sandy bottom.
One of the best things about diving in the Caymans, particularly off Grand Cayman, is that the accessibility to dive sites is so simple. Boats have access to literally hundreds of dive sites all along seven-mile beach within minutes of leaving the dock. Which means you can be up, out, and back from a two-tank dive by noon. Even a trip to the North side of the island is made easy by leaving from a dock minutes inland from seven-mile. This saves what would otherwise be a long boat trip out and around the island, something common at other tropical dive destinations. Easy access and getting back on shore early makes diving a dream. Plenty of time to dive, eat, relax and once rested, dive again!!
The Caymans has also been promoting an interesting new dive concept in the last couple of years. Calling it Dive 365, the Caymans have now established 365 dive sites around the Islands, so that visiting divers could dive a new dive site every single day of the year. A great concept, although the Caymans has always had enough dive sites to fill your logbook in any event!!
Given the setting and often clear nights, the Caymans are also a fantastic spot for nigh diving. Descending through the water at night with flashlights lighting up the clear water is an experience everyone should see, it’s simply breathtaking.
One thing we won’t be doing at night, however, is the 15-foot dive at Stingray City. While the stingrays are as cute as buttons swarming all over you in very shallow water in the sparkling sunlight, it might feel a little different at night with the moonbeams shining down. Having said that, it might also be, to use the vernacular, “freaking cool” to see stingrays everywhere glistening in the moon with the phosphorescence dancing everywhere you look.
What diving in the Caymans comes down to is simply simplicity. There are very few places that are as simple and easy for diving as Cayman. Given that the Toronto Scuba Centre is heading down to the Caymans this coming January, the timing of this blog is perhaps a little contrived, but when you get a chance to dive in such a pretty spot, why would you not take that opportunity anyway!! If we’ve picqued your interest in the Caymans, give us a shout right away, the spots are filling up and the costs will only increase in December.