Little Cayman – Sports and Outdoors

Little Cayman is a recreational paradise on land and especially underwater, with world-class diving, light-tackle angling, and bird-watching the star attractions. Befitting an ecocentric destination, nature owns the island, and you’re strictly cautioned about dos and don’ts. But lectures are given with a smile, and then you’re free to explore this zoo without cages, and aquarium without tanks.

Bird-watching

Little Cayman offers bountiful bird-watching, with more than 200 indigenous and migrant species on vibrant display, including red-footed boobies, frigate birds, and West Indian whistling ducks. Unspoiled wetland blankets more than 40% of the island, and elevated viewing platforms (carefully crafted from local wood to blend harmoniously with the environment) permit undisturbed observation—but then, it’s hard to find an area that doesn’t host flocks of warblers and waterfowl. Brochures with maps are available at the hotels for self-guided bird-watching tours.

National Trust.The website of the National Trust and the Sister Islands Tourism Authority has information on bird-watching. | Little Cayman | www.itsyourstoexplore.com.

Booby Pond Nature Reserve.The reserve is home to 20,000 red-footed boobies (the largest colony in the Western Hemisphere) and Cayman’s only breeding colony of magnificent frigate (or man-of-war) birds; other sightings include the near-threatened West Indian whistling duck and vitelline warbler. The RAMSAR Convention, an international treaty for wetland conservation, designated the reserve a wetland of global significance. Near the airport, the sanctuary is open to the public, and has a gift shop and reading library. | Next to National Trust | Blossom Village, Little Cayman.

Diving and Snorkeling

A gaudy, voluptuous tumble of marine life—lumbering grouper to fleet guppies, massive manta rays to miniature wrasse, sharks to stingrays, blue chromis to Bermuda chubs, puffers to parrotfish—parades its finery through the pyrotechnic coral reefs like a watery Main Street on Saturday night. Gaping gorges, vaulting pinnacles, plunging walls, chutes, arches, and vertical chimneys create a virtual underwater city, festooned with fiery sponges and sensuously waving gorgonians draped like come-hither courtesans over limestone settees.

Expect to pay around $105 for a two-tank boat dive and $25–$30 for a snorkeling trip. The island is small and susceptible to wind, so itineraries can change like a sudden gust.

Bloody Bay Wall.This beach, named for having been the site of a spectacular 17th-century sea battle, has been declared one of the world’s top three dive sites by no less than the maîtres Jacques and Philippe Cousteau and forms part of a protected marine reserve. It plunges dramatically from 18 to 6,000 feet, with a series of staggeringly beautiful drop-offs and remarkable visibility. Even snorkelers who are strong swimmers can access the edge from shore, gliding among shimmering silver curtains of minnows, jacks, bonefish, and more. The critters are amazingly friendly, including Jerry the Grouper, whom dive masters joke is a representative for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. | Little Cayman.

Jackson Wall.Adjacent to Bloody Bay, Jackson Wall and reef are nearly as stunning. Conditions are variable, the water now glassy, now turbulent, so snorkelers must be strong swimmers. It’s renowned for Swiss-cheese-like swim-throughs; though it’s not as precipitous as Bloody Bay, the more rugged bottom results in astonishing rock formations whose tunnels and crevices hold pyrotechnic marine life. | Little Cayman.

Recommended Operators

Conch Club Divers.This is a personable, experienced outfit that often customizes trips on its 42-foot Sea-esta. | at Conch Club Concos| Blossom Village, Little Cayman | 345/948–1026 | www.conchclubdivers.com.

Pirate’s Point Dive Resort.This popular resort has fully outfitted 42-foot Newtons with dive masters who excel at finding odd and rare creatures, and encourage computer diving so you can stay down longer. | Pirate’s Point, Little Cayman | 345/948–1010 | www.piratespointresort.com.

Reef Divers.Little Cayman Beach Resort’s outfitter also offers valet service and a full complement of courses, with Nitrox one of the specialties; their custom boats’ state-of-the-art outfitting includes AEDs (defibrillators). | At Little Cayman Beach Resort | Blossom Village, Little Cayman | 345/948–1033 | www.littlecayman.com.

Southern Cross Club.The Southern Cross Club limits each of its boats to 12 divers and has its own dock. It’s particularly good with specialty courses and mandates computer diving. | 73 Guy Banks Rd., at Southern Cross Club | South Hole Sound, Little Cayman | 345/948–1099, 800/899–2582 | www.southerncrossclub.com.

Fishing

Bloody Bay is equally celebrated for fishing and diving, and the flats and shallows including South Hole Sound Lagoon across from Owen Island, Tarpon Lake, and the Charles Bight Rosetta Flats offer phenomenal light-tackle and fly-fishing action: surprisingly large tarpon, small bonefish, and permit (a large fish related to pompano) weighing up to 35 pounds. Superior deep-sea fishing is available right offshore for game fish including blue marlin, dolphin, wahoo, tuna, and barracuda.

MAM’s Tours.This reliable company is run by energetic local Maxine McCoy, who comes from fishing royalty of sorts (she, her mum, dad, and five brothers ran McCoy’s Diving and Fishing Resort). Deep-sea fishing costs $125 per hour for up to four people; those angling for tarpon and bonefish pay $50 per hour ($75 per couple). Maxine also runs snorkeling trips to Owen Island and will take you conching in season. She’s spending more time on the Brac, so call in advance to ensure she’ll be on island. | 65 Mahogany Bay, Candle Rd. | West End, Little Cayman | 345/948–0104, 345/917–4582 | www.mams.ky.

Southern Cross Club.The Southern Cross Club offers light-tackle and deep-sea fishing trips. | 73 Guy Banks Dr. | South Hole Sound, Little Cayman | 345/948–1099, 800/899–2582 | www.southerncrossclub.com.

Hiking

Flat Little Cayman is better suited to biking, but there are a few jaunts, notably the Salt Rocks Nature Trail, where you pass ancient mule pens, abandoned phosphate mines, and the rusting tracks of the original narrow-gauge railway now alive with a profusion of flowering cacti and scrub brush.