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Wreck Diving in Cayman

The Cayman Islands have an abundance of unique and fantastic wrecks which have become world-famous dive sights. In Grand Cayman there is the ex-USS Kittiwake and in Cayman Brac there is a former Russian warship now known as the Capt. Keith Tibbetts, to name just two. People travel to Cayman specifically to dive these wrecks. Here we describe all that Cayman has to offer in the way of wreck diving.

Grand Cayman

Kittiwake

Only 60 feet below the water lies one of Cayman’s newest and most impressive dives. The Kittiwake, previously a US Naval ship with five decks and endless rooms to explore, is situated in a newly created Marine Park not far off the shore of Seven Mile Beach. Unlike many other sites you are required to pay an entrance fee of KYD$8 but if you are with a dive company this price is usually included in the overall cost anyway and is not something to worry about. The small price goes to maintaining and protecting the 251 foot ship. This wreck can be reached by private boat however for this to happen the boat will need to be licensed by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (C.I.T.A) which will cost you an annual fee of CI$50. If this is a dive you are only going to do once or twice you are better off going through a dive company like Deep Blue Divers, Divers Down and Wall to Wall Diving. As more animals come to make this new underwater ship their home the wreck only improves. The Kittiwake is definitely a wreck dive you should keep at the top of your list.

For safety reasons, it is not advisable to swim to the Kittiwake. There is a significant amount of boat and jet ski traffic that travel at high speeds, and they struggle to see swimmers in the water. If you would like to dive or snorkel the Kittiwake, book your trip with a licensed operator. Alternately, private vessels can also be licensed to visit the site. 

Cali

Less than 40 yards off shore of Central George Town and only 20-30 feet deep, the wreck of the Cali is an easy and enjoyable dive for beginners. The 220 foot steel schooner, which rests in pieces on the sea floor, is easily accessible and can be swum out to in under a minute for diving or snorkelling. The shallow wreck, which hosts an abundance of marine life, is an ideal starting place for divers and allows you to get an up close view of various types of fish and coral without venturing out too far into the water. To visit the Cali you could either rent tanks from Divers Supply or even take a SNUBA trip.

Balboa

Situated among small surrounding reefs, the wreckage of this 375 foot freighter is home to a large variety of fish, coral and other marine life. It lies approximately 150 feet off of the west coast of the island at a depth of only 40-50 feet. You are able to explore the ships stern section and swim over the large three bladed propellers. It is also a popular destination for divers who are coming from deeper dives and is often used as a “second dive” site or a night dive site. The wreck is situated around the cruise ship docking area and so even if you were a strong swimmer it would not be recommended to swim out to this wreck and potentially get stuck in and around boating traffic. Instead it is recommended to use a diving company who will get you there and back safely and easily. 

Oro Verde

One of the more popular choices among wreck dives is this 84 foot steel cargo vessel, which can be found 40-50 feet below the water off of the beautiful Seven Mile Beach. The amount of marine life available for viewing is spectacular considering how shallow the wreck is. Unfortunately the ship, which used to be almost completely intact, has collapsed somewhat due to the elements, but the real stars of this wreck are the animals that make it their home like the massive jewfish who has come to be known as George, the moray eel named Kermit and the barracuda named Puff.

Carrie Lee

For those divers who would consider themselves to be more experienced, the Carrie Lee is recommended as a more challenging dive. The 100 foot freighter is almost completely intact and rests at a depth of 150-200 feet off the south west coast. The wreck is teeming with numerous types of wild life and provides a great diving experience. However divers should take caution against the strong currents that surround this wreck and keep an eye on their air. It’s best to use a dive company for this dive as it is further off the coast and a great deal deeper than the majority of dives on the island.

Doc Polson

150 yards off of Seven Mile Beach just past Cemetery Reef is where the Doc Polson wreck now lies. Though the 100-foot tugboat sank back in 1982 it is still 80% intact and is surrounded by marine life, making it one of the most popular dive sites in Cayman. It is recommended to use a boat to get to the site, as there is some boating traffic around the area. Even if you do use a boat it is still a good idea to remember a flag of some sort to indicate to other boats that you are there.

Cayman Brac

Capt. Keith Tibbetts

This massive 330 foot Russian brigadier was sunk in 1996 with the intentions of creating an artificial reef. Now sixteen years later this wreck is home to thousands of fish with frequent appearances from groupers and grunts. Lying about 200 yards off of the shore and 56 feet underwater it is the only Russian Warship in the Western Hemisphere available for scuba diving, making it a must as a diving destination. This dive can be adapted based on the diver, with the option of being a deep or shallow dive. The drop off to the wall is a mere 100 feet away from the wreck and extends down thousands of feet leaving divers with the option of exploring the wall or staying close to the wreck.

Little Cayman

Soto Trader

This wreck, which is still 90% intact, sank in 1975 and plays host to large gatherings of various fish and coral. The 120 foot steel freighter along with its abundance of marine life makes for an enjoyable dive. Keep on the look out for eagle rays and moray eels while on the dive.

Top Tip!

To record your diving adventures rent an underwater camera from Cathy Church’s.