After diving in exotic locations, like the Ningaloo reef, with whale sharks, and in Borneo, I wondered what The Grand Cayman Island had to offer a scuba diver? Is this not the commercial recreational dive center of the Caribbean?. Does it not have the petting zoo, called Sting Ray City. Well, I was in for a surprise.
On Sunday, June 23, 1996, I stepped out of Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman Island to settle this burning question. What I found was Eden Rock Diving Center nestled on the ironshore just outside of Georgetown, the capital city. It was managed by Peter Heiss, an English lad from Liverpool. Peter's experience as a dive instructor was gleaned from taking large groups of divers from cruiser ships diving. So it was a treat when only the two of us went diving. Peter showed me what in my opinion was the best shore dive in the Caribbean, Devil's Grotto.
The Grotto is a short swim from the dive center. It is one of Grand Cayman island's most popular dive sites. It is excellent for both scuba and snorkeling, as the depths range from 5 to 60 feet of water. It is also in a marine park. Peter showed me aside of the Grotto few have seen and most normally miss.
At Devil's Grotto the coral heads are very pronounced and form a labyrinth of cave canyons. Peter was to take us into a cavern where the entrance was so small that I had scrapes on my arms. Once inside it was pitch black for 20 feet then it opened out to a very large cavern in 60 feet of water. Here the water was aquamarine blue and light poured in. At the entrance of the cavern was a school of Tarpon. The Tarpon were 3 to 4 feet long. Just under them (they liked to stay at the top of the cavern) were thousands of Silversides. Sometimes the Tarpon darted into the school of Silversides with their mouth open for a bite of lunch.
The Grotto features a plethora of caves, grottos, caverns and tunnels. The top of the reef rises to a few feet of the surface and is home to many varieties of fish and marine life. The common fish being the large Green Parrot Fish and their escort of Sergeant Major Fish.
The tunnels have sky-light openings through which sun beams illuminate the diver's view inside. In one such tunnel I was surprised to see a gravestone hanging on the wall of one Jimmy Blind 1960-1989. My first thoughts were that he must have died in the Grotto. Later while sipping on a Red Stripe beer, Peter confessed that James loved the dive site so much that the Cayman Government allowed his estate to place the headstone there as he had willed.
Peter asked me to pass on tip to the shore divers that rent tanks at Eden Rock and go on their own for a dive. Most spurs and groves systems point in the general direction of the shore. They resemble fingers stretching from dry land out to sea, and that is from shallow to deep water and drop-off. Should a diver loose the group in the vicinity of the wall he needn't ascend to the surface to decide on the direction home. Simply enter a grove and swim along it. It will take you to shallow water and the shore.
I enjoyed the friendly staff at The Eden Rock Dive Center and the easy access into the water. I spent five of the ten days of diving there. On one of those days I was rewarded with the site of a 100 LB blue Tuna in 60 feet of water he was there for an instant in time and disappeared in a flash.
The Grand Cayman Islands are supposed to be the most expensive islands in the Caribbean as the Cayman dollar is 25% higher than the U.S. dollar. For Canadians that means a 40 cent dollar. The good news is that the Cayman islands have the most inexpensive diving I have experienced. A two tank dive from shore costs $12.00 U.S. If you don't cook your own meals, a hamburger can be had for 89 cents at Burger King. A car can be rented for $110.00 U.S. dollars for the week. In most other islands it cost $50.00 a day for a car.
When you are tired of diving you can lie on the white sands of Seven Mile beach or you can take a drive to a small town called Hell, which has a great postcard business. But when you had enough of this heavenly bliss on the lovely beaches and have gone to Hell, the best the island has to offer is at Devil's Grotto under the water.
BY CHRISTOPHER FERNANDEZ
Copyright 1998 - 2000
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