Dinner timeFish tacos at the Sunshine Grill.
Ellen credits her eye for the Lilliputian to an injury that sidelined her to the shallows for a few months. She picks out several more blennies and cleaner shrimp be- fore heading to the caverns. Even as afternoon clouds collect, light floods in, making the occasional overhead environment entirely inviting.
Three dives stir the appetite — especially for the typically deskbound like me. The night I arrived, I couldn't resist the smells and scene at Sunset House's My Bar, the spot to clink sundowners with fellow lovers of the deep. Mainlanders and locals alike pack the place, taking advantage of cheap (for Grand Cayman) drinks and easy conversation. My go-to tipple is chardonnay, but your Facebook comments had urged me to order a couple of White Tips, a locally made Corona-like lager sharing profits with a Cayman conservation organization. After a few sips, I fall into talking to a couple of local guys about sharks in Cayman waters but call it an early night.
Just after dawn, I roll up to PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center Ocean Frontiers, again toting my guide: For East End diving, the crowd says I've got to check out Ironshore Gardens, Lighthouse Wall or Omega Reef. I'm told the winds don't favor a trip south to Ironshore Gardens and Lighthouse Wall, so Ocean Frontiers staff photographer Elly Wray and I drop in at Babylon just as a hammerhead passes. Despite rough waves at the surface, no current stirs the water at 75 feet. The hue of the abyss here is bluer than Cayman's west coast — cobalt the color of Earth seen from space. A slight schism separates the wall from a leaning pinnacle, creating a narrow passageway curtained by wire corals.
If only all second choices in life were this rewarding.
The next dive of the day allows me to check Omega Reef off my Facebook list. Online it was touted as a secret site flush with blennies. But before we ready our eyes to comb the corals, a female hawksbill approaches, nosing up to Elly's dome port. Once satisfied, it eases one eye toward me, curious. With a few fin strokes, it glides my way and pauses. Of course I've forgotten my camera on this dive. But Elly is at my side. She fires off a dozen shots, and still the turtle stays. Twenty minutes later, just as I'm wondering if perhaps this turtle was once in captivity and suspects our pockets hide lettuce, it climbs shallower. For five minutes, we pause. Elly shrugs at me, suggesting we move on. But I sense otherwise. Call me naive, but I suspect the turtle has bonded with us.
It will return — I'm confident of that. OK, fairly sure. OK, maybe just hopeful.