Fresh news from Grand Cayman, special guest editor Guy Harvey reports on the post Ivan diving.
My first dive after the passing of Hurricane Ivan was filled with relief. I left behind the awful reality of the topside destruction the wrecked buildings and jagged remnants of trees and replaced it with the vision of the stunning beauty of the famous north wall. The colors, vibrancy and tranquility of the living reef were refreshing after the weeks of upheaval I'd witnessed.
A month after Ivan, many of Grand Cayman's dive operators put their best foot forward and exhibited at DEMA in Houston. Don Foster's is already open, and Sunset House, Ocean Frontiers and Cobalt Coast are all aiming to reopen in mid-November. Dive operators in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac have been operating for the last month. Their natural assets, the glorious coral walls, are largely undamaged. Sure, in some shallower locations coral heads are overturned, and sand and coral debris have been washed ashore in huge piles, but generally anything deeper than 30 feet is in good shape.
During my two recent dives with Dan Scharr of Ocean Frontiers, I took a good look at Split Canyon and Babylon dive sites, two of my favorite haunts. There was no damage there it was as if the colorful inhabitants were saying "what hurricane?" In fact, all the mooring buoys were intact along the north side. I have not been to the Sandbar or Stingray City, but I've heard reports that the rays are being fed daily perhaps not in the same quantities as before, but once snorkelers and divers return, it is likely that the rays will return in their old numbers. In periods of rough weather the rays naturally seek deeper water and forage for their own food.
Over the next few weekends, local divers are organizing cleanups of hurricane debris from the shallow water off Seven Mile Beach. At the same time they are busy getting their boats and topside infrastructure back into operation in time to welcome tourists by Thanksgiving. With a massive recovery operation in progress, and with utilities being restored, Grand Cayman will be welcoming cruise-ship visitors shortly. As more hotel rooms become available, stay-over visitors particularly divers will be swarming back to soak up sun, sea, hospitality and great diving.