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The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The islands are self-governed but are under the direct protection of the United Kingdom; and the Queen of England is depicted on Cayman Islands currency and postal stamps. The people here speak English, although there are many other languages spoken by its’ inhabitants. Christopher Columbus first sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on 10 May 1503 during his fourth trip to the New World. Columbus was en route to Hispaniola when his ship was thrust westward toward "two very small and low islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like little rocks, for which reason these islands were called Las Tortugas." Grand Cayman soon became an important port of call for seafarers to restock on fresh meat, water and the silver thatch palm used for rope making. One of the favourite meat sources of these early visitors was the caiman, a small crocodilian creature that inhabited the mangroves and from which Cayman was renamed. Unfortunately, an early taste for these reptiles was so great that they were hunted to extinction. There are no caimans, crocodiles or alligators here now; although in 2007 a large crocodile was caught in the mangroves, the mystery of where it had come from has never been solved.
All Americans traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed-loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted and have been in full production since July 2008.The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on passport cards is available and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens traveling to the Cayman Islands for short-term visits. U.S. citizens traveling to the Cayman Islands for work must obtain a work permit from the Department of Immigration of the Cayman Islands, telephone (345) 949-8344. There is a departure tax for travelers age 12 and older, which is regularly included in airfare. For further information travelers may contact Cayman Islands Department of Tourism offices in Miami at (305) 599-9033, New York (212) 889-9009, Houston (713) 461-1317 and Chicago (630) 705-0650.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Cayman Islands are considered politically stable and enjoy a high standard of living. There have been no reported incidences of terrorism or threats made against Americans or American interests in the Cayman Islands.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: The crime threat in Cayman Islands is generally considered low, although travelers should always take normal precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings. Petty theft, pick-pocketing and purse snatchings occur. A few cases involving sexual assault have been reported to the Embassy. Police in the Cayman Islands rigorously enforce laws against illegal drugs. The majority of arrests of American citizens in the Cayman Islands over the past two years have been for possession, consumption, or intent to sell marijuana, cocaine or other illicit drugs. American citizens should avoid buying, selling, holding or taking illegal drugs under any circumstances
With over 250 dive sites to choose from, Grand Cayman offers some of the greatest underwater diversity anywhere in the world. Its all here: deep, dramatic walls adorned with sponges and corals in a stunning array of colours; shallow reefs filled with schooling fish and small invertebrates; and an assortment of wrecks, each with their own peculiar character and special inhabitants. There's also the world’s best 12-foot dive, the legendary Stingray City in the North Sound of Grand Cayman Island. Our local water sports association has adopted the 130-foot depth limit in its Safety Guidelines, making so much more available to divers.
It's difficult to imagine a destination that offers divers, snorkellers and those who simply love the water, more to see and do than the Cayman Islands. Below the tranquil, azure waters that line Grand Cayman and her two sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, a world of magic awaits. For divers, it's the opportunity to experience first-hand the legendary walls, reefs and wrecks that have made our islands famous the world over. For snorkellers and swimmers, the chance to mingle with Stingrays, turtles, tropical fish and corals in every colour of the rainbow.
Guests enjoy all this in bathtub-like temperatures (79 to 83-degrees) with a visibility that often exceeds 100 feet. With an abundance of experienced, highly professional dive operators, state-of-the-art live aboards and numerous snorkel sites accessible by boat or straight from shore, the Cayman Islands is the ideal setting in which to explore the underwater realm. Even children can get in on the fun (with the proper adult supervision). SASY (Supplied Air Snorkelling For Youthl is available at many operators on the islands and can provide an exciting introduction to the marine world. Additionall): kids between the ages of eight and twelve can participate in the PADI Bubblemaker or the Scuba Rangers programmes - where they are introduced to scuba under an Instructor's guidance and can experience the underwater breathing sensation in depths up to 12 feet.
Unlike many underwater hot spots, which require exhausting travel to lonely outposts, the Cayman Islands is on a 75-minute Right from Miami. Many international airlines have direct flight service to Grand Cayman from major U.S. gateways (Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Ft. lauderdale, Houston, Memphis, Miami, Newark, Philadelphia, Tampa, as well as from Toronto, Canada, london (Heath row), UK, Havana, Cuba and Kingston and Montego Ba): Jamaica. Some, like our national carrier, Cayman Airways, offer discount packages for divers and dive groups. The airline's diver-friendly service includes a variety of accommodations such as easy equipment check-in and a dedicated team of specialists to help dive groups plan the ultimate trip. Once you've arrived on Grand Cayman, making the jump to either little Cayman or Cayman Brac couldn't be easier. Cayman Airways jets fly to Cayman Brac, and Island Air offers daily flights to both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Why Dive in Cayman?
- Many reasons underpin the Cayman Islands popularity as a premier scuba diving destination.
- Here's a very short sample:
- Numerous pristine dive locations including wreck, wall and shore dive options.
- Strictly-enforced marine conservation laws.
- Clean, clear, calm, current-free and warm water with exceptional visibility, year-round.
- Quality scuba instruction for all experience levels and abilities (including handicapped diving), offered through a range of certification agencies and in several languages.
- Unique variety of kaleidoscopic marine life, including stingrays, green and hawksbill sea turtles, eagle rays, schools of tarpon and silversides, barracudas, angelfish, puffer fish, scrawled filefish, flying gurnards, moray eels and many others.
- Easily accessible dive sites.
- Wide range of support services such as equipment repair and rental.
Learn to dive - Get SCUBA CERTIFIED!
Never dived before? If you are at least 10 years old, you can learn to dive, in just three hours, by doing a resort course, offered by most dive operators on all three islands. Professional instructors will teach you everything you need to know in a short, fun course, before taking you on either a shore or boat dive. Under close supervision, you will dive to a depth of about 40 feet and experience the underwater world in a way you've never seen it before. Prepare to be amazed! Vibrant colors, intricate patterns, vast shoals of fish, complex coral reefs all await you. And, with water visibility ranging from between 100 to 200 feet, you'll feel as if you were wearing a mask and tank in a swimming pool or well-kept, well-stocked aquarium! The best news is that you can do further dives, after your resort course, without being fully certified. With an instructor guide, you can go on to do exciting dives such as Stingray City or explore a shipwreck. Don't delay... dive today!
Reef & Marine Life
Grand Cayman's reefs offer a variety of marine life encounters. Aware that strangely clad divers and snorkellers pose no threat, the fish and critters are amazingly docile and welcoming. Large silvery Tarpon hover motionless mid water, surrounded by glittery Silversides and magnificent French Angelfish. Huge Barrel Sponges and swirling schools of fish are equally common. Gorgonians and hard corals also thrive in the clear, warm waters.
There are so many dive sites that are teeming with marine life you wont be disappointed no matter where you go. Dive & snorkel operators visit different sites on a daily basis - so if its variety that you are looking for - we have it! If there is a particular type of marine life that you like to see or capture on film - mention it to your dive/snorkel operator and they will give you the best advice on where to go. Best of all no site is more than a few minutes offshore. Below are just a few island favorites.
Marine Life Hotspots
Sandbar/North Sound. Tarpon Alley/North Wall • Bear’s Claw/North Side • Bonnie’s Arch/West Side • Wildlife Reef/West Side • Eagle Nest/West Wall . Hammerhead Hole/West Wall • Paradise Reef/West Side • Armchair Reef/West Side • Snapper Hole/East End . Chub Hole/East End . Grouper Grotto/East End • lronshore Caves/East End • Kents Caves/South Side • Chinese Gardens/South Side
Wall & Wreck Diving:
Among Grand Cayman's more spectacular dive attractions are the walls that completely surround it. There are two wall systems in Grand Cayman; the 6O-foot drop off for those lazy afternoon shallow dives, and the second drop-off to the deep wall into the abyss. All wear a cloak of luxurious marine life. Orange Elephant Ear and Strawberry Vase Sponges form vibrant underwater bouquets, while Spotted Eagle Rays, Green Turtles and other deep-water pelagics cruise by for a look-see. Grand Cayman's storied wrecks are equally impressive. Reefs in and of themselves, each wreck has acquired it’s own family of eccentric residents, all too eager to pose for passing photographers.
Wall Diving Hotspots:
Orange Canyon/West Wall . Big Tunnels/West Wall • Big Dipper /West Wall • Eagle Ray Pass/North Wall • Westgate/North Wall • No Name Drop-off/North Wall . Little Pinnacle/South Side • Big Pinnacle/South Side • Three Sisters/East End • Pat~ Wall/East End • Jack McKennedy's/East End . Babylon/East End • Mermaid Point Drop-off/East End
Doc Polson/West Side • Oro Verde/West Side • LCM David Nicholson/West Side • Ridgefield/East End