One of the most spectacular visual treats that divers can encounter in Cayman, or anywhere in the world, is back.

For only a few weeks each year, schools of tiny silversides form massive pulsating clouds in the caves, tunnels and swim-throughs around Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock in George Town.

The spectacle makes the shore dives off the Eden Rock and Don Foster’s dive shops in George Town especially popular whenever the silversides return. Large schools of silversides are often also visible at offshore dive sites like Big Tunnels and can be encountered during wreck dives at the Oro Verde and the Kittiwake.

Huge groups of the fish were alternating between Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock in recent days.

The display is a draw for divers and especially underwater photographers. Rays of sun piercing through small cracks in the caves’ rock ceilings and the movements of the silversides make for a perfect combination to capture the reflection of sunlight off the silver scales of the tiny fish.

Silversides are filling caves and swim-throughs. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Silversides are only a few inches long, narrow-shaped with two dorsal fins and a silvery sheen. They are found at depths from 10 feet to 100 feet and feed on plankton and other small marine animals.

Silversides is a generic term for about 10 species of small, silver-colored, fork-tailed fish. They typically form large schools and fill caves and other enclosed areas like wrecks. Silversides are common in the Caribbean, where they are a major food source for reef predators like tarpon, jacks and groupers.

Kirsty Whittaker was among the many divers at Eden Rock to see the silversides on Sunday. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

At Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock, tarpon will often dart through the silversides, causing a constant ebb and flow as the tiny fish move as one unit, creating small openings and shifting directions to confuse and evade the predators.

Diving directly through a school of silversides can easily emulate what a tarpon must feel. A diver might experience a brief loss of orientation as groups of fish part close to the diver’s mask only to reveal hundreds and thousands of shiny silver specks.

Tarpons swim through silversides at Eden Rock on Sunday. – PHOTO: NINA BAXA
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