Downey Duck Grand Cayman

 West Bay Diving

Dive Masters Sallie and Bob Adams visited the island of Grand Cayman during the week of August 16 through August 23, 2002. Grand Cayman and her two sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, are part of the British West Indies and are located a few hundred miles south of Cuba. The island's banking, finance, and tourism industries provide the modern comforts of the USA without the crime and pollution. In other words, the water is safe to drink! All three of the Cayman Islands are a Crown Colony of Great Britain and have a total population approximating 40,000 people. English is the primary language and US currency is widely accepted ($100 US = $80 CI).

Rental car is the easiest way to explore the island but it is important to remember the advice we received from one of the residents, "Enjoy our hospitality, not our hospital. Remember to drive on the left". Also, because your auto insurance coverage at home does not cover rentals in Grand Cayman, full insurance coverage is advisable. Speak with your insurance agent before leaving home for more information. Although your hotel or car rental agency will claim you can not get lost in Grand Cayman, be warned that the maps they provide do not include many of the side roads you'll encounter. Also, the roads in Grand Cayman are not well marked which makes navigation a little challenging. The key is to simply be patient and careful. Don't worry, you'll have the traffic pattern down solid by the time you go home.

Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in 1503 at which time the only inhabitants were sea turtles and crocodiles. Columbus first named the islands "Las Tortugas" for all the turtles. Over the next 100 years the name Caymanas, derived from the Carib Indian word for crocodile, became popular. Although the crocodiles are gone, the turtle population is still strong. Grand Cayman hosts the world's only turtle farm. Although most of the farm's turtles are processed for meat and shells, approximately 10% to 15% of the turtles are released each year in to the ocean. A visit to the farm, located along the coast just a few miles north of Seven Mile Beach (a.k.a., West Bay) is highly recommended. Remember that that the 1-year-old turtles in the "touch tank" enjoy having their chins scratched.

We stayed at the Aqua Bay Club resort in West Bay. The resort has 21 one and two bedroom luxury condos with all the comforts of home. A private pool, hot tub, and beach are found just out the back door. Also, guests are welcome to enjoy the tennis courts across the street. Beginning just off Aqua Bay Club's beach and proceeding 300 yards along the coast is Cemetery Reef. The entire reef is in 10' to 15' of water and has a wide variety of colorful fish, sea creatures, and coral. We snorkeled the reef daily and saw numerous flounders, parrot fish, file fish, cow fish, yellow tails, spotted drums, and two of the largest porcupine fish we had ever seen (close to 3 feet long). By the end of the week, our 9-year-old daughter Shannon was easily free diving 10 to 12 feet deep to get a closer look at all the fish under the reef ledges.

Because Shannon and Sallie's mom joined us on the trip, we limited diving to just a few shore dives in West Bay. However, we saw enough fish, sea turtles, stingrays, tarpon, and octopus during those dives to fill a week. Dive-Tech has dive shops located at Turtle Reef (near the turtle farm) and at Cobalt Coast resort. Tanks and weights cost approximately $11 per person. Dive-Tech also offers packages that include daily 2-tank boat dives with unlimited shore diving (day and night) as well as training with underwater scooters. Packages are offered to anyone staying in the Seven Mile Beach or West Bay area or can be combined with an all-inclusive package (hotel and meals) at Cobalt Coast Resort. Cobalt Coast Resort is a secluded three-story hotel located along the coast at the northern point of West Bay with a small pool and restaurant. Although fine for serious divers, the non-divers in your party may become tired of the rocky beach and distance from shopping and nightlife activity. Many dive operators dive just off the coast of Seven Mile Beach where the water is most calm but sometimes crowded. Dive-Tech's boats go the waters just north of Grand Cayman where swells of 3 to five feet are common but less crowded and more likely to be visited by large fish. Because most of the dive sites all around Grand Cayman are walls that could drop as much as 6,000 feet, it is important to pay attention to both depth and currents.

In conclusion, Grand Cayman is a safe and friendly island with much to offer to both divers and non-divers. It is the first Caribbean island that we have ever visited where a return trip is a must.