Diving In The Caymens

By anonymaous .... thanx..

Be prepared for very basic lodgings at Cayman Diving Lodge on the east end of GC. The best rooms are on the beach front (make very effort to secure one), and even they are quite small and modestly appointed. The area in front of the rooms is communal area anyway, so don't expect much privacy. Do not let them give you the room in the very back. It gets quite hot during the day, especially June thru August.

Hot breakfast only on Sunday - otherwise it's cereal & rolls time. Lunch & dinner are a single entree (usually very tasty), accompanied by a green salad, fruit salad, & a homemade baked dessert of some sort. Buffet style & all-you-can-eat. If you want to eat out, the nearest restaurant is the Lighthouse (a healthy walk), which has super food, and the Edge is next in line (best to drive). Fancy place on the very eastern tip, Portofino, is expensive with only mediocre food - skip it. CDL has a small bar for juice, soda, beers& mixed drinks, on the honor system - it is little frequented. Can walk to a local bar where islanders are friendly but where you would likely feel out of place.

The staff is exceptionally laid back & accommodating. Ian runs things, and DM's Mickey & especially Travis are very good. Travis really delivers the critters. Larger boat, a 46' Newton, takes out the AM divers (no more than 16) - twin ladder entry. Smaller boat with swim up entry used for PM dive as fewer go on this. On my dives, never had more than 6 including the DM 7 Captain, both of whom usually dove (that should tell you something). Large O2 canister, large first aid kit, radio, all desired safety features on both.

Marine life was incredible - nearly everything in Paul Humann's Reef Fish guide is there. You can imagine what my life list runs to, & I still added like 6 new things, including a rare chain moray. Also a golden phase Coney, slender filefish & diamond blenny. We saw several 5' foot Caribbean reef sharks up-close-and-personal. Ditto turtles. There were schools of feeding blue tang, Bermuda chub & blue stripped grunt. At Grouper Grotto, the canyons held trains of dozens of big tarpon, who let you swim right up to them. Coaxed out a small octopus in broad day light & we played with a conch shell. The best stands of staghorn coral I've ever seen, & some nice stands of elkhorn coral as well. Babylon Wall of the north end was better than what I saw at the fabled Bloody Bay & Jackson Walls on LC. Seahunt, this is the best diving in the Caribbean. Did have some very rough water days, which hurt viz, but still had 50'-80'. Really didn't matter though, & I enjoyed it better than when I was there in 100+ viz.

Ocean Frontiers is still running a world-class operation. They now have a bus which will pick you up at your hotel if it is easier than having the boat come. They have also just broken ground for accommodations. Morritt's Tortuga Club is no longer in the advanced diver game. I saw several of their boats on several occasions, packed to the gunnels with divers, like more than 20 - they looked liked floating ant colonies.

If you decide to go into town for a super big splurge dinner, best food is at Lantana. Very good food in an outrageously atmospheric setting is either Havana Club or Fernando's, both in the Westin. For just a big splurge, it's The Wharf. The much more barish Lone Star has all-you-can-eat Caribbean lobster night on Tuesday, $12.95 pp. During happy hour, any 6 shooters for $12.50, real bargain by Caymanian standards. Medium range splurge at The Wharf. Good food, big quantities & decent prices at "Eats." Also, there is the full range of fast food franchises. New botanical gardens on east end ore worth a visit, & the Blow Holes are out that way, too.

LC is very quiet & not for non-divers who need any stimulation/entertainment. Once you've seen the red-footed booby preserve, the museum, the only free- standing bar/grill on the island (Hungry Iguana) & sea kayaked to little, uninhabited Owen Island off the Southern Cross Club, you've done it all. Little Cayman Beach Resort is the upscale spot, with very nice new beach front condo units. Boats were crowded & diving regimented, though. Also dove with the Southern Cross Club next door & liked it much better. Went over to Cayman Brac one day to dive the MV Keith Tibbets (named after the brother of Linton Tibbets, owner of the LCBR & potentate of LC). A 330" Russian frigate built for Cuba in 1984 & sold to CB for $275,000 in 1996 for wreck diving, it has aluminum decking & super-structure & is disintegrating daily. If you're into this sort of thing, better see it soon. Group at LCBR were very well-heeled, well-travelled & well-educated - could be a bit pretentious. Just barely held my own on all fronts.

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