Since 1957 when the Cayman Islands was recognized as the Caribbean’s birthplace of recreational diving, visitors have flocked here to enjoy the spectacular drop-offs and diverse dive experiences that have made Cayman a mecca for divers. Among them are well-known celebrities and dive industry pioneers who keep returning to the Cayman Islands year after year. In Cayman they find a convenient destination that offers incredible dive sites, top-notch dive services, world-class accommodations and restaurants, plus one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who famously walked on the moon and traveled in outer space, recently made his 4th trip to Cayman to share a dive adventure with the winners of an auction. They paid thousands of dollars to win the “astronaut experience”, and the money raised will help the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation support science and engineering students. Aldrin could pick another destination, but he chooses Grand Cayman and Divetech exclusively for this adventure. “Grand Cayman is one of my favorite dive destinations in the world,” he said. “We continue to bring patrons of the nonprofit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to the island because the people there strongly support our efforts by donating their services and facilities. The hospitality is, pardon the pun, out of this world.”
“We dive deep oceans, go to the moon, so I thought we’d get involved,” said Divetech owner Nancy Easterbrook, who made the decision to work with the foundation because it is tied to the environment and exploration. Astronauts train on scuba to simulate the weightlessness of space, and Easterbrook says Aldrin, an excellent diver, has developed an easy rapport with her staff through the years. “He taught our staff to do an upside walk on the bottom of the boat, and explained that this is like a moonwalk,” she said. “They all thought it was a hoot, they had fun.”
NBC Today Show weatherman Al Roker is perhaps one of Cayman’s biggest fans. He first visited Grand Cayman in 1995 to tape a news report for NBC on Stingray City, Cayman’s most famous dive. After completing a resort course with Red Sail Sports, Roker dove with the rays and got hooked on the adventure.
“I had not seen anything like that before – it was so amazing!” he recalls. Roker was also hooked on the Cayman Islands. He came back to complete his certification with Red Sail Sports, and has made Cayman a regular family vacation spot, estimating they have been to Grand Cayman about 15 times since his first trip. Roker, his wife Deborah Roberts, an ABC News correspondent, and their children Leila and Nicholas, vacationed here last in March 2012, but he says they’re always ready to come back. “Cayman can be any kind of vacation you want – it’s friendly, easy, has wonderful scuba diving, the food is great – it’s hassle-free,” he says.
Easy access is why well-known author and international speaker David Meerman Scott, an American marketing strategist, recently chose Grand Cayman for a quick getaway with daughter Allison. Ocean Frontiers and the island’s remote East End proved the perfect combination for quality family time. “We both love the ocean, so we decided to get certified together and it was fantastic,” he said vowing to come back. “It’s good to start at the top.”
At the top is where pioneer of underwater film and photography Stan Waterman places the Cayman Islands. Waterman, who worked on films that include Blue Water White Death and The Deep, recently hung up his fins after his final dive in Cayman. In an interview published by the Caymanian Compass, Waterman was described as the unofficial ambassador for Cayman Islands diving.
“I am often asked by people who haven’t come to the Caribbean where they should start and I tell them that Cayman has more that can be depended on than any other place I know. You have these jewels in your crown like Tarpon Alley, Stingray City, the drop offs, the wrecks that have been put down. There’s more here for people who are coming diving than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Without being paid to do so, I always beat the drums of Cayman,” he said.
Cayman diving will soon receive additional exposure through a new music video being released by country singer Stephanie Quayle. Big Blue Town is a song inspired by the work of Sea Save, a non-profit organization working to stop the finning of sharks among other conservation projects. The video was shot on location at Sunset House (which is very familiar with country stars and being a part of award winning videos) and its famous reef.
Other celebrities who have dived and snorkeled Cayman’s waters through the years include; director James Cameron; actors Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Rob Morrow, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Jessica Alba, Leslie Neilson; professional athletes Tiger Woods, Marcus Allen, Joe Montana, Edwin Moses, Nolan Ryan, Fox NFL’s Howie Long; TV personalities Stephen Colbert, Regis Philbin, supermodel Cindy Crawford and General Charlie Duke.
Cayman has also been a big draw for entertainers in the music business: Phil Vasser, Travis Tritt, Blake Shelton, Chris Cagle, Bryan White, the Beach Boys, Rascal Flats, Little Texas, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among many others.
“We love it when people keep coming back year after year, like Buzz Aldrin and Al Roker do,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager for Red Sail Sports. “They become part of our dive family and it tells us we are doing something very right.”