Tiny marine life under the spotlight
Cayman has long been famed for its dramatic underwater scenery with thousands of divers attracted to these shores by the prospect of big-ticket attractions like sharks and shipwrecks.
Now visiting divers are being urged to look beneath the surface and explore a thriving world of tiny sea creatures, many no larger than a grain of rice.
With a magnifying glass or a macro camera lens, a new realm of extraordinary and exquisitely named creatures – from leopard flat worms and toadfish gobies to the purple crowned sea goddess – comes into focus.
“Cayman has a tremendous population of dwarf frogfish and pipe horses, but you have to know where to find them and how to look,” says Everett Turner, the co-author of a book on Cayman’s miniature marine life.
They may sound like characters from a “Lord of the Rings”-style fantasy, but dive leaders say Cayman’s extraordinary cast of miniature marvels is helping them tap into a niche market of divers looking for something different.
The miniature world is particularly attractive to “super macro” photographers who seek out opportunities to take pictures of unique creatures seldom seen elsewhere.
Local dive masters say Mr. Turner’s book, “Cayman Nudibranchs,” has helped them identify more weird and wonderful creatures and diversify the attraction of Cayman diving.
‘Always a surprise’
Avid diver and photographer Cathy Church, who owns and operates the Cathy Church Photo Centre at Sunset House, said diversity was a big part of the Cayman Islands’ attraction to divers.
“I think the key to Cayman is there is always a surprise – I’ve dived the reef out here a thousand times and every two or three weeks, I’ll come back with something new,” she said.
Alex Mustard, an award winning photographer and regular visitor to Cayman, said creatures like nudibranchs – soft, seagoing slugs – were a big attraction to serious snappers and that such creatures were less photographed because they are hard to find.
“Nudibranchs, tiny shrimp and other things – they are all there in Cayman …” he said. “Cayman remains a voyage of discovery for me. I still see new stuff and we’re always going to find new subjects to photograph.”