Cayman Islands

This isn’t Muck Diving!  True, but that doesn’t mean those in the Midwest cannot treat themselves to some of the more exotic diving experiences.  Because the traditional Muck Diver doesn’t dive in paradise everyday information on dive ops, hotels, what should I do and not do become essential when planning a trip to paradise.  Because of all these questions, we thought we would give everybody a one-stop place to go to learn about these places and hopefully help with planning your next trip.  Once again, the success of this relies upon those that have taken the journey.  So, please help out and tell us about your trips and what worked and what did not work.

11 Responses to “Cayman Islands”

  1. snagel says:

    Original Post by Cutter77 on ScubaToys
    February 2015

    Back to the Brac ~

    Returned to Cayman Brac after several years. Last trip we stayed at the Cayman Brac Reef Resort but this time there were enough divers in our group to get a nice oceanfront place via VRBO which was close to the dive op so we could really spread out and do some grilling/cooking in-house. Cost came to considerably less than for a hotel room at CBRR so worked out well.

    Previously we had done our diving with CBRR as well but decided to try the new guys on the block, Cayman Brac Scuba Shack. Nice big boat, no more than 8 divers and a competent captain (in rough seas) as well as a great DM (Phil). Drinks and snacks provided, good attention to safety and option to follow DM or strike out on your own. Divers moved to the rear of the boat with fins in hand, sat down on one of two elevated stations and put on fins. The DM’s brought our BC’s to us, after which we took one forward step for a giant stride into the water……kinda nice, got used to it and decided we liked it.

    Saw lots of friendly (i.e. moocher) groupers hanging out with the divers hoping for a lionfish snack, plenty of reef fish, some turtles, several sharks, and the reefs were in pretty good shape. Also saw more free swimming morays than we’ve seen elsewhere recently….probably also hoping for handout lionfish. Scuba Shack is a nice laid back smaller dive operation and we’ll probably use them again if we get back that way. Maybe in combination with some Cuba diving….???

    Ate at most of the island cafes/restaurants —- best service/quality was at the CBRR outdoor bar/restaurant. Great staff, cheerful, and best menu offerings on the island.

    Flight out of Grand Cayman back to Houston was delayed 2 hours…..watched American and other airlines’ flights leaving on time knowing we would miss our connection home from Houston. Enjoyable trip, glad the weather was great while we were there, unlike what we experienced upon arriving back home. :>{

  2. Snagel says:

    Trip Report: Grand Cayman July 2014
    Original Post by Divalicious on ScubaToys

    Hello! Long time, no post, but my husband and I just got back from a quickie dive trip to Grand Cayman. I posted 1 pic below and will try to put some up from a real computer later.

    Lodging:

    We stayed at the Comfort Suites. I give it 4 stars. Seriously. These days, I really don’t like to slum it, but this trip was on a budget. United vacations had a special with direct airfare from Houston to GCM, plus 3 night stay for 950 per person USD, so we took it, figuring ‘How bad could it be?’

    The hotel totally exceeded expectations. I giving it 4 stars because it is clean, has a nice place on 7 mile beach, and many amenities that really do bump it up from 3 stars. The pool is decent, as is the on sight cafe/ bar, Stingers. The hotel is a short, easy walk to the beach. A condo unit is immediately beach side, but again, it is an easy walk of about 200m. The Hotel is immediately next door to the Marriott, which is more posh. If you want to feel swank, you can walk over there for a drink or dinner!

    The room is perfectly set for diving. Big King that was comfy! Pull out full / queen that seemed decent. At least, the couch part was comfy. There was a table and nice size kitchenette with microwave, fridge and sink and bathroom and 2 closets for dive gear.

    The staff was great and super friendly! And breakfast was included that was hearty and good! It had a full hot and cold breakfast beginning at 7am, in time for the dive boat.

    Diving:

    We dove with Ambassador Divers, the on site op. They were awesome. Everyone in the shop was friendly and competent and went out of their way to make you feel at ease. The price for a 2 tank was 105 USD but it did include shuttle to and from the boat, gear set up and overnight wash and store.

    The sites were great, filled with green morays, sea turtles, spotted rays and the normal fish.

    Other Topside:

    As a special note, my hubby and I rented bikes for 2 days at West Bay Loop bicycles. It was super fun! A nice topside thing to do when not diving. Check them out at westbayloop.com Great for all skill levels. The rental is about 5 mi north of 7 mile beach, across from the turtle farm at the cracked conch restaurant. The loop goes on quiet streets, along the beach and is really fun!

  3. Snagel says:

    November 2012
    Original Post by BudMan on ScubaToys

    I’m going to give a very brief report on trip to Cayman because this was my 1st time there so I’m no expert but maybe this info can help.

    We stayed in WestBay at the Shangri La B&B highly recommended away from the SMB area but very close to everything within 10-15 minutes of George Town.

    Dove with Deep Blue Divers in Geore Town. Excellent dive op allowed you to dive your computer and air provided what assistance was needed but no hand holding if you didn’t need it. Small,fast boats we had a max of 7 divers on a given day. 1st dive usually to 100 fsw 2nd dive 40-50 fsw.

    Dive sites in order of best to worse (IMHO)

    1.Dolphin Point
    2.Trinity Caves
    3. Kittiwake
    4.Eagle Ray Pass
    5.Armchair Reef
    6.Eagles Nest
    Two more I forgot the name of.

    Eating places.
    what we found is you could spend a whole lot on meals if you chose to do so but it wasn’t required to have a good meal. We spent less than $100 per day for 2 on food. We did have a breakfast provied by the B&B but I only had one as the dives started early. Also we limited ourselves to one beer and one mixed drink apiece so that keeps the price down.

    1. Chicken Chicken- great little restaurant for lunch $23 for two
    2. Triple Crown Pub- a little loud but great fish and chips and meat pies for lunch.
    3. AlFresco- great little place in Westbay that has a deck right over the beach and fantastic food at very reasonable prices.(we ate there 3 times)
    4. Agave Grill- wonderful Mexican food in a industrial area
    5. There is a Texas Roadhouse type place on SMB that I can’t remember the name of that was very good.
    6. Copper Falls.

    If you like cars there is a great little car museum out past the Turtle farm. If you want the history of the island the tour of Pedro’s castle will provide that.

    overall a great trip we are already planning a return trip.

  4. Snagel says:

    Trip Report – Single Divers trip to Cayman Brac, 11-18 Aug 2012
    Original Post by John Yaskowich on ScubaToys

    I’m home from a week long dive trip to Cayman Brac with Single Divers (www.singledivers.com). In a word: GREAT

    I found Single Divers through a post by Platypus Man and thought the group could be a good match for my needs – it is. I will definitely be making more trips with them. I had originally booked for a trip to Cozumel but had to cancel due to my wife needing surgery, so I picked this one as a substitute. Before the trip they set up a forum dedicated to that trip where divers can exchange comments, ideas, tips, jokes, etc (hmmm, sounds familiar). This was a big help in getting to know a bit about the fellow travelers before the trip and arranging a meeting for some of us for breakfast in Miami. I think between 1/4 and 1/3 of the people on this trip were making their first Single Divers trip. Experience ranged from 4000+ dives to 50.

    I booked WestJet out of Ottawa, with connection in Toronto, to Miami. An overnight stay in Miami, then Cayman Airways to Cayman Brac. A number of us met up at the hotel for breakfast before heading off to the airport. I think there were 18 (of 34 in the group) of us on the flight so there was a lot of renewing acquaintances and meeting new people in the airport and on the flight.

    We stayed at the Brac Reef Resort and dove with Reef Divers. Part of the paperwork before the trip includes a survey about diving style and questions to help match you with a suitable roommate. The system works quite well – I had no problems with either my roommate or dive buddy, although both are changeable by either party. The resort was good – well set up for divers as their primary focus. Meals were buffet style but the kitchen was very willing to make special orders or accommodate needs (a couple of people were vegetarians, others had allergy issues – no problems from the chef and dining staff). The rooms are clean and functional, the A/C works, and the showers have hot water: All the basic needs of a diver are met. When you check in you get a drinks card good for 3 free drinks a day, and a bottled water would count as one of those drinks. But after a full day diving, I don’t want more than a couple of beers before heading for bed. The tap water on the island is safe to drink so you don’t have to “waste” a drink coupon on bottled water, plus there is a store not too far away where you can buy beer, and a lot of people brought rum etc with them. No shortage of adult beverages for those wanting to indulge.

    Diving was on 20 diver boats and we had two boats out each day. My Captain/DM team was Barbie and Ian – a great team who added immensely to the enjoyment of the trip. We will forgive them their bad jokes during the dive brief. The diving staff provide what they call “Valet Diving” where they do all the heavy lifting of setting up. If you are diving Nitrox (all but 4 of us were – a $180 extra but worth it) you analyze and label your tanks for the next day. The staff load them on the boat and set your gear up on a tank. All you do in the morning is check it out. When it comes time to dive, you don your mask then sit on a bench at the stern and they bring your gear to you and help you gear up, then you giant stride into your dive. At the end of the dive you get back on the boat and they help you take your gear off and then they carry it to your seat and set you up on your next tank. Lather, rinse, repeat. One major downside of this system is that it takes a fairly long time to get everyone off the boat. We talked to the DM and boat Captain and more than half of us geared up the “old-fashioned” way of doing it yourself. This sped things up considerably – and (at least for me) calmed the jittery feeling caused by someone doing all my work. I admit that I was willing to let them take my gear at the end of a dive. By doing it the old-fashioned way, it was not uncommon for the dive briefing (very well done on a white board with site diagrams, and the usually seen fish) to close with the traditional “The pool is open”, echoed by a couple of splashes as self-gearing people hitting the water. There was a DM in the water leading those who wanted to follow him/her, but you were free to do your own thing. We could dive our air and it was not uncommon for some of the first to hit the water to get in 75-85 minute dives. We dove walls and reefs in the 60-110 ft range. I think the shallowest dive was about 50ft. In 6 days we did 18 dives including one night dive. The reefs are in good shape – the last major hurricane to hit Brac was about 8 years ago. The sealife was abundant – we saw sharks, turtles, spotted eagle rays, lobsters, crabs, groupers, tarpons, shrimp, morays, snappers, porcupine fish and lots more. Unfortunately we also saw a fair number of Lionfish. Cayman rules pretty much limit spears to the DMs who have been trained in their use. It was not uncommon to spear 3 or more lionfish on each dive, and I think the max was 6. The groupers and snappers are starting to associate a spear with an easy meal, so they will point out the lionfish for them. As I posted in the Happy Thread I saw a grouper “bird-dog” a lionfish for the DM (Ian), who is the only one holding a spear. The grouper pointed the lionfish out, then made eye contact with the DM as if to say “OK Bud, do your stuff.” Ian nailed the lionfish and was pulling him out of his crevice when the grouper snatched the lionfish off the spear. Just as he turned away for lunch, a second grouper grabbed the lionfish out of the first’s mouth and swam away, with the first in hot pursuit. I almost drowned I was laughing so hard. For a great shot of a grouper getting a meal see Facebook

    Other things: Two of our members used the trip to get married and invited all the Single Divers group as their guests. The Best “Man” was the groom’s female dive partner (“If I trust her with my life, I can trust her to support me for the ceremony.”) and the Maid of Honour was another diver, even though the Bride and Groom had only met them both that week.

    The 6:30am flight by Cayman Airlines is FAR too early, since it means a 3:30 wake-up call for a 4:30 resort departure. We only made 2 dives on Friday, which is a good thing since my computer was showing No-Fly for 18hrs when my flight was 18.5 hours away. The first leg is a 22 minute hop from Cayman Brac to Grand Cayman. I don’t think they even had time to retract the landing gear. On a related note, if you fly Cayman Airways they allow 2 free bags of 55#s each on all legs serviced by their Boeing 737’s. Pay attention because there some flights where a leg is done on a turboprop plane where the free baggage is limited to 1×50# bag.

    The Cayman government will supply a free tour guide if you supply the vehicle. 6 of us chipped in for a van and we spent Friday afternoon getting a pleasant tour conducted by Gregory.

    All in all I am very satisfied with my trip. A huge “Thank You” to Kamala, the operator of Single Divers. She worked tirelessly to ensure everyone had a great trip, and especially make us newcomers feel most welcome. The others that made this a wonderful trip were the SD Trip Coordinators who help Kamala organize things, the Captains, DMs and staff of Reef Divers, and the staff of Brac Reef Resort. As I said, I will definitely dive with Single Divers again, and wouldn’t mind going back to the Cayman Islands.

  5. Snagel says:

    Cayman Islands
    Original Post by DiverSteve on ScubaToys with some good information.

    As you’ve probably realized, everything there is really expensive – the CI$ is fixed at .80/U.S.D.

    Cayman Activities | Cayman Island Activities, Caribbean Destinations lists other non-dive things to do.
    We rent cars from Andy’s at the Airport. It’s a short walk across the airport parking lot. They also have a location on SMB. And will pick you up if you only want a car part of the time.

    If you’re going to shop downtown it’s best where there aren’t 2-3 cruise ships moored in the harbor…Since everyone is tendered in, the area around the cruise port downtown is very congested. You can find out what’s in here: Ship Schedules

    If you plan to do any shore diving, you either rent tanks from the on-site facility – most of the better dives have one or you can get tanks from Divers Supply in West Bay. Most dive operators – even those with shore dive options – won’t let you take tanks off-property – it’s one of the quirks of Cayman diving – they don’t get a lot of demand for it so no one does it. Eden Rock downtown also has a 24hr. rental program. You also can’t bring tanks on-site at any site with an established dive operator.
    best places to eat reasonably priced
    The Hard Rock Cafe downtown has a nice view of the port – the restaurant is upstairs with big glass windows.

    Rackams is pretty reasonably priced. So is Chicken! Chicken!

    Macabuca (Tiki Bar at the Cracked Conch) does a few entrees/sandwiches etc. Cracked Conch is much more expensive. You can also shore dive there – it’s on Turtle Reef – one of the better shore dives in that area. Sundivers is there for tank rentals. Macabuca will have live music on Fri. night. Depending on where you’re staying in West Bay – it’s nearby.

    The other two good shore dives in that area are Lighthouse Point and Cobalt Coast – both have Divetech facilities on-site.

    Seaharvest Restaurant at Sunset House is fairly reasonable also. They also do an Indian Curry option. I think you can also get the same menu at My Bar while enjoying the night air. My Bar also has excellent sandwiches. It’s one of the diver’s bars on GC.
    Decent dive also if you wanted to make an afternoon of it. Also visit the Cathy Church school/photo gallery on-site while there.

    Grand Cayman Islands Restaurants Guide lists most of your options.
    You can also see menus/prices here: Grand Cayman Restaurants Guide for Cayman Islands Restaurants Search by food type and it will compare all the options.

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  8. ozarkdiver says:

    My family and I went to Cayman Brac/Little Caymen in 2005. Beyond a doubt the best saltwater diving I’ve ever experienced. We stayed on Cayman Brac, but the boat took us to Little Caymen on two different days. The temp was 86 degrees all the way to the bottom, so no suits. The vis was unbelievable. When we dove the Capt. Keith Tibbits on Cayman Brac (90 ft deep), the divemaster was telling us which direction the ship was. When I entered the water, the entire ship came clearly into view…..all the way to the other end (and this is a big ship). I could even make out my son’s diving gear at the other end (in 90 feet). It was almost what I call “Ginnie vis”, which basically means I had no way of determining the vis, as there appeared to be no end to it.

  9. snagel says:

    LCBR Trip Report – August 2010
    Original Post by Qnape on ScubaBoard

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    My wife, daughter (16) and I spent 8 nights at LCBR in mid-August, and in short the resort met or exceeded every expectation! That is saying a lot, as the consistently great reviews the place gets had us expecting quite a bit. We stayed in oceanfront rooms, on the full (3) meal plan.

    Traveling to LCBR went without a hitch, with the hop on the twin otter adding to the fun. We arrived on a Saturday and left on a Sunday, and learned that it is perhaps wisest to travel to/from the resort on any day other than Saturday. One of our bags was delayed at Grand Cayman until a flight later that day – no big inconvenience but if we had arrived on a later flight (with the bag delayed until the next day) … Many of the folks we got to know that week left on Saturday, and were requested to send a bag to Grand Cayman a day early; we were told that this is only for Saturday departures and did not apply to us.

    The beachfront rooms are large, very comfortably furnished, and had everything we needed. Counter space, a desk area and chair, and a table gave me plenty of room to lay out diving and camera gear, etc. The king sized beds were comfortable, and the electronics in the room (flatscreen TV, DVD player, and ipod dock and small refrigerator) all worked well and were put to good use. We brought some DVD’s and they were also available to rent there. The a/c’s in the rooms are more than adequate and we had to turn ours way down to find a comfort point – easy to accomplish. Ceiling fans and a nice but not luxuriously appointed bath with good quality bath product completed the rooms. The quality of the towels could be better, and for divers there can never be enough but this was not a problem.

    The food at LCBR is often praised, and with extremely good reason. The quality is high, and the variety is excellent. Fresh salads were available for lunch and dinner, the soups were all excellent, and with 3 entree choices or more for lunch and dinner there was indeed something for everyone. Rack of lamb? Jumbo shrimp scampi? Not typical dive resort buffet fare, and full plates and big smiles were the rule at every table. Breakfasts also featured lots of choices, including an omelet station. A very minor complaint; sometime the coffee / tea could have been a bit hotter. Desserts are typically the high point of reviews we have read and we cannot argue. My wife and daughter fretted about what they should have that would not make them feel too terribly guilty, and for me, not a dessert eater, some fresh and delicious berries on several nights served just fine. All meals feature a relaxed and casual atmosphere – save weight when packing as shorts, sandals and a dive t-shirt are just fine.

    My wife is a non-diver, and met a few others at the pool during our stay. She enjoyed services at the spa across the street, walks on the beach, and relaxing in and around the pool. LCBR certainly caters to divers, but staff also came to talk with the non-divers at the pool to ensure that they were happy. One request was common; the exercise room needs more attention, and in particular a treadmill would be great. Don’t be surprised to see one there in the future; the staff member showed interest in the suggestion.

    Socially, the Beach Nuts bar is the only real option. You don’t come here for night clubs, so belly up to the bar and talk with the other guests, dive staff, and the bartenders. We found the music to be well chosen, the company to be good, conversations animated, and drinks strong enough. The bar was quiet on several evenings, but it was August after all – the resort was not full, and there were enough mosquitos to require a few squirts of high % deet repellant. Be sure to attend the welcome reception at the bar where the staff are all introduced, nice snacks are served, and free t-shirts given out to all returning guests (perhaps 60% of guests during our stay were returning, with some there for 5 to 8 times!).

    The diving from LCBR is, of course, world class by anyone’s definition. Bloody Bay Wall and the surrounding area has a well-earned reputation I can hardly improve with my praise. I will mention that diving within the marine park the concentration of life is greater than outside; due to weather conditions, a few dives had to relocate to areas outside the park. Visibility during our stay was good but not outstanding at about 60′ to 75′ or so. Water temps were like a sauna in NJ – 86 f down to 100′! We were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of reef sharks we saw; we observed at least one every day and sometimes several on single dives. Nurse sharks were not uncommon and turtles were seen on nearly every dive. Lionfish were not uncommon and divers were requested to point them out to dm’s when possible; several of the dm’s carried spears to dispatch the lionfish. This is not without risk, and one of the dm’s was out of commission recovering from a lionfish sting upon our arrival. Coral and sponge growth seemed healthy with larger specimen common. Huge coral heads provide infinitely variable structure on many dive sites, and a wide variety of reef fish, anemones, coral shrimp, crabs and others take refuge in the endless crevasses. This posed difficulties for several photographers with large rigs; my smaller setup has its few advantages. Lobster were common, and typically very large. Notably, we only saw a few morays – including a very large green well hidden under an overhang.

    Two dives were scheduled each morning with the surface interval on the boat. Afternoon dives were scheduled for around 2:00 p.m. Night dives were scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday but had to be cancelled due to rough conditions. A rec dive to Cayman Brac is scheduled each week but in our case was cancelled due to lack of sufficient interest. I came to relish the deep dive in the morning, typically steeply down a swim-through or cut on the face of the wall exiting at 100′ or so then angling less steeply back up and along the wall, cutting back over the top of the wall after reaching about 66% of our gas supply then leisurely criss-crossing between large coral heads back towards the boat at 25 – 40 ft. Between coral heads in sandy areas large stingrays were common, along with peacock flounder, conch, garden eels and jawfish. Upon reaching the boat, we typically found schooling fish under the boat, including at least a few barracuda. We always had something to see during our safety stop!

    The dive staff were uniformly helpful and friendly. Divers set off in buddy pairs on their own, or could follow an in-water DM to help them find things of interest. On occasion my daughter and I were joined by a third diver we came to know well in a triad, this also worked very well for us. Reef Divers offers valet style service and will set up your gear for each dive after you set it up on the first day. They do not hesitate to allow divers who so desire to handle their own gear. We were happy to utilize their service and lazily spent some time checking gear for each dive. I had to move a few tanks lower in the harness; after wrestling gear all day I can understand why lifting my BC with the integrated weights inside onto a new tank might result in a bit of slippage down the tank. It gave me something to watch for as I checked my gear each dive. Dive briefings were detailed and clear with sites sketched out for each dive on a board making navigation easy. Ask Ron to draw a spotted eagle ray!

    Dive boats are well equipped with fresh water hose, camera table, head, and modern safety equipment including DAN O2, radios and in-water recall system for emergencies. Cold water and snacks are provided for every dive, and a nice towel provided for each diver each day. Dm’s rinsed camera gear with fresh water immediately after each diver returned.

    I have to mention a strange incident we had with one of the ubiquitous Nassau Grouper. These guys are friendly and clearly comfortable with divers. They follow you like dogs, often swimming adjacent to or under your legs or stomach. It was not uncommon to only become aware of them after they bump you. Divers often respond with a rub or tickle under the chin, accepted willingly. Oddly, with no provocation one grouper turned nasty and gave my daughter quite a scare. I posted about this incident separately under Near Misses and Lessons Learned, for those interested.

    While unnerving at the time, having the unexpected occur certainly does not diminish our desire to return to dive again at Little Cayman. In our limited experience, the diving here was as good or better than any place we have seen! All of us, including my wife, were very pleased with our stay and we will certainly be returning.

  10. snagel says:

    Grand Cayman trip report 8/24-8/30/09

    Orginal Post by ScubaGirlJ on ScubaToys
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    I will try to condense this as it may be lenghty;
    Day 1-plane delayed 1 &1/4 hrs ay PHL due to mechanical problems so had 3 mins to RUN & make connection in NC- taxi sent & paid for by Sunset House waiting for us at airport-nice clean room, nothing special but quite nice(-got vouchers for free drink(post dive)-signed up for lockers and afternoon guided dive of house reef(mermaid, nicholson, coral fingers, etc)-lots of small to medium sized fish, have to look at pics for IDs-had nice dive with turtle sighting in first 5 mins-lovely dinner at My Bar(house bar)-food excellent and reasonably priced

    Day2-First boat dive was Armchair Reef-staff very safety oriented(a good thing)-offered 2 profiles with guide for each or DYOT-strobe crapped out in first 5 mins but oh well-more turtles and larger fish-great viz(100+) and water temp(84) all week-Second boat dive was Pageant Reef-saw two eagle ray!found a nurse shark dozing under a ledge and a HUGE lobster a bit further along-after lunch and a nap, went to Sting Ray City, only 6 of us so had alot of opportunity for feeding-they get a bit aggressive(yellowtails were down right annoying) but not so much as to become scary, however party was crashed by resident green moray(blinded by cateracts) so feeding came to a halt, luckily we were pretty much done by then-he swam around each of us but gave it up when he realized food was gone-back to SH for another nap then off at sunset for our first dive of night specialty(and our first night dive ever)-did house reef so we sort of knew where we were but pretty spooky when the squid swim in front of your light and octopus fly out from under ledge-had dinner and slept well! beds more comfortable than those in Royal Towers at Atlantis

    Day 3-Forgot to mention breakfast included is great, order what you want! great way to start the day-First boat dive was Little Tunnel-I opted for shallower(70′) to see more reef life while husband opted to do the swim thru that brought him out on the wall-think GC has a monopoloy on squirrelfish and stoplight parrots, never seen so many!-Second boat dive was Devils Grotto, in front of Eden Rock-had great time going thru all the swim thrus and working on buoyancy(dropped 6 lbs during trip, husband dropped 8!)-amazed at amount of fish but still haven’t seen anything very large(local fishermen?)-back for lunch and quick shower and off to PPB class for husband-did 2 back to back(40 min SI) shore dives on house reef and he was happy to drop weight as previously mentioned-I did same exersizes even though I had already done course but it was fun-had another light meal and a bit of a nap and on to night dive #2-had to do our own navigating and was thrilled when I got us back to stairs! SAC was better this time as was not quite as stressed-didn’t see much nightlife but had fun and thats the point-kept to planned profile for day and finished within my total O2 exp(I did nitrox for boat dives all trip)-again had light meal and off to bed

    Day4-First boat dive was Hole in the Wall on the North side as water was mirrorflat!-saw blacktip shark hanging along edge of wall but he cut pretty quickly upon our arrival-found another huge green moray under a ledge and basically just hung out looking at all the cool sponges/coral/fish-Second boat dive was Govenours House Reef, we decided to work on our navigation skills so used coral formation as a map-on this as on all previous dives, the reef life is so colorful it kind of is like diving in a Nat Geo show-back for a quick bite and nap then back out to house reef to plan our last night dive, which we had to plan(and present our plan pre dive to instructor)-had some unexpected company as instructor’s wife and head of DO joined us(pressure to perform was on!)got out to our 1/2 way
    point as planned, right on the money naviagtion and air wise then the
    u/w sub came by and husband and DI were watching it as rest of us were heading back, got a bit disoriented group-wise but all came back together in a few minutes-my main light crapped out on way back(a test?) and good thing I had my backup-finished up right where we started, sucess!-another light snack, long shower and off to bed-husband needs the 20 hrs before flying

    Day 5- Poor husband had to fly home so first boat dive of day for me was Orange Canyon-know why it has that name as orange elephant ear sponges are massive! hope I can photoshop my pics to bring back the colors! Second boat dive was the Oro Verde-a wrecked wreck as everyone knows but still a great site-got a manicure from cleaner shrimp-fun pics for DM(my buddy for dive) riding the bike thats there(joked it looked like he was on his way to work)-sounds repetitive but amount of small and medium sized fish is overwhelming-called it a day after AM dives to eat lunch and take a nap-was supposed to meet up with DO staff for drinks at closing but slept thru until 9 PM, oh well

    Day 6-First boat dive was the Doc Polson, a cable laying vessel intentionally sunk-sits upright and has lots of large swim thrus-finally saw BIG grouper inside-had great time taking pics of others sticking heads/arms out of wreck-second boat dive was Royal Palms Ledge-lots of grooves with overhangs where some larger fish hung out-lots of really small fish on top of reef need to check with my reef id book, again(thinking Fish ID is in my future)-called it a day since was flying out next day and had done so many repetitive dive days-lifted a few with the staff later in evening-off to bed

    Day 7-Everything is dry and packed, had final breakfast sitting watching other divers going out-SH was wonderfully accomodating, always asking if we needed/wanted anything-they supplied taxi back to airport for husband and myself even though we left on different days-DO staff was very friendly and knowledgable-pre dive briefings were very detailed with map drawn on board and profiles well defined-safety was really stressed (with a hookah hung for every dive and computers checked)-and even with limited # of divers on boat, they put 2 DMs in water to accomodate different levels of divers-yes, they do use 72’s as standard tanks but if you wanted 80’s or nitrox all you had to do was ask the day before(nitrox was more $ but it usually is anywhere)-food at restuarant was wonderful and diverse(Indian cuisine available was nice change of pace from usual offerings at most places)-am looking forward to going back-only bummer was my bag didn’t make it from NC to PHL until Day 8 but at least I had own gear for the stay

  11. snagel says:

    Original Post by TheSmoothDome on ScubaToys

    Trip Report – Cayman Aggressor IV – July 4th – July 11th, 2009

    Traveling from the west coast, we decided the best course of action was to arrive on Friday, July 3rd and bed down in Grand Cayman. I’m glad we did because the trip was long. We started in San Diego at 4:30am for a 7:35 flight to Dallas. After a two hour layover, we flew to Miami, where thunderstorms forced us to circle for an additional 40 minutes. Naturally, this pushed our flight to Grand Cayman back as well and we finally arrived in Grand Cayman at 9:30 at night, 16 hours after we awoke to begin our day of travel. While the flights were smooth, they were horrible. On the Dallas to Miami leg, I was squashed in the middle seat behind some 250lb guy who took every opportunity to slam his seat back into my knees. I’m not really sure what flight attendants do anymore. There was no food served and since no leg was longer than 3 hours, each made one pass through the cabin with drinks. Of course, travel is the necessary evil of world class diving, so while not fun, it is expected.
    After spending the morning walking around 7 mile beach, and grabbing a Thai massage down the road from the hotel (OMG it was like being in the ring with a Thai kickboxer. All elbows and knees. I’ve never had a rougher massage in my life) , we took a cab to the Georgetown docks where we were met by crew member and dive instructor Emma who took our bags and welcomed us aboard the Cayman Aggressor IV. We chose our spots on the dive deck and set up.

    Having spent the last two liveaboards on Peter Hughes boats (Sun Dancer and Star Dancer, which have similar designs), drawing comparisons are inevitable, so I’ll knock most of them out now before I continue to the blow by blow.

    The dive deck on the Aggressor was larger and easier to maneuver around. Wetsuits were stored over the tanks, rather than on a center rack. The downside to this was that it made it a bit harder for the crew to see that your tank needed to be filled. Gear was stored in in the benches in front of the tanks. Unlike the Hughes boats, the storage was in the bench itself, rather than in baskets below the bench. There was definitely more room, but there was so much room that it was hard to reach all the way to back of the storage. Once geared up, you had to navigate down one of two narrow ladders, facing the ladder and stepping down toe to heel. The Hughes boats have a distinct advantage here, providing a wide staircase that can easily be walked down. Both have large swimsteps and two in water ladders. For safety stops, the Aggressor drops a thick chain vertically in the water along with a spare regulator with surface supplied air. The Hughes boats are known for their rigid deco bar, which provides enough room for everyone to hang on as the boat swings on its mooring. Advantage Huges in this department.

    The salon on the Aggressor was directly accessible from the dive deck and it was necessary to enter the salon in order to get to the cabins, which were all below the main deck. Again, a steep, narrow ladder had to be navigated in order to get to the cabins, making it difficult to carry items to your room. Perhaps most disappointing, was the lack of windows in the cabins. Both Hughes boats boasts large picture windows in each room. It is nice to awake in the morning, draw the window shades back and stare out over the ocean. Our master cabin didn’t even contain a window and while the Hughes boats queen beds were placed in the middle of the room, the Aggressor had one side pressed against the wall, making the bed seem smaller. The head and shower area were also combined into one, so that if a person was showering, the head could not be used. When I travel with the Aggressor fleet in the future, I’ll be sure to save the extra money and get a deluxe room rather than the master.

    The crew onboard the Aggressor did their job. From the first night, you could tell that there was some stress and the crew was tired, but even so, they did their best to keep it away from the guests. Unfortunately, the feeling was palpable and engagements with the crew were minimal. In fact, I can only recall two of the crew members having dinner with us. I guess there had been some turn over in the staff quite recently and they were all pulling extra duties. Captain Pierce, the fleet operations manager was on board getting things back on track, Captain Henri had recently returned from extended hiatus and Captain Lowell was grinding yet another week on board. Yeah, we had 3 captains on board this week, and that was with a crew of 5. Dive instructor Kory was doing classes and photography for the group and dive instructor Emma was that weeks chef. Captain Pierce spent most of his time assisting Emma in the kitchen. This was definitely not a normal week for the crew of the Aggressor, so comparisons between other crews may not be fair. Captain Pierce, a phenomenal photographer, was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing technique and while he watched most of it go over my head, I knew it would sink in as time went on and it did. Strobe to subject…Strobe to subject. Lowell and Kory not only shot video and photography for the guests, but spent many hours after we went to sleep editing, only to have to wake up early and get things ready for us. Captain Henri always had a smile on his face and was perhaps the most outwardly friendly of the bunch. Emma did an amazing job of cooking. If she wasn’t already a dive instructor, she’d make a phenomenal chef.

    After 1000 words, I guess I should touch on the diving. Once everyone was on board Saturday night, we set out for the 80 mile crossing to Little Cayman. I had heard that some charters spend a few days around Grand Cayman before making the crossing, so I was totally stoked that we were heading out immediately. We awoke Sunday morning to sunny skies and clear water. After breakfast, Lowell briefed us on his favorite dive of the week, Randy’s Gazebo. Turtles, stingrays, drum fish, basket corals abound. After 2 dives and lunch, we moved to the Lowell’s favorite dive of the week, The Meadows. Yah, this was the pattern for the week. EVERY dive was Lowell’s favorite and for a while we thought he was just kidding, but as time went on, we began to realize that we were diving the best that the Caymans had to offer. After 25+ hours underwater, I can honestly say that we didn’t visit a site I’d consider less than spectacular. We cruised sites in Jackson’s Bight on Sunday and Monday morning, heading for Cayman Brac during lunch on Monday and making 3 dives on a Russian destroyer renamed the Capt. Keith Tibbits. Well, most of us made 3 dives. Somehow, I was allowed to sleep through the 2nd afternoon. My wife explained that she didn’t want to wake me because I looked exhausted. I really regret missing that dive because I spend the entire first dive planning pictures for as the sunlight fell. Regardless, the destroyer was unbelievable. I’m not much of a wreck guy, but this one blew me away.

    Tuesday and Wednesday we dove a variety of sites on Bloody Bay wall and few on the edge of Jackson’s Bight. In order to get an earlier start back to Grand Cayman Wednesday night, the night dive was changed to a 6:00am dive Wednesday morning. I managed to sleep though that one too, but that was by choice .
    Thursday morning we dove a Grand Cayman site called Babylon and then Tarpon Alley. Babylon proved to be a great dive with deep walls, large fans, and great visibility. Tarpon Alley wasn’t as good. Green water, the poorest visibility of the week and no tarpon led to a bit of disappointment. Even so, we were lucky enough to dive the site, which isn’t always accessible. The 3rd dive of the day was Stingray City. I’m not much on the tourist type dives. I found the Blue Hole in Belize to be well, a big hole in the ground. I always have a bit of a moral dilemma with any less than eco-friendly types of dives as well. This one was fun though. The rays were everywhere and would just swarm all over a diver who held a small piece of squid in their hand. Because it takes place in 12 feet of water on a sandy bottom, the water gets dirty quickly, but thankfully I didn’t need to use flash to shoot pictures. It is hard to get the shots you want while holding the camera in one hand and the squid in the other. The final two dives of the day were at Oro Verde, a site where a small broken up wreck is home to many morays, angel fish and turtles. I had more fun at this site than any other during the trip.

    Fridays diving was at Trinity Caves and Devil’s Grotto. Both had lots of swim throughs and Devil’s Grotto had a ton of tarpon. After swinging by to refuel the boat for the next charter, we docked in Georgetown and spent the afternoon drinking at the conveniently located Margaritaville and being accosted by a couple of drunk ex-pats who were asked to leave after getting rude with both staff and patrons, but that is a story for another time.

    Overall, I’d say the diving was the best I’d experienced in the Caribbean and wouldn’t hesitate to go back and do it again. A quick calculation of travel times did provide an interesting fact though. In the time it took to get to the Caymans, we could have taken a non-stop flight to Fiji. This time of year though, Fiji waters are a lot cooler. Even though the boat had a few disappointments, it is the only liveaboard in the Caymans and consequently, offers the best diving.

    Next year, we’ll be checking out the new Maldives Aggressor.

    Oh..one more interesting tidbit. We learned from the crew that the Dancer fleet has been purchased by the Aggressor fleet. The boats will continue to operate under individual names, but the owners are now the same.

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