Why did you choose to dive off Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands?
After last year’s GoPro video workshop while diving in Belize, we decided to go for another week of trying to improve our video composition, filming, and editing skills through another dive trip sponsored by Bluewater Dive Travel. Trip leader Todd Kortte once again guided us before, during, and after our dives to get the most out of our videos. The destination and Little Cayman Beach Resort were pre-selected, so all we had to do was sign up. And our long-term dive buddies Richard and Marilynn came along too, so it was double the fun!
Where exactly are the Cayman Islands?
We didn’t really know either before this trip, but the Cayman Islands are a British territory located south of Cuba, about a 90-minute flight from Miami. English is the main language spoken, so it’s an easy country for us monolingual Americans to travel to. The Cayman Islands are possibly most famous for being a place where people stash their money to avoid paying taxes (it features prominently in John Grisham’s book/movie The Firm). Grand Cayman is the largest island, with lots of beach resorts and infrastructure and about 70,000 people. Cayman Brac is considerably smaller with 2,000 residents. Little Cayman, where we were, is the “littleist” island, with about 150 residents and lots of interesting wildlife, both in the water and on land.
How do you get to the Cayman Islands?
For West Coasters like us, it’s actually not that easy. We flew to Miami and then Grand Cayman. Then we switched to the local airline, Cayman Airways, where they weighed everything, both checked and carry-on bags, to make sure you didn’t exceed a total of 70 pounds each (though they didn’t actually weigh the passengers). The 35-minute flight to Little Cayman was on a de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter (propellor) plane that theoretically could seat 17 passengers, though not everyone’s luggage would make the flight with them. We landed at a tiny airport on Little Cayman, with one teeny-tiny terminal, where you pulled your own luggage off the baggage cart 50 feet from the airplane. All told, it was about a 13-hour trek from LAX to Little Cayman, including all the layovers.
How does resort diving at a place like Little Cayman actually work?
After a good night’s sleep in our ocean-view air-conditioned bungalow, we would eat an amazing breakfast (with customized omelets and a huge buffet), then head out to the dock to embark on the Sea Dreamer with the other 15 divers in our Bluewater group. Steve (from Wales) and David (from France) from Reef Divers would take turns leading each of the two morning dives and then take us back to the resort for a lunch buffet put together by the resort chef. We’d head out for one afternoon dive, get cleaned up by rinsing our wetsuits and showering, and then join Todd for a late-afternoon video-training workshop, sharing some of our best video clips with each other. A gourmet dinner buffet awaited us each evening. This was by far the best food we’ve ever eaten at any hotel or dive resort! The dive shop helped us with any equipment needs we had, and the resort staff served us in every possible way, from fixing our air conditioning to spoiling us in the dining room. We were too tired to participate in any of the resort activities, so we were usually asleep by 8:30 each night.
What did you do when you weren’t diving?
With our little bit of downtime, we mostly looked at our video footage to figure out what we needed to do to improve. But we also took pictures of the endangered Sister Islands Rock Iguana, found only on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. There are 2,000 of these iguanas on Little Cayman, and probably a few hundred of them at our beach resort. They roamed under the outdoor tables, looking for snacks and droppings from tourists, though of course we were told not to feed them (and we didn’t). When we borrowed bikes to take a short ride down the road, we had to sign a waiver promising not to run over any iguanas (seriously)!
We also took pictures of the cutest little curly-tailed lizards, uncreatively named the Northern Curly-Tailed Lizard.
When we looked up, we spotted a few Red-footed boobies (seriously), and high-flying magnificent frigatebirds.
What was the diving like?
During our 17 dives, we spent most of our time in the Bloody Bay and Jackson’s Point areas on the north side of the island. We encountered a range of steep walls, flat patches of reef over which we swam on top, sandy areas with all kinds of critters in the sand, and even one shipwreck (the 330-foot Russian frigate intentionally sunk off Cayman Brac, and now called the Captain Keith Tibbetts).
What fish did you see while diving?
Now we get to the good part. Here are some of the fish species we saw. Note that all of these underwater shots are actually snapshots captured from our GoPro videos. There’s a link at the end of the blog to Hank’s iMovie that has our actual GoPro footage.
Did you see other critters?
Yes, here are some reef creatures we saw…
And the highlight of the trip…Caribbean reef squid–up close and personal!
What about coral?
It’s really hard to identify all the types of coral we saw, but here are a few examples:
So can we see some of your improved videos after participating in two GoPro workshops?
You sure can. Hank has put together a 4-minute iMovie featuring some of the highlights of our trip. Click here to enjoy the adventure with us.
Thanks for enjoying the journey with us!