Scuba diving in Little Cayman
At just ten miles long and one mile wide it’s easy to work out how Little Cayman got its name. Home to around one hundred and fifty permanent human residents the island is a tranquil haven where the natural environment seems to dominate. Underwater it has earned a reputation as one of the prime scuba diving destinations in the world, and certainly one of the most dramatic. There are more than fifty recognised dive sites all around Little Cayman, but most visitors will want to experience the waters on the north side of the island around Bloody Bay Marine Park, which stretches from Spot Bay in the west to Jackson Point in the east.
Diving regulations help to preserve the spectacular reef sites along the wall and the marine park regulations limit the amount of fishing activity that happens around the island. Fixed mooring buoys have also been installed at all of the dive sites in the marine park, preventing boats from damaging the reef with their anchors.
All of the diving resorts on Little Cayman are located at the southern end of the island within a few hundred yards of Blossom Village and the airstrip. They are all long-established diving businesses, and each attracts their own loyal following of regular clients.
At Pirate’s Point Resort
, Gladys Howard has been one of the pioneers of the diving scene on Little Cayman and she knows the reefs and the ecology of the island better than anyone. Little Cayman Beach Resort
is a popular full-service resort with a lively bar that attracts a crowd at weekends, while Southern Cross Club
is a small up-market resort of just fourteen rooms. Conch Club Divers
are based at the Conch Club condominiums and specialise in small groups of divers. Visitors to the island are free to dive with any of the resort diving centres, but they all visit the marine park for a large proportion of their excursions.
Getting to the marine park of Little Cayman requires a short boat ride around the west end of the island. Diving is usually possible all year round on Little Cayman, especially at Bloody Bay.
The eastern end of the island is more exposed and prone to rougher seas at certain periods, though there are few diving sites in the area. If the wind is coming from the northeast then there are also good dive sites accessible at the southwestern end of Little Cayman which also has drop-offs to explore.
Most divers will want to explore some of the famous sites on the deeper sections of Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson Reef. The wall extends for approximately two miles. Although the top of the reef is an interesting mixture of gulleys, coral heads and sand chutes lying 10-14 metres beneath the surface, it’s the sheer drop off that makes Bloody Bay so spectacular, and unusual. Here in one of the deepest parts of the Caribbean the reef becomes a vertical wall plunging straight down to a depth of several thousand feet. Many of the parts of the wall and the adjoining reef have become legendary sites – Eagle Ray Roundup, Nancy’s Cup of Tea, Randy’s Gazebo, Mixing Bowl and Lea Lea’s Lookout to name just a few. Tunnels, chutes, crevices, swim-throughs and giant underwater pinnacles decorate the wall where it meets the shallows and the proximity of deep water with cooler upwelling currents allows the corals and the sponges of the wall to remain healthy.
Bloody Bay Marine Park is known for its populations of Green Turtles, Caribbean Reef Sharks and curious, sometimes positively friendly Nassau Grouper.
The groupers (Epinephelus striatus) can grow to three feet long, and are known to breed around Little Cayman, and many of the larger individuals have become accustomed to following divers around the reef, sometimes stalking their prey by hiding behind the divers as they swim along.
During night dives they have also learned that diver’s torches may be a sneaky way to spot an easy meal. The reef and the walls are also notable for their prolific sponge life especially the giant barrel sponges, scarlet rope sponges and tall yellow tube sponges. Inside the sponges there may be arrow crabs, bristle worms and sea stars or tiny gobies trying to hide.
Some of the more colourful reef fish to be found around Little Cayman include Bluehead Wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) and elegant French Angelfish (Holocanthus ciliariaris).
Spotted Moray Eels (Gymnothorax moringa) are commonly seen on the reefs as well as larger Green Morays (Gymnothorax funebris). One of the most thrilling sites when diving the wall is to spot a group of Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari), or to see a Caribbean Reef Shark circling slowly upwards from the depths to investigate the divers.
Little Cayman has earned its place on many lists of the best places to dive in the Caribbean. The island is also home to the Central Caribbean Marine Institute
. Divers are welcome to visit the research station on Little Cayman, and it’s possible to join their ‘Dive With A Researcher’ programme which allows sport divers to accompany marine biologists as they carry out their studies on the reef. It is also possible while staying on Little Cayman to cross the channel to explore the reefs of Cayman Brac, the neighbouring ‘Sister Island’.
Cayman Brac scuba diving
Cayman Islands snorkelling
Responsible Travel would like to thank the Cayman Islands tourist board for their sponsorship of this guide