TESTUDO'S SNORKEL GUIDE Cayman Off the Beaten Path
TESTUDO'S SNORKEL GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Above embedded map is interactive

Click the link to view the shore snorkel locations and other sites on Grand Cayman in a larger interactive map.  Versions of Firefox may not display POI icons on above map.


 

Available Guides

(Click Guide to View or follow to Download location)



                  ***NEW*** Garmin GPS Downloads:

Please note: The Apple Safari Browser apparently appends .gpx files to their base .xml file types. The use of either Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers should downlond the file as a .gpx.

                         Grab your Garmin and Go!

          CAYMAN SNORKEL COMMUNITY

                                   INTERACTIVITY TOOLS



           TESTUDO’S SNORKEL FUND

If you have found the information on my blog to be useful, please consider

donating a few bucks right here  image or via the PayPal Donate icons on the right of each page. Clicking on a few ads is also another way to show your appreciation.                          

You can just think of it as buying me a nice ice cold  align box !!!

Thanks to all who have donated!

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Cheers,


Testudo

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SNORKEL GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Above embedded map is interactive

Click the link to view the shore snorkel locations and other sites on Grand Cayman in a larger interactive map.

Available Guides

(Click Guide to View or follow to Download location)



                  ***NEW*** Garmin GPS Downloads:

Please note: The Apple Safari Browser apparently appends .gpx files to their base .xml file types. The use of either Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers should downlond the file as a .gpx.

                         Grab your Garmin and Go!


          CAYMAN SNORKEL COMMUNITY

                                   INTERACTIVITY TOOLS



           TESTUDO’S SNORKEL FUND

If you have found the information on my blog to be useful, please consider

donating via the PayPal  or on the right of each page.                           You can just think of it as buying me a nice ice cold  align box !!!

Thanks to all who have donated!


Cheers,


Testudo

                                ***NEW*** Garmin GPS Downloads:
Not exactly sure where that hidden entrance is to Barefoot Beach?  If you have a Garmin or other GPS device that can use .gpx files you now have no excuse.  Here is a POI Waypoint file that provides route location details for many of the areas mentioned in my guides.  Have not yet tested myself, but hope to confirm its efficacy soon.
I have also included an alternative map (of the entire Caribbean) that can be used to supplement the Cayman Islands map now included on the Garmin North American map sets.
Garmin POI Waypoints for Testudo’s Snorkel Guides
 Detailed Map of the Caribbean by Richard W. Smith
Please note: The Apple Safari Browser apparently appends .gpx files to their base .xml file types.  The use of either Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers should downlond the file as a .gpx.
                                       Grab your Garmin and Go!

                                ***NEW*** Garmin GPS Downloads:

Not exactly sure where that hidden entrance is to Barefoot Beach?  If you have a Garmin or other GPS device that can use .gpx files you now have no excuse.  Here is a POI Waypoint file that provides route location details for many of the areas mentioned in my guides.  Have not yet tested myself, but hope to confirm its efficacy soon.

I have also included an alternative map (of the entire Caribbean) that can be used to supplement the Cayman Islands map now included on the Garmin North American map sets.

Please note: The Apple Safari Browser apparently appends .gpx files to their base .xml file types.  The use of either Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers should downlond the file as a .gpx.

                                       Grab your Garmin and Go!

SNORKEL GUIDE: BODDEN TOWN

View Testudo’s Bodden Town Snorkel Guide in a larger map

           SNORKELING GUIDE: BODDEN TOWN

              - Governor Russell Beach to Turtle Nest Inn -

A welcoming committee of Chubs greets new arrivals

While the beaches and restaurants of the southern and western coasts of Grand Cayman are fantastic, the snorkeling has generally been a let down on the Testudo snork-O-meter experience scale.  I do enjoy visiting Eden Rock and Devils Grotto on Sundays when George Town is more like Ghost Town; just to gaze in wonder at the sheer mass of coral and guess how many millions of years it took to build those mammoth structures.  All done in utter solitude the weekends afford.  Many of the other well worn nearby West Bay sites are just that; still enjoyable in their own right, but not really memorable.  

My perfect snorkel site combines varied underwater terrain, diverse marine life, with abundant and vibrant coral structures; a combination I have been unable to find away from the North Side and East End sites, until now.

I have been told that the snorkeling off Bodden Town was pretty good.  But then I have heard the same thing about Cemetery Beach in West Bay, so I thought, yeah right.  

The area initially got added to the radar when we were looking at properties and a real estate agent commented on the good snorkeling off Turtle Nest Inn (he used to harvest lobsters there) and continued as I read the frequent comments of TNI guests attesting to the great snorkeling there.  So after a few requests from blog readers, I finally got around to having a look see for myself.  OK to be honest, it was really because the weather was just pounding the surf all along North Side on our last visit.  I had gotten in next to no decent snorkeling and was desperate for a fix.

Happy to report, I have now found decent snorkeling on the south side.



LOCATION (19°16’51.95”N  81°14’45.12”W): I choose to set up snorkel base camp at the Governor Russell public beach.  Due partly to the usually east to west prevailing currents and also since I perceive the redeveloping Coe Wood beach (just down the road to the west) to still be a bit sketchy.  

It is located just west of the cemetery (why are so many snorkel spots on Grand Cayman adjacent to cemeteries?) and east of the Pirate Caves tourist trap on Bodden Town Rd.  There is a wide shoulder along the road near by the bus stop for parking.  A sliding fence gate serves as the entryway to the beach.

The beach itself is tiny and semi-picturesque, but nothing to write home about. There are no facilities of any kind here.  Just down the road to the west is the Coe Wood Public Beach, which does have parking,  restrooms, shade pavilions and a few nearby food and drink vendors.  It too can serve as a good snorkel base camp.

From the West, park on the roadside near the beach entrance.  Just not in front of the bus stop.

View from the East, park along the roadside just past the cemetery

Entrance gates to the Governor Russell Public Beach

Pick a spot among the crowds and make yourself at home



CONDITIONS: While the beach is nice and sandy, the entry from it can be slightly rocky. Nothing too burdensome to overcome, just look for a sandy opening as you choose where to enter.  Once you are in the water, head straight out towards the reef.  Like many spots, the initial terrain is beds of turtle grass, these eventually gives way to small coral colonies. The reef is about 200 yds from shore and most of the coral is contained within a 125 yds - 200 yds zone from the beach.  The seas were still a bit rough on my visit due to all the September tropical systems in the area, but nothing like the mess back on the North Side that week.  

This is a location that you do need to be mindful of the tidal conditions. Though the water is shallow throughout the area, mainly between 3 - 8 feet, there are some cuts in the barrier reef that can create a funnel effect with the currents.  It can translate into a fairly strong outward pull or inward push, but especially evident when the tide is going out.  If there are strong surges and/or currents, avoiding a collision with coral can be a challenge.  To help make the most of your visit, I recommend checking the tidal forecasts when conducting your trip planning.

Once you have cleared the turtle grass zone, soft corals and sea fans will start to become visible.  The marine life is not abundant in this zone, but some of the more solitary species may be seen.

Soon you will come upon some of the large hard coral colonies and the marine life will become more pronounced.  Unfortunately, I witnessed some significant areas of coral bleaching.  The Blade Fire corals were especially impacted.  Hopefully the El Nino condition that warmed the waters this Spring and Summer will diminish and usher in a period of cooler water temperatures and improved coral heath.

Approaching the reef you will begin to see much more marine life and some moderately healthy coral colonies.  This area was hit especially hard by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the corals appear to be just recently staging a come back. There is a nice mix of hard and soft corals out here and several large schools of Blue Tang and Chubs who will most likely swim by to investigate you.  

As you make your way west towards the Turtle Nest Inn there will be some imposing Elk Horn forests.  Most of the coral is still dead here, but it houses some of the larger fish I came across.  Namely some large Parrotfish and a resident Barracuda.

There is a lot to see here and I by no means have explored it fully.  For those that prefer a shallow water snorkel with varied terrain and good fish counts this should be added to your short list.  It is now my go to south shore snorkel location. 

The sea floor on the way out towards the reef is turtle grass

You will soon come upon some small sea fans, whips and soft corals

Approaching the reef the corals increase in size and diversity

Evidence of coral bleaching was especially acute at this site

The white areas are the dead sections of the coral caused by the bleaching

There is a nice mix of different coral species throughout the area

More evidence of bleaching on Blade Fire Corals

The Elkhorn corals took a beating from Ivan in 2004, but new growth attests to their resiliency. 

Staghorn coral clusters are also making a come back

Typical seascape out by the reef

Following a school of Blue Tang usually leads to something worth seeing

Like this reef monitor, who’s making sure everything is in order.  Why do barracuda always seem much bigger in person?

A nice view of the shore

DOWNLOAD THE BODDEN TOWN GUIDE HERE 

For more pictures, check out my Bodden Town Snorkel album 

SNORKELING REPORT: Sting Ray City Dive Site

Welcoming ComitteThe welcoming committee

LOCATION INFO: The original Sting Ray City is located at this shallow dive site. We took the Tortuga/Red Sail dive boat out.  Cost was $40 US pp.  The trip is really geared towards divers, but they try their best to accommodate and get snorkelers involved in the action.  It is about a 10-15 minute ride over to the the site from the Kaibo Marina in Cayman Kai.  The site is located next to the barrier reef and the cut in it that funnels the rays there.   The water depth is about 12 ft. and is usually clearer than you’ll see in the pictures.  The wind direction and currents had been funneling all the crud from North Sound towards the reef all week creating the low visibility. Definitely a fantastic experience, with fewer crowds for snorkelers vs. the Sand Bar Site. 

WHAT YOU WILL SEE: The dynamics of each trip will differ depending upon whether it is snorkel or dive focused.  This trip, being dive focused, consisted of both divers and snorkelers getting off the boat and gathering on one side.  The divers down below and the snorkelers up above.  The divers gathered in a rough “feeding” circle and the the dinner bell of squid aromas was sounded.  The rays are docile after years of human interaction and behave almost like well trained canines; but they still can put on a show when hungry.  If you are lucky enough to “somehow acquire” a piece of squid be prepared to be hounded, humped and sucked until it is rewarded.  We also snorkeled and dove (all the while followed by our pack of rays) out to try and coax Psycho II, the resident Moray Eel out from his lair.  But he was not the least bit interested.  If you are not a diver or adept snorkeler then I would recommend you first visit the Sting Ray City Sand Bar Site where you can have an equally intimate experience with Cayman’s most famous wildlife by simply wading in the shallow waters of the sand bar.  Do not leave the island without visiting one of the sites.

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DOWNLOAD THE REPORT FROM GOOGLE DOCS HERE: http://snipurl.com/src_dive_site

 

 © 2010 Testudo Enterises, LLC