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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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October 2023    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 49, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cayman Brac Beach Resort, Cayman Islands

let's hope the reefs survive

from the October, 2023 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

Cayman Brac Beach ResortDiving during the off-season has its advantages - fewer divers on the boat, cheaper flights, and deals on accommodations - which were just some of the reasons I was looking forward to my first post-pandemic dive trip, a September visit to Cayman Brac. But I was worried after reading this summer's headlines of record-hot ocean temperatures stressing coral reefs from Colombia to Key Largo. Would Cayman Brac fare better?

Unfortunately, the check-out dive at Preacher's Barge on the West End didn't give me hope. Diving down to 40 feet, I faced an expanse of whitish-gray coral with multiple patches of algae and stands of purple staghorn here and there. The water temperature, in the mid-80s, felt too much like bathwater. Also, my hopes that off-season diving meant fewer divers didn't materialize - 15 people from a North Carolina dive club jumped off the boat with me and clustered together. I had to fin away to keep from bumping into them (particularly one frenetic diver I'll call "Camera Lady" because she rushed everywhere, and in front of everyone, to capture everything on her GoPro). Fortunately, Barb, a friendly blonde from Toronto who I hired for the day as my dive guide, found a few notable critters - a spiny lobster poking out from under a ledge, a coiled-up green moray in a bommie hole, and sand divers and jawfish on the powdery bottom.

The next dive, at End of Island, was more promising, with more color, bigger coral (staghorn, star, and brain), and barrel sponges on the tunnels and fingers I finned through and over. A lone barracuda hovered in mid-water, so close I could scrutinize its pointed teeth and moving gills. When Barb pointed away from the North Carolina cluster, I eagerly nodded, so we took off, spending our allotted 60 minutes peeking into crevices. She found a tiny black cleaner wrasse in a jade green tube sponge while I spotted an arrow crab nearby. That's when the daily $100 fee I paid for a private guide felt worthwhile, especially watching the large dark cloud of divers hovering behind the one divemaster. When a large grouper swam alongside me, I saw orange fuzz-covered wire protruding from its side. Did it want me to remove that painful fishing gear? Barb later told me it was tagged and monitored as part of REEF's Grouper Moon Project to restore the Caymans' dwindling grouper population....

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