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September 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 22, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Land-Based Recommendations for the Caymans

from the September, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Visions of hurricane-damaged reefs, overpriced food and loads of cruiseship passengers may come to mind when you think of the Caymans. However, many Undercurrent subscribers who recently stayed there will agree with Michael Zagachin (Peabody, MA), who says, “The Caymans are not cheap, but the diving is the best in the Caribbean. You’re getting what you paid for.”

Paul Selden (Portage, MI) chose Grand Cayman last April and reports that reefs and walls are recovering nicely from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. “They were filled with abundant life, beautiful corals and colorful sponges.” He dived with Eden Rock Diving Center, calling its multi-dive package a “best buy.” “They were willing to commit to afternoon boat dives when most would not. Owner Stuart Freeman kept his word to take me out one day, even though I was the only paying diver on board.” (Web site: www.edenrock.com)

Brent Barnes (Edmond, OK) went far from the madding crowd to Grand Cayman’s East End last March and stayed at Compass Point. “Beautiful, well-maintained condos, all oceanfront with full kitchens and cable TV,” he says. A new grocery store is a mile away, erasing the need to drive to the west end. Ocean Frontiers provided top service. “I set up my gear the first day and never touched it after that. After the final dive of the day, it was rinsed and set up for the next day.” The East End sites are healthier and less trafficked, Barnes reports. “The walls are incredible, with multiple crevices, tunnels, swimthroughs and pinnacles. Healthy coral and good fish life.” The wall sites start deeper than in the west end, around 60 to 80 feet, so the diving is a bit more advanced but certainly not difficult. “ The Ocean Frontiers diver tends to be more experienced than most, and that is how the operation treats its customers.” (Web sites: www.compasspoint.ky; www.oceanfrontiers. com) Another Grand Cayman favorite for serious divers is Divetech, located next to Cobalt Coast Resort. (www.divetech.com; www.cobaltcoast.com)

The best diving is at Little Cayman. Michael Zagachin stayed at Paradise Villas last April, and Jerry Hobart (Ransomville, NY) stayed at Little Cayman Beach Resort (LCBR) during the same month. “The reefs are in much better shape than Grand Cayman with fewer divers and less hurricane damage, and turtles, rays, and fish are more abundant,” says Hobart. Zagachin dived with Conch Club Divers, which recently combined with Paradise Divers and uses a “comfortable, uncrowded” 42-foot Newton boat. “The atmosphere is laid back, full of jokes, but everything works like clockwork.” (www.conchclub.com/divers) Hobart went with Reef Divers at LCBR. “On the first day, gear was picked up at my room and transported to the boat. The only equipment I handled was my wetsuit, fins and mask. BCs and tanks were brought to me at the back of the boat just before entering the water.” (www.littlecayman.com/diving) Bring a good book for after dinner. “If you are after nightlife, you are on the wrong island,” says Zagachin. “Ocean is the only noise you’ll hear.”

At Cayman Brac, In Depth Watersports has filled the void left when Divi Tiara closed. It is at the old Divi dock and run by long-time Reef Divers and Divi instructor, Craig Burhart. Al Jones (Henderson, NV), who dived with them in June, says, “He and his two other instructors, Katie and Rory, even washed my gear at the end of each day.” Burhart arranges private housing for divers in the many private homes he manages for second-homeowners, from total luxury to basic economy. “There are a few markets to buy food, but bring the other things you really need with you.” (www.indepthwatersports.com)

Cayman Air, the only interisland airline, can add misery to your vacation. For his May trip, James Heimer (Houston, TX) said it limited his checked luggage to 55 pounds and one carryon of up to 15 pounds. Overweight luggage was charged at 50 cents per pound. “Each member of our group had one dive bag, one clothing bag and two carryons for cameras and housings, but Cayman Air couldn’t bring it all, so some had to be left behind for delivery the next day. As a result, some had to rent dive gear and couldn’t take photos on the first dive. On the way home, as much luggage as possible had to be shipped out at 3 p.m. the day before departure to make sure it was in Grand Cayman for connecting flights. Inconvenient, but it worked.” We have reports from some readers required to send gear home two days in advance of departure.

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