Grand Cayman's West Wall offers the most diverse diving in the Cayman Islands. A seven-mile stretch of drop-off runs parallel with the curved shoreline and it is loaded with exciting dive sites - walls, wrecks, caverns and shallow reefs. The vertical wall (the edge of an undersea mountain) begins at 60 feet and plummets straight away into the blue abyss, 1000 feet below.
While the general geology is the same, each of the vertical wall sites offers something very special. Here are excerpts from my dive log notes on what I have discovered to be distinctive about these dive sites...
A very unique coral bridge or archway has formed over a bowl shaped cutout in the reef. It serves as a natural refuge for schools of horse-eye jacks and tarpon. Depth to the bottom of the archway is about 70 feet. There is usually a slight current which keeps this area clean and the visibility 100 feet plus.
The vertical face of the main canyon is covered with large orange colored elephant ear sponges - dozens of them. It makes the wall appear solid orange and thus explains the dive site's name. Huge deep sea gorgonian fans bend and sway in the current, beckoning divers to explore this beautiful reef.
A large coral spire stands alone, off the main wall, rising up from 160 feet to within 65 feet of the surface. The vertical sides are draped in a tapestry of sponges, soft corals, gorgonians and black coral. Part way down the pinnacle, there is a small tunnel that passes completely through this vertical formation. It too is covered in a floral arrangement of fans, soft corals and sponges.
Two long tunnels cut deeply into the face of this vertical wall, forming long narrow passageways. The tunnels are fascinating to explore and at a deeper depth of 110 feet they empty out into a blue void where pelagics sometimes pass. Visitors are usually greet by friendly French and Gray Angelfish that inhabit this site.
A massive coral pinnacle has a narrow tunnel that winds its way through the formation and is call Dragon's Hole. This site has always been my favorite for giant basket sponges that grow on the lower slopes, some of them measuring 5 feet across.
A 300-foot wide river of white sand cuts through the wall and flows from the sand flats down a steep slope. As it travels downward, the side walls begin to narrow, forming a funnel that eventually ends with the sand spilling over a vertical wall. All of this is frozen in motion until a storm produces sufficient energy to move the sand down the chute and over the lip of the wall. Lots of small cave and large sponges in this area.
TRINITY CAVES Three long narrow canyons lead from the sand flats toward the edge of the wall. In some spots coral has grown over the top of the canyons, transforming them into tunnels. The exit point of these tunnels is decorated with a marvelous array of deep sea gorgonian fans, big sponges and black coral.