TESTUDO'S SNORKEL GUIDE Cayman Off the Beaten Path
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"Stinky" the Dolphin pays a visit to the Kaibo Yacht Club Marina docks during lunch. While I was tempted to jump in and snorkel with him, some video I watched previously regarding his mating habits made me think it wouldn’t be such a good idea. :)

REVIEW - Cayman Kayaks Bio-Bay Night Tour

Mrs. Testudo and I did the Bio-Bay tour with Cayman Kayaks February 2009 and to say it was really an enlightening experience is an understatement. The wife was not too thrilled about having to participate (paddling around in the dark, getting wet and potentially getting mosquito bites…not her idea of fun).  I have been itching to check out this supposed natural wonder in our backyard, ever since I read about a similar bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Luckily this trip the moon went into hiding and we finally had optimal conditions; so she had no choice but to gave in.

We meet our guide Tom, at the Rum Point Club parking lot just after sunset. The group signed liability waivers, settled up payments, applied bug spray, got outfitted with a paddle and life-vest, applied some more bug spray and then walked across the street to the bio-luminescent cove.

Since it was the day before the new moon, the conditions for observing the light emitting dinoflagellates (tiny creatures that emit light like a firefly or glowworm when threatened) that inhabit the cove were near perfect (i.e. really dark and not too windy). I had checked what the phases of the moon were going to be for our stay and purposely booked the darkest night for the tour.

Information on the bio-luminescent Dinoflagellates

We got outfitted with our kayaks (2 people per) and started paddling out to the far end of the cove, just as the darkness began to gather. About midway, at the center of the cove, the paddle stroke wakes began to look a bit different, but I really couldn’t be sure if just the lights from the homes that surround the bay playing off the ripples or if something else was transpiring. When we reached the far end of the cove we gathered-up kayaks and Tom began to give a thorough explanation of the creatures we were about to witness, why they do what they do, why they are in this one particular cove (one of only a handful in the world), and what we could expect on the balance of the tour.

During the informational session, we started to notice the water around us was sparkling. “OK, neat, but there better be more”, was what I’m sure was going through my wife’s head. As we started to follow Tom back to a dark section on the cove the show really began.

The paddle stroke and kayak wakes began to have and eery glow, that got more and more intense as we paddled onward to the next stop. Suddenly, we could see quick streaks of light darting about the kayaks. “Fish” explained Tom, “wait until you see a lobster or sting ray”.  We did not have our waterproof camera yet, so these are stock images, but I’ll update with our own pictures once we get back to the cove.

I do not want to go into more detail, as not to spoil the thrill of actually experiencing this wonderful natural phenomenon in person. All I can say is that it was as awesome an experience as could have been hoped for. Kids (10+) and Adults will be absolutely mesmerized by some of sights that look like they came right out of movie a special effects studio - the Navi’s from Avatar and oozing glowing Alien vs Predator blood.

My wife and I agree that we will recommend this to tour to all our friends, family and guests. The tour lasted a little over an hour. Too bad it is only available two weeks per month. The only thing that could be better is if you were lucky enough to go out on a night on which a black-out occurred for complete darkness. It was amazing and a bit troubling at the the amount of light that was being emitted from the homes that surround the cove. You can really begin to understand that there really is such a thing as light pollution and what the dark skies movement is about.  I can only imagine what an even more magical experience it would be in the utter darkness.

The mosquitoes really were not bad, and were most bothersome while we waited in the parking lot since it was dusk (their prime feeding time). So if you are a mosquito magnet, just make sure to apply your deterrent of choice before hanging around the meeting spot.

We are far from accomplished kayakers and were pretty much on par skill-wise with the entire group. You will bump into other kayaks, but everyone just laughed as it happened since they had just hit someone else.

So for a truly unique and informational experience that sets Grand Cayman apart from most other Caribbean islands I would definitely give it a try.  

We even went out an bought a kayak so we can experience again on our own.




      TESTUDO’S SNORKEL GUIDE: Rum Point Drift Route

Queen Triggerfish

The regal Queen Triggerfish, attended by a Surgeonfish and Harlequin Bass escort

LOCATION INFO: This reef is located to the east of the ‘point’ at Rum Point and starts about 30-40 yds off shore.  The typical current in the area usually runs east to west, so I will usually walk about a half-mile down the beach from Rum Point to the Sea Lodges complex for my entry.  You can park your vehicle at the Rum Point Club (19°22’16.70”N 81°16’15.60”W) and walk the half-mile.  This is a good idea since the beach area is a natural exit and endpoint to your snorkel, plus there are concessions and restrooms.  Another good parking spot, closer to the start of the route, is the Cayman Kai Public Beach parking lot which has a simple restroom (19°22’8.80”N  81°15’59.62”W) (1/10 mile west of the Sea Lodges).  It is easy to miss, so when coming from the east, look for the small sign and parking lot on the right-hand side, about 7 or 8 lots past the Sea Lodges (this is also a good entry for the Barrier Reef route).


Parking lot for the Cyaman Kai Public beach

ENTRY: The water entry along this section of the North Side beach ranges from little pockets of sand that quickly give way to turtle grass or a combination of iron-shore and rubble which continue out to the ridge system.  The route map below provides some idea of the better entry points I have found for accessing the snorkel grounds.  Survey the area and find what looks to be the best entry point. The non-sand or grass bottom areas consist of rock and broken coral bits that for the most part are not sharp on bare feet.  Tread lightly when you enter to get your fins on and you should be fine; no urchins or other hidden nasties around. 


Link to a larger interactive map of Rum Point

Rum Point Shore Snorkel Route

(Click on image for printable version)

WHAT CONDITIONS YOU CAN EXPECT: Depending on where you enter the water, there will be a mixture of grassy area interspersed with sandy bowls and shallow water for about 20-30 yards. The area will then open and the depth will increase to around 4 to 8 feet as you approach the ridges.  On the sea side of the ridges you will see a sandy expanse that continues out until the Barrier Reef.  There is usually a steady east to west current the will help push you along towards Rum Point. Visibility is usually good, but being a shallow snorkel site it can get stirred up easily with stronger winds or currents.  This is a typical drift snorkel, so take your time and explore all the nooks and crannies.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE: The corals here are much smaller than at the Rum Point Coral Gardens; the majority consisting of soft corals, fans and sea whips with some nice Brain Coral specimens here and there.  The area is usually loaded with smaller fish that congregate around the corals.  The largest fish tend to be Rainbow Parrotfish; you’ll know you are getting close to some when you hear their coral crunching getting louder.  Snapper, Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Triggerfish, Grunts and Triggerfish are usually prevalent; Lobsters can sometimes be seen in crevasses, keep on the lookout for their antennea.  As you move toward the west, the ridge-line will begin to split into a wider ridge closer to shore with a narrower one toward the sandy sea floor zone.  I usually choose to initially follow the ridge farther from shore as the schools of fish and corals are more interesting here.  Then as this ridge-line begins to breakdown, I will head back to the wider section closer in.  The corals begin to become more spread out and less healthy as you approach Rum Point.  There will be large areas of dead corals with little to see other than the occasion Sting Ray or Sand Tilefish or other bottom dwellers.  Once you reach the last house along the beach before the Retreat Condos you can either 1) head closer to shore and search the grassy areas for resting Sting Rays or the occasional Eagle Ray fly-by or 2) Continue over the dead zone and eventually come upon the small reef directly off the rocky point.  The nooks and ledges immediately along the iron-shore are a great spot to get up and personal with smaller fish.  The water is very shallow and the Wrasses and other small fish are accustomed to being studied.  You can exit on the beach around the point or continue to swim towards the pier and look for the resident Barracuda.

WHAT I SAW THIS TRIP: I met up with the resident school of Rainbow Parrotfish, some of the mature ones approach 4 ft, was greeted by the always shyly inquisitive school of Blue Tang, more Queen Triggerfish than usual, and some comical little Wrasse and juvenile fishes.  This is definitely a good snorkel for seeing fish and being able to observe their behaviors; without having to go far from shore or expend to much energy swimming.


Soft Corals on a ridge


Local School of Blue Tang


Pair of Spotfin Butterflyfish


Tiny Goldline Blenny in its abode


Rainbow Parrotfish


Typical seascape with soft corals, sea whips and some Wrasse


A Stingray Cruises By


Some of the larger coral found in the area


A turtle with a shark bitten or propeller damaged shell


Typical seascape with Rainbow Parrotfish and Wrasse


More images from this area can be found here (labeled as Rum Point Shore Route):


 © 2010 Testudo Enterises, LLC

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

Providing some unique detail and perspective on the Grand Cayman restaurant and bar scene.