"" Writer's Wanderings: Grand Cayman - Scuba Diving

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grand Cayman - Scuba Diving

Picture by Elly Wray
Scuba diving is really a lot like going on a scavenger hunt except you strap on a "self contained underwater breathing apparatus" to do so. The equipment has changed quite a bit from the days of Lloyd Bridges and Sea Hunt. There is a vest, called a buoyancy control device or BCD, a regulator and pressure gauge that hooks to your air source, a pressurized tank, mask, fins, and a dive computer. There is also a secondary regulator called an octopus so that in an emergency, your dive buddy could breathe off of your tank if necessary. Bridges in his series rarely dived with a buddy.

Dive skins or wet suits are a necessary evil depending upon the dive conditions. Colder water demands thicker covering to keep the body warm. Divers in the extreme cold areas dive in what are called dry skins. Our policy: if you need more than a 1/2 millimeter dive skin, the water's too cold for us. That's why we love Cayman for diving. The water on our recent dive trip was at a balmy 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit. And very very clear!

The scavenger hunt comes into play as you listen to the dive briefing before each dive. Each site is different and the dive master will give some sort of briefing. With Ocean Frontiers, it is a drawing on a dry erase board that roughly shows what lies below the boat. From there you can choose to make your own dive plan or follow the dive master on his guided tour.

Along with the directional briefing comes a hint of what might be seen at the dive site. Now, knowing that fish and other marine critters are mobile, it doesn't always follow that you will see what is "advertised" and you may also be in for some great surprises. So in a sense it is a scavenger hunt. You jump in with a mental list of things to look for. Some you find and some you don't.

Bob and I have our own scavenger list of sorts. He likes to look for scorpion fish. They have the nickname of rock fish because they look just like the rocks they hide between. I like to look for peacock flounder--again a bit hard to find because they blend into their background like a chameleon. We found 5 scorpion fish and only one peacock flounder this time but the flounder turned on its blue spots for me when I waved my hand over the top of him. So amazing.

Also amazing, a couple of sharks, a huge spotted eagle ray, a couple of large green eels, the tiniest of juvenile drum fish, curious turtles, and miles of sea fans, sponges of all shapes, and soft and hard corals. Did I mention the schools of bright blue fish and of course the happiest, the parrot fish.

Our other quest was to finish the Green Shorts Challenge. Since we have been diving on the East End of Grand Cayman for over ten years now, we have almost dived each of the 55 dive sites on that end of the island. With only four to go, the weather wouldn't permit us to finish the ones we needed. Next year. . .green dive shorts, a trophy, and a plaque on the walkway, weather permitting.

[Our picture is by Elly Wray who is the staff photographer for Ocean Frontiers. She does a great job. It's not easy to steady a camera while the ocean around you is constantly moving.]

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