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West Bay, 19 April 1997

The wench rediscovers the east end of Grand Cayman ...

With old friends on the island for a visit this past week, the West Bay Wench took a day off to go diving. The winds were calm and the seas were flat all around the island, so we took advantage of that unusual situation to dive Cayman's East End with Ocean Frontiers.

In eleven years of diving in Cayman, this two-tank afternoon dive trip made only the second and third dives on East End for this old wench. I make no bones about it; I'm strictly a fair weather diver who likes clear, calm, warm water to dive in. Anything else just isn't fun to me, and when you live on an island where these are the norm, you can be very choosy about where and when you dive. Although I have vividly remembered for years the beauty of the one dive I had done heretofore on East End, I also remembered the rough seas that day, and have not been anxious to repeat the experience!

East End is generally the windward side of the island (which also accounts for some of the amazing things to be seen there), but on occasion, it can be the lee side of the island - particularly when a nor'wester is blowing. And on other occasions (like this past Thursday), there is no wind, and the seas are calm on all sides of the island.

At any rate, Mo, Steve, and Steve (the guys at Ocean Frontiers) welcomed us to their end of the island and took us aboard their custom-built aluminum catamaran, the Nauti-Cat. She's a roomy vessel, perfectly laid out for diving, and by the time one Steve had shown us around and handed out weights, the other Steve had her fired up and headed for the cut in the reef and the flat open sea beyond.

In no time at all, we arrived at our first stop, a dive site called Pat's Wall. The Steves illustrated the site for us on a dry erase board, and we were off! Ocean Frontiers allows customers to opt for either a guided or unguided dive, so the three of us took off with our computers on our own. Half way down the mooring line, someone began banging on his tank and giving the shark sign, but I must confess that I missed that one.

With the barrel sponges and the parrotfish spawning, the visibility was considerably less than the normal 100+ feet, but it was certainly good enough for me to see the large hawksbill turtle just over the edge of the wall beyond the mooring. He (or she) seemed totally unconcerned about the group, and those with cameras snapped away. It was then that the second gray reef shark appeared out of the blue and cruised up the cut below us. It was hard to decide which creature to watch!

After cruising down the wall for 20 minutes of so, admiring the geography and taking in the abundant black coral, a big barracuda, a spotted drum, and loads of other fish, we headed back toward the mooring line and spotted two more sharks! This pair looked like mom and baby, so we watched them awhile as we ascended to our safety stop. In thirty-one minutes, I had just seen three reef sharks after having completed over 300 dives in Cayman without ever seeing one!

While we rinsed off in the fresh water shower and took advantage of the dry towels, fruit, water, and lemonade supplied by Ocean Frontiers, Steve fired up the Nauti-Cat's engines and headed for the second dive site. By the time we arrived at Snapper Hole, we had plenty of surface interval and were ready for the next adventure.

We spent the better part of an hour exploring the maze of tunnels, caverns, and canyons in a mini-wall that make up Snapper Hole. As you might expect from the name, there were plenty of snappers: gray, yellowtail, schoolmaster, lane, and mahogany. There were loads of grunts, sergeant majors, damsels, and others, too. But the real stars of the show were the tarpon - dozens upon dozens of them just hanging around and gliding in and out of the labyrinth with their shiny silver scales flashing in the dimness of the caverns. Incredible! The only fast-moving creature was the 7-foot green moray eel that passed us in the opposite direction as we moved through yet another passageway.

What a way to spend an afternoon! You can bet that the next time I have the opportunity to go diving, I'll be heading back out to East End!

See you soon, guys!

[For more information about Ocean Frontiers, check out their page or send e-mail to You might also want to check out the Manta Sightings reported by Ocean Frontiers earlier this month.]

In addition to these essays, the wench also posts infrequent short writings about her View from West Bay. Check out the latest post!

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Last update: 25 June 1997
Copyright © 1997 Don Backstrom