The Cayman Islands, which are part of an underwater mountain range that runs between Cuba and Belize, are one of the most famous and beautiful diving destinations in the world. The three islands that make up the Cayman Islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman – are all coral outcrops.
With healthy corals, lush walls near the shore, and a rich and varied marine life, the dive sites of the Cayman Islands are always vibrant – and with many of the dive sites close to the shore and easily accessible by boat, new and experienced divers alike spend less time getting to their destination and more time underwater.
Grand Cayman is probably best known for the world-famous dive site Stingray City. At Stingray City, the stingrays feel at ease with divers. Knowing that the divers pose no threats, Grand Cayman’s underwater residents don’t flee when approached.
With huge barrel sponges that color the sandy seabed, thick clouds of fish, unspoiled reefs, gorgonians and hard corals, sea turtles and more, a dive in Grand Cayman is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience for divers.
Ghost Mountain is a solitary pinnacle with a very fitting name. Sitting at the northern tip of Grand Cayman, it’s invisible to the eye from the mooring ball. As you approach it however, it appears out of the blue. At depths varying from 15 to 30 meters and excellent water visibility (10 to 30 meters), divers of varying skill levels can easily enjoy the sight of colorful masses of gorgonians. Drop down 36 meters deep and you’ll find a cavern that’s teeming with underwater life.
A US Navy submarine rescue vessel, the USS Kittiwake was sunk near Seven Mile Beach back in January 2011. Today, it’s standing upright on the sandy seabed. At its most shallow, the Kittiwake is 15 feet below the surface of the water and at its deepest, 64 feet below the surface.
Divers will find much to explore. Experienced divers can go all the way to the bottom to check out the hull and inside the wreck to survey the engine rooms. The USS Kittiwake serves as an artificial reef where rich marine life has already, in the few short years since its sinking, started to take residence.
The Mermaid (Amphitrite)
Standing at about 17 meters deep, this 9 feet tall bronze mermaid statue that weighs 600lbs has been keeping a close eye on Sunset Reef for quite some time now. Created by the famous Canadian sculptor, Simon Morris, the statue was named Amphitrite – queen of the seas and wife to Poseidon. Underwater photographers in particular frequent this dive site – taking pictures of The Mermaid and the sea life that keeps her company.
Guardian of the Reef
Another of sculptor Simon Morris’ creations, the Guardian of the Reef was sunk on the 12th April 2014 as part of Divetech’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. The 13 feet tall bronze statue lives just offshore on a 65 foot sand flat off the mini wall, suitable for all divers and snorkelers to visit. It’s an easy shore dive from the dock, and a great photo op – to give him a kiss may bring good luck with it! And of course he is a very noticeable landmark for easy navigation back to the dock.
Located on the north wall, this dive site is just like other dive sites in the Cayman Islands. The current is very manageable and the water visibility is good (10 to 30 meters). However, with a maximum depth of 30.5 meters (100.1ft.), this dive site takes you almost straight into the abyss. There are many things and creatures to see at Hammerhead Hill. From spotted eagle rays and coral reefs that shelter smaller fish to sea turtles and sharks, this dive site has it all.
The Sandbar is regarded by many as primarily a snorkeling site. However, divers shouldn’t miss what this dive site has to offer. At dawn, about 120 southern stingrays come to the shallower waters (approx.1 to 3 meters deep) and circle the sand bank.
This is the most popular dive site in Grand Cayman, and for good reason. This series of shallow sandbars located in Grand Cayman’s North Sound is teeming with southern stingrays and other colorful fish that divers can get close to and even pet.
If you plan to dive Stingray City, keep in mind that you’re required to take off your fins as they could hurt the stingrays. Divers are also over-weighted to keep them at the bottom and close to the rays.
Just 40 minutes away from Grand Cayman is Little Cayman. Its name may sound like its lesser in prestige and prominence compared to Grand Cayman, but as you’ll learn, this isn’t the case.
The island isn’t heavily populated at all. In fact, it has only 110 full-time residents, which makes it easy for rare iguanas and marine birds to thrive in the area. However, the reason why divers from around the world flock to the island is the Bloody Bay Wall.
Recognized by many as the most beautiful drop-off in the Caribbean, many divers keep coming back to the Bloody Bay Wall. This remarkable drop-off starts shallow with a depth of 6.7 – 9 meters and descends all the way to 304 meters. With a wall that’s so vertical, divers feel like they’re gliding in the air instead of diving.
With excellent water visibility that allows you to see clearly 200 feet in every direction, it’s easy to get a glimpse of and appreciate the exotically colored sponges, Nassau groupers, queen triggerfish, and other sea creatures living in the area.
Three Fathom Wall
This is where the aforementioned Bloody Bay Wall can be found. It has the distinction of being one of the few Caribbean vertical drop-offs that can be easily seen even by snorkelers. The wall here is broken up by several small canyons and crevices that serve as home to smaller fish and sea life. Drop down to 18 meters and you’ll find a winding ravine which leads to a coral tunnel and high vaulted cavern.
Once you’re done with the deeper part of the dive, you can hang around just beneath your boat. From here, you can easily find sea creatures of different sizes and colors like yellow-headed jaw fish, snapping and Pederson shrimp, eels, and so much more. With an underwater wildlife this diverse, it’s no surprise that the Three Fathom Wall is also known as the Mixing Bowl.
Randy’s Gazebo is another splendid dive site in Little Cayman. At this site, the wall drops straight into the abyss. The wall’s top is crowded with interesting creatures like arrow crabs, diamond-head and sail-fin blennies, and Hawaiian trigger fish that patrol above the corals. Photographers take advantage of the numerous photo-opportunities at the arch (about 24 meters deep), and even if you’re not a photographer, you may want to bring a camera, too.
Lea Lea’s Lookout
One of the finest dive sites at Bloody Bay Wall. Lea Lea’s Lookout is characterized by a natural maze-like structure that leads to the wall. This site is defined by two cuts where most divers start at one cut and end at the other.
This section of the reef is also easy to navigate and features an astonishing amount of diversity in its sea life. You can see corals thriving just about anywhere in the area, with every section representing a mini-ecosystem. Encountering massive lobsters, turtles, and eels is also very common at Lea Lea’s Lookout.
If you’re looking to interact closely with fish on your visit to the Cayman Islands, a visit to Marilyn’s Cut should be on the top of your list. This fine dive site is a series of deep and narrow canyons. These canyons extend from the sandy seabed and all the way to the edge of the wall.
At the very lip of the wall, divers may encounter a large Nassau grouper that weighs about 15 pounds swimming with its smaller cousins. The sight of sponge life is also just as amazing. Yellow-tube, trumpet, bright red rope, and cup sponges are all over the site. Divers can also catch a glimpse of horse-eye jacks swimming and cruising in schools.
Among the three Cayman Islands, this is perhaps the most underrated. Named after the 34-meter bluff located on the island’s eastern end, there are rumors that one of the limestone caves that can be found all over the island hold a lost pirate treasure.
However, it’s not the treasure that leads people to Cayman Brac.
Located about 15 minutes from Little Cayman by boat, Cayman Brac’s lush walls and shallow gardens that teem with life can rival any in the world. There are numerous dive sites in Cayman Brac. The most famous, however, is the spectacular MV Captain Keith Tibbetts – the first Russian warship dive site. Whether you’re looking to get close with diverse sea life or explore a fine shipwreck, Cayman Brac offers the best of both worlds.
With its pristine condition and a vast array of underwater creatures, diving Snapper Reef will surely be a memorable experience. Divers will see the large and colorful fingers of coral reefs, which gives the underwater landscape a very enticing atmosphere.
You can swim the peaks, explore the valleys, and have a closer look at the sponges where little fish hide. On the western tip of the island, divers can check out the mini-wall and coral heads, which are crowded with groupers and tarpons. Divers might even encounter the rare blue parrotfish.
MV Captain Keith Tibbetts
It was in 1996 when this Russian warship hit Cayman Brac’s sandy bottom. Today, the MV Captain Keith Tibbets is one of the finest wreck sites on Earth, captivating divers from all over the world. Exposed to harsh sea conditions for decades, the ship has started to crumble in certain spots. However, as a dive site, it hasn’t lost luster thanks to the prolific sea life inhabiting it.
Inside the wall and almost directly underneath your boat, you can find a massive anchor implanted in the reef. The swim-through, which starts at 27 meters and descends to about 35 meters, takes you through a colorful underwater journey where you can encounter prolific sponges, Nassau groupers that tag along with you, eagle rays passing by, and even reef sharks that check divers out.
Currency: Caymanian Dollars (KYD)
Dive Season: All Year Round
Climate: Tropical Marine Climate
Air Temperature: 24° C (75° F) to 33° C (91° F)
Water Temperature: 27° C (81° F) in summer and 22° C (75° F) in winter
Visibility: 20 to 50 meters (65 to 160 feet)
Skill Level: Novice to Advanced