Islands enjoy strong showing in 2014 Top 100 Gold List of the Reader’s Choice Awards; Cayman’s history of conservation and its dive industry play major role in diversity and dive quality
The Cayman Islands were rated No. 1 for Best Overall Destination in the Atlantic & Caribbean in Scuba Diving’s 2014 Top 100 Readers’ Choice Awards. Every year Scuba Diving asks its readers to rank dive experiences on a scale of one to five, and the results make up the Top 100 Gold List in the dive industry. The USS Kittiwake was voted Best Wreck Dive and Bloody Bay Wall in Little Cayman took top honors as Best Wall Dive. The Sister Islands made the top of the list in the Best Visibility category. Also on the Gold List with a high ranking; Stingray City, Best Animal Encounters; Ocean Frontiers, Best Dive Operation; and Sunset House, Best Dive Resort with the Best Bar, My Bar. Other excellent rankings for Cayman came in the categories of Best Underwater Photography, Best Wall Diving, Overall Diving and Shore Diving.
“I think that the overall quality of our diving is hard to beat,” says Rod McDowall, operations manager for Red Sail Sports. “It’s not just the variety of Cayman’s diving, but the quality of the reefs, the clarity of the water, the ease of diving here and the comfort level for our guests.”
“We are blessed with low-density islands with no industry or runoff which could normally affect the reef health, and in so, the visibility underwater,” says Neil van Niekerk, manager of the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman.
Warm clear water, healthy coral reefs, steep deep walls, wrecks and abundant marine life − all combine for a variety of dive experiences that secure Cayman’s place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean. Cayman’s dive sites are legendary: Big Tunnel, Trinity Caves, Orange Canyon, Devil’s Grotto, Tarpon Alley, Eagle Ray Pass. Animal encounters are a big attraction: the friendly residents of Stingray City continue to delight; the summer Silverside invasion at Devil’s Grotto and other sites fascinates divers and photographers; and divers rarely leave the Cayman Islands without a sea turtle encounter.
“Cayman remains a voyage of discovery for me because each side of Grand Cayman offers a completely different dive experience,” says prominent underwater photographer Alex Mustard who is a regular visitor. “I still see new things and find new subjects to photograph.”
Cayman’s dive industry works hard to keep the dive product fresh and exciting, while being a good environmental steward. The wreck of the USS Kittiwake, sunk two years ago, and now home to a variety of creatures, is attracting divers worldwide. Cayman’s Dive 365 initiative, completed last year has created 68 new dive sites, one for each day of the year. Not only does this add new vistas for divers, it also alleviates stress on popular sites. Cayman recently marked the 25th anniversary of its marine parks, and the government has just approved a National Conservation Law that calls for expansion of the parks.
“Our reefs can compete on the highest levels, but if our resources are not protected and managed, we will end up like every other destination in the region, relying on only blue skies and sunshine to attract tourists, not exactly a rare commodity in the Caribbean,” says Steve Broadbelt, owner of Ocean Frontiers.
Cayman’s dive operators actively support the Cayman Islands Department of Environment’s conservation programs: the battle against the invasive Lionfish, the sea turtle nesting program and the Grouper Moon Project launched to save the endangered Nassau grouper. Reef and beach cleanups are routinely held throughout the year. An outstanding dive product attracts visitors, but industry leaders know that customer service and comfort keeps them coming back.
“We are very proud of our staff that dedicate themselves everyday to take pride in their work, their division and fulfilling our guests expectations and taking it to another level,” says Keith Sahm, General Manager of Sunset House where My Bar, the resort’s bar/restaurant, ranked high in the category of Best Bar.
The Cayman Islands is a safe British Territory with a broad range of accommodations and excellent restaurants to enhance the quality of the vacation experience for the whole family. Add to that Seven Mile Beach, voted Best Beach, and convenient daily service to major US cities, and you have a combination that is hard to beat.
“Cayman diving is incredible for its diversity, and that extends to marine life and depths for youngsters to experienced divers, so there’s something for everyone,” says Divetech’s Nancy Easterbrook.