Looking at the ocean from the shores of Grand Cayman, I recall flying over Cuba to get here and think of Hemingway and his book, The Old Man and the Sea, with its intense examination of our fascinating, challenging and sometimes consuming relationship with the sea. Obsession and this glorious watery world seem well paired. I found an older Smithsonian article about Hemingway’s time in Cuba, which is worth a read.
Coming to Cayman is all about the multi-hued water. Being near it, on it or in it. Yes, the sun is amazing, but it is the equation of sun and sea that makes a visit complete. Without the sea, the sun is nearly unbearable in the afternoons. By the sea, it is delightfully pleasant. And in the sea, it is magical.
Floating over staghorn coral at the Cobalt Coast Resort, l look down and see fish stacked up in the branches, adding dashes of color to their underwater condo. Some look up at me looking down at them, as we all move with the rhythms of the water. Peering through my mask it seems I can almost touch them. Twenty feet down, the fish know better and maintain their posts.
My favorite spot to snorkel was Sunset House, where I saw a large barracuda, a shoal of fluttering squid and other fascinating creatures. It’s the oldest dive resort on the island – the dive shop operation opened in the 1970s. Storm surge from hurricanes wiped out parts of the hotel more than once, but it’s been rebuilt and maintains its iconic charm. A short swim out from shore is Amphitrite, Simon’s equally iconic mermaid sculpture, 50 feet down. We were told that during Hurricane Ivan, her head was spotted in the wave troughs – a fearful example of the storm’s power. Amazingly, she was not damaged. Even more amazingly, Tradition, Simon’s other sculpture, also emerged undamaged. At the time, it overlooked the harbor, but spent three days underwater in storm surge. Later it was moved a couple of blocks inland to Heroes Square.
The divers in our group liked the Cobalt Coast best for a shore dive. We also snorkeled and dove off the “backyard” of Bonnie’s Arch condominiums, where we stayed during our visit. We hooked up the condo’s ladder to the rocks and dropped right in the sea, where the fish were plentiful, including the spectacular Lionfish, which are a spreading scourge in the Caribbean and other warmer waters.
Swimming was fun in the warm, shallow waters of Rum Point. Heavy surf and churning sand meant low visibility at Smith’s Cove, so no snorkeling there, but plenty of wave jumping! The water has high salinity, so everywhere we jump in, we feel weightless … floating is a breeze.