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 Cayman Islands

     Grand Cayman

        Twenty-two miles side to side and eight miles top to bottom, Grand Cayman is a flat limestone island ringed by more than 150 dive sites along four distinct shores.

West End
        The water here is the clearest in the world If the topside culture of Seven Mile Beach is Late American Shopping Mall, under water it's pure Caribbean reef. Just offshore from the beach, the drop-off starts in just 50 feet of the calmest, clearest water this side of a backyard swimming pool. Most sites are within 15 minutes of the major resorts and range from shallow coral grottoes, to sheer walls to dramatic coral archways. In short, diving just doesn't get any easier than this.

East End
        The windward East End of Grand Cayman has gotten a bad rap for far too long. Out here, far removed from the mall culture of West End, is the last vestige of virgin diving left on Grand Cayman. Yes, it is exposed to more wind, surf and current than the West End, but you also get to see more dramatic coral formations and have a greater chance to glimpse sharks, dolphins and rays. Outside the barrier reef that caps the rounded East End, seas average two to three feet--hardly monstrous, but noticeable when compared to the glass-smooth water of West End. Not to worry: any certified diver worthy of having his picture on a C-card can handle diving here. Wall dives start anywhere from 45 to 90 feet and popular sites are clustered on the southeast and northeast corners, which provide shelter from the worst conditions. The southeast corner offers more dramatic drop-offs, while the northeast corner has richer sponge and soft coral life. Even if you're staying on the West End, you owe it to yourself to drive out here for at least one day of diving. Better yet, if the mall mentality of West End has you feeling like you never left home, plan your entire stay out here for a quiet getaway. In place of tourist mobs and traffic jams, you will find small villages with great local restaurants, and miles of deserted shoreline to call your own. You're also closer to two famous topside attractions: the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Gardens and the newly renovated beach facilities at Rum Point.

North Wall
        Dive shops on both the East and West ends offer occasional trips to the long North Shore. Considered to be some of the finest diving on Grand Cayman, the wall of the North Shore starts in 70 to 80 feet of water and is lined with pinnacles topped by rare black corals. Like East End, your odds of seeing pelagics like sharks, rays and turtles are high.

South Wall
        The exposed South Shore is usually dived only when weather makes it unsafe or unwise to dive elsewhere. Although deeper sites include sloping reef, the best diving on the south side is found in deep spur-and-groove coral formations.

Cayman Brac
        Located 90 miles northeast of Grand Cayman--less than an hour by plane--Cayman Brac boasts two shores of top-notch wall diving. It's also home to the MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts, the only diveable Russian warship in the western hemisphere, and a handful of beachfront dive lodges. With walls on both the north and south shores of the island, there is usually no problem finding a lee. The southern wall of Cayman Brac is topped by spur-and-groove corals and offers sheer drop-offs with plenty of vertical swim-throughs, tunnels and grottoes. The sloping north shore wall features more sponge life with big barrel, strawberry and vase sponges sheltering a variety of marine life. No guest room on Little Cayman has a telephone. That should give you an idea of how away-from-it-all this tiny island nine miles west of Cayman Brac is. Here's another indicator: there are only about 100 full-time residents on the island and only one industry--diving. Several bungalow-style lodges and one hotel-style resort all sit beachfront with quick access to some of the most raved-about diving in the Caribbean. Bloody Bay and Jackson Walls on the north shore of Little Cayman are fabled as the planet's best wall diving and start as shallow as 20 feet. Bloody Bay Wall is typified by flat, hardpan coral formations that are heavy on sea fans. This shallow shelf intersects the drop-off at a steep right angle. At a dive site called Mixing Bowl, where Bloody Bay and Jackson Walls meet, the slope changes dramatically. A mini-wall runs parallel to shore, separated from the lip of the drop-off by broad patches of snowy white sand. And instead of a sheer drop-off, the lip of the wall is a hunched boulder avalanche, frozen in place by coral growth.

Article Provided by:  DIVE CAYMAN

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