Cayman Brac Review
Cayman Brac in January 2003
Having done over 350 dives each , half in the Caribbean we thought it was time to check out the Caymans. We had heard a lot about Bloody Bay Wall and the great diving at Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. While the diving diving there was Okay, it was not great. It did not live up to the hype. Better weather would have helped the viz but the sites were not as fishy as we had expected and the walls were not as alive as we had expected. Bonaire has better fish, coral and walls. Dominica has better soft corals. Both have better and cheaper food and beer. The only reasons we can think of for so many divers going to the Caymans is the direct flight from Canada or if you want a very “American” type holiday, with everyone speaking English, American type food and US dollars accepted everywhere. Grand Cayman would be good for those that liked the bar scene or had a non-diving spouse. Cayman Brac or Little Cayman would not be a good place to take non-divers as there is nothing much to see on either island. We rented a car, drove every road on Cayman Brac, saw every cave and site listed in the guide and were done in under three hours.
We stayed at the Divi Tiara resort. The resort has a nice beach area and pool but some of the buildings and rooms are a bit run down. The beach bar was being torn down while we were there and some of the rooms were being redone. There are a few small shops on site – do not count on them to be open when their signs say they should. On our last day, we wanted some gifts and stamps but the shop owners had decided not to open that day. There is a car rental shop across the road from the resort with nice, clean cars.
The food at the resort was Okay, very “American” - turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, roast ham, roast beef, fish stew, etc. The barbequed steaks and lobsters were good, although the steaks seemed to have been pre-cooked and then reheated on the grill. Dinner was a buffet with the menu repeating after seven days. Desserts were good. The best was the breakfast grill where the chef would cook up whatever type of eggs or omelets you wanted. Lunch was expensive. A make it yourself sandwich was $7 US and the sandwich and salad bar was $15 US. Beer, drinks and wine were also very expensive. Down the road was Captain Wooks, good service and good food. Further down the road was Aunt Sha's, not fancy but a local restaurant with very good island food and a patio overlooking the water. We had great conch fritters and local dishes like curries there for lunch. One appetizer, 1 lunch special and 2 beers came to about $25 US. Lunch at Grand Cayman with 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 4 beers came to $80+ Canadian at Fidel Murpheys.
There are sign up boards for the different boats but if a group was there they were assigned their own boat. Some of the time there were two groups at the resort so we only had one boat we could sign up for. This could be a problem, because one of the boats is supposed to do the Keith Tibets three times a week and one of the boats is supposed to do Little Cayman twice a week. One trip to Little Cayman is included in the dive package, there is a charge for extra trips. On one trip there were 18 divers on our boat, most of the time there were 14 divers. This makes for a crowd on the dives and a rush at entry and exit time. The crew set up everybody's tanks. This means that if you wanted your BCD further down the tank, your weights in your weight integrated BCD or your octopus in its holder and your gauges in their clips, you had to take the unit down and adjust it after it was set up. Your gear was kept in a numbered mesh bag. You signed up for the boat with this number and the crew would put the bag on the boat. After the dive the crew would take the mesh bags of gear, dip them in clean water and hang them up on a numbered peg. You were responsible for bringing your weights/weight belt and wet suit on board and checking that your mesh bag and all your gear was on the boat.
Water temperature was 80 degrees and viz was 15 to 80 feet. Because of strong winds and high waves during the first four days, we could not get over to the north side of Cayman Brac. The boats only went over to Cayman Brac once during our nine days. The waves were up to six feet and caused a number of problems during safety stops and while boarding the boat. Because of the affect of the waves on some divers, we would go out to a close dive site, do our dive, come back in to the dock for our surface interval and then those not seasick would go back out to another close dive site for a second dive. In some places around Brac the top of the wall is fairly deep, 80 or 90 feet. So the first dive of the day may be a fairly deep, square profile dive.
Our night dive to Charlie's reef was one of the best night dives we have had. We saw a huge spiny lobster, a slipper lobster, a large octopus, a small octopus, a large and two small balloonfish, a sleeping turtle, two yellow stingrays and lots of sleeping fish. We were very close to the large octopus until he got in a fight with a fish and then slithered off in a hurry.
The reefs are not the best we have ever seen. There is a fair amount of sand on some of the reefs and not a lot of healthy hard corals, possibly the effects of the number of hurricanes and storms over the last few years. There are a fair number of different kinds of fish on the reefs and some nice soft corals. We did not see the long streams of fish swimming along the reef, like we are used to. We did see quite a few turtles in the shallows, a jawfish with eggs in his mouth, a group of gobies spawning and a number of large groupers.
We dove on three different wreck sites. The Keith Tibets is a large Russian destroyer. Instead of diving the wreck you can dive a number of patch reefs that are near the wreck. We dropped to the sand to watch the garden eels near the wreck and a mutton snapper checked out our fins, blue food? Near the wreck of the Kissime we watched a flying gurnard hunting in the sand and a school of 20 chubb chasing and eating vegetation rolling across the sand. The wreck of the Cayman Mariner was the only wreck that had been down long enough to get covered with corals and look like an underwater wreck. The wreck is very photogenic. There is a colony of garden eels off to one side of the wreck, but they are shy and hard to photograph.
Warnings – On the trip to Little Cayman, after we were back on board after the first dive we were told that we had to be back to the resort by 1:15 so we had to be back on the boat by 12:45. This meant that the last ones back on board only had a 20 minute surface interval. Not a good idea after a deep wall dive. When going over to Little Cayman try to get in the water for the first dive as quick as possible. At some of the sites the surge was coming down over the wall from the shallows and creating up and down currents along the wall.