Blessed with warm clear water, healthy reefs, dramatic drop-offs, abundant marine life, year-round good weather and professional dive services, Cayman has always been a popular choice for the readers of Scuba Diving Magazine in the magazine’s annual online poll. Divers rank their favorite destinations and dive sites by category on a scale of 1 to 5.
This year Cayman came out on top as the best Caribbean destination for Underwater Photography and Advanced Diving. On Best Overall Dive Destination, Cayman rated #2. The destination also ranked in the top 5 for these categories; Big Animals, Macro Life, Wreck Diving, Macro Life, Wreck Diving, Cavern Cave and Grotto diving, Shore diving and Beginner Diving.
Award-winning underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, who lives and works on Grand Cayman, says the voters got it right when choosing the best place to for underwater photography, and there are many reasons why.
“No wonder Cayman Islands is ranked as #1 for underwater photography as we have top accommodating facilities,” said Cuylaerts. “Our dive operators provide easy shore dive access through ladders and coming out of the water there’s rinsing buckets. If you choose to boat dive, the crew helps to hand you gear, and they know how to do this. Most boats have rinsing possibilities.”
In addition to professional services and easy access to Cayman’s dive sites, the photo pro says these islands offer an amazing variety of interesting subject matter for underwater photographers.
“The best wide-angle subjects are our famous southern stingrays who show up every day at dawn and due to the shallowness of the Sandbar and Stingray City, even beginning photographers with a small camera can get the most amazing shots by working with the available light,” she said.
“The wreck of the Ex-USS Kittiwake is located on a sandy patch about max 70 feet deep. It’s easy to navigate, has excellent visibility, no current, hence the ability to work certain shots from different angles depending on the time of day you dive this site.”
Even when the weather affects dive conditions offshore, Cuylaerts says there is plenty to photograph from shore because of Cayman’s easily accessible and excellent shore diving.
“If you love looking for macro critters, some of the shore dives in Grand Cayman are abundant of gems at between 3 and 5 meters of depth allowing you to experience long dives and observe different species of blennies, shrimp, nudibranchs and many more,” she said. “Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto offer great macro photography opportunities in the shallows. The grottoes are in 30 feet of water, and this is where tarpons lurk waiting for the arrival of silversides in the summer months. Half of the times I dive there I see mesmerizing squid at the ladders.”
Cuylaerts travels the world as a freelance underwater and wildlife photographer, documenting animals in particular regions and the challenges they’re facing. Ellen says the underwater photography experience offered in the Cayman Islands is exceptional and hard to beat.