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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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September 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Little Cayman Beach Resort, Cayman Islands

whether you have had one dive or one thousand

from the September, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Fellow Diver,

It was the midday Saturday when the friendly security guard at Grand Cayman airport patted me down and queried, "Heading home?" When I replied, "Nope, going to Little Cayman," she gave me a puzzled look and asked why I was traveling in July during the busiest time of the week.

Good point. With so many tourist packages running from Saturday to Saturday, the airport was jammed, the lines long, the air-conditioning barely adequate, the food options limited. I shrugged, knowing that a week of good diving lay ahead.

Actually, it was great Caribbean diving. For example, all my dives on the well-known Jackson's Wall were just plain beautiful, with a deep blue ocean on one side, a sheer wall on the other, and colorful coral heads and swim-thrus. Barracuda, bar jacks, and hogfish were frequent visitors among the abundant reef fish, and in the sandy bottom below the boat, I spotted several stingrays and garden eels.

Little Cayman Beach ResortLCBR boasts four Newton dive boats -- two 42-footers and two 46-footers. My 16 Northern California dive club companions and I were assigned to the 42-foot Reef Fanta-Sea, which offered plenty of room for donning gear, as well as an upper deck to get away from the crowd. The crew set up tanks -- check your own, we were cautioned -- and delivered them to the transom, where they helped us don them. After each dive, towels, water, chips and fruit were available. Divemasters Romel and Anthony alternated delivering the briefings and guiding the dives. Buddies could go off on their own, as long as they followed the rules: 50 minutes and 100 feet on the first dive, 60 and 60 for the second. While they were both pleasant guys, Romel was more of a student of marine life, having his own ID books on board and enthusiastically pointing out critters such as baby filefish at Ringer's Wall. There I also spotted Caribbean lobsters in coral cracks, several turtles, and a small nurse shark.

One advantage of a full-fledged dive resort is that one can get a complete package at a good price. Seven-day packages here, depending on the season, accommodations, etc., run from $1600 to $2200 (double occupancy); mine included two morning boat dives and one after lunch, meals, two drinks daily at the open air Beach Nuts Bar, all gratuities (except for the dive crew), and the bar threw in mosquito repellent because at dusk they are hungry and vengeful. Our trip organizer had planned a checkout dive the afternoon of our arrival, but the dive shop said the checkout would be on the first morning dive. But there was none. After the briefing, we all just jumped in and swam away. Beforehand, thankfully, I had familiarized myself with my rented a BC and regulator. They also offer two weekly night dives and a dusk dive ($65 extra for each). The dusk dive enticed me, but I was disappointed that they couldn't round up the eight-diver minimum, so there was no dive. I should add, there is no shore diving or worthwhile snorkeling at the resort.

Little Cayman Island MapLittle Cayman Beach Resort, a less-than-two-minute shuttle ride from the unpaved airstrip, has grown over the years, and now has 40 double rooms, and can house more guests in four three-bedroom condos. It features a pool and hot spa, a small gym (in one corner there are books for borrowing), and a group meeting room. My air-conditioned room was pleasant enough, with a king bed, desk, TV, minifridge, and two chairs and a small table on the deck. One evening I was showering, with a headful of shampoo when the power went off. Fortunately, I was quick to wash out the soap before the water ceased flowing. We had several power outages the following day; I was told, the entire island had been affected by a fire. Would have been nice for management to pass out flashlights. My dive light, of course, was on the boat, but then, there is always a cell phone screen.

I didn't realize all the resort and environs had to offer until the third evening at the manager's welcome reception. Over free drinks and snacks, we were briefed about the island's museum, the limited spa services across the street, and organized fun: movie night, a trivia contest and a karaoke night. LCBR staff came from 14 different countries, including Jamaica, Honduras, and Australia, even the little British island of Jersey, near Normandy. Tania, for example, a cheery and efficient young member of the bar staff, hailed from Germany; a student of the native iguanas, she delivered an entertaining and informative lecture on them one evening, overcoming the intermittent power outages.

Little Cayman Beach Resort - RatingFor a dive resort on a very small island, I found the food excellent, but then, Little Cayman has always had good food: for example, the dive resort Pirates' Point, just a short walk away, has been renowned for its food for 30 years; the Hungry Iguana restaurant is also nearby. The LCBR breakfast featured a staffed omelet station, lots of fruit, cereals, oatmeal, bagels, muffins and a variety of hot dishes. Lunch offered a sandwich-making station, soup, cold salads, hot dishes, and desserts. Dinners included soup -- even a lionfish soup -- salads, rolls, meat, fish, and poultry, as well as vegetarian options and a variety of desserts, often freshly baked cookies. One evening I had Bananas Foster, another night Baked Alaska, desserts long absent from American menus. Some desserts looked considerably better than they tasted, but most were fine. Guests who purchased a bottle of wine were served it at dinner by a staff that, to a person, was helpful, efficient and friendly. Claudia, for example, learned my name and room number the first day and treated me like a revere family member.

But, of course, one is there to dive, and I must say Little Cayman offers some of the most relaxing and varied diving I have experienced, with excellent visibility between 80 and 100+ feet, with only enough current to gently bend the sea fans. It was usually a 10-to-15-minute ride to the moorings. Topography included sandy flats, coral heads, and lots of tunnels and swim-thrus -- and, of course, the famous Bloody Bay Wall. At Eagle Ray RoundUp, there were, as one might expect, a few eagle rays gracefully gliding by.

A Newton Dive Boat at the JettyLife in the flats included a couple of species of rays, jawfish, garden eels, tiny nudibranchs, and occasionally small schools of squid. Colorful reef fish of all sorts populate the areas around the coral heads: juvenile drum fish, hamlet varieties, barracuda, large lobsters, tiny shrimp, and schools of grunts and jacks abound. I found turtles lying on ledges, swimming around or surfacing for a puff of air. Large, friendly groupers abound, and a Nassau grouper at Great Wall East stared me down. Of course, I saw an occasional lionfish, but resorts keep them well-culled in the park.

Bloody Bay Wall is separated from the shore by an extensive reef top that is about 33 feet (10m) deep. This is thick with soft coral plumage, sponges and the occasional hard coral. The water is so amazingly clear at times that I was told less experienced divers, with perfectly neutral buoyancy, inadvertently stray over the edge of the wall, and confronted by the sudden deep drop-off, come scrambling back to the apparent security of the visible reef top below them. Of course, being able to swim over the edge of a cliff without falling is one of the great pleasures of scuba diving. And kicking along the walls on the morning dive, with nothing but blue on one side, is a thrill; the divemasters reminded us daily to keep our gear fastened; anything dropped was gone forever (translated -- you're not going to chase it).

Little Cayman Beach Resort at NightHowever, some of the beauty was lost on me. My prescription mask began leaking, so I rented a standard mask from the dive shop, with the decline in sharpness preferable to constant clearing. I did see some coral bleaching, and the increased high water temperatures -- it was 84-87°F (29°-31°C) when I was there -- is a concern. For me, a diveskin was plenty, while a few folks wore 1- to 3ml combinations.

I expected to do a little exploring -- a bird sanctuary is just across the street, and red-footed boobies and frigate birds are common -- but I was content just to relax in a beach hammock and enjoy the company of other divers. One can grab a bicycle and pedal for miles on the flat roads that have few cars, since the island is barely developed.

About the only downside to this trip was travel; rooms get vacated early -- too early, since Friday night bar karaoke keeps everyone up till the music stops -- and we waited two hours in the dinky Little Cayman airport and then more hours at the Grand Cayman airport before flying home.

But, that's travel today, and because of the beauty of Little Cayman waters, divers return year after year. And, because of the ease of diving, the attentive divemasters and instructors, and safe diving conditions, Little Cayman Beach Resort is a great place for new divers or anyone who hasn't been in the water for a long time.

- R.A.

Our Undercover Diver's Bio: Soon after my spouse and I got certified 27 years ago in the cold waters of Monterey, California, we encouraged our three children to take up diving, and that led to many family trips. In my years, I've dived the Red Sea, the Philippines, Sea of Cortez, throughout the Caribbean, and now find that trips with our dive club are a great way to dive regularly.

Divers CompassDivers Compass: For west coast divers, either a redeye or an overnight in an airline hub such as Miami or Atlanta is required ... PADI certification courses were available, as well as rental equipment, kayak rentals, and free bicycles ... Wi-Fi is free and works in the room ... A small boutique is stocked with t-shirts and souvenirs, and a grocery store is a short walk away ... Nitrox is available ... although there is a registered nurse on the island, a medical doctor only visits once a week, and there is no pharmacy.

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