Shore Diver's Guide to Little Cayman
With apologies for the lack of sexy formatting, I offer these notes as a guide to the intrepid shore diver on Little Cayman. Perhaps at some future date I can get an appropriate tool to do site drawings and put these notes into Adobe Acrobat, but for now these textual notes and a few hand-drawn sketches will just have to do. What I am attempting to do here is give some notes on how to reach the various dives sites by road, give some description of what you're likely to encounter on the way out, and then give a brief description of the dive sites themselves.
First, though, some warnings. I have been told that the law in the Cayman Islands is that you must carry a dive flag. I have no idea whether this is true or not, because I have never seen it in print. In practice, I don't carry one unless I have a student with me. I have been lectured several times about not having a dive flag and have found that feigned contrition is an effective escape mechanism from an otherwise confrontational situation with a zealous marine patrol officer. However, I do keep a very sharp eye out for boats on the water. In general, the dive boats will stay outside the line of the mooring balls unless they are coming in to pick up a mooring line. There are exceptions, however, so you cannot depend on this. In the Jackson Bay area, it is impossible for the boats to reach some of the mooring balls without going over the top of areas where people could be diving. And, regrettably, some of the boat operators do cut inside the line of mooring balls in places where they don't need to do so. So the best practice is to keep a very sharp eye out for boats as you are swimming out and be prepared to go down at any moment. At the end of my dives, I always swim in underwater until I have only 10' or so of depth remaining, then surface. I don't like to go shallower than that, because then there's no room to maneuver underwater if somebody comes zipping by in a small boat.
Next, a word about equipment. The sites off Salt Rock dock and the Jackson Bight sites are the only ones that can be dived from shore with full heel fins. All of the Bloody Bay sites will require you to walk a long way in knee deep water over very sharp rocks. I cannot conceive of doing this barefoot. It's too shallow to be able to float over the tops of those rocks, so your only alternative is to walk. And while you are walking you will notice that the crevices in those rocks are filled with sea urchins. If you should lose your balance and fall and aren't prepared for it, you are going to have a very miserable day. I often put my fins on my hands while I'm walking through the shallow water just in case I should slip and fall. You only have to put your hand down hard once on a bed of sea urchins to understand why. So if you're trying to shore dive with full heel fins, please skip all the Bloody Bay sites. You really need decent booties to be able to walk over the rocks.
Finally, let me offer words of caution about the fringing reef. Starting just to the east of Lea Lea's Leap and running all the way to Mixing Bowl there is a fringing reef in about 5' of water which is more or less continuous. There are scattered coral heads to the west of that, but they don't pose a big problem. The main fringing reef, though, can be deadly. You absolutely should not try to go out or in if you can see two (or more) lines of breaking waves in that area from Lea Lea's to Mixing Bowl. The only way to get through the fringing reef is to put your mask on and stick your head in the water. Look carefully, and you will see some holes if the water is clear enough. Shoot through those holes quickly and get through the reef, but be sure of your target before you start. The coral heads are staggered, and it could well happen that you start through a hole and then discover your way is blocked in front of you unless you zig-zag. In calm water this is easy to do. But rough water means surge, and the surge can slam you into that coral head that suddenly blocks your way with amazing force. I only had to let this happen to me once in order to draw up some firm rules about when I will and when I will not try to get through that fringing reef! If you do get caught outside the fringing reef and can't get back in because the waves picked up, your only option is to swim east to Mixing Bowl, then come in there. I had to do that once, and it wasn't fun. But at least I'm still in one piece!
What is covered here are the dive sites from the west end of the island north and east to Nancy's Cup of Tea. (At least, that is my goal. Some time may be required for me to get all the notes together for this undertaking.) What is not covered are south shore sites. I have tried many times but have never been able to find a reasonable way to go shore diving on the south side of Little Cayman. I have one possible entry point left I want to try, but have not done so as of this writing and so will not mention it until I know it works.
Following is a plagiarized map of the dive sites on Little Cayman. If you want an real copy, stop by the front desk at the Little Cayman Beach Resort and ask for one. They will be happy to give you a clean copy. There is a similar site map available at Southern Cross.
In the listing below, the mileage marker to the left indicates the distance in miles as you travel east on North Coast Road, starting at the intersection with Spot Bay Road. That distance will take you either to the point where you should park on the road (Joy's Joy, Barracuda Bight, Mixing Bowl) or where you should turn into a driveway. I haven't given a mileage marker for Salt Rock Dock; if you can't find that, you probably shouldn't be shore diving!
0.0 Ken Wagnon's Beach
0.2 Joy's Joy and Barracuda Bight
0.4 Coconut Walk and Lea Lea's Leap
0.6 Great Wall West, Great Wall East, Ringer's Wall
0.9 Randy's Gazebo
0.9 Donna's Delight/Marilyn's Cut
1.1 Mixing Bowl
1.7 Sarah's Set
1.9 Jackson Bight: Bus Stop, Cumber's Caves, Jackson Wall, Eagleray Roundup, Meadows, Mike's Mount, Nancy's Cup of Tea
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