Dive Curacao

Scuba Mask Straps

Cayman Bids Farewell to Dive Legend Bob Soto, the “Father of Diving”

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

The dive industry he started is ranked by divers Tops in 2015 as Best Overall Dive Destination in the Caribbean and Atlantic

Dive flags flew at half-mast in the Cayman Islands recently in tribute to Bob Soto, a revered dive legend and the founder of recreational scuba diving in Cayman, who died at the age of 88. As they mourn his passing, Cayman’s dive leaders say Bob Soto’s legacy is Cayman diving’s enduring star power. The Cayman Islands nabbed the top spot as 2015 Best Overall Dive Destination in the Caribbean/Atlantic in Scuba Diving Magazine’s Annual Reader’s Choice Awards. Cayman also ranked well in the polls Top 100 Gold List.

Sea to Sky

It all started with Bob Soto who opened his first dive shop on the George Town waterfront in 1957. With vision, one wooden boat, several tanks and a small staff (he taught to dive himself), Soto began soliciting guests in Cayman’s hotels, and gave birth to an industry. Bob Soto personally taught and mentored several of Cayman’s current dive leaders, who then took Cayman’s dive industry to the next level, and work hard to keep it on top.

“Bob was a wonderful man and a roll model for all of us,” said Adrien Briggs owner of Sunset House, Sunset Divers and Red Sail Sports. “He brought a lot of Caymanians into diving and showed us that we could follow our dreams, follow our diving trails – myself, Clinton Ebanks, Atlee Evans, Don Foster – we all got our start with Bob Soto.”

Liquid Diving

From one end of Grand Cayman to the other, Bob Soto influenced dive pioneers. He encouraged Nancy Easterbrook to set up Divetech in West Bay in the same building that housed a restaurant Soto owned with his wife Suzy. He knew well the excellent reefs located just offshore.

“Bobby Soto was a true visionary who created dive tourism in Cayman,” said Easterbrook. “He has become a legend for many, an inspiration for me, and a man who was a leader. He will be truly missed, one of the greats.”

“Bob was not only a pioneer in an industry we all love and made our careers, but a fascinating man who did a whole variety of dive related adventures,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager of Red Sail Sports. “I shared time with him telling stories from maritime treasure hunting to his involvement in land based and live aboard diving in Grand Cayman. He was always very happy to give advice and share his years of experience.”

Bob Soto also blazed dive trails on Grand Cayman’s remote East End where Steve Broadbelt, co-founder of Ocean Frontiers, now runs a thriving dive business.

“Bob Soto put Cayman on the map and everybody in the dive business owes him an immense debt of gratitude,” said Broadbelt. “It is impossible to imagine a Cayman without Bob Soto, his vision and what he achieved. His legacy will never be forgotten.”

Soto’s legacy includes some of the most famous dive sites in the business. He and his divemasters explored the pristine and untouched coral reefs around George Town and game them names: Trinity Caves, Orange Canyon, Big Tunnel, Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto. Peter Milburn, at Bob Soto’s side in those early days, recalls the first wall dive he made at Trinity Caves.

“It was unbelievably beautiful and breathtaking,” said Milburn. “It was like being in a forest with so many soft corals and sea fans, there was so much black coral in the crevasses then.”

Millions of visitors have enjoyed those dive sites during the past 50 years, and they are part of the reason Cayman has been voted the #1 this year by Scuba Diving readers. Subscribers and web users rate their dive experiences on a scale of 1 – 5 and the results are tabulated and published. Cayman ranked #1 in Wall Diving, #1 in Best Marine Environment and #3 in Advanced Diving, giving it the edge over all other Caribbean and Atlantic destinations.

Cayman also did well in the magazine’s “Top 100 Gold List” receiving 11 rankings based on total responses and popularity regardless of category. Divetech and Sunset House received nods for Best Dive Operator and Best Dive Resort. The Cayman rankings are as follows:

#2 BEST WALL DIVING/Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman
#4 BEST WALL DIVING/North Wall/ Grand Cayman
#13 BEST DIVE SITES/Devil’s Grotto, Grand Cayman
#23 BEST WRECK DIVES/Capt. Keith Tibbetts, Cayman Brac
#41 BEST NIGHT DIVE, Coral Spawning Dives, Grand Cayman
#56 BEST BEACH/Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
#80 BEST DIVE OPERATORS, Divetech, Grand Cayman
#83 BEST DIVE RESORT, Sunset House, Grand Cayman
#87 BEST DIVE RESORT, Little Cayman Beach Resort, Little Cayman
#95 BEST BEACH BAR, My Bar, Sunset House Grand Cayman
#97 CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE/ Lone Star Bar & Grill, Grand Cayman

Dive leaders say Bob Soto should be proud of what he started on Grand Cayman. For his contributions to the dive industry in Cayman and across the world, Soto was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. The loss of the mentor who touched so many people in Cayman is being felt across all three islands.

“It is heart-wrenching, we were very close and I learned so much from him,” said Peter Milburn.

“I learned how to be a better human being from Bob Soto,” adds Adrien Briggs.

Ron Kipp, a long time friend and the man who bought Bob Soto’s dive operation decades ago, spoke at his memorial service: “The Cayman Islands has lost a legend. Without Bob Soto, there would have been no diving industry. He will be remembered all over the world.”



About Author

The Cayman Bottom Times is news collaboration by five leading dive operators to promote the superb diving of the Cayman Islands, and keep the diving public informed of important developments and events. Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports and Sunset house in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, all members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, represent more than 100 years of solid experience in a destination that is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving. With a unique combination of deep wall and shallow reef diving, several wrecks, and world-famous Stingray City, the Cayman Islands has cemented its place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean. Offering diverse and wide-ranging dive programs on both Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, the members of this dive group represent the best Cayman has to offer; Divetech (www.divetech.com), Ocean Frontiers (www.oceanfrontiers.com), Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman (www.redsailcayman.com), Sunset House (www.sunsethouse.com) and the Southern Cross Club (www.southerncrossclub.com). For more information on The Cayman Bottom Times contact Adela Gonzales White at Adela.G.White@comcast.net or call (941) 350-8735.

Leave a Reply

Dive Curacao

Scuba Mask Straps