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Dive Review of Sunset House in
Cayman Islands/Grand Cayman

Sunset House, Jul, 2013,

by Patricia A. Sinclair, LA, US (Top Contributor Top Contributor 31 reports with 9 Helpful votes). Report 7409.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments My Grand Cayman Trip – June 28, Part 1
The Trip to the Grand Cayman
On Saturday the 28th at 3:00 AM, I awoke and prepared to head to the airport for my long anticipated trip to Grand Cayman (to meet Murphy.) Flight from MIA left for Grand Cayman on time, yet another surprise.
I arrived at Sunset House at about 12:30PM and proceeded to see if I could check in. I had a class booked with Cathy Church at 2:30 and so wanted to get the room taken care of, check in with Cathy and then go grab some lunch before the class. Shortly after I got to the camera shop, a man came in, seemly rushed and speaking with a decidedly Dutch/German accent. I met Cathy, who asked me to change the class to 1:30 to which I agreed, and I left my camera bag with her. Immediately afterward, the man turns to me and says – “You are Pat Sinclair!” Of course, I owned up to my name and then said “You must be Michael Maes.” I was to meet and dive both he and his wife on Tuesday afternoon.

Ellen Cuylaerts is a wonderful photographer and a kind friend whom I had met through FaceBook. I then went outside with Michael and met Ellen for the first time in person. What a sweet young lady. Everything I thought she would be and more. Gracious and caring and helpful as well. Michael shoots beautiful video and is also a gracious and caring human being.
While we were outside talking and hugging (as Europeans will with the double cheek-kiss in greeting) Keith Sahm (Manager of Sunset House) came by with Murphy. Of course I had to greet Murphy, what a sweet dog and looks better in person than in pictures, btw. And it was during this meeting with Murphy that Keith took the picture of Murphy sitting on my feet and Ellen talking to him, which he posted on FB.
Then I ran to the office to see if I could check into the room yet – and I found that the room was ready and the nice gentleman at the front counter took my bag to the room for me. Nice room, second floor, fairly large, above Keith Sahm’s room and overlooking My Bar.
I noted the concrete stairs and the paint on them and told myself to be careful on these things.
The first class with Cathy Church made my brain mush. There was so much information in about 4 hours’ time! I learned about F/stops and what they do. Shutter speeds, ISO speeds/settings, and what the various lenses for the camera which I now have are for and how to use them. We programmed my camera (Olympus EPL-5) for quick changes to the items I mentioned so I could easily change the settings underwater. We shot some photos there in the shop under various F/Stops so I could see what they did. We also used the strobes, moving them around a bit to show how that changed things. I also found that this camera could take some of the sharpest images I had ever seen! Cathy said she really likes this little camera (I guess to someone used to the big DSLRs it is little) and that it is a very good camera. Since this first class went well beyond the 2 hours we had originally intended (man time passes quickly when you are concentrating of learning and remembering something totally new to you) that we had to put off the shore dive with Cathy until Sunday. So we then discussed the best Cayman standard settings for the camera, 14-42mm lens, F/8, 1/160s, ISO 200, which I would use on my boat dives on Sunday morning. We would then meet and do critique on pictures and do the shore dive after that. I also went ahead and bought the correct 9-18mm lens as the one I had was not the correct one, who knew? That made sure I had what was needed for the Devil’s Grotto dives with Ellen and Michael on Tuesday.
I went back over to the office to rent a safe box, passport, wallet, car keys, cell phone, etc. went into the box for the week. Fewer things to worry about! I spent a little more time with Murphy, who was helping me with my dog withdrawal symptoms.

Sunday Morning – Dives and more
I got up and went to breakfast and trained the wait person that I would have (lots of) coffee, the fruit plate, 1 slice of wheat toast and grapefruit juice as my breakfast every day that I was there. BTW – he remembered and without my asking on any day, he brought that to me without fail! Great guy and always smiling!
After breakfast went upstairs, put away my iPad, got into the dive skin, got my boat shoes on, got my camera and other stuff and headed down to the camera rinse tank. I knew I was supposed to be at the boat by 8:15AM and I thought I had plenty of time. Dropped the camera into the bucket to make sure there were no “bubbles” – there weren’t. Then leaving it there, I went to the locker and got the other equipment I needed for the boat. I walk over to the boat, where I am informed that I am late! It is 8:00AM and I am late? Apparently 8:15AM meant the time the boat was leaving, they left out the part about you need to be there by 7:50AM! Duely noted! Handed my gear over, then went and got the camera. Since I did not have a dive buddy, I was assigned a guy named Fred. Talk about a CALM diver in the water! The first dive was without the camera, and a good thing too, as there was a lot of chop and waves (3 ft+). My first dive is always to ensure that I am properly weighted and everything is working properly and that I am then good to go with the camera for the second dive. When I first went in, I was unable to drop down, so I came back to the boat and asked for 1 more pound of weight, they only had two. I took the two and then dropped down no issues. I normally use 14 pounds, which is what I had asked for, but this made 16 pounds on the first and second dives.
The second dive was closer to shore and much less chop and wave action. I was taking pictures, but not as many as you would have thought, since I was half the time trying to remember what all Cathy had said about light and all that, as well as strobe positioning. But I got a couple of pictures to show Cathy for the critique in the afternoon. While on the boat between dives and on the ride to and from shore, I struck up an acquaintanceship with a gentleman named Stephen (Steve) who was also a photographer. Steve was shooting a big Nikon DSLR with a port for DAYS!

After lunch I went to see Cathy, I was tired and not sure about the shore dive that afternoon, also was wondering just how I would handle the critique, since I have somewhat of a thin skin about that kind of thing. My right ear was giving me fits and I wanted to Sudafed up and do the ear drops thing and make sure it was better for the next day. As it turned out, Cathy had an emergency at her condo, which required that she cancel the dive.  
On Monday morning, I was sure to be at the boat area by 7:45AM with all my gear and camera ready to be loaded. I made sure that the boat captain who had razzed me the day before was aware that I had arrived early to make up for Sunday’s transgression.
Steve and I talked while we waited to board the boat and we decided to buddy up. On the boat we found out that there were an odd number of divers, and one person needed to join a buddy team. Fred joined Steve and me and that is the way it was for the rest of the trip. Steve and I would take pictures and lag behind the group and point things out to each other and Fred just “hanging” around patiently and calmly waiting on the two crazy photographers. I felt fairly heavy after the first dive, so I took out the extra two pounds I had gotten, keeping the 14 I had in my bcd pockets.
After I cleaned up and went to lunch I headed down to Cathy’s shop for the class at 1:00PM. We spent an hour going over photos that I had taken with her pointing out what could be improved, what was good and giving me more information on strobe positions. Then we went out to do the shore dive. What a dive! One can hear Cathy clearly underwater when she yells shoot at you! We took photos of Christmas Tree worms, Cleaning Shrimp, Red Snapping Shrimp, squid, juvenile and adult French Angelfish and of course the Mermaid and much, much more. We had been in the water almost an hour when we headed to the Mermaid. The total dive ended up being 107 minutes long, the longest dive time I have ever done. I still had enough air in the tank to do another 15 minutes + of dive. I found that I used more air on this dive than normal for me, probably because I was working harder to get shots that I ever had before! The way the shooting worked, Cathy would write on her slate “camera to xxx”, where xxx was either a setting (f/stop) or more light, less light as the direction and I would set it, then I would line up my shot. Cathy would set the strobes for the lighting and I would shoot when I thought I had the best shot I could get. So, I consider most of the shots from this dive to be a team photo, not mine only. The mermaid shots I did alone, set the camera manually and decided the angle I wanted to shoot, set the strobes for the lighting and then did the shot. Cathy would look at the camera to see what I took and make suggestions on her slate for the next shot. Afterward the dive, we looked over the shots (in camera) and discussed them a bit. We left to get cleaned up and then we met again in the classroom to continue the instruction. We discussed what I would need to do for the dives on Tuesday with Ellen and Michael using the wide angle lens, changing out the port, putting the zoom gear onto the camera and so forth. We went over the pictures we had just taken a bit more after putting them up on her Mac. I was surprised at how nice some of those shots turned out! It was nearly 7:00PM when we got done. My next class was to be Wednesday with Tony for the strobe positioning course.

I then went to dinner caught up on Facebook and headed to the room for sleepy time!

Tuesday Morning Steve and I talked while we waited to board the boat, we discussed my lengthy dive with Cathy the day before and what I had learned about strobes, etc. Fred joined us and the three of us dove together again.
After the dives I cleaned up and went to lunch. I knew I was to meet with Ellen and Michael at 2:00PM to go shore diving. I got my money out for the tanks I would need to pay for at Eden Rock Dive Center. The walk from where you set up to where you get in is about as far as it is at Captain Don’s in Bonaire. The only difference is, you cannot giant stride in, you have to climb the ladder down to the water, then put on your fins. Someone has to hand your camera to you after that. Long swim from them to the first dive site, Eden Rock. There were tarpon everywhere. Ellen gave me some pointers while we were gearing up and I tried to do as she suggested…not always easy. The grottos are small, silted up easily and you never know for sure when or where the fish are going to come through. This was indeed, a challenge.
On the swim back in we came across two large grouper who were, I think, fighting over territory. They would swell up a bit and then bump into each other until finally one of them left the area for good. 2nd dive was Devil’s Grotto and that place was FULL of silversides. So many that swimming through was like a blackout. The entrance and exits in some places are not really that far apart, but due to the numbers you could not see the exits. It was amazing! At times, the silversides acted as if they thought it was night time and would venture out of the caves to consider going hunting, I think. Anyway, it was another great dive. Dives with Ellen and Mike are usually well over an hour long. Once the gear was put away into the car, we headed on back to Sunset House. I put my gear in my locker, I then headed upstairs to get cleaned up. We had decided to meet for drinks/dinner so I hurried as much as possible. We had a great dinner together, champagne to drink to toast our finally going diving together and then talked technique, children and life in general. Had a freat time!
Websites Sunset House   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving [Unspecified]
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 80-83°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50-75 Ft/ 15-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Dive with DM - guided for first 45 minutes then on your own for the last 15 minutes. Limited to 60 minutes per dive.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments no facilitied (camera room) at the resort. Deck for placing cameras going to and from the dives ws very nice.
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