and if there were such a thing as the Academy Awards for dive islands, they'd take home Oscars in many categories. Grand Cayman offers a rush of hyperkinetic activity, especially on its West End. The state of mind on laid-back Little Cayman is nice and easy. Cayman Brac is perfect for vacationers looking for a combination of rugged topside adventure and quiet. But what catapults this trio of islands to the top of many divers' wish lists is the awesome diving.
The Grand Canyonesque topography that defines the 150 sites off Grand Cayman - whether on the North Shore, West End or East End - is a showcase of precipitous walls, towering canyons and reefs laced with swim-throughs.
A new shore diving site that was recently opened to divers in West Bay is Lighthouse Point. The most popular area to dive on Grand Cayman is off Seven Mile Beach on the island's West End. Many of the sites here - Orange Canyon, Trinity Caves, Eagle Ray Rock and Aquarium - start in just 50 or 60 feet of calm blue water. The West Bay site Trinity Caves is a striking system of narrow passageways and small canyons that run perpendicular to shore and lead you out to the wall.
North Shore diving is characterized by the shallow sites found in North Sound and the steep drop-offs along North Wall. Stingray City, Grand Cayman's world-famous animal encounter, is in only 12 feet of water in North Sound. Nearby is Sandbar, popular with snorkelers seeking a stingray encounter.
Grand Cayman's East End sites, like Snapper Hole and Babylon, are clustered on the island's southeast and northeast corners. Babylon features a stunning pinnacle and wall, and Snapper Hole is a labyrinth of tunnels and caverns filled with snappers.
The smallest of the three Cayman Islands boasts Bloody Bay Wall, a site on its North Shore which is lavishly decorated with sea fans and coral formations. This world-famous wall starts in about 12 feet of water and plummets to 6,000. The intersection of Bloody Bay Wall with Jackson Bight is known as Mixing Bowl, another favorite among divers.
Tranquil Cayman Brac boasts two shores of top-notch wall diving with about 40 dive sites. Off the north shore, the MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts, the fabled 330-foot Russian warship begins in just 20 feet of water and is frequented by turtles, eagle rays, green moray eels and scorpionfish. Strawberry Sponge Wall, on the island's north side, sports a number of sponges on the drop-off, but it's the strawberry vase sponges that give the site its name. On the island's south side, Anchor Wall was named for the 10-foot anchor that is wedged between a coral chimney and a mini wall.