Pirates once battled off the lovely shores of this Caribbean outpost until the water ran red with blood, and the graphic description stuck. Today, Little Cayman's Bloody Bay means to divers some of the best wall diving in the world.
On the map, a trail of 20 diver-down flags dots the north coast along Bloody Bay and Jackson Bight, two distinctly different vertical worlds that are collectively called the Bloody Bay Marine Park. And while there's more to diving Little Cayman than walls, most divers spend an entire trip freefalling down the drop-off, darting through the substrate's Swiss-cheese holes, sliding between fissures, studying macro critters and admiring passing pelagics in the blue.
There's little commercial development on Little Cayman the largest population is likely the red boobies and rock iguanas that claim right-of-way on local roads. Idyllic Little Cayman Beach Resort (LCBR) is a quiet haven only a 20-minute boat ride from the island's legendary walls.
Great Wall West is a multi-level dive that will give you vertigo as you step over the edge. An eagle ray or shark might bless you with a fly-by against the sponge-draped wall. Back in the shallows at the top of the reef, watch for blennies darting in and out of the hard coral, decorator crabs, perhaps a longsnout seahorse and the fireworks-like bursts of brilliantly colored crinoids. During your safety stop, face off with juvenile fish dancing around the massive coral heads like ribbons weaving around a Maypole.
In Little Cayman, walls come in all shapes and sizes. At places like Randy's Gazebo you can fly over reefs that look like rooftops and then drop into a chimney that sluices you out to Neptune's blue room, a massive panorama backed by a sheer wall behind you.
One site down, a giant U-shaped crevice defines Marylin's Cut. The substrate is softened with soft corals and sea fans they're great places to find flamingo tongues and the long, tapered trumpetfish seemingly serenading the speckled beauty of the cyphomas. But once you're out on the wall, think big. Here, the angelfish queen, French and gray keep you grounded amidst the riotous colors of coral cups and blooms while the sharks, turtles and eagle rays pass through the otherworldly blue.
Back at the reef top you'll finally have your turn to meet the much-loved divers' mascot, Ben. This house-trained grouper hangs out at the top of the wall and is known to come right up to you if you point. If nothing else, Ben's curiosity and trust are reminders that you're in a protected marine park.
This tameness in the wild continues topside, too. Swipe some fruit at breakfast, grab a bike and ride over to Mahogany Bay, where you'll find some iguanas eager for handouts. Think of it as feeding the ducks, Little Cayman-style. You'll also find the third-largest bird sanctuary in the Caribbean as well as a bird-life observatory, right across the road from LCBR.
If Little Cayman's tranquil spell couldn't quell those bloodletting pirates, well, probably nowhere could.