Diving Cayman Brac

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Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

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Country: Cayman Islands  Area: Cayman Islands

Water Temp: 22 - 30°C (72 - 86°F)

Visibility: 15 - 50m (49 - 164 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 60m (33 - 197 ft)

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A British Overseas Territory, the Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean south of Cuba. The deepest part of the Caribbean is the Cayman trough, a trench of over 6,000m (20,000 miles) deep. Cayman Brac is one of three islands that make up the territory.  “Brac” is Gaelic for bluff, which, in this case, refers to the most prominent topography on the island.  The large limestone outcropping runs the length of the island and rises to 43m (141ft.) at the eastern end.  East, northeast of Grand Cayman, the island has an area of 38 sq. km (14.7 sq. miles).

On Cayman Brac, you will find quaint villages and laid-back friendly people.  Nature tourism is the local economy and this becomes clear when taking in the rich natural resources of this small island.  Along with some of the richest coral reefs, steepest walls, and clearest waters; you will also find breath taking views, secluded beaches, extensive limestone cave systems, hiking trails, dense karst forest, and exotic flora and fauna found nowhere else.

 

Marine Conservation

Years of forward thinking conservation practices and stringent marine laws have kept the waters around much of the Cayman Islands in pristine condition.  The Cayman Islands Department of the Environment continues to expand marine parks, replenishment zones and designated grouper spawning areas.  It is an illegal to damage the coral around the islands.  Buoys capable of mooring up to a 19.8m (65ft.) boat mark the dive sites.    

Diving Cayman Brac, Credit

The Department of the Environment (DOE) publishes a brochure containing the Marine Park Regulations & Marine Conservation Laws.  The brochure can be downloaded in PDF format from http://www.doe.ky.

The DOE and the Marine Turtle Research Group are actively researching the green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles.  These three species are reproductively active in the islands.

Climate

The Cayman Islands have a wet season from May through October, and a dry season from November through April.  Classified as a tropical marine climate, the average high temperatures range from 26°C (79°F) in January to 31°C (88°F) in July.  The diving season is year round.  However, northwesterly storms can occur during winter, making the seas at some dive sites too rough to dive.  If you are willing to take a chance on weather, September provides the very best visibility.

Hurricane season is from June through November.  The Cayman Islands are affected by hurricanes and tropical storms more than any other region in the Caribbean because of its location. 

 
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The Diving

The deepest part of the Caribbean is the Cayman trough, a trench of over 6,000m (20,000 miles) deep that runs between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.  The Cayman Islands are the peaks of an underwater ridge that rises sharply from the Cayman trough.  The islands are made up of a porous limestone from ancient coral reefs and have no rivers or streams.  The lack of runoff from this flat island accounts for the exceptional visibility in the surrounding waters.  Ranked as the 2015 top readers choice and some of the best advanced diving by Scuba Diving Magazine, the Cayman Islands offer phenomenal wall, reef, and wreck diving.

Dive Cayman Brac with friends, Credit

Cayman Brac boasts over 50 dive sites, 24 of which can be reached from the shore.  Access to shore dives is marked by large rocks painted a bright red along the main roads.   The dive sites, themselves, are marked with buoys.  Coral reefs teeming with life, intricate rock formations, shipwrecks, and even some walls are within reach from the shore.  Plan to snorkel the distance from shore to the dive site to conserve air.

You can reach Radar Reef, sometimes called Cable Reef (in reference to the large underwater telephone cable), by a staircase next to the jetty at Stake’s Bay.  Use caution on the slippery steps.  Dense, healthy coral reef begins at 5m (17ft.) and the dive maxes out at 15m (49ft.), a perfect dive for all levels of experience.  Many varieties of sponges, including the strawberry vase sponge, grow amongst the elkhorn, star and brain corals.  Lavender sea fans, weighed heavy by flamingo tongues, sway in the current.  Turtles, angelfish, butterfly fish, stingrays and puffers make their rounds through the coral as large schools of silversides swim through treating divers to an aquatic ballet.      

Have Fun diving at Cayman Brac, Credit

In a large sandy area beside Radar Reef sits the ‘Lost City of Atlantis’, an art installation still under construction by a local artist known as “Foots”.  Enter Atlantis through a large archway, swim along a column-lined pathway leading to an inner circle.  Plans are to delineate the circle with columns.  A massive sundial lies in the center.  Swim around the citizens of Atlantis, placed throughout the city.  Eventually, the artist hopes to have placed over 100 pieces of statuary.  At a depth of 10m (33ft.) and no current, this is a wonderful dive for beginners.

The very best dive sites are reached by boat.  Built in 1984 for the Cuban navy, the Russian frigate #356 was bought by the Cayman Islands government in 1996 for use as artificial reef.  The frigate was renamed the Captain Keith Tibbetts, after a local politician, and sunk on a sandy bottom at the edge of a wall, in 33m (110ft.) of water.  The wreck sits upright with the bow tilted up.  Divers peering over the edge of the bow look directly into the deep abyss beyond the wall.  Corals, sponges and invertebrates have completely encased the ship.  Moray eels, grouper, turtles, and scorpion fish make their home here.  Starfish, garden eels, and stingrays are often seen along the sandy bottom.

Engine on the Capt. Keith Tibbets Wreck, Credit

Anchor Wall, so named for the anchor of a Spanish Galleon that is wedged in the reef at 24m (80ft.), has a maximum depth of 30m (100ft.).  A tunnel leads from the anchor out to the vertical wall where a dense colony of rare black coral grows.  Airport Wall is a gradually sloping reef wall riddled with sandy crevices whose depth ranges from 20m – 30m (66ft. – 100’).  The wall is full of sponges, gorgonians, and sea whips.  There is a rare chance of seeing whale sharks in this area.

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How to Get there

Cayman Airlines offers service to Cayman Brac from Grand Cayman, a thirty-minute plane ride, and seasonal service between Cayman Brac and Miami, Florida.  Private planes also utilize the 1,829m (6,000ft.) runway and customs clearing service.

Live aboard dive boats are one of the best options for the serious diver.  Each of the three islands in the Caymans has its own very special dive sites and live aboard charters often visit all three islands.

Rental cars, SUVs, and bicycles are available at the airport.

Cayman Brac Port, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

Outside of the all-inclusive resorts, Cayman Brac has a number of laid-back, casual eateries.  International flavors have made their way into the cuisine of the islands.  Traditional Caribbean, Jamaican, and curry dishes showcase fresh fish, conch, coconut, plantain, cassava, mangos, and more.

For fresh local fare well seasoned and cooked to perfection, try Star Island Restaurant.  Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner out on the patio overlooking the water.  At high tide sharks swim in close enough for viewing.  Top off your meal with their homemade key lime pie. 

Cayman Brac, Credit

The Captain’s Table, a slightly more upscale restaurant (they have tablecloths on the inside tables) offers the widest variety of cuisines: American, Italian, Mexican, and Caribbean.  Start with the conch fritters and follow-up with fresh seared tuna, shrimp tequila or honey stung chicken.  Seating is inside, outside on the patio or at the bar.

Barry’s Golden Jerk, a local favourite, is not actually a restaurant, but a roadside stand that serves jerk chicken and pork accompanied by a serving of bread.  The spicy kick of the jerk sauce and the generous portions go perfectly with a cold beer.

The Tipsy Turtle Bar at the Brac Reef Beach Resort is a nice spot to relax after a day of diving.  Grab a bite to eat, have a few drinks, play a game of trivia, and swap stories.  The bar is right on the beach, providing a wonderful view.  On the weekends, they serve a BBQ buffet outside, along with live music.

 

 

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Other Activities

Other activities include swimming, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, exploring caves and bird watching. 

The deep waters surrounding Cayman Brac attract not only large pelagic fish but also anglers from around the world.  So abundant are these waters that major fishing tournaments, including the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, are held here every year.  Wahoo, tuna, mahi-mahi, and Blue Marlin are target species.  The best time of year is May through August.

Some of the fishes you'll see in Cayman Brac, Credit

The 43m (141ft.) bluff for which Cayman Brac was named has numerous hiking trails and caves to explore.  Pirates once used many of these caves to hide treasure.  Although some of the caves are very difficult to access, there are several that are not.  Peter’s cave and Rebecca’s cave are clearly marked and easily accessible.  The two caves have been used as a shelter from hurricanes for many years.  A bit more challenging, the Great cave requires climbing three steep wooden ladders.  Even more difficult is Nani’s cave, but inside, the effort is richly rewarded.  Floor-to-ceiling pillars of stalactites and stalagmites fill the pale limestone interior.

The bluff on the island ends abruptly in jagged limestone cliffs that have become a world-class climbing destination.  The terrain is rugged and the cliffs steep.  In some instances, overhangs leave climbers suspended out over the ocean.  Using the Yosemite Decimal System, most of the routes have been rated between 5.7 – 5.12.  To ensure the safety of climbers, Titanium Tortuga climbing bolts have been placed along over 75 climbing routes.

Cayman Brac Parrots, found nowhere else on earth, make their home in the ancient dry forest of the Brac Point Reserve.  Peregrine falcons, frigate birds, and brown boobies are often seen here.  This 113hectare (280acre) preserve was made possible through private donations and a generous grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unlikely bedfellows, cacti and hardwoods intermingle in the reserve’s forests.  Air plants and orchids are abundant throughout.

More Fishes! Credit

Family Friendly

There are no formal activities for children.  Beautiful beaches with tranquil waters for swimming and snorkelling, hiking trails through forests full of rare flora and fauna, and fascinating caves provide many opportunities for families to spend time together and enjoy enriching experiences.

 

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Tips

• Pack sunscreen at any time of year and bug spray (with DEET) during the summer and early fall.  Dengue virus is a mosquito-borne illness that has become more prevalent in the Caribbean over the last few years.  Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, rash, joint aches, and muscle and bone soreness.

• Pack sturdy shoes for hiking and flash lights for cave exploration.

• Pack handheld VHF and GPS if you will be exploring on your own.

• Consider a global rescue membership, particularly if you plan to engage in more advanced and dangerous dives. 

Tube Sponges, Credit

 

 

 


·    Pack sturdy shoes for hiking and flash lights for cave exploration. 

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6000 meters is 3.7 miles perhaps a update

Cayman Brac "The deepest part of the Caribbean is the Cayman trough, a trench of over 6,000m (20,000 miles) deep "

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Catherine Jones

0 votes

Thank you Steven - we will get this updated :)

Rating 8/10

Cayman Brac

Cayman Brac5 May 2015 - 12 May 2015

BA fly to Grand Cayman via the Bahamas from LHR

Cayman Brac is the smallest of the Cayman Islands.

We stayed here http://www.bracreef.com/cayman-islands-resorts/ which has a dive operation attached run by Reef Divers. ThEYhave two or three boats depending on demand each of which comfortably seat up to twenty or so divers. Various packages are available for permutations of two dives in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The diving is, in the main, fairly easy. On our trip we dived on the northern side of the island as the winds made the sea on the south side too rough. This also meant that no night dives were available.

Even the farthest dive is probably only 15 minutes or so away, which gives you ample time to kit up.

The general rule is a deep dive for the first one and then shallow ones for the next two.

You can go off on your own but the leader will meet you under the boat and escort however many people want to follow.

Dive times are usually about 45 minutes. The guide will get you back to the boat after about 30 minutes where you can stay until you need to get out.

The dive sights are a mix of coral reefs, walls and an extremely good wreck, a Russian frigate the 356, a remnant of the Cold War from Cuba.

The is little large stuff here. Eagle rays are fairly common as are stingrays. There is a large grouper population some of which are astonishingly friendly and will follow you for the entire dive. There are some very large barracuda that may also escort you on your dive.

Turtles are fairly common and many of these are used to divers so provided they are not crowded will hang around for as long as you do.

There is the usual collection of Caribbean reef fish, a variety of morays big and small, huge lobster and crabs, as well as small shrimps and other critters.

Good visibility, relatively shallow depths a fairly constant 28 C water temp and no currents

The resort is closing for three monhs later in 2015 for refurbishment.

3

Julieta Rodrigues

Heart Cayman!

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