If you’re one of the many resident divers who likes to do a little deep sea exploration at the weekend, but doesn’t always relish the early morning dive boat departure, or sharing reef space with a dozen other divers, you may well opt for a shore dive more often than not.
Shore diving offers so much more flexibility in terms of where to go, when to go, and how long to go for. And, of course, it’s a fair bit more affordable.
The problem, though, is that with only a handful of well known, easily accessed shore dives to choose from, you have to keep diving the same few sites over and over.
Unless you’re in Cayman Brac, that is.
There, visitors and residents now have around 25 well-marked shore dives they can choose from. The dive sites have always been there, of course, but until recently they were only known to the Brac’s resident shore diving community.
Now though, visitors can just as easily locate the entry points, thanks to a brand new system of bright red, painted rocks placed at the roadside, indicating the access point.
Nina Banks, a local resident had seen a similar system in Bonaire, and had been suggesting setting up something along the same lines in the Brac for the past 10 years.
“Nothing got done about it until last year, when the president of the Sister Islands Tourism Association, Neil van Niekerk, was all for it, and Martin at the Brac Scuba Shack said I would be the perfect person to put in charge, since I have been a shore diver on Cayman Brac for over 20 years and know every nick, crack and cranny for shore diving,” she says.
Nina rallied her shore diving buddies and got them all painting rocks with names of different dive sites on them. She then went out and put the rocks in position. The red rocks are placed on the roadside on the main road that runs parallel to shore, on both the north and south sides of the island.
It may be necessary to drive or walk a little way from the red rock to the shore, but eventually a printed guide to shore diving in Cayman Brac will give you all the directions you need.
Indeed, this SITA initiative involves more than just the painted rocks. Nina put together a comprehensive list of all the shore dives, with directions for reaching the entry point, as well as details of depth, dive site description, compass headings, and more.
This is currently being edited and will be published as a booklet on Cayman Brac shore diving that visitors can purchase from SITA and local dive operators. This will both help SITA to generate income and help to put Cayman Brac on the map as a shore diving destination.
The booklet is expected to be printed in time for the DEMA show (Dive Equipment and Marketing Association) which takes place in Orlando, Florida in November. Until then, local dive shops can provide interested visitors with information on shore dives.
Cayman Brac generally has a more rough and rugged character than its sisters, and the shore diving is no exception. You may have to carry dive gear a fair way from car to shore, cross some rocky shorelines, or negotiate a tricky entry to the water. Dive booties and highly recommended and surface marker buoys once in the water are compulsory.
Once you’re in the water, however, there are shipwrecks (including the famous Captain Keith Tibbetts) close to shore, abundant, healthy corals, a good chance of seeing sharks, and plenty of fish life.
If you’re looking for a somewhat off the beaten track experience, something a little adventurous yet right on your doorstep, then make your way to Cayman Brac – before the crowds descend on it.