Scuba Diving On Grand Cayman

By: Justin Burch

Resting atop a submarine mountain of coral, the island of Grand Cayman offers some truly distinctive scuba diving opportunities. Off the shore, the coral walls that descend sharply into the Caribbean create some incredibly unique and challenging dives. Elsewhere around the island, there are plenty of dives perfect for all ages and skill levels. Regardless of where you dive in Grand Cayman, however, you are sure to encounter an unparalleled variety of underwater life. It also helps that the warm waters off the coast often boast visibility exceeding 100 feet - a fact sure to impress snorkelers, as well as scuba divers. With over 250 unique dive sites in all, Grand Cayman stands as one of the most diverse dive destinations in the Caribbean.

Many of the most popular dive sites on Grand Cayman are located off the western shore in an area known as the West Wall. Many of this area's dive sites are located just a short boat ride from the resorts lining Seven Mile Beach. At sites such as Armchair Reef, Wildlife Reef and Aquarium Reef, you will be able to spot numerous species of underwater creatures. Many of these reef dives are suitable for novice divers and snorkelers as well.

As Grand Cayman is known for its wall diving, you will definitely want to explore the deeper water of the western shore. At the first steep drop-off of 60 feet, you will find such sites as the Eagle's Nest and the Orange Canyon - named for its population of colorful elephant ear sponges. Another fun challenge is Bonnie's Arch, a unique site boasting a coral archway wide enough to swim through. All in all, there are more than 50 distinct dive sites located in the West Wall area of the island.

Though the North Wall is on the windward side of the island and features incredibly steep coral walls, one of the world's most famous shallow dive sites rests along the sandy beach. A good part of this popularity is owed to the fact that Stingray City is a perfect site for divers and snorkelers of all ages and skill levels. Once you are in the warm, clear water you will be able swim with families of gentle Southern Stingrays. With wingspans approaching four feet, many visitors find a great thrill in Stingray City while feeding and photographing these majestic animals.

Along the North Wall, you can also spot a large population of tarpons at Tarpon Alley. These large, strange fish are surprising friendly and will swim close to you if you move slowly. Along the coral wall, experienced divers can visit Eagle Ray Pass and the No Name Drop-Off for a glimpse of sea turtles, exotic fish and dense coral reefs.

While many dive tours only visit the South Wall when weather is poor off the western shore, there are plenty of pleasant dives for all skill levels in the shallow southern waters. At sites such as Japanese Gardens and Oriental Gardens, divers are promised an up-close view of colorful coral and sea creatures in calm water perfect for photography. Slightly further from shore, these "gardens" sink into an intricate maze of tunnels, arches and underwater canyons.

Adventurous divers will want to visit the eastern shore of Grand Cayman. Though there are only a few dive operators offering tours of this area, you are unlikely to find more pristine coral reefs anywhere. Within the first slope of reef, you will find a series of tunnels, underwater caves and arches. Sites in this area such as Grouper Grotto and Babylon are always teeming with fish, sponges and sea turtles.

Lastly, what would a Caribbean scuba diving trip be without a few wreck dives? The Balboa, a 375-foot cargo ship that sunk during a storm in 1932, sits at a modest depth of 30 feet in Georgetown Harbor. Today, the vessel is home to an assortment of the Caribbean's most photogenic residents. The most popular wreck dive in Grand Cayman is the Oro Verde, a coral-covered freighter resting in 60 feet of water off the shore from Seven Mile Beach. Additionally, Grand Cayman recently sank five vessels in various locations for both the enjoyment of divers and the ongoing research of environmental scientists.

There are over 40 experienced dive operators serving visitors to Grand Cayman, so finding a knowledgeable guide is a breeze. Even if you have never experienced scuba diving, you can become certified in Grand Cayman and then test your skills at some of the Caribbean's best dive sites.

Come to Grand Cayman and you will see why the island is celebrated by divers and snorkelers across the globe.

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