First SCUBA dives after lockdown in the Cayman Islands

After three long months at sea level, the day finally arrived when we could descend once again into the deep!

(Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. We are saving for a better underwater camera – but with the travel industry shut down and work scarce, it’s a low priority!)

Candace and I parked the car in a small patch of un-used scrubland, set up our gear, and waded into the water to begin an approximately 20 minute swim on the surface towards the edge of the drop-off.

The Cayman Islands are formed by the top of an underwater ridgeline that protrudes just above the surface in places creating the three main islands. To the south is the famous Cayman Trench, one of the deepest parts of the world’s oceans, bottoming out at 25,000 feet deep. (7600m)

Due to the wind direction, our first dive back after the three months of lockdown was on the north side of the island instead, but which still boasts a drop of over 3000′. (900m)

I had brought along with me some spears with the idea of catching some invasive lionfish. These voracious predators are native to the Indo-Pacific Oceans and are a huge problem in the Atlantic. (And therefore the Caribbean too by definition)

Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic basin, and they feed on the native fish populations un-impeded. Left alone, they can decimate entire reef eco-systems in very little time.

SCUBA divers down the Atlantic coast of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America – as well of course as the Caribbean Islands, try to remove these un-wanted visitors.

I saw two lionfish on the dive, but unfortunately a combination of my rusty skills coupled with weak and stretched elastics on the spears meant that my attempts to kill them failed, and these two slippery buggers got away!

Still, despite my failings as a hardened, underwater hunter – we still enjoyed cruising along the stunning wall, and it was fantastic to see the coral itself looking healthy, not to mention the reef fish populations abundant as usual. Fishes of all shapes, sizes, and colours flitted and darted around the edge of the drop-off – the rays of sunlight reflecting off their bodies.

Eventually – all good things must come to and end. We didn’t want to have to complete decompression stops on this dive, so begrudgingly we headed back up towards the top of the wall and started to make our way across the sand towards the shallow reef slope closer to shore. Our plan was to swim all the way back to the shoreline itself, getting gradually shallower as we did so.

The sandy areas are often over-looked by divers who think the coral reef itself is the only place to find marine life – but they are missing out! The sand is home to a plethora of critters including rays, flounders, blennies tilefish and more!

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