This blog entry by Gary & Robin Schiendelman
It’s half way through one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record and 3 months since our last nitrogen fix. It’s finally time to get away on our FREE trip to Grand Cayman. Yeah, that’s right, we were the lucky winners of a 5 day, 4 night (plus diving!) trip for 2 to Grand Cayman. We bought a few raffle tickets at the Indian Valley Scuba Dive In Festival and actually won a prize (first time we’ve ever won more than a t-shirt)!
The timing couldn’t be better. We added a day to the trip, got really cheap air fare with a direct flight from PHL to Grand Cayman. Life is good! That was, until the Wednesday before we were scheduled to depart when we heard a “major” snow storm was heading to Philly. Not wanting to miss even a day of vacation, we called the airline and were pleasantly surprised to find they would change our flight from Sunday to Friday and not charge a change fee! Woo hoo! We would beat the storm and get 2 extra days of diving! Weather in Philly: 23 degrees with snow on the way. Weather in GC: 85 and sunny. Life is even better!
After an uneventful flight on Saturday, we were met at the airport by a driver and soon arrived at Cobalt Coast Resort where we were greeted by the manager, Dora and shown to our room. More like an apartment! Full living room with fridge, coffee maker (with free coffee) and sink. Separate bedroom with king size bed and full bath. After dropping our bags in the room, we got to the important part…checking in at the dive shop. Dive Tech was literally steps from our patio and the dock for shore diving just beyond the shop. We are signed up for 2 morning boat dives each day and the package also included unlimited shore diving both at Cobalt Coast and at their other location just minutes away at Lighthouse Point.
After the complimentary welcome cocktail it was early to bed to be ready for the 7:45 am boat.
Up at 6:45 to have breakfast and ready our dive gear. This morning, we boarded the boat right at the dock in front of the resort. In about 15 minutes we were at our first dive site on the North Wall..Black Coral Forest, followed by a second dive at Lemon Wall. There were only 5 of us on the boat including Simon our DM and Capt. Christian. Both dives were excellent and each was about an hour long. Back to the resort for lunch and then an afternoon shore dive. We dove the Cobalt Coast House reef which is really nice. Entry is at the end of the pier and down a ladder into a nice shallow area to put on your fins. The bottom slopes down gradually to the mini wall which is in about 60’ of water. From there you can swim out to the main wall…but there is so much to see in the shallows that we managed an hour and 20 minute dive and never made it to the main wall!
Unfortunately, the winds began to pick up in the late afternoon and the sea was too rough to do a shore night dive. So we contented ourselves with dinner and a couple of drinks. Oh and since the resort has free wi-fi we were able to check Philly weather on Saturday night. With 2 feet of snow being dumped, we felt really sorry for all of you!
Depending on the weather and winds, Dive Tech moves their boats and chooses dive sites with calm seas. So for the rest of the week, we put our gear in their truck and were driven about 15 minutes to another side of the island where we boarded the boat. It was a great set up because not only do you always have calm seas to dive in but we also got to dive 3 sides of the island! We dove North Wall, East End and South Side.
Our second day took us to the South Side for morning dives. It was too rough to do any shore diving. On the third day after 2 morning dives on the West End, we hitched a ride over to Lighthouse Point and did a shore dive there. Again it was a beautiful shore dive and although we were in the water for well over an hour, we never made it to the main wall!
Our entertainment tonight was sitting on our patio enjoying a cocktail after dinner and watching 2 geckos and a cricket in a death match. The cricket lost. It was pretty cool..like watching Animal Planet in real life!
Day 4 of diving took us over to the West End. Because of the unusual winds, we were able to dive Hepp’s Wall and Hepp’s Pipeline, 2 sites that are rarely visited. And it showed. These were 2 of the best sites on the trip. We were also able to do both an afternoon and a night dive on the house reef. Lots of macro on the shore dives and we saw sailfin blennies displaying! It was really cool to just sit and watch them put up their dorsal fin and wave it around while rising up in the water column. Then suddenly they would turn around and shoot back into their hole.
Day 5 took us again to the West End and then an afternoon dive at the Cobalt Coast house reef. Right about now, Philly is getting hammered by the second snow storm in less than a week. The winds were also picking up and the surf was going to make the entry & exit from the night shore dive a little challenging. But, we really do love those night dives and since we were already familiar with the entry and exit and the dive site, we decided to go for it. We did opt to leave the camera on shore just in case! It was a great dive but we decided to head back after only an hour since we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in case the conditions were worse than expected. As we began swimming up into the shallows it became evident that things at the surface had gotten worse. We could feel the surge even at 25’. The bottom of the ladder at the dock is only about waist deep and in good conditions, you can stand and remove your fins, then climb up the ladder (about 10’ high) to the dock. Tonight though, the waves were breaking right at the ladder. So we opted to try to stay underwater to remove our fins while hanging on to the ladder. Between the breaking waves and undertow it was quite a ride! We were ready for dinner & a drink!
Too soon it was our last day of diving. We did two morning dives on the West End and then a night boat dive. It’s the worst time of a trip…time to wash the gear and get ready for the flight home.
Dive Tech was a really great operator. They require all divers to use a computer and provide a free rental to anyone who does not own a computer. The dive time on all boat dives is 60 minutes, which is really nice. And if you are the first ones in and last ones out of the water you can squeeze an extra 5 or 10 minutes into each dive. Of course shore dives can be as long as your air will last. We did manage to make one shore dive last an hour and 51 minutes. Full tanks are always on the dock so just grab a tank and go (weather permitting of course). DiveTech also has scooters for rent and specializes in tech diving for those interested.
To sum it up, it was a great week! We saw the usual cast of fishy characters including grouper, nurse sharks, eels, lots of turtles (almost every dive), squid, spiny & spotted lobsters, queen triggerfish, butterfly fish, lots of flamingo tongues, 3 kinds of rays, jacks, snappers, and on and on! We also saw some pretty interesting and rare things like sailfin blennies, a diamond blenny, leopard flatworm, a golden phase coney, and juvenile squid. Water temps were 77-78F and vis averaged about 80-100 feet.
Our hosts at Cobalt Coast were excellent and made our stay really enjoyable and Dive Tech is a great dive operation. We had a great time and if you are thinking of going to Grand Cayman, we would highly recommend Cobalt Coast and Dive Tech. Our thanks to them and also to Dave and Indian Valley Scuba for a great time. Look for our photos soon!
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