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Mixing Bowl, Little Cayman

With its blend of thrilling experiences, this legendary site leaves divers begging to return again and again.

By Tanya G. Burnett | Created On October 5, 2023
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Mixing Bowl, Little Cayman


Mixing Bowl is one of the best spots on the island to see nurse sharks.

David M. Benz

Visitors to Little Cayman love this tiny island for an abundance of reasons. The laid-back atmosphere is so relaxing it begs to be honored with occasional naps. Everyone smiles and offers a friendly greeting, because, well, you are on Little Cayman. And most notably, the healthy reefs are close by, fishy and spectacular. There are many to choose from, but ask any diver on island which site is their favorite, and many will quickly answer, “Mixing Bowl!”

On the way to the dive site, ask your dive guide how Mixing Bowl got its name. The explanation is easy and only heightens expectations: “Mixing Bowl is a fantastic mix of everything Little Cayman has to offer underwater.” This breathtaking reef lies within Bloody Bay Marine Park, situated at the intersection of two famous reefs: The steeply vertical Bloody Bay Wall and the more gradually inclined Jackson Bight. The mooring is in just 20 feet of water that’s the lovely blue color of a Bombay Saphire gin bottle. After just a few kicks toward the reef, the truth of the guide’s words starts to materialize.

The shallower top of the reef is teeming with small tropical reef fish that surge and gather like brilliant confetti in the dancing sunlight. Heading deeper on the reef reveals schooling grunts and snapper encircling coral heads and hiding under overhangs. Industrious goatfish with their lemony accents assemble in big groups and forage on the bottom for hidden snacks. A hefty number of Bermuda chubs patrol the waters over the reef in a slow-motion posse as southern stingrays scoot from the sandy channels at the sight of a diver’s approach. Mixing Bowl is one of the best spots on the island to see nurse sharks, and it is not unusual to see at least one or two resting on the bottom or gracefully cruising just over the reef.

underwater diver

Between the larger denizens and the countless smaller creatures, Mixing Bowl delivers something new on every dive

David M. Benz

In the 40- to 50-foot depth range, the coral growth is simply spectacular. Hard corals are everywhere near the tops of the reef, competing with the sea fans, gorgonians and sponges for real estate in this marine oasis. It is here that Nassau groupers — beloved by many divers as their favorite characters of the reef — like to hang out for their “spa treatment.” With abundant cleaner shrimp and wrasse around to service these clever and engaging predators, many a Nassau can be seen hovering with mouth agape and a blissful look in their eye while cleaning is underway. The activity on the reef is nonstop, but don’t forget to keep an eye toward deeper waters — the “blue” — where sea turtles and eagle rays can often be seen swimming along this aquatic highway.

Among the most striking features of the Mixing Bowl reef are the maze-like crevices that crack dramatically deep into limestone, often allowing just enough width for divers to drop down one at a time so that they can explore the insides of these lovely clefts. Looking up along the sheer walls on each side sometimes offers just a craggy sliver of blue overhead before suddenly opening to a more substantial reefscape around the next bend. The largest and most striking of these unique canyons runs deep into the reef; divers who traverse it will emerge in roughly 100 feet of water on Bloody Bay Wall. Don’t swim through too quickly though. With a little luck and a patient approach, divers sometimes occasionally encounter a reef shark at this impressive window that opens onto the blue.

Between the larger denizens and the countless smaller creatures, Mixing Bowl delivers something new on every dive. After you experience this site, you’ll join the legions of divers who say that once is never enough.

What to Know

Language: English

Currency: Cayman Islands dollar

Signature Dish: Fish rundown, a stew made with coconut-milk-soaked fish.

Signature Topside Activity: Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Grand Cayman; Owen Island, Little Cayman; Bat Cave, Cayman Brac.

Main Airport: Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM).

Water Temp/Visibility: High 70s to low 80s/80 to 100 feet.

Travel Tip: Carry both Cayman and U.S. dollars — resorts and hotels usually quote prices in U.S. dollars, while restaurants and shops ask for Cayman Islands dollars.

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