Mixing Bowl

Mixing Bowl is very aptly named:  a large part of this site amounts to a giant bowl with a sand bottom.  It is exactly the junction point between Bloody Bay and Jackson Bay, and half the site looks just like Bloody Bay and half of it looks just like Jackson Bay.  The transition between the two is dramatic and abrupt, and this makes Mixing Bowl a favorite among visiting divers.  At the end of a week's worth of diving, when visitors have had a chance to go to nearly all of the north shore sites, they usually will pick Mixing Bowl as the one they want to do for a second time.

For a very long time, Mixing Bowl was the one site on the north side I absolutely could not reach from shore.  The shoreline is extremely rugged in both directions, far too rugged for me to walk along the beach in full dive gear.  And the woods between the road and Mixing Bowl were seemingly impenetrable.  But then, two days with a pruning saw and a machete did wonders!  Here's how to get to Mixing Bowl today:

Proceed east along the North Coast Road 1.1 miles from the intersection with Spot Bay Road.  Watch the telephone poles on the left (north) side of the road as you go.  You want to locate a telephone pole with three strips of pink plastic tied around it about 7' off the ground.  And spray painted on the pole is the legend "Access to C123".  I did not put those markings there, and assume they were left there by surveyors.  Right at that telephone pole is the trailhead.  The trail is about 450' long and should be easy to follow as you go towards the beach.  But watch carefully as you go in, because it's easy to take a wrong turn as you're coming back toward the road.  When you get to the water's edge, note the large dead tree trunk lying along the rocks to the east of you.  That tree trunk is observable from the water, and serves as a good reference point when you're swimming back to shore.  The Mixing Bowl ball is straight in front of you as you look out to sea from the end of this trail.  The ball just slightly to the left of it is Marilyn's Cut, and way off to the right you can spot the ball for Blacktip Boulevard.

Even though the shore is a bit rocky here (wear good booties!), there is no fringing reef on the way out.  Also, you will note this entry is in a concave region of the shoreline, so an entry is possible here when it might not be further to the west.  Walk straight towards the ball, and when the water gets neck deep you're ready to start swimming.  It's not far, and this surely is a fabulous dive site...well worth the long walk along that trail.

As you head out, you will very soon come to a drop-off which parallels your line of travel as you swim toward the mooring ball.  To your left is Bloody Bay, which has flat hardpan extending out to an abrupt drop-off at the wall.  To your right is Jackson Bay, where there is an inner drop-off, then a wide sand channel, and finally the main wall.  During your swim out, you should be following that drop-off which goes from the hardpan of Bloody Bay down to the sand channel of Jackson Bay.  By the time you get to the mooring ball, you will find the bottom under the ball is only 18'.  (A second name for this site is "Three Fathom Wall".)  But just 20' east of the mooring ball the bottom slopes down sharply to the sand channel at 40'.   Where it drops down, there are always large schools of Bermuda Chubb, Mahogany Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper, Yellow Goatfish, etc.  For some reason, this area always abounds in schooling fish. 

The way I prefer to dive this site is to go off the wall to the west of the mooring ball, then head east along the wall.  That way I start off the dive with a 100' or so section of sheer wall.  Along that wall, there are several barrel sponges, and you just may find some nice Moray's hiding in holes near those barrel sponges (hint hint).  Proceeding east, the wall curves around toward your right (i.e., to the south) and in the distance you can see the staggered drop-off from the Jackson Bay section of this site.  There is a nice little cut I often follow to go back into the sand channel here, which brings me to about 40' of water.  At that point, I'm in the sand channel, just inside the main drop-off and at the bottom of the drop-off from Bloody Bay.  There is then a gorgeous chute you can follow through the main wall which will drop you back into the deep blue.  Along the way, there are several tunnels and canyons off to the sides, and lurking in one of these you may chance to spot a very large Goliath Grouper eyeing you warily.

Once out into the open sea, I head east at whatever depth I chose.  This drop-off is staggered through this area, and as you go along you will see several large canyons which cut through the wall and lead back into the sand channel.  But do pay attention to depth as you head east.  The wall top and the sand channel depth both slope gradually downward as you head east, and before long you'll notice that the reef tops are at about 60'.  The sand channel is over 50' by this point.  Once I reach my turn-around point, I like to come back to the west on top of the reef, skipping over the tops of the canyons that cut through it and lead out to open sea.  The reason for doing this is that I'm usually out of bottom time by this point and so have to stay shallow.  This whole trip back along the top of the reef is a photographer's paradise.  Just about every fish species on Little Cayman can be found somewhere at Mixing Bowl.  This path will bring you right back to the mooring ball, if you want to go up on top of the hardpan.  Instead, I usually turn and head slowly inland, following the edges of the drop down from Bloody Bay.  There is plenty to explore all the way back, so take your time.  The heading on the way is due south, and when you finally stick your head up out of the water you should have no trouble spotting the dead tree trunk that marks your exit point.

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