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Diving on the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands, Caribbean's insider take:

Blessed with startling visibility, healthy coral reefs, abundant fish populations, and varied underwater terrain—from slightly sloping terraces to patch reefs to precipitous walls—the waters surrounding the Cayman Islands have been welcoming sport divers since the late 1950s. With its "Dive 365 program (an initiative to develop and maintain 365 separate dive-site moorings), the islands can literally offer the scuba set a different dive every day of the year. Something is always open for exploration, no matter the wind or weather.

On Grand Cayman Island, some of the best diving can be found at the North Wall's Eagle Ray Pass, which attracts large rays and pelagics, George Town harbor's Cheeseburger Reef, a hangout for tarpon that was featured in The Firm, and the island's newest below-sea level attraction, the U.S.S. Kittiwake, a 251-foot Navy submarine-rescue vessel purposely sunk off West Bay in 2011. Now lying in 65 feet of water, the Kittiwake lures grouper, yellowtail snapper, and schools of divers eager to explore the ship. West Bay operator Divetech offers a wide range of Grand Cayman dives.

Cayman Brac has an assortment of wreck dives: The best known is the MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts, a sunken Cold War–era Soviet frigate. The 330-foot warship, now broken in two parts, lies on a sandy ledge in 60 to 85 feet of water; its gun turrets are a popular photo subject. The Brac doesn't have as much fringing reef as the other islands; the underwater layout consists of sloping ledges of coral spurs and sandy grooves, with occasional swim-throughs and clusters of elkhorn coral at spots such as south-side Tarpon Reef.

Little Cayman counts nearly 60 dive sites off shore, but its claim to fame is north-side Bloody Bay Marine Park, where a shallow coastal ledge drops more than 1,500 feet into the abyss. Beginning at a depth of just 18 feet, Mixing Bowl (a.k.a. Three Fathom Wall) is considered one of the best wall dives in the world—the shallows hold parrotfish, hawksbill turtles, and nurse sharks; over the lip, divers will find pristine soft and hard corals, tube and barrel sponges, eels, and grouper. Several nearby dive sites, like Randy's Gazebo and its 40-foot-deep chimney, have spectacular swim-throughs. Reef Divers has well-run operations and multiple dive boats on both Sister Islands.—Christopher Cox

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