On the southwest coast of Grand Cayman is a diver’s paradise: Sunset Reef at Sunset House.

On the southwest coast of Grand Cayman, a short drive from bustling George Town, is a diver’s haven on an island that’s already a diver’s paradise. Sunset House resort caters to divers, before and after their dive, with a popular bar under a broad, thatched-roof cabana, overlooking a turquoise sea and the great Sunset House reef.

Sunset House Reef

Before you tuck into the refreshments, take a shore dive on Sunset House Reef (boat dives are also available). I like to enter by the sheltered bay to the right of the sea front. Here you can do a weight check and get comfortable in only six feet (2 m) of water. Watch for marine life even in the sea pool; squid often hang around in the shallows.

Once you’re comfortable, drop down and exit through the channel, following the coral fingers toward the reef. Visibility is rarely less than 80 to 100 feet (25 to 30 m). The sand can get a bit churned up, however, if there’s been a storm. If it hasn’t already, marine life will surround you the minute you leave the sea pool, and the coral fingers will guide you gradually deeper toward the reef, which begins properly at around 30 feet (10 m). In such shallow water, the reef is colorful and full of life. Look for passing hawksbill turtles, dories, parrotfish or schools of Caribbean reef squid.

If nature isn’t playing ball, keep following the crevices in the reef that run perpendicular to the shore. Here you’ll come across the first manmade feature,  a 9-foot mermaid in about 50 feet of water. Called Amphitrite, Siren of Sunset Reef, the statue is a popular feature — just don’t pause too long to wonder why her nipples are the only shiny part of the bronze sculpture.

sunset-house-mermaid_jeremy-snead-edit

Who is the site best for?

Even novice divers should have plenty of air left at that point for a bit more exploration. Head out across the sand and another manmade shape will loom out from the blue — a World War II landing craft. Often occupied by angelfish and snappers, this makes for a great first wreck experience, sitting in only 60 feet (18 m) of water. You can explore a semi-closed area, but there is nowhere to get into trouble.

Depending on your air, you may need to head back. But if you’ve got bottom time to spare, head deeper. Watch for waves of garden eels poking their heads out of the sand and retreating in a cascade as you approach.

Follow the reef around to your right for possible sightings of rays or turtles. The coral line will lead you back to the shore. There’s also a half-buried anchor and cannon to check out nearby if you can find them. Exploring the reef to the north can yield a turtle sighting but if you’re running low, wave goodbye to Amphitrite and head back to shore.

By guest author Jez Snead

Jez Snead lives in Grand Cayman and tries to dive as much as possible. He blogs sporadically on diving and other topics he finds interesting and is always happy when people stop by.

 

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