Snorkeling Grand Cayman, March 26 through April 9, 2011
by Tom Turner
We made our yearly trek for snorkeling Grand Cayman a little late this year. We prefer to go when it is still really winter in Pennsylvania. We snorkeled every day of our trip, usually twice a day, and a couple of days with three. The great thing about Grand Cayman is that almost anywhere from shore has stuff to see, and the water is always great.
We went to all of our favorite spots, Eden Rock and Devils Grotto, the marine sanctuary off of Rum Point, Conch Point across from the turtle farm, East End at Colliers, Connolly's Cove by the Queens Monument, Heritage Beach (that I call Lobster City). We have snorkeled Cheeseburger Reef in the past, but never went all the way out to the end of the coral heads. They are just as big and magnificent as Eden Rock and Devils Grotto if you get all the way out. Sometimes boat traffic is a little heavy, so we never went all the way out before.
We swam with numerous turtles over the two weeks. We have found that if you follow them from a little distance until they come up for air, and then glide up along them, they will usually let you swim within a couple of feet from them watching from the side. After following a turtle for about 20 minutes, I did have an over-zealous diver come flying up from below as we were swimming along with the turtle and scare it off.
We got to do a snorkel that we have talked about for several years. We went in at Eden Rock, which is right downtown at the main port where the cruise ships park. The currents were good, so we headed south and west and swam along the coral heads down to a very popular swimming spot called Smith's Cove. It is probably a couple of miles, and we spent 3 hours 15 minutes making the trek. We just lolly-gagged along with the current checking out anything that we would see along the way. It was great.
We were able to try night snorkeling on two separate occasions this year. The first time was in 10 to 12 feet of water with occasional small coral heads. Almost every coral head had things out around it that you never see during the day. We saw a couple of spotted morays, sea worms that would be 3 or 4 feet long, and shrink up to less than a foot when they saw you, slipper lobsters that I had no idea what they were until after, lots of regular spiny lobsters running around on the bottom, a gigantic crab of some sort, it kind of looked like a rock crab, but was different color, and it probably would cover the bottom of a bushel basket. A huge hermit crab that was carrying around a large conch shell. All kinds of little things that were attracted by the lights.
The second night snorkel was in big coral heads at Eden Rock, and we saw very little. Everything that you see in the day was in for the night, and we saw no odd sea creatures at all. It was really kind of a disappointment.
Another different sight that we encountered in Grand Cayman this year was a sea snake in about 6 or 8 feet of water at a deserted beach east of Conch Point. That was really scary. Also saw a pretty big spotted moray curled up in a coral head, and an octopus that was really startled to see us (not often do you see an octopus out and about during the day).
This has been a lot of stories about the strange things that we saw, but most of our snorkeling had the beautiful corals and reef fish that you see everywhere and never get tired of. We did see gigantic parrot fish at both Conch Point and along South Sound. They can really get quite large.
We really enjoy our trips to Grand Cayman. We have a trip scheduled to St. Maarten in November. We have never been there, but hear that the snorkeling is great. We will find out. If anyone has any spots that we need to get to, send them along.
Read Tom's 2012 snorkeling Grand Cayman report.