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Published: January 24th 2020
People flock to the Cayman Islands for its climate and warm, clear ocean waters full of marine life. But what makes it so special as a watersports destination?
The Cayman Islands offers a wide array of water sports – from deep-sea fishing to reef fishing, snorkelling, swimming with the stingrays, kayaking, waterskiing, jet-skiing, visiting Starfish Point, or just touring the islands by boat. Visitors line up for night tours of Bioluminescence Bay as well as daytime and night tours of local reefs and wrecks in the dry comfort of a submarine with large viewing windows.
The geography of the Cayman Islands makes it uniquely suited to just about every type of watersports (except perhaps surfing). Firstly, the three islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, are particularly flat and low-lying. The highest point (The Bluff, Cayman Brac) is a mere 50m (164ft) above sea level. With no nearby large landmass, no large bodies of freshwater, no rivers and, consequently, no runoff into the sea, the waters around the islands have amazing clarity and provide perfect conditions for activities such as diving and snorkelling.
And while they might be flat and barely breaking the surface of the sea,
the three Cayman Islands are actually the peaks of an undersea mountain range, the Cayman Ridge, that is Himalayan in scale. If it was entirely on land, the Cayman Ridge and the Cayman Trough below would be over 7,600m (25,000ft) high and among the highest mountain peaks in the world.
The proximity of that deep trough and the rich abundance of marine life that lives in and around it has attracted watersports enthusiasts from around the world since 1957, when scuba pioneer, Bob Soto, opened the first Grand Cayman dive shop. Around 1,000 species of fish have been catalogued in the Caribbean Sea and there is no shortage of marine life. Species to look out for include flying fish, parrotfish, yellowtails, stingrays, moray eels, tarpon, the Atlantic Goliath grouper, and many types of small reef fish familiar to marine aquarium fans.
There are bull shark, tiger shark, silky shark and Caribbean reef shark, three native species of turtle, crustaceans, invertebrates, nudibranchs, anemones, massive sponges and star corals and 90 species of mammals, including sperm whales, humpback whales and dolphins. That’s a LOT of underwater life to enjoy!
The Cayman Islands gets about 30% of its revenue from
tourism and most visitors arrive looking for fun and relaxation on the beaches and in the reef-protected clear, warm waters. Many Grand Cayman water sports
and dive shops and boat/equipment rental operators offer tours, training and equipment rental up to international standards. Group tours of local sights, such as the famous Stingray City and Cayman Turtle Centre are popular with the thousands of cruise liner passengers that arrive onshore in a seemingly endless stream.
Those who want to follow their own schedule and itinerary are also well catered for with private boat charters out of Grand Cayman. Tour customization allows you to plot your own course to the destinations and activities of your choice. Each island has its own unique marine environment to explore: Popular Grand Cayman water sports include scuba diving and snorkelling sites; Cayman Brac is popular for deep-sea sports fishing for tuna, marlin and barracuda; Little Cayman, the smallest island, is known for its diverse wildlife.
For scuba divers, there are over 240 dive sites on Grand Cayman alone, most just a few minutes from shore. Many of them are also suitable for novice and non-divers and are among the best snorkelling spots in Grand Cayman
. Between them, Little Cayman and Grand Brac have another 120 dive sites at least, including Little Cayman’s world-famous Bloody Bay Marine Park wall, actually 22 different dive sites, most of them deep (the ocean is believed to be 1,800 metres, or 6,000 feet deep in places on the wall). Area waters are known for their spectacular clarity.
No wonder almost every list of the world’s top dive sites includes at least one or two dive sites in the Cayman Islands
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