Trip Report Cayman Brac Shore Diving / A short break at Little Cayman

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MacroFan

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We moved to Grand Cayman earlier this year and have spent last couple of weeks diving in Brac and Little Cayman.

Unfortunately due to Covid, both islands are doing minimum amount of business. In Brac we stayed at Brac Reef Beach Resort on room only basis. The only option to dive was to rent tank from Brac Scuba Shack and do shore diving. We did enjoy the shore diving in Brac - we saw eagle rays, turtles, tarpons, lemon rays and sting rays as well as macros such as juvenile drums and sailfin blennies. The reef is very healthy. We enjoyed very calm water with no current, though visibility was relatively low at probably 60-70 ft. The eastern end offered more dramatic landscape. We didn't dive south shore though it was probably calm enough to do it.

I found this website to be most helpful.
Shore Diving | BracBeachHouse.com | Rosanna Sickels

We dove
1. Bert Brothers - it was a tougher entry trying to avoid the sea urchins and no "pool" area. Honestly not sure if it was worth the effort. The other site's easy entry really spoiled me. Didn't see any flying gurnard - if I did maybe I would have changed my mind!
2. Captain Keith Tibbet's wreck - long swim out but it is a very impressive wreck with lots of sea life. Much better than Kittiwake!
3. Charlie's Reef (I think) - we found several tarpons hanging out in the entry area. Super easy entry and lots of dive spots to choose from. We just dived the nearby coral heads where we saw an eagle ray hunting for food in the sand and lobster taking a walk. Overall easy fun dive.
4. Handcuff Reef - another easy entry
5. Radar Reef - enjoyed it and dove it twice.
6. Silvia's Reef - entry is easy but the water at the entry is stagnant and a bit smelly.
7. A random spot near Lynn's Reef - we couldn't find a nice entry spot and went in where we thought would be easier but found it difficult to navigate the shallow water. This was also probably the most mediocre dive. Another lesson for us to stick to the easy entry sites.

There were several spots to hook SMB as marker near the entry of all "easy entry" dive sites. We didn't see or hear any boats other than the day when we dove the wreck. The receptionist at the hotel told us that without divers sharks are getting closer to the shore and have even been spotted on the north shore.

We then travelled to Little Cayman and spent 3 days diving staying at Southern Cross. The room is beautiful as well as the dining area. Food is mediocre. Diving has been pretty good with a couple of large tame hawksbill turtles. At Jackson's Bight a couple of small sharks are hanging around. If you want shark action though, Ocean Frontier in GC is a better bet with more and bigger sharks. I was told that for the last few years sharks were rarely seen in Little Cayman but seems to have come back now that the water is quieter.

The wall and the colour of the reef is amazing in Little Cayman. I do find the walls a bit repetitive however without the larger animals. I've had some nice dives in GC in the north wall with sharks, eagle rays and one dive where I spotted 4 turtles - though most of the time the diving is mediocre with low fish density. I also feel that there is more chance of interesting macro finds in the shore diving in GC and Brac. We are planning a return weekend trip in November and I'd like to see how much the visibility improves and whether that changes the diving experience significantly before comparing it to GC and Brac.
 

drrich2

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Thanks for posting, and contributing a new review on the subject of shore diving in Cayman Brac with Brac Scuba Shack. Shore diving is popular, but shore-diving destinations in the greater region are few - Bonaire get the main press, then Curacao (though it seems more people do a boat/shore mix there), Grand Cayman (which has a rep. for being resistant to solo divers...a real pity that probably costs them some business), St. Croix (I liked, but swim outs at Davis Bay and Cane Bay were long, and I see it as a supplement to the boat diving), Cozumel (a side-show to the boat diving from what I'm told, though I hear the shore dive by Blue Angel Resort is good for 'critters'), and in recent years I've been reading very sporadic accounts of shore diving Cayman Brac.

So with that frame of reference, I have some questions.

1.) Have you been shore diving in Bonaire? If so, care to comment on how shore diving C.B. compares, particularly in terms of ease of entry and exit?

2.) Is the 'workflow' similar to Bonaire - load some tanks and gear in the back of the vehicle and go? How many tanks would they let you take at once? Did they offer 100-cf tanks, or just the much more common 80-cf?

3.) Any idea whether they had a problem with solo diving?

4.) Compared to a week shore diving Bonaire, let's say 4 shore dives/day (some would add a night dive), should the Bonaire crowd seriously consider Cayman Brac as a solid alternative shore diving destination? I mean, it won't have Gio's Gelateria and Caffe or Between2Buns, but still...

5.) Wonder what a typical 7-day shore diving trip with airfare to Cayman Brac costs relative to one to Bonaire?

Comparisons of different dive destinations tend to be 'apples to oranges' by nature, but any shore diving site in the region will be compared to Bonaire.
 

kensuf

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The Tibbetts is a nice wreck and the wall behind is great too.
 

MacroFan

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I cannot comment on Bonaire as I've never been. There were only the common 80 cf tanks (or smaller) and I didn't see any larger tanks. Only one tank per diver per dive is allowed so the flow is not as good. I don't believe they would be happy with solo diver. There is plenty of good deal at the moment because of covid, though Cayman in general is pretty expensive. On the upside, it is a very safe and friendly island.

My husband who dived Cozumel recently thought that there was less fish in Brac so that's another data point.

If I didn't live here would I come back here for a dive trip? I must say I'm not sure. I like the relaxed atmosphere and night diving in Utila. Husband loved the 80-90 min drift dive in Cozumel. But we are not the type of people to go to the same place over and over. I'd say Brac shore diving was a bit better than GC. We'd like to visit Bonaire at some point and maybe I can update this thread then!
 

howswedeofme

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We've done Bonaire and the Brac. We did a lot of boat diving on the Brac but still did some shore diving. I think that overall Bonaire has easier shore entry across the board but many Brac sites are very easy either from shore or with a ladder. The Brac also has a shore diving guide that is really helpful with figuring out the easy ones. I personally liked the shore diving more on the Brac even though the fish weren't as plentiful. We got bored of the same sloping reef around most of Bonaire. The tank situation isn't as friendly though with only being able to take one from BSS. It would have been nice to load up 2-3 each so we could do a few evening/night and/or early morning dives. I also thought that the house rental options on the Brac were better and we didn't worry nearly as much about petty theft.
 

divezonescuba

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Cayman Brac is my favorite place to shore dive in the western hemisphere. The underwater topography is stunning compared to Bonaire. However, there are a lot of rules imposed by CITA the quasi government agency / association that "controls" diving in the Caymans. This includes the "recommendation" of only allowing one tank at a time, which we have found to be quite burdensome. If you are sidemount qualified, they do allow you two tanks with the managers permission. My understanding is that you can solo dive with the appropriate certification and if you are in possession of a redundant gas system. This is in contrast to Bonaire which is pretty much a free for all with the exception of solo diving of the hotel dock which you need a solo / self-reliant diver certification for.

The single best recreational dive, I have ever done is off of scotts dock to the wall, back in thru a swim thru, by the wreck, ending up on the reef near the dock.

Unfortunately, the whole covid situation has caused us to have to cancel two trips to cayman brac. We will now not schedule anything there in advance.
 
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