Grand Cayman, January 2018

The easiest way to get to Grand Cayman from the UK is with BA. The flight touched down in Nassau on both legs, though you don't get off the plane. There's a full change of crew and the cleaners come onboard, so the turn around is not that quick, but at least there are no baggage or immigration hassles.

Looking at the accommodation options, it was immediately apparent that there were no cheap options. I booked a room in Eldemire's Guesthouse. At £944 for 9 nights, it wasn't exactly cheap. It's located south of George Town. The nearest bar and restaurant is a 10 minute walk at Sunset House. There's also a Burger King and a 24 hour petrol station with a minimarket, which is a 15 minute walk. George Town is about a 20 minute walk and the main supermarket is a bit north of the centre, so too far to walk with bags of shopping. There is a small, sandy cove called Smith's Barcadere, which is a 5 minute walk. The guesthouse also had a pool.

Cayman reef

George Town is a popular place for cruise ships. There were usually 4-5 every day and the shops in town reflect, with lots of souvenir shops and lot of duty free shops selling expensive designer gear and jewellery. After about 5pm, the cruise ships leave and it quiet. Even the Hard Rock cafe shuts at the very un-rock and roll time of 9pm. There are still restuarants and fast food places, and there were a few people around for after work drinks. On Sunday, practically everything is shut with the exception of the Paradise Restaurant. The streets are deserted apart from the feral chickens which are all over the island. It's somewhat surreal to see them walking about the streets in front of shiny bank buildings.

The currency of the Caymans is the Cayman Islands dollar which is pegged to the US dollar at the rate of CI$1 = $US1.20. Everywhere takes US dollars and most restaurant and bar bills have both currencies on them. You can get both currencies from ATMs in town, but I found the bank ATMs were charging a hefty flat fee of over CI$4 for a withdrawal. Practically everywhere takes credit cards, so this is another option.

As a Londoner, there aren't many places where food prices seem expensive, but the average price of a main course in a restaurant was CI$25. The bar at Sunset House had burgers for CI$10 and even the fast food places like KFC and Burger King was pricier than I'm used to paying. Beer wasn't too bad at around CI$5.50 for a pint.

The nearest dive centre to the guesthouse was Sunset Divers. They charged $130 for a 2 tank dive. Don Foster's was a bit further up the road and their 2 tank dive prices was a bit cheaper at US$115 but they also did dive packs. A 5 day, 10 dive pack was US$450 compared with U$650 (5 x 130), so it was a no brainer decision.

The 2 tank dive left every morning, with the first dive being 40 minutes to about 25-30m and the second dive being 60 minutes to about 15m. Grand Cayman is a mountain underwater rising up from the depths of the Cayman Trench, which at 7,800m is by far the deepest part of the Caribbean. All the sites I did were on the west coast where the wall isn't sheer. It is more of a gradual slope into the depths, at least at recreational depths.

Moray eel

I was slightly concerned that I would be on a boat with occasional divers from calling cruise ships and this would impact on my diving. It was a different group of people almost every day. I was the only person diving on a day to day basis, but the divers were split into two groups or occasionally across more than one boat. The people doing Discover Scuba, and on one day there were a lot of them, dived from the shore. The more experienced divers went in as Group One with the rest in the second group. The guide would then typically send people up in buddy pairs when they got low on gas, so my dive times over the week weren't affected. I did 50, 65, 46, 59, 51, 60, 51, 62, 61, 46, 66.

Hightlights included Fin, the nurse shark, which has obviously been fed as it actively seeks out divers at several sites. I also saw a couple of eagle rays, including one digging in the sand for eels which I've never seen before. Turtles were also a frequent sight as were stingrays.

In addition to my 10 dive package, I did one afternoon dive on the wreck of the USS Kittiwake. This was sunk deliberately for divers and was a US Navy Submarine Rescue Vessel, so it's got a lot of cranes and equipment on the decks. It's quite open, so you can swim from one end to the other inside, then go back along the deck. It was sunk in 2011, so it's not got that much life on it yet. The dive was more expensive that the others, and you need to have a permit decal on your kit, but it was worth the extra in my opinion.

It was a good week's diving with the visibility being outstanding on all the dives. By Caribbean standards, the fish life was good. Grand Cayman is a quiet place and it certainly isn't cheap, but it is well worth a visit.

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