Choosing a Dive Site
Let’s face it, we are all different divers with different expectations and skill levels. Choosing the right dive sites for your trip could be the difference between a good holiday and an unforgettable adventure. Dive sites vary from time of day to time of year. With a little information, planning the perfect diving holiday is simple and easy.
Lets break it down
We should think less about our certification level and more about our skill level. Many divers have 100’s of dives where others may have only completed the four required for basic certification. Most Cayman Islands dive operators offer two tank dives in both the morning and the afternoon with the deeper dive in the morning. If you’re unsure of you’re skill level, uncomfortable about getting back in the water, or feeling uneasy about the deep dive, you should definitely consider starting with the shallow dives. If it’s been more than two years since your last dive, it’s time for a refresher course. Operators such as Ambassador Divers offer these on a daily basis with a quick pool session in the morning followed by two shallow boat dives in the afternoon.
Time of Year
Sea state conditions vary throughout the year in the Cayman Islands. Diving Grand Cayman’s famous North Wall is possible during the summer months but planning on diving north in the winter is not always a great idea. Diving the South side of Grand Cayman can also be a little tricky. Throughout the year, swells from the south east build along the coast making for uncomfortable diving conditions. Diving south is generally left to the winter months when “Nor Westers” blow in cold air from the north west, leaving the south side less choppy. There are days when the winds lay down making available every site on the island. Take advantage of these times as they don’t come often. Contact your local dive operator prior to arrival to get an update on the current weather forecast.
While the Cayman Island’s aren’t known for their drift dives, there are certain areas where strong currents are frequent. The north west corner of Grand Cayman is home to some of Cayman’s most dramatic dive sites, in large part due to the strong currents that frequent the area. If you’re comfortable with these types of conditions, this area is right for you. If you’re out of shape or it’s been a while since your last dive, you might be better off exploring a different area. Always ask your dive operator about the conditions on the site prior to committing to the dive.
Wreck or Reef
So, it’s probably not the most difficult decision you’ll ever make, but it is an important one none the less. While many of Cayman’s wreck sites lie on or near a reef, choosing between the two is a decision best made prior to boarding the dive boat. Not all divers are comfortable with over head environments. If you fall into this category, the Ex Uss Kittiwake is probably not your cup of tea. This dive site requires a guide and has a very specific path your guide will follow making sure you see all points of interest both inside and outside the wreck. On the other hand, the Wreck of the Oro Verde might just be what the doctor ordered. This 189ft freighter lies broken in 50ft of cobalt blue water resting gently against Paradise Reef. Choosing a site like this could be the perfect compromise for divers split on this topic.
While most wreck sites require a very regimented path of travel, exploring a reef can be done in many different ways. For instance, the west side of Grand Cayman is home to many spectacular shallow dive sites. Most of these sites have coral ridges described as “fingers” extending out toward the deeper water. Swimming around the outer edges of these fingers in either direction is typical of local dive-masters. This also makes navigation very easy. Simply choose the direction you would like to explore and count the fingers as you pass over, repeating the process as you make your way back to the boat.
Last but certainly not least is depth. Understanding your limitations here is curtail to making the most of your diving holiday. Deep dives are typically but not always the first dive of the day. This is done simply to avoid the old rule of reverse profiles. Make your deep dive first, with all other dives consecutively more shallow. There are many factors to consider when choosing to make a deep dive.
- What is your level of certification?
- While many open water divers are very comfortable making dives to 100ft, others might need a little more training to give them that added level of comfort.
- Are you physically fit?
- Air consumption can be an issue. If you typically burn through an 80cubic foot cylinder of air like a hot knife through butter, you might consider sticking with the shallow dive.
- What was the depth of your last dive?
- This will directly effect your bottom time on all consecutive dives.
- How much surface interval do you have?
- Conducting safe deep dives typically requires a decent amount of surface interval. If it’s your first dive of the day, there’s a good chance you’re ready to go.