Well, we are back from another trip to Grand Cayman. Our goal was to get some pictures we didn’t have for our upcoming fish/creature identification app and, by that measure, it was successful. Parts of the trip did get a bit stale, but more on that later. Coming off the big trip to Wakatobi last year, we wanted to stay more local (hemispherically speaking) and since the Florida Keys didn’t provide the full experience we sought in 2013, we returned to a familiar stomping grounds.
This was our fourth trip to Grand Cayman and third extended stay at Sunset House in the last eight years, so it was kind of like going home. Knowing where everything is, how everything works and their routine made for a very pleasant stay. We stayed at the far end of the 400 Building, but 401 is really the unit you want to be in. It is closest to the restaurant, lockers, dive shop and pool area while still having a terrific ocean view.
Strolling the grounds with palm trees, tropical flowers, crabs basking in the sun, birds chirping and the occasional visit from Murphy (the house dog) as staff members took him for a walk provided an above ground experience that we probably should have taken the time to enjoy more…but hey, we went to get us some underwater pics and video!
We typically enter and exit through the sea pool area as the ladders by the dock are taller and require much more effort and dexterity to safely get large camera equipment on/off the platform. I am not saying it can’t be done, but my muscles deserve a vacation on vacation. 50 may be the new 30, but I don’t remember as much aspirin when I was 30.
The sea pool area is terrific and often overlooked by divers…but you have to dive that at the right time. When the current drifts east, there is active surge or divers have just passed through it on their way to the reef, the visibility can be poor. Hit it first thing in the morning on a calm day however, and you could spend an entire dive without ever leaving the sea pool. The walls consist of stone and lava rock, so there are lots of areas for things to grow and places to hide.
On our last day, I slowly examined the sea pool edges and spotted my first greenbanded goby hiding behind a long-spined urchin! I also saw several fireworms, a West Indian sea egg, a few other kinds of sea urchins, parrotfish, butterflyfish wrasses and more. There was even a small octopus hiding under the cement slab behind the ladder. I would have enjoyed checking there on subsequent days to see if that was a regular hiding/sleeping spot. Perhaps next time…
There were no significant equipment issues this trip, but I did experience a hiccup during our first (and only) boat dive. Specifically, my Suunto Vyper Air would not pick up the tank pressure. Ultimately, I ended up swapping the wireless transmitter for a manual SPG to get the dive in and when I checked it out later that day onshore, it worked just fine.
My working theory is that there was too much interference on the boat. Perhaps others were using wireless computers as well. We did notice that Sunset House kept the boats full, often using waitlists to fill in the expected last minute cancellations. I have no proof of this theory, but it drove our decision to avoid the remaining boat dives as a result. On the plus side, it led to our discovery of Macabucca and Sun Divers in the West Bay area, but that is fodder for a different blog post.
Overall, we made 29 dives and spent almost 42 hours in the water. Surface intervals could get quite hectic as I tried to be religious about dive log entry, video downloading, recharging batteries, rinsing gear and whatever limited fish identification meta-tagging I could fit in between. To put that last task into some perspective, I shot over 1,300 videos and Leslie has a similar number of photographs. We also had to grab some food while up for air as well, which was about the only aspect that left us disappointed.
We were surprised to see the My Bar and Harvest Restaurant menus were exactly the same as they were in our 2011 and 2012 visits. Now I can rally behind the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” mantra, but even McDonald’s rolls out a McRib or Shamrock shake once in a while. While we are on the topic of food, the service at MyBar could sometimes be a bit slow. Not sure if that was due to staffing levels or the general “island time” attitude, but I got into the habit of staggering requests to ensure a timely return by the server. Anyway, enough negativity. I recommend the French toast for breakfast, just about any of the Indian items for dinner and chocolate cake for dessert.
So there is my review. I didn’t get too much into the diving because all of that will be coming in future posts over the next few weeks/months. We have some terrific video and photos but need to sort through everything we captured and add tags so that we can organize them into nice categories we can write about.
Check back to see what we found!