Peering Into the Deep

Geography and the unknown provides top-notch diving in the Caymans

By: Barbara Correa

Jim Andrews, owner of the Cayman Diving Lodge, is accustomed to seeing huge groups of silverside minnows cascade around divers off Grand Cayman’s East End. But he had never seen the kind of spectacle they provided in June 2001, when literally millions of the shimmering fish along with platinum-colored tarpon created an underwater kaleidoscope of light that filled every cavern and grotto in sight.

“What you see is millions of tiny shiny fish that move in unison and circle around whatever intrudes their space,” Andrews said. “I’m used to seeing silversides, but this ... was more than anyone here had ever seen.’’

The Cayman Islands specializes in the unusual, making it a top spot for divers.

Last January, a group diving the Tiara Tunnels off Cayman Brac snapped to attention as a 6-foot hammerhead shark floated by, said Michael Hillier, general manager of the Divi Tiara Beach Resort. “That’s rare,’’ he said, sounding a bit envious that he hadn’t been there to see it himself.

Hillier has had his share of surprises in his 10 years diving the Caymans. Recently he got friendly with a goliath grouper that had taken up residence in a 300-foot Russian warship once used by the Cuban government and now a submerged wreck.

The three Cayman Islands Grand, Little and Brac are outcroppings of a sub-marine mountain range bordering an underwater canyon that plummets four miles down, to the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea. And the lack of rivers means there is little runoff from islands, blessing the Caymans with arguably the clearest water in the world.

The Cayman Diving Lodge (800-852-3483; www.divelodge. com) is located on Grand Cayman’s East End. Dive packages include three meals and more and start at $1,345 per person for seven nights and six days of diving. Commission is 10 percent.

Divi Tiara Beach Resort (800-433-3483; is located on Cayman Brac. Dive packages start at $940 per person for seven nights and six days of diving. Commissions range from 5 percent to 20 percent, depending on group size.

Reef Resort’s (888-232-0541; www. “Dive Vacation Special” includes five nights on Grand Cayman, car rental, three dives and one special three-tank “Dive Safari,” for $689 per person. Commissions are 10 percent.