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Conservation, Customer Service and Tourism Awards; 2017 is off to a Good Start at the Southern Cross Club



Little Cayman Resort receives high ranking in TripAdvisor awards and high praise for its support of annual Grouper Moon Project 

So far, 2017 has been a remarkable year for the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman. First, the online travel site named the resort to its top 25 in the Caribbean in two categories based on customer reviews: Best Hotel for Service and Best for Romance. Adding to the awards, administrations manager Neil van Niekerk was named an “Emerging Hero in Tourism” by the Cayman Islands government, and resort owner Peter Hillenbrand was recognized for his “Long Service to Cayman Tourism.”

Hillenbrand has also received a lifetime achievement award from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association for taking a run-down resort 40 years ago making it one of Cayman’s best. With a stunning location, distinct personality and outstanding service, the Southern Cross Club keeps its guests returning year after year for its barefoot elegance.

“The Southern Cross Club is the proudest achievement in my life,” said Hillenbrand. “But here are many people who also work hard to make the resort the success.”

Peter Hillenbrand receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Minister for Tourism

Neil van Niekerk (center) receiving recognition an “Emerging Pioneer” for tourism of the Cayman Islands


Peter Hillenbrand credits resort staff with high standards in customer service and a shared mission to preserve Little Cayman’s natural environment, which guests love. This commitment to conservation is the reason he offers the resort and his own home every winter to the Grouper Moon Project, an on-going effort to protect the last known healthy and growing Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation site in the Caribbean.

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a non-profit that aims to protect marine life through research and education, have been monitoring and studying the annual aggregation of groupers at a site off the West end of Little Cayman where they come to spawn. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) joined the effort in 2011 and now provides financial aid plus an educational platform to create awareness. Without the help and participation of the Southern Cross Club and the entire Little Cayman community, the important work being done by these scientists could not happen.

“We came perilously close to losing the aggregation site in 2001,” said Hillenbrand, who is an active team member. “Today, the project is a model for the importance of protection, fishing regulation, and the science it takes to teach us what we need to do to manage sustainable fisheries.”

This February, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson made two dives at the aggregation site at the invitation of Dr. Guy Harvey of the GHOF. Sir Richard maintains a home in the British Virgin Islands, and because the Nassau Grouper is critically endangered across the Caribbean, Dr. Harvey wanted him to see the successful conservation work being done in Little Cayman.

Sir Richard Branson preparing for a dive at the Grouper spawning site in Little Cayman. He was invited by Dr. Guy Harvey, (left) to come observe the Grouper Moon Project. Lauren Keil, Foundation Manager of Unite BVI is shown next to Sir Richard and Holly Branson is behind her father

“We had the great pleasure of diving in the spawning site and seeing the remarkable spectacle for ourselves. To me it was one of the top 20 wonders of the world,” wrote Sir Richard in his blog about the experience. “I’ve come back to the BVI determined to see if there’s’ any chance of reinvigorating groupers here.”

Education and awareness are key components of the Grouper Moon Project. The idea of exporting the Grouper Moon Project to the British Virgin Islands and reviving historical spawning sites there is an exciting prospect.

“This year we witnessed the recruitment of many 6-year-olds which suggest that a large number of the juveniles we saw five years ago — we filmed them in the back reef and around Owen Island — survived to adulthood!” said Dr. Harvey. “This highlights the importance of a dedicated long term monitoring and protection effort.”

“There are no accessible places like Little Cayman left in the Caribbean,” said Peter Hillenbrand. “What she is, and what she means to those of us who love her, is precious beyond compare. There is nothing more important than caring for our planet, our earth, our marine resources.”

About the Southern Cross Club

The casually sophisticated Southern Cross Club Fish & Dive Resort is Little Cayman’s original resort. It features 14 beachfront bungalows complete with a top-rated, professional in-house diving and fishing operation. A unique blend of rusticity and elegance the resort is often described as “Barefoot Luxury”. Little Cayman is renowned for its breath-taking coral reefs and pristine environment, and the Green Globe certified Southern Cross Club sets sustainability standards to protect it. The resort was awarded the 2013 Cayman Islands Tourism Association CEPTS Stingray Award for its exceptionally good stewardship of the environment and its ongoing commitment to preserving it. Guests to the Southern Cross Club can expect friendly and diligent service, delicious award-winning food, inviting rooms with breath-taking views and a comfortable dive boat ― a few of the things that bring them back year after year. The resort’s beach-based location also provides flats fisherman with access to Bonefish and Permit just minutes away.

For reservations or more information:

Telephone: 1 (800) 899-CLUB (2582)

Outside the USA: (619) 563-0017



Facebook: www.facebook/SouthernCrossClub


Breaking News: Captain charged in Conception boat fire tragedy



According to reports in the international press today, it has been announced that the Captain of the dive boat Conception, which was completely destroyed by fire last year, resulting in the tragic loss of 34 passengers and crew, has been charged with 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter. 

The Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan was among five crew members to escape the blaze on board Conception, a dive boat operated by Truth Aquatics, which took place in the early hours of 2 September 2019 whilst the boat was moored offshore, close to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California.

The BBC reports that Mr Boylan has not publicly commented on the charges, and is expected to surrender to the authorities at a later date. According to the BBC, each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries up to 10 years in federal prison.

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Crossover to NAUI for FREE!



As a boost to help the diving industry, NAUI are still offering a FREE Instructor cross-over course together with five free certifications to all Instructors. This can include Open Water, Advance, Rescue, Nitrox and various other specialities and can be mixed and matched so all five do not necessarily need to be for the same certification.

NAUI have also frozen the membership fees for 2021 for instructors crossing over or restarting.

NAUI’s Southern UK Rep Simon Lodge says: “Throughout this year, the diving industry has severely suffered so as a result, to help kickstart the diving industry NAUI will not be charging membership fees 2020/2021 to any new instructors.” 

Founded in 1960, NAUI Worldwide is one of the scuba industry’s largest not-for-profit agencies whose purpose is to enable people to enjoy underwater activities as safely as possible by providing the highest quality practical education, and to actively promote the preservation and protection of the world’s underwater environments. As a pioneer in diving education, NAUI has developed many of the programs and concepts accepted throughout the diving industry. NAUI: A Higher Standard!

For more details please contact Simon Lodge (Southern UK Rep) on or Craig Warner (Northern UK Rep) on

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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