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Cayman’s Great Shore Diving Can Add Value to Dive Packages

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As one of the Caribbean’s top dive destinations, Cayman is renowned for fantastic wall dives, spectacular shipwrecks and unforgettable Stingray City, but avid divers know that Cayman’s shore diving sets it apart.  Here they can maximize their bottom time and add value to dive package with easy shore diving. There are 365 dive sites on the three islands – reefs and shipwrecks in warm clear water, filled with all kinds of marine life. About 50 sites are accessible from shore, and 10 are organized shore diving locations with tank rentals, ladders, showers and other facilities. The rest are more suited for adventurous divers who are up for a shore entry off the beaten path without the amenities.

A newly-certified diver can do no better than Grand Cayman for a first ocean dive. Conditions are reliably good, and they can choose shallow reefs with grottos and swim-throughs or shipwrecks and underwater sculptures that offer their own attractions. Here are some of the most popular starting on the coast south of George Town and traveling north.

Sunset Reef

Sunset House Dive Resort is widely recognized for its easy shore diving. Visitors can literally walk from their room to pick up their dive equipment at the dive shop and then step into the water. Besides having 6 custom boats to take guests on boat dives, 100% of the Sunset House experience is its fantastic shore diving.

“We have multiple entry points, you can giant stride from the Iron shore or use the ladder in the ocean fed sea pool where divers can out the sea critters before exiting onto the dive site,” said Emma Jane Fisher, Sales and Marketing for Sunset House.

Fisher says divers can follow the natural navigation of the sand chutes to Sunset House’s 9 foot bronze mermaid sculpture, Amphitrite, which sits offshore from the resort in 50 feet of water.  From there they can follow the large coral head to the sand flat where the wreck of the Nicholson, a World War II-era landing craft.

“The Nicholson is a great wreck to explore for macro life, beautiful soft corals & you might catch Eagle Rays passing by over the sand. They can then follow the coral ridge out until it rises to 55 feet before dropping into the abyss. As they follow the top of the wall and look out in to the blue, they never know what might swim by.”

Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto are sites with coral caves and tunnels for divers to explore in downtown George Town. They have easy entry ladders, and during the summer months, divers can experience an extraordinary happening – Cayman’s thrilling “Silver Rush.” The near shore reefs are filled with millions of migrating silversides that swirl through the tunnels like quicksilver, and then large Tarpon show up to feast on the summer migrants.

Bob Soto’s Reef is located North of George Town Harbour just off Soto’s Pier at the Lobster Pot Restaurant.  Accessible by ladder, divers can swim out directly from the pier to find a shallow reef with sandy bottoms where depth ranges between 20 – 50 feet. The reef includes caverns, caves and winding tunnels, and curious tarpon are often spotted.

The Wreck of the Cali, a four-masted schooner that sunk just outside the harbor during a storm in 1944, is scattered on the sandy ocean floor 24 feet, some areas in water as shallow as 10 feet. The site has great marine life, including large tarpon, and it’s an excellent dive for newbie divers. The Cali is also a great night dive.

Lighthouse Point and the Divetech Pier are located at Northwest Point of Grand Cayman in the West Bay Region. Divers can easily access the reef here from Divetech’s concrete pier and ladder, and from a saltwater pool that offers access to the sea. Directly out from the Divetech pier is a mini wall begins at 40 feet and drops to 60 feet, leveling off to a sandy flat.  The mini wall runs parallel to the shoreline and is filled with sponges, corals and marine life. Divers can also visit The Guardian of the Reef, a bronze statue half man, half seahorse, that sits on a sandy flat just off the pier. Divetech specialize in Nitrox, rebreather and mixed gas training for advanced divers who want to maximize their bottom time. The dive shop also rents underwater scooters for divers who want to try a new adventure.

Turtle Reef, located next door to the Divetech pier, is also a popular shore dive accessible from shore. Nutrients from the nearby Turtle Farm attract feeding marine life, and the reef is accessible by step ladder or by entering in a cove right next to the Turtle Farm. Like Lighthouse Point, the depth at Turtle Farm Reef ranges from 40 – 60 feet.

East End

The East End is typically renowned for boat diving, but there are a few sites that can be dived from shore. These sites are typically for the more advanced “adventure” divers because there are no ladders, marked access or entry points to the sites. East End shore diving typically involves walking over iron shore and then a considerable swim out. Access is determined by wind direction, so divers are asked to check with an East End dive operator for directions and tips on shore diving in this area.

Little Cayman

Although Little Cayman’s spectacular drop-offs at Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson Hole are best accessed by boat, there are a few sites available from shore. The Southern Cross Club offers tanks for in-house guests and resort dive staff can point out these unmarked sites, which are also excellent for snorkeling.

“Shore diving in Cayman is a great compliment to boat diving and adds a few extra dives to your log book that are at a different pace,” says Ocean Frontiers co-owner Steve Broadbelt. “Diving from shore lets you follow your own plan and go on an adventure as a buddy team, giving you freedom to explore or simply stay in one spot for the whole dive.”

Dive operators work hard to keep Cayman’s dive product healthy and top-notch. The latest project is centered on coral nurseries used to replenish local reefs. Ocean Frontiers, Sunset House and Divetech have all established nurseries and guests can participate in the coral restoration work.  Former combat divers recently installed a bronze plaque at the base of the mermaid at Sunset House to commemorates the first mission for Force Blue, a non-profit organization training former combat divers about coral conservation.

All three operations offer tanks for shore diving as part of their vacation dive packages so visitors can make the most of their trip to the Cayman Islands.

www.divetech.com

www.oceanfrontiers.com

www.redsailcayman.com

www.sunsethouse.com

www.southerncrossclub.com

www.forceblueteam.org

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Mares EOS LRZ Torch Range

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What does LRZ stand for I hear you ask? The answer is: LED lights, Rechargeable, Zoomable. Mares have created a versatile set of seven underwater lights in the new range to suit all needs and budgets.

I tested the most powerful of them – the EOS 32LRZ at Capernwray on a cold but bright spring day. I was diving with Alex Mustard, and so all the underwater images are by him, showing me trying out the torch in both the shallows and in some of the wrecks at this site.

All the torches in the new line have an LED visual battery charge indicator that allows you to keep the battery level under control.

Want to use it out of the water? No problem! The new EOS LRZ torches feature an innovative temperature control system that allows you to use them both underwater and on land. I can see myself using this on gloomy dog walks later in the year!

As you can see from the video I filmed just after getting back from a dive, the torch is easy to use, even with thick gloves in cold water. The zoomable light beam means that you can highlight a particular spot, or have a wide beam, which is great for both modeling for a photographer, and exploring different underwater environments.

The EOS 32LRZ has a powerful beam with 3200 lumens of power and 135 minutes of burn time. Perfect for some of the darker dives you can experience in the UK, but also for exploring overhead or enclosed environments. I easily got 2 long dives out of a single charge, and then was able to recharge it in my car using a USB cable on the way home, ready for the next day of diving.

The look and feel of these torches are great. In your hand you can feel the quality of the torches. They are solid and well built. They also look great. Each torch in the range comes with a padded case to keep them safe during transport.

For more, visit the Mares website by clicking here.

All underwater images by Alex Mustard

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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches Green Fins Japan!

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The Reef-World Foundation, the Onna Village Diving Association, the local government, and Oceana are delighted to announce that Japan is now the 14th country globally to implement the Green Fins initiative – a UN Environment Programme initiative. Onna Village in Okinawa is the first Japanese tourist destination to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is piloted in Onna Village, Okinawa prefecture, an area renowned for its marine sports and has been working to protect its reefs for many years. Green Fins is implemented as part of the national Sustainable Development Goals project, which aims to manage and illustrate to the local industry how sustainable tourism can play a role in reef conservation. The economic benefits of the reefs benefit not only the fisheries industry but also the tourism industry as it has rocketed in recent decades.

If the project is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model has the potential to be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow Reef-World to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. Green Fins implementation in Japan would provide practical solutions to many of the common problems faced in the area. It would also help to promote high standards for diving in the country. Improving the quality of the diving industry through Green Fins would demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product. This, in turn, will encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (23 to 28 May 2022), Japan now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors and two Green Fins Coordinators from Oceana and the local government. They will be responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and certifying dive and snorkel operators to become Green Fins members in the country. This involves providing training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators. Green Fins membership will help marine tourism operators improve their sustainability and prove they are working hard to follow environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are really excited to finally introduce Green Fins in Japan. We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress. The diving industry in Okinawa and the marine life upon which it has been built is so unique, it must be preserved for generations to come. The Okinawa diving community is very passionate about protecting their marine environment, and Green Fins has given them an opportunity to collectively work to reduce their environmental impact and pursue exemplary environmental standards.”

Diving and snorkelling related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris and the effects of climate change. Based on robust individual assessments, the Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support to dive and snorkel operators. Through Green Fins implementation in Japan, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 10 marine tourism operators, training 50 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in the first year.

Yuta Kawamoto, CEO of Oceana, said: “Green Fins will help to unify all the conservation efforts in Okinawa by applying the guidelines in many areas and raising tourists awareness. We hope this will increase the sustainable value in the diving industry and in turn increase the diving standards in the country.”

Green Fins is a UN Environment Programme initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

To date, four dive operators in Onna Village have joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Center, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club. There has also been significant interest from other operators, even those that are not located in Onna Village, for Green Fins training and assessment.

Suika Tsumita from Oceana said: “Green Fins serve as an important tool for local diving communities to move towards a more sustainable use of their dive sites; so that they can maintain their scenic beauty and biological richness to provide livelihoods for many generations to come.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or  www.greenfins.net/countries/japan. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up for Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

Dive and snorkel operators in Japan interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Japan team at japan@greenfins.net.

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