There are 365 moored dive sites in the Cayman Islands; Grand Cayman features 240 of them; Cayman Brac, 75 miles (120 km) to the northeast offers 65 more; and Little Cayman, five miles (8 km) southwest of Brac, has another 60. Of that number in Little Cayman, one-third are within the famous Bloody Bay Marine Park. Most are on the edge of one of the Caribbean’s deepest drop-offs of approximately 6,000 feet (2,000 m) — and diving Bloody Bay Marine Park offers bloody good diving. Here are five of the most popular sites, including one of the biggest wrecks in the area near Cayman Brac.
Where it is: Little Cayman Island, north of Jackson’s Point and west of the midpoint along Bloody Bay Wall
What makes it special: About a 20-minute boat ride from the island’s resorts, healthy reefs start at about 30 feet (10 m). There’s little-to-no current and visibility can reach 100 feet in winter (33 m) and up to 200 feet (66 m) in summer. There are incredible drop-offs into the deep blue Caribbean Sea that will nearly take your breath away.
Details: There are colorful sponges clinging to the sheer wall, beautiful coral swim-throughs with aquarium-like views through “portholes” to the right and left, tons of colorful tropical fish, an abundance of turtles, lots of lobsters, frequent lion fish, stingrays, as well as Caribbean reef sharks and barracuda at the wall’s edge. You may also see dozens of yellowtails and grunts above the brain coral and sea fans.
When to go: Accessible year-round, though it’s best to avoid hurricane season from June 1 through November 30.
Where it is: Little Cayman Island, west of Jackson’s Reef along Bloody Bay Wall
What makes it special: Named by a divemaster who frequently viewed a local woman bathing nude on the beach, this is just one of many sites with alliterative names along Bloody Bay, including Joy’s Joy, Lea Lea’s Lookout, Blacktip Blvd., and Mike’s Mountain. Excellent diving starts at 20 to 30 feet (7 to 10 m) down to about 80 feet (27 m) along the wall.
Details: Currents can vary because of the dramatic wall drop-off and island breezes. Spotted eagle and lemon rays frequent the area; some even bury themselves in the sand while feeding. Large green sea turtles float by and French angelfish nibble on coral. Nurse sharks entertain divers by nestling in the sand and you may spot reef sharks at the edge of the wall.
When to go: Year-round but beware of hurricane season
Great Wall East Reef
Where it is: Little Cayman Island, near the midpoint of Bloody Bay Marine Park
What makes it special: This is another spectacular dive site along the dramatic wall with deep drop-offs. It’s a fairly shallow dive that maxes out at about 60 feet (20 m) but an average depth ranges from 20 to 30 feet (7 to 10 m).
Details: It’s not unusual to see a giant sea turtle wedged between some coral and chomping away at a sponge. The reef here swarms with tropical fish, including small groupers hiding inside barrel sponges. Look for squirrelfish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, porcupinefish, fairy basslets, French angelfish, as well as a nurse shark or two.
When to go: Year-round but not advised during hurricane season
Lea Lea’s Lookout
Where it is: Little Cayman Island’s Bloody Bay Marine Park, between Barracuda Bite, Great Wall East and West
What makes it special: This site features a few long, 6-foot-wide (2 m) coral cuts that you can slowly float through as you view tropical fish and the “Happy Sponge” formed from different sized tubes.
Details: This site bottoms out at 110 feet (36 m), and regularly attracts turtles, lobsters of all sizes, features beautiful soft corals, sea fans, and a sheer wall along the dark blue edges.
When to go: Year-round; however, check the hurricane season forecasts
MV Captain Keith Tibbetts Wreck
Where it is: Near the southwestern tip of Cayman Brac
What makes it special: This Russian 330-foot long (110 m) battleship was purposely scuttled in 1996; today, it’s one of only of two Soviet-built warships that are accessible to Western Hemisphere divers. It broke into two large parts in a 2004 hurricane.
Details: You can dive this site from Little Cayman or Cayman Brac. As an artificial reef starting 30 feet (10 m) below the surface, but resting at 90 feet (30 m), those diving this wreck usually enjoy little to no current and 90- to 100-foot (30 to 33 m) visibility. On a typical dive, you can see green sea turtles, barracudas, large and small groupers, queen angelfish, lots of colorful tube sponges, and dozens of other tropical fish. You can penetrate certain parts of the ship with the proper certification.
When to go: Year-round, but not recommended during hurricane season. Book in advance because of its popularity and uniqueness.
Author Gil Zeimer took a resort course to learn how scuba dive on Grand Cayman in 1981. He’s been hooked ever since and has explored the underwater world from Australia to Micronesia to Aruba, almost exclusively in warm waters. As a travel writer, journalist, and advertising writer, Gil is passionate about helping diving industry clients promote their sites, resorts, and causes. He lives in Tiburon, California, which is Spanish for “shark.” Find out more about him here or follow him on Facebook.