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The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea. The 102-square-mile territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman located south of Cuba, northeast of Costa Rica, north of Panama and northwest of Jamaica. Its Capital is George Town.
The Cayman Islands are considered to be part of the geographic Western Caribbean Zone as well as the Greater Antilles. The territory is often considered a major world offshore financial haven for many wealthy individuals.
All three islands were formed by large coral heads covering submerged ice age peaks of western extensions of the Cuban Sierra Maestra range and are mostly flat.
One notable exception to this is The Bluff on Cayman Brac's eastern part, which rises to 141 ft above sea level, the highest point on the islands.
Tourism in the Cayman Islands
One of Grand Cayman's main attractions is Seven Mile Beach, site of a number of the island's hotels and resorts. Named one of the Ultimate Beaches by Caribbean Travel and Life, Seven Mile Beach is on the western shore of Grand Cayman Island. It is a public property and possible to walk the full length of the beach, past all the hotels, resorts, and public beach bars. Historical sites in Grand Cayman, such as Pedro St James Castle in Savannah, also attract visitors. Tourists also visit the Sister Islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
All three islands offer scuba diving, and the Cayman Islands are home to several snorkelling locations where tourists can swim with stingrays. The most popular area to do this is Stingray City, Grand Cayman. Stingray City is a top attraction in Grand Cayman and originally started in the 1980s, when divers started feeding squid to stingrays. The stingrays started to associate the sound of the boat motors with food, and thus visit this area year round.
There are two shipwrecks off the shores of Cayman Brac, including the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts; Grand Cayman also has several shipwrecks off its shores, including one deliberate one. On 30 September 1994 the USS Kittiwake was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register. In November 2008 her ownership was transferred for an undisclosed amount to the government of the Cayman Islands, which had decided to sink the Kittiwake in June 2009 to form a new artificial reef off Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman. Following several delays, the ship was finally scuttled according to plan on 5 January 2011. The Kittiwake has become a dynamic environment for marine life. While visitors are not allowed to take anything, there are endless sights. Each of the five decks of the ship offers squirrelfish, rare sponges, Goliath groupers, urchins, and more. Experienced and beginner divers are invited to swim around the Kittiwake. Pirates Week, an annual 11-day November festival, was started in 1977 by Jim Bodden, then Minister of Tourism, to boost tourism during the country's tourism slow season.
Other Grand Cayman tourist attractions include the Ironshore landscape of Hell, the 23-acre (93,000 m2) marine theme park Boatswain's Beach, also home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, the production of gourmet sea salt, and the Mastic Trail, a hiking trail through the forests in the centre of the island. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands provides guided tours weekly on the Mastic Trail and other locations.
Another attraction to visit on Grand Cayman is the Observation Tower, located in Camana Bay. The Observation Tower is 75 feet tall and provides 360-degree views across Seven Mile Beach, George Town, the North Sound, and beyond. It is free to the public and climbing the tower has become a popular thing to do in the Cayman Islands.
Points of interest include the East End Light (sometimes called Gorling Bluff Light), a lighthouse at the east end of Grand Cayman island. The lighthouse is the centerpiece of East End Lighthouse Park, managed by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands; the first navigational aid on the site was the first lighthouse in the Cayman Islands.
Scuba diving in the Cayman Islands
The three islands of the Cayman Islands are the exposed top of an underwater mountain. Underwater, the sides of this mountain are quite steep, vertical in some places, within as little as a few hundred metres from shore.
In addition to the expected coral reefs, colourful fish, and other underwater creatures, this "wall diving" provides something extraordinary for scuba divers. Scuba diving in the Caymans can be done by boat, or at many dive sites, directly from shore.
The tourism industry on the Cayman Islands caters to divers, with many resorts and condominium complexes having in-house diving operations offering course work, daily excursions, SCUBA Equipment sales and rentals.
Scuba diving in the Grand Cayman
The diving on Grand Cayman is divided roughly into 4 areas; Seven Mile Beach and the Northwest Point, The North Wall, The South Side, and The East End, with over 159 dive sites. Because of the prevailing south-east winds, it is rare to dive the South Side dive sites, though it is done when possible as the sites are really lovely. Due to the myriad sites available for diving, there are opportunities for virtually all levels of divers to explore this stunning underwater world. Popular dive sites include the Kittiwake which is located on the North Western tip of Seven Mile Beach, and the popular, 12 foot dive of Stingray City.
Visibility is exceptionally good due to the island's geography. There is very little runoff of silt or fertilizers from the land, and the steep walls result in the reefs being unusually close to deep ocean water.
Marine life in Grand Cayman includes tarpon, silversides, French angelfish, and Barrel Sponges among others.
Scuba diving in the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman
Both of the 'sister islands' are thin strips of land lying roughly east to west, and the diving is divided between the north and south sides. Because of the prevailing south-east winds, it is rare to dive on the south side of these islands. Cayman Brac features over 50 dive sites and popular among nature lovers. On Cayman Brac, you'll find the MV Capt. Keith Tibbets. Best for experienced divers, it is the only Russian warnship available to divers in the Western hemisphere. Cayman Brac also has an additional 11 dive sites reachable by shore. On Little Cayman, 'Bloody Bay Wall' and 'Jackson Bay' are commonly requested dive destinations. Little Cayman features shallow dives as low at 20 feet and as deep as 6,000 feet. They are both situated on the north side of the island, and are not accessible year-round because of weather conditions.
Map of The Cayman Islands