We’re just back from a 5-day trip to Grand Cayman where we stayed at the Compass Point Dive Resort on the East End of the island and dove with the resident dive operation, Ocean Frontiers. What a great experience! It was our first dive resort and we’re already booked to stay at another one in Roatan this fall. That’s how much we loved it!
The hotel’s motto was ‘roll out of bed onto the dive boat’ and it was quite literally that for us. Our oceanfront suite was spacious and we enjoyed some beautiful sunrises from our balcony as we prepared for our morning dives.
Grand Cayman is famous for their 365-dive sites program (one for every day of the year!). The East End had their own map with 55 local sites and the shop had a challenge that if you made it to all 55 (punched out on a plasticized dive map you get on check-in) they throw a party and you get the honor of wearing green shorts as bragging rights. With just 8 dives in we were lucky to get to unique sites each time but we still have a ways to go. We have to come back now for those beautiful green shorts!
One of the benefits of staying in the East End is that there is usually a good diving site available regardless of wind or weather as they have easy access to sites in the south, east and north. They told us that it’s rare they ever cancel and it’s usually only one or two days a year! The weather in Grand Cayman was a little windy and with the south winds we spent every dive day on the north side of the island. Not a problem for us, we had beautiful sites next to a spectacular coral wall with a 3000-6000 foot drop into a dark blue abyss below us. This is where the tectonic plates attaching North America are and it made for a spectacular backdrop for photos.
Diving Grand Cayman’s North Wall
The North Wall offers a thrilling diving experience. The wall drops down at a 90-degree angle into the abyss and looking down over the ledge can be intimidating and at the same time, both scary and exciting!
What’s down there? A bottomless pit? What creatures will emerge from the shadows?
Hovering 6000 feet above the ocean floor was exhilarating to say the least. At 98 feet that’s as far as I could go… should go.. It was important to keep an eye on our gauges as it was easy to get lower and lower while exploring the beautiful corals on the wall. Especially on Nitrox, this could become a dangerous situation fast. We had set alarms on our dive computer to make sure we stayed well within our limits.
Witnessing the beauty of this strange world that only a few get to see made me feel so privileged to be there, in this strange but mesmerizing and peaceful underwater universe. How humbling it is to realize how small we truly are.
The reef was so colorful, although the lack of light at approximately 90 ft down made everything look blue. The reds, yellows and greens appeared magically when I turned on my dive light, which is necessary to take good underwater photos.
Being so sure that sharks would emerge from the depth, I was left with a feeling of disappointment at the missed opportunity of seeing these magnificent creatures. Maybe next time – I know they were there – after all it’s their home! Even if the big stuff didn’t show up on our visit there was still plenty to see. Observing colorful fish, turtles, rays swimming about, watching the soft corals sway with the flow of the current and discovering tiny creatures hiding amongst them was all part of the fun.
We saw lots of small shrimps, sea slugs, Christmas tree worms and much more. A loggerhead turtle and some large puffers, Nassau groupers, parrot and clownfish were other highlights. Every day was an adventure and the warm water diving in our ‘shorty’ was a treat and a change from our colder Florida waters. Many divers were out in their swimming trunks or using a simple skin in these 82-86 degree waters.
During our stay, a typical day included a dive at a depth of 90-100 feet hanging over the ledge and then a 65-80 foot reef dive – often with a visibility of 100+ feet. Good thing we were advanced and had our enriched air certification. Everyone on our boat was diving with Nitrox – we find that it’s helpful especially when diving multiple days in a row.
Tip: be sure to secure your equipment or add an extra lanyard or clip to your camera. I almost lost mine getting back on the boat, I got lucky that someone saw it fall and was kind enough to retrieve it for me. Lucky it didn’t end up freefalling into the abyss like my husband’s regulator yolk screw did on our last day. A 30$ lesson!
While we were hoping to swim with the elusive silversides, we were a little early in the season and the weather limited the sites we could do, so no such luck this time. We’re told that July and August are good for those and September may be a good time to explore more of the south side of the island. Well, we will start looking at flight options.
Compass Point is a full service dive resort and Ocean Frontiers runs four boats from the dock just behind the restaurant nestled in the middle of the resort. They are well equipped and all of the staff was great!
Valet diving doesn’t mean that we should just strap on our gear and jump in the water! A fellow diver told us that he almost lost his tank and didn’t have his BCD inflator hose attached and that he started sinking like a rock. His fault! Valet style diving is wonderful but as divers its our responsibility to check that our equipment is well set up before taking the giant stride off the boat into the deep blue ‘pool’. While I really appreciate having the heavy lifting done for me, I always check my set up before jumping in. All divers are responsible for their own safety!
Related post: Vacationing at a dive resort