Top 5 Snorkeling Sites in the Cayman Islands
Spring is approaching. And while that means a whole lot more for those of us locked in the cold embrace of winter farther to the north, it also likely means vacation season for everyone in the U.S. And when it’s time to begin thinking about that summer vacation, look no further than the Cayman Islands, tropical havens surrounded by beautiful beaches, reefs and shipwrecks to explore.
Located 500 miles west of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands are home to some of the most beautiful snorkel sites in the world, all close to shore and easily accessible via the beaches or tour guide services. But, as always, some must rise above the rest – separating the wheat from the chaff, if you will. Although, I doubt any snorkeling site in the Cayman Islands, beautiful as they are, could ever be considered chaff.
Top 5 Cayman Island Snorkeling Sites
If you’ve never snorkeled in the Cayman Islands, you’re in for a treat; if you have snorkeled in the area, chances are you’ve missed a few sights.
Stingray City and Sandbar
Stingray City got its name because fishermen used to clean their catches in the area and cast the remnants over the side. The stingrays adapted to this and, like your 26-year-old college grad still living at home, began to hang out in the area more and more. Once it was discovered by divers it didn’t take long for it to become a world-famous snorkeling site. Stand in three feet of crystal-clear water, petting and hand-feeding stingrays as they gently swarm all around you – some of which can grow up to four feet across! Having developed such a symbiotic relationship with humans, the area is never short of stingrays looking for their next meal.
Accessible both from the shore and boats, Morritt’s Tortuga is located on the eastern end of Grand Cayman. A densely populated area filled with sparkling fish, unique coral formations, and sea fans, Morritt’s Tortuga is an ideal spot to begin your snorkeling adventure, located conveniently close to shore and near other snorkeling sites like Rum Point.
Wreck of the Cali
Located less than 50 yards from the Grand Cayman shore, the Wreck of the Cali is a great beginner dive that allows snorkelers to explore the ruins of, you guessed it, The Cali: an ill-fated ship that sank off the coast of George Town in the 1940s. Now encrusted with a wide variety of sponges and corals, The Cali is one of the more bounteous snorkeling sites you’ll find in the Cayman Islands, its exposed ribs chock-full of a wide variety of marine life, including giant sea urchins, eels, tropical fish and the enigmatic octopus.
Antithetic to its name, Cemetery Reef is a wellspring of exotic marine life, including schools of sparkling fish, beautiful coral heads and baby turtles. Located at the north end of Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman, Cemetery Reef is about 100 yards out from shore but still easily accessible. Prepare yourself for some exceptional sights, as this reef is particularly known for attracting rarely seen sea life.
Continually rated one of the top snorkeling sites by magazines, Turtle Reef will confound you with some of the most beautiful sights you’ll see during your visit to the Cayman Islands. Located at the northwest tip of Grand Cayman, snorkelers can dive into Turtle Reef and expect to see a tarpon cave, exotic coral structures and a bevy of beautiful fish. Stingrays and sea turtles are also common sights at this reef. The more daring snorkelers can explore the mini-wall, a veritable mountain range of coral and sand dunes a ways beneath the surface.
The best months for snorkeling are April through October, perfect timing for the summer vacationer, when the water can get up to 86 degrees.
Photo credit: George Chang