Snorkeling the Kittiwake

Yes, you read that right, snorkeling. We can hardly believe it ourselves. Being avid divers, and getting to Grand Cayman—through a series of unfortunate events we ended up on the Kittiwake without a scuba tank. Ok, not that snorkeling was bad; it was just so frustrating to see through that 100+ foot visibility all the divers below exploring the wreck, which was down at 40-60 feet.

Despite our best efforts at freediving we could not get down much more than 20 or so feet with the snorkeling setup—to add insult to injury we had to wear life vests too!

So, first off, due to the last minute changes in our cruise itinerary, we could not see what kinds of excursions were being offered, as the cruise line had not added these on their site. Second, while we did look at some local dive shops, most had a morning or afternoon dive and we didn’t have much time in port to ensure getting ashore for the morning outing and didn’t want to risk missing the boat on an afternoon one. Finally, some sore throats and a doctor prescribed antibiotic before the cruise sealed the deal for us and we were sure that diving would (and should) be out of the picture.

Luckily by the time we reached Grand Cayman on day 3, we were both doing great. The ship had added a number of excursions to the roster and while they didn’t offer diving, they did have a snorkel trip to the Kittiwake wreck. This is a famous wreck in Grand Cayman that we had hoped to dive when staying on the island but it didn’t work out for us that time. We were looking forward to seeing it.

With the last storm, tropical storm Nate, the wreck which used to be upright was knocked over and moved out a little and now sits at 45 degrees.

The USS Kittiwake is a 251-foot submarine rescue vessel that was launched in WW2 and decommissioned in 1994. It has a colorful history of services all around the world from recovering space shuttle black boxes to saving Cuban refugees. A record 500+ foot dive was accomplished off the Kittiwake by a navy diver.

We signed up for this excursion with enthusiasm and after a short 30 minute boat ride from the pier we were over the wreck. With such good visibility, even as a snorkeling adventure this is a great site to see. It’s debatable whether the new shift to 45 degrees makes this a better snorkeling site (as you can see more details on the side of the ship) or a worse one (the ship is a little deeper now).

We did a couple of rounds up and down and all around the ship and saw a huge stingray, a bunch of divers (making us jealous) and various creatures. The ‘Kittiwake’ lettering is visible even from the surface on the back of the ship. Just an amazing site!

After almost an hour in the water, we were chased back on the boat and the last ones up. We were reminded about how beautiful Grand Cayman is and why we have to come back to dive it again. For sure, the snorkeling here was just a brief and distance glimpse of this famous Kittiwake wreck and we made a pledge to ourselves to be back again to see it from up close with some dive tanks.


Related Post:

Diving Grand Cayman’s East End

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