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Dive Review of Sunset House in
Cayman Islands/Grand Cayman

October, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Patrick Flynn, DC, US (1 report)
Report Number 6278
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
NC & FL, throughout Caribbean & tropical Pacific.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
87   to 87    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
75   to 125    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  2 stars
Tropical Fish
2 stars  
Small Critters
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  
5 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
5 stars   
3 stars    
During this trip, I decided that the Caribbean is no longer a dive
destination for me.  The reefs have deteriorated too far and, though there
are signs of hope, they are pitiful.  The experience is depressing.  Here
in the Caymans, the reefs should be the healthiest in the Caribbean, but
they are in decline and everybody knows it.  Although the multiple
compounded threats of pollution, diver damage, warming, acidification are
the chronic problems, overfishing is, I believe, the primary culprit at
this stage.  One reef we dove (Eagle Ray Rock) showed it is holding on,
even recovering, but it is like a ghost town in terms of mature fishes.  No
breeders, no brood and it is only a matter of time.  Of "keystone
species" algae eaters are needed most.  There are hardly any schools
anywhere along the west coast.

    On another dive, Eden Rock, I asked our captain where the protected
areas of Grand Cayman are and he told me that we were in one. The reef is
virtually dead.  The Eden family, now dead themselves, were one of the
founding dive operators in Grand Cayman.  Cruise ship folk are now its
patrons and a few people snorkel there, but I don't know why.  I also went
for a night dive off Sunset's house reef.  Saw one flamingo tongue and a
barracuda.  What was once a reef now looks like poured concrete. This is
characteristic of much of the house reef above the wall.  

    The rest of the 10 or so sites we visited over the rest of the week,
all up and down the west end, were not as well off as the 2 at the extreme
north and south of the west end.  All sites show chronic stress by
consisting more than 50% of dead coral covered with algae.  Though over the
course of a week one sees all of the Caribbean fishes that are considered
"common" in this area, none of the populations are abundant. 
Schools are rare, as are mature specimens, though there are a few very
large mature specimens scattered among all the sites we visited by boat.

    The three best dive sites we visited are Northwest Point and Eagle Ray
Rock, at the extreme north and south ends of our range, and the Sunset
House house reef - this last because it is the only place we're able to
dive our own profiles.  As one goes far from shore, the reef is healthier,
though there is still evidence of multiple stresses, e.g., bleaching. 
Since this is the end of the summer and the temp is 87 degrees even at
depth, perhaps this is to be expected. 

    This was my first trip to Grand Cayman.  Sunset House is in the midst
of a renovation.  The new room I shared with another club member was
perfect for an establishment by divers, for divers.  It was spacious,
clean, and well appointed without being fussy.  We had 2 king beds, a desk
with light, electric outlets, and wifi, plenty of storage space,
mini-fridge, good bedside reading light, etc.  The shower is large and the
bathroom very attractive as well as totally functional (except for the 2nd
towel rod, on order).  Neutral colors throughout except for attractive
chintz drapes to close off the balcony.  Food in the restaurant is
expensive, but good; the Indian food is very good; and vegetarian comrades
had no trouble.  Food service at The Bar I found to be lackadaisical, but
it did not seem to bother my comrades.  The menus are the same at the
restaurant and The Bar.  Drinks are expensive, but it appears that one must
look hard to find anything reasonably priced on Grand Cayman.  (However,
one can find good reasonably priced food by word of mouth, for example
Chicken Chicken in George Town.)

    The grounds are well designed and well kept.  In anticipation of the
high season, there was patching, painting, planting, etc. going on
everywhere, all in good taste, no nonsense, just like the rooms.  I
especially like the attention to detail such as non-slip tiles around the
jacuzzi and pool, comfortable outdoor seating, preservation of the classic
dead coral inlaid walls and antique anchors - items that are no longer
obtainable, justly, but legitimate quarry in the past.  Clearly this is a
prosperous, well-managed resort.

    Except on one point.  The dive operation is good, except their
excessive rules stand in the way of a totally enjoyable experience.  We are
harangued repeatedly about 100' and 50 minute limits and no solo diving.  I
am okay with these last 2 limits, but I wish I could dive my own profile,
with a buddy, since I have over 500 dives in all kinds of environments and
this week's conditions were exceptionally benign.  But one divemaster,
Jackson, went too far.  She berated me loudly while I was still on the
ladder emerging from a fine dive, because I did an extended safety stop and
my buddy did not.  My buddy got on board after 3 minutes and I hovered by
the ladder at 15' for an additional 5 minutes, after watching my buddy get
on board safely.  Sea conditions were ideal - 100' viz, no current, no
waves, bright sunshine; and my buddy knew that I was hovering by the
ladder.  "Jacks" wrecked my nerves, spoiled my otherwise
excellent dive, and embarrassed me in front of my friends on board; and
when I explained that it is my habit to take an extended safety stop when I
dive 100' or more, it made no difference to Jackson as she emphasized quite

    The problem is that 4 days into the dive week, the divemasters
apparently were still not familiar enough with our skill levels and habits
to be flexible when appropriate.  This is due in part to their juggling
dive crews and boats, but mainly to their poor judgement and obsessive
enforcement of overly-restrictive rules.  The result is that, combined with
the degraded reefs, the over-all dive experience with Sunset Divers is
about the same as a visit to a good aquarium.  Is this what recreational
diving has come to?

    Generally speaking, Sunset Divers has an efficient set-up, but their
operations chief needs to do some on-the-job training.  I provided an
advance copy of this review to him, and received no response.
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Other dive reports on Sunset House

All Cayman Islands Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Cayman Islands
Diving Reviews for All Dive Destinations

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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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