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Dive Review of Ocean Frontiers/Morritt's Grand in
Cayman Islands/Grand Cayman, East End

Ocean Frontiers/Morritt's Grand, May, 2008,

by Randy and Carol Thompson, FL, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 4077.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Maui, Big Island (Hawaii), Turks&Caicos, Bahamas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Jamaica, Cozumel, Florida (Keys, central, southeast), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, St. Lucia, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 75 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Depth limits
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Dedicated camera table and holding tank on board each boat.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments We have been to Grand Cayman's East End twice before for dive vacations, each 2 weeks at a time. The diving was nothing short of spectacular. This trip, however, the diving was merely OK. The corals are still stellar and mostly in excellent shape. The big difference on this trip is that the large pelagics we have seen on other visits were mysteriously absent. On our first two trips, in 2000 and 2003 respectively, we saw nice sized reef sharks on almost each and every first dive of the day. We saw our first and only hammerhead here back in 2003. You could pretty much expect to see spotted eagle rays several times during a week of diving. Turtles were fairly common, as well, but we only saw 3 during our 2 weeks of diving.

This time, the only shark we saw was on our very first dive of the trip, a baby nurse shark grabbing a nap. The reef sharks are virtually gone, and we saw no eagle rays until our very last day, and then on a snorkel at Rum Point. The only macros we saw were two nudibranchs, both on the same dive. Even the expected glut of spotted drums in their various stages of maturity had dwindled down to a few. I did find one, however, that was just a hatchling, about 1/2" long, which was exciting. We only saw one adult the whole trip, with the other 8 or so for the two weeks being juveniles to adolescents. We used to see them so frequently that it became old hat. No longer.

So what on earth has happened? Is this still the result of Ivan, some 4 years ago? Possibly. I am tempted to attribute the scarcity of sharks to another anomaly that left us mystified, the complete absence of sea itch (for which I was intensely grateful, BTW! That scourge has plagued me at this time of year on all our previous Caribbean dive trips.) That is a ready, abundant food source for predators, so its absence may have contributed. Additionally, perhaps it is due to the Shark Awareness (and consequent possible feeding) dives having been discontinued. No idea definitively of the cause of these dramatic differences, but the bottom line is that the diving was good, but sadly, nowhere near what we have experienced previously. Because of this, we may well scratch Grand Cayman off our list of places to which to return, unless I can determine that the variety of critters that we enjoyed on earlier trips is back.

Current necessitated some drift diving, also uncommon for GCM. From our experience, it appears that Ocean Frontiers just isn't accustomed to doing drift diving. We had to surface due to a regulator problem my husband was having about 15 minutes before the rest of the group, and were left adrift in the current until the entire party surfaced. Not good. Ask before you jump in what their policy is on pick-up during drift dives so you know what to expect. My husband's brand new regulator malfunctioned with a free-flow that spent his tank prematurely, obliging him to hold it above the water after surfacing so as not to drain the tank down to zero, while holding his camera with his other hand. Not easy for 15 minutes in pitching, rolling seas, while trying not to become separated from your buddy. When I asked later why we were not picked up, the captain told us it's "not safe" to bring the boat near other divers down to pick up early surfacers.

Funny, but they do it all the time in Cozumel, where drift diving is the norm. We've been there 7 times, and they pick you up where you surface, when you surface. That's why it never occurred to us that we might not be picked up for a long time. We had removed our snorkels, as we never use them when diving from a boat. Ocean Frontiers obviously doesn't have the experience to deal with drift dives appropriately for divers who have to surface earlier than the rest of the group. The captain was close enough to see us easily, and I kept raising both hands, palms-up so he could see that I was making a questioning gesture, but he left us tossing about on the surface until the whole group was ready. (As it wasn't a dire emergency, we did not make the distress signal. We never figured we should have to.) Then, when the others surfaced, he drove close to the newly-surfaced divers, leaving us out there tossing around even longer, while we waited for the rest of the group to board. Obviously, the whole experience was completely mishandled in our purview, but when we questioned the captain about it, we were told that was their normal procedure. Live and learn. We've been diving for 17 years, and this has never once been considered SOP in our extensive experience.

Normally, Ocean Frontiers is a top-notch operation, but we felt this particular policy to be surprisingly amateurish at best and not safe, at worst. I was incredibly fatigued from the ordeal, as it required a lot of stamina which never should have been unnecessary. Other than that, they still check your bottom time and depth when you get back on the boat, and allow you to dive your own profile if you have a computer. The dive instructor who led the dive was able to quickly repair my husband's faulty reg right on the boat, which was a plus. All in all, a good dive vacation, but not a stellar one.
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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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